From my understanding it seems to be a somewhat modern notion that military jihad is only halal when it is in self-defense. I'm wondering if that narrative has any backing in pre-modern fiqh; while it's easy to find opinions that consider jihad for the purpose of conquest to be a communal obligation, I can't find anyone that says that this is haram in principle.

Note that I'm not talking about scholars that say the ummah has to keep the peace treaties it enters into, as the caliph can decide whether or not to conclude such a treaty, making that optional and not a principled stance. I'm asking for legal opinions that conclude that war for purposes other than self-defense is haram in principle.

Question: Which pre-modern scholars (say, before the 19th century CE), if any, considered jihad for purposes other than self-defense to be haram in principle?

  • Preventive strikes are also considered as part of self-defense.
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 13:49
  • @Medi1Saif When there's clear evidence that someone is planning and preparing to attack you, I would consider a preventive strike to be a defensive move, I agree. However, preventive strikes done in self-defense don't build one of the fastest-expanding and biggest empires in human history; calling that kind of endeavor a series of "preventive strikes" would seem propagandistic to me, and would make any distinction between offensive and defensive warfare quite meaningless.
    – G. Bach
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 14:11
  • I disagree. Expansion in a world of expansionist empires is preventive strike. In the case of today however I could agree that expansion is not necessarily preventive.
    – The Z
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 20:25
  • @TheZ If you want to suggest that the Golden Horde taking most of Eurasia in a timespan of 80 years was a defensive enterprise, feel free. I would consider that a gross misuse of the term.
    – G. Bach
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 20:29
  • False comparison. The golden horde sacked and destroyed cities even when they surrendered and asked for peace. Discluding that there is no moral way of saying they did anything wrong per se. Something I don't like sure. But you can't blame them since every other empire at the time would have done the same. I more blame the other empires for becoming weak enough to allow that to happen.
    – The Z
    Commented May 18, 2018 at 20:31

1 Answer 1


None to the best of my knowledge. I have not come across any classical scholar that labeled jihad at large as haram for any purpose.

  • could you elaborate on the last statement... not "labelled Jihad as haram" , how it is the same as the question "considered jihad for purposes other than self-defense to be haram"
    – Kilise
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 12:25
  • Well, it's not a very long answer, but if there's not more to be said about it, then that's the right answer.
    – G. Bach
    Commented May 20, 2018 at 18:10

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