A Translation of Extracts from the Kitab al-Jihad
of 'Ali ibn Tahir Al-Sulami (d. 1106)

Niall Christie

 (The Arabic text, with a French translation, may be found in Emmanuel Sivan,
"Un traité Damasquin du début du XIIe siècle", Journal Asiatique 254 (1966), pp. 206-22)


[f. 173 b] In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

The Messenger of God (God bless him) said: "The caliphate concerns the Quraysh, authority (concerns) the ansar, the call to Islam (concerns) the Abyssinians, and after that the hijra and jihad concern the Muslims." In his saying that after that the jihad concerns the Muslims is a visible proof it concerns all Muslims. If it concerns all Muslims, it remains their concern until the Day of Resurrection. Abu Muhammad Sunayd ibn Da'ud al-Tartusi said in his Kitab al-Tafsir: "Makhul used to turn his face towards the qibla then swear ten oaths that military expeditions were obligatory, and say, "If you wished, you could do more."

[f. 174 a] As for consensus, after (the death of) the Prophet (God bless him) the four caliphs and all the companions (of the Prophet) agreed on the jihad's being incumbent on all. Not one of them left (off prosecuting) it during his caliphate, and those who were appointed as successors afterwards and ruled in their own time, one after another, followed them in that, the ruler carrying out an expedition himself every year, or sending someone out from his deputies on his behalf. It did not cease to be that way until the time in which one of the caliphs left off (doing) it because of his weakness and negligence. Others followed him in this for the reason mentioned, or a similar one. His stopping this, (along) with the necessary impositions on the Muslims which they threw off, and the forbidden things which they acted badly by doing, made it necessary that God dispersed their unity, split up their togetherness, threw enmity and hatred between them and tempted their enemies to snatch their country from their grasp and (so) cure their hearts of them. A number (of the enemy) pounced on the island of Sicily while they disputed and competed, and they conquered in the same way one city after another in al-Andalus. When the reports confirmed for them that this country suffered from the disagreement of its masters and its rulers' being unaware of its deficiencies and needs, they confirmed their resolution to set out for it, and Jerusalem was their dearest wish.

[f. 174 b] They looked out over Syria, on separated kingdoms, disunited hearts and differing views linked with hidden resentment, and with that their desires became stronger and extended to what they all saw. They did not stop, tireless in fighting the jihad against the Muslims. The Muslims were sluggish, and (we were) avoiding fighting them and they were reluctant to engage in combat until they conquered more than their greatest hopes had conceived of the country, and destroyed and humiliated many times the number of people that they had wished. Still now they are spreading further in their efforts, assiduous in seeking an increase (in their profits). Their desires are multiplying all the time because of what appears to them of the (Muslims') abstinence from (opposing) them, and their hopes are invigorated by virtue of what they see of their enemies' contentedness with being unharmed by them, until they have become convinced that the whole country will become theirs and all its people will be prisoners in their hands. May God in his generosity humble their ideas by bringing together everyone and arranging the unity of the people, for he is near, and answers (prayers).

Al-Shafi'i (God have mercy on him) said: "The least that the imam must do is that he allow no year to pass without having organised a military expedition by himself, or by his raiding parties, according to the Muslims' interest, so that the jihad will only be stopped in a year for a (reasonable) excuse." He said: "If he did not undertake the sending of enough troops to fight, those who are absent (must) go out, and consider as an obligation that which God (who is praised) said."

I said: "What I have mentioned showed that if a group was needed to carry out an expedition, [f. 175 a] our duty was incumbent on all of them. That was in something similar to this situation which we are in now with this group attacking the country of Islam..."

Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali said: "Whenever a year passed without an expedition every Muslim (who was) free, responsible and capable of taking part in an expedition went out on one, seeking by it to exalt the word of God (who is praised), to demonstrate his religion, to suppress by it his enemies the polytheists, to achieve the reward which God (who is praised) and His Prophet promised him from (fighting) the jihad in His cause, and to gain their (the enemies') wealth, women and lands, until there were, of those who came to face them (the enemy), enough to fight them in it (the expedition). That is to say that the jihad, however, is an obligation of sufficiency. If the group which was facing the enemy had enough people in it, then it would be possible for them (the group) to fight hard against them (the enemy) (by) themselves, and to remove their evil separately from others. Yet if the group was weak, and was not able to be sufficient (to face) the enemy and to defeat their evil, then the obligation (to help) is imposed on the people of the nearby countries, such as Syria, for example. If the enemy attacks one of its cities, and there are not enough people in it to fight and defeat them, it is obligatory on all the cities belonging to Syria to send people to it to fight until there are sufficient (people). At that time the obligation falls from the others, because the lands of Syria are like one town. If those who are able from them come to fight the enemy and not enough undertake (the fighting of) them, coming to fight them and [f. 175 b] joining battle with them is also obligatory on those who are near Syria, until there are enough. At that time the obligation also falls from the others. If the enemy surrounds one town the obligation of the jihad likewise becomes incumbent on all who are there, whatever befalls its location. None are excepted from the imposition of obligations except those with (reasonable) excuses and impeding physical disabilities. We shall mention them if God wills."

This is superfluous to what I am saying. I wrote that which is here from the words of one of the imams from the followers of Al-Shafi'i in Damascus, when the Franks - may God destroy them - descended on Antioch...

[f. 176 a] These are clear proofs from the Book (of God), the sunna and the consensus (of the Muslims) of the obligation (of going on) the jihad in sufficient numbers to their lands, and an illustration of its becoming one of the obligations on prominent persons in the countries mentioned, from the doctrines and formal legal opinions of jurisprudents. It is true and clear that the jihad against this group and their objective is incumbent on all who are capable and have no horrible illness or chronic malady, or blindness, or weakness from old age. As for those who are excluded from these, either rich or poor, having two parents, either owing a debt or owed a debt, they are obliged to go out to fight in this situation, and to set out to put an end to the fearful consequence of weakness and reticence. Now in particular, [f. 176 b] with the fewness of the enemy and the (far) distance of their support, the agreement of the lords of the people of these neighbouring countries and their making common cause...

Prepare - God have mercy on you - to strive hard at the imposition of this jihad and the obligation to defend your religion and your brotherhood (of Muslims) with aid and support. Take as (your) booty an expedition which God (who is exalted) has arranged for you without great effort or (even) the exertion of a cheek, which has come to you. Take it with the good fortune granted by God (who is praised) from nearby and this mundane world. You will gain it from a finest winner, and (will also gain) a glory of which the clothes (will) remain on you for many ages to come. Beware [f. 176 b] with all watchfulness that you avoid disgracing yourselves or you will arrive at a fire with its flames, which God (who is exalted) has made an evil place and the worst final destiny.

The obligation on your prominent persons to fight the jihad, which you doubted, has been realised for you, (and) in particular (for) those who God (who is praised) has singled out for the governorship over this country. So if it is obligatory for him, (then) its being incumbent on others of you is certain because of God's entrusting him with matters of guardianship, obliging him to rule the people in his power and above all to defend Islam and its essence from being conquered. Nay, rather it is necessary for him to commit himself - may it please God - to fighting hard against the enemies of God (who is praised) in their countries every year, and (to) driving them [f. 177 a] from them, as is incumbent on every amir and imam, so that the word of God will always be the highest, and the word of those who blaspheme (will be) the lowest, and so that the desires of the enemies of the religion of God will be too weak to concern (themselves) with something like that (which they have led to) again.

The most astonishment is at a sultan who takes pleasure in life or continues living as he is with the shadows of this calamity, of which the outcome is conquest (by) these blasphemers and exile from the country by force and subjugation, or staying with them and being imprisoned and tortured by night and day. By God! By God, you community of sultans of the country, and those prominent persons, soldiers and others who are considered prominent, young men, stalwart supporters and lords recently acquired from wealth and inherited, who follow them, drive away insignificant things and sluggishness, and go to fight the jihad with your wealth and yourselves. O you who believe, if you aid God, He will aid you and make your footsteps firm. Do not fight (one another) or you will fail and will not succeed. Put faith in the aid of God (who is praised), o you (people) and inform yourselves of the victory, by His will, over your enemies. Be careful to turn away fear from your hearts and be sure that (though) your religion, if you follow it, will be weak some of the time, it remains just as God promised His Prophet until the Day of Judgement. Do not be humble before the words of His enemies among the unbelievers and the deniers of God's attributes among the worshippers of the stars, the astrologers. Know that God (who is praised) only sent this enemy to you as a trial, to test your steadfastness with it. He said (God blesses and is exalted), "Let Us test you so that We will know those of you that fight hard and are steadfast, and We will test your experiences."

[f. 177 b] Know - God have mercy on you - after that, that your Prophet (God bless him) promised a group of his people victory over their enemies, and took them from the people of Syria in particular, rather than from the others. So it may be that you are those particular people rather than others of you...

[f. 178 a] The Prophet of God (God bless him) said: "A group of my people will not cease to fight and conquer for the truth. Those who forsake them will not harm them, until (the time of) God's power comes (He is mighty and exalted)..."

[f. 178 b] It was shown from another hadith, which I think is sufficiently documented for me, that this group was from the people of Syria. In another hadith is the fact that they were from Jerusalem and its surroundings...

[f. 179 a] From this is proof of its (Jerusalem's) being (supposed to) return to the Muslims, and that a group will be in it. These are their characteristics and status, and will be until (the time of) God's power comes. The hadith is sufficiently authenticated...

[f. 179 aa] We have heard in what we have heard of a sufficiently documented hadith, mentioning in it that the Rum (Byzantines) will conquer Jerusalem for a set period of time, and the Muslims will gather against them, drive them out of it, kill them all except for a few of them, (and) then pursue their scattered remnants to Constantinople, descend on it and conquer it. This is certain...

[f. 179 b] If those who fight hard are from this conquering group (then) among them are those who will succeed in driving them out of Jerusalem and other places of this country. They are the ones who will conquer Constantinople...so fight hard (God have mercy on you) in this jihad. You may be the ones who will gain the merit of this great conquest, (having been) kept for this noble rank.

Give precedence to jihad of yourselves over jihad against your enemies, for if yourselves are among your enemies prevent them from being disobedient to their Creator (who is praised). You will succeed in your hopes of victory over them. Make right what is between you and your Creator, and He will make right for you what is wrong in your (current) state of being, and reconcile your enmity. Tear out your disobedience to God (who is praised), resolute, and follow your tearing (it) out with doing what is right in what you start afresh. It may be that your Lord will destroy your enemy and make you rulers over the world. He may observe how you act and (how you) arrange that which God (who is praised) ordered your Prophet (God bless him) of giving Him priority by the carrying out of the jihad (and them). The most important priority is seriousness in obedience to Him and being sincere in fighting hard (in the jihad). His words (He is exalted) are approximately: "O you who believe, bow and prostrate yourselves in prayer, worship your Lord and do good. Perhaps you will prosper." Then He said after that: "Fight hard for God. His jihad is justified..."

O you who do wrong, commit sin, persist (in your sinning) and are neglectful, you are in greater need of all that before (you undertake) your jihad.

Know for certain that this enemy's attack on your country, and their achieving what they have over some of you is a warning from God (who is praised) to those of you that remain, so that He may see if you will refrain from disobeying Him, so that He will help you against them and calm your fear, or persist and insist, so that He will give them victory over those of you that escaped. God (who is praised) afflicted you [f. 180 a] several times with various sorts of vengeful measures and you persist in disobeying Him, and He warned you time after time, and you rebel against the punishment falling upon you which corresponds to your deeds. They (the Franks) acted as they did because of (the Muslims') blame of God (who is praised) as a warning to others of them (the Muslims), and they (the Muslims) lied about the deeds of He who is praised, and He warns them (the Muslims) and only increases them (the Franks) in great tyranny. Now He warned you with a punishment the like of which He did not warn you with before, paying attention to you, albeit that your crimes are not like the crimes which preceded them. If only you would desist from sin, otherwise He will make you fall into the hands of your enemy as a matter of serious vengeance, destructive extermination and removal. God hasten your waking up from the sleep of neglect of the places of His punishment and place you among those who fear the speed of His power and the imminence of His punishments, acting according to what He ordered and prohibited in the rulings of His book, who limit (themselves) by rooting out (their bad qualities) and repenting to the point of knocking on His door. For He hears prayer and answers when He wishes.

May the objective of this your jihad and the defence of yourselves and others of your brotherhood be pleasing to your Lord so that recompense for your expedition appears for you and the goodness of your acts bears witness to your integrity. For if one does not desire God's face by an act, then the act is wrongly done, and the one who does it errs. God forbid acts of hypocrisy!

[f. 188 a] Know, also - God have mercy on you - that all the things which the jurisprudents mentioned about the expedition and its regulations and excuses for refraining from taking part, also apply to the jihad to the enemies' countries, be they near or far. As for if they raid the Muslims and attack their country, as these forsaken ones did (may God hurry on their total destruction), we are obliged to go to fight them, and to seek them out in the country which they conquered. However, it is a war in which it is desired (for us) to defend ourselves, the children, the people, the wealth, and to guard what remains in our hands of the country. Were it not for our hopes of removing them by going to fight them and taking back the country from them, it would not be permitted to call this going to face them a jihad or an expedition in this situation. It is obligatory when going out to fight is incumbent on each person who is able, with no impediment of blindness, serious illness or excessive age, which makes it impossible to move, to prevent him from it. The statement to this intent is in a section preceding this one.

Now also incumbent on the sultan is command over what God (who is exalted) has made a duty to him of guarding the religion, guiding the Muslims and defence of himself, his army and them (the Muslims), just as it came from the (lips of) the lord of those who were sent: "Whoever looks after a group of subjects, and does not give them good advice, God has forbidden him Paradise." I said: "Good advice has many meanings, one of which is watching over his subjects, protecting them and driving the harmful enemies from them." The other famous hadith in this meaning is his statement (God bless him): "All of you are guardians, and all of you are responsible for His subjects."

[f. 188 b] ...if he proceeds with an inspection to study this calamity with what we have said before about making good what is between him and his Creator in matters of His religion and fidelity to His will, everyone who turns aside from the truth will appear to him (the sultan) from his companions, followers and subjects. (He must) reconcile what is between him and the sultans of these countries, Syria, the Jazira, Egypt and the rest of the areas which border it and are near to it. If fear was universal the people of all these countries would join together (despite) old hatreds, hidden resentments, and concerning themselves with mutual envy and rivalry. For the bedouin did not cease, in their time before Islam and before God (who is praised) did right by guiding them, to do that. If an enemy, who was not one of them, raided them, they looked to the same good conduct, from which there was no turning away for them, and said: "In severity, hatreds go." (Instances) like this have reached us about all the kings of Persia and others. They made peace and agreed (to oppose) their enemy, and if they conquered them or drove them away by their joining forces against them, they could either [f. 189 a] return to their former disunity, or continue with the compromise and agreement they had begun. The victor of their situation was the remaining on good relations of friendship because of the prosperity, blessing and salvation from situations of destruction which they saw in it. In this way it is incumbent on our sultans and whoever God (who is praised) has appointed to rule us - may God make good their peace-making and guidance - that they follow the model of those who preceded them, from those who were like them, what came of that in their religion, and what their Prophet entrusted them with, about which his words approximately are: "Do not snub each other, oppose each other or envy each other. Be worshippers of God in a brotherhood as God ordered you," and other words than those of instruction. Helping them and aiding them all that they can, joining their hands and abilities to it, and taking on all this burden and toil in targeting this group, is incumbent on all the people of soldiers, citizens, peasants and all the rest of the people. Even the smallest contribution will be appreciated. They (will) do in their jihad many times what the people did in their military expeditions to their lands and (the territories of) the Rum, to drive them from there and efface their traces.

That is because there were associated with the duties of fighting hard against the enemy many requirements which make light of the great number of deeds (involved) and defy with them the greatness of the terrors (which must be faced). Among them is the defence of the country of the coast and support of its peoples (who are) besieged and fighting with great efforts because they now are keeping the enemy distracted from these countries, what is near them, Egypt and its environs.

[f. 189 b] From them come our hopes of hastening a victory over them (the Franks) because of what is true concerning their weakness, the paucity of their cavalry and numbers, and the (far) distance of their reinforcements and support. That has happened by the help of God (who is praised), with the calming of concerns about them by the removal of their cancerous consumption of worldly riches from their booty, the deferred requital (which will take place) by the suitable behaviour (of God) towards them, and liberation in this world from the shame of delay (in dealing with) them and the disgrace of fearing them. That is in addition to the stopping of the desires of those like them (which come) from boldness for what they, in their ignorance, desired. Then (will come) victory, by the taking back of what they took from the country of the Muslims, the displaying of the religion of Islam in them, and the restoring of them to what they were before their taking of them.

These are matters, as we have mentioned, which are unlikely to coincide at this time, rather there will hardly be anything like it in what remains of time, opportunities that it requires haste to take, and spoils which it is necessary to rise up and seize. God, in His power, watches over that and is the one who aids and makes life easy for rulers and defenders (of Islam). If God (who is praised) grants an encounter with this enemy, stand firm as God ordered you, O Muslims, when He said (and He is exalted): "O you who believe, if you meet a group (of enemies), stand firm and make many calls to God. Perhaps you will be successful."


© Niall Christie 2001

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