‘JIHAD’, the Real Meaning
‘Jehad’ (Jihad) is an Arabic word that literally means ‘endeavor’. In the literal historical context, this Islamic doctrine clearly implies physically fighting in the way of the Arabic God ‘Allah’ to establish supremacy over unbelievers, until they relinquish their faith and become Muslims, or acknowledge their subordination by paying the ‘Jaziya’ (or Jizya) humiliation tax. As will be shown in subsequent chapters, Jihad historically has been a perpetual war against infidels (Buddhists, Hindus, Deists, Pagans, Atheists, Skeptics, Jews, Christians, etc).
5 Pillars of Islam
The 5 pillars (obligations) of Islam include Shahadah (the witness), Salat (mandatory daily prayers), Zakat (mandatory alms), Sawm or Siyam (fasting during Ramadan), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). As a practical matter (so as not to alert or advertise its methods and intents to potential adversaries), Jihad narrowly missed becoming a ‘declared’ pillar of Islam. Although not a declared pillar, amongst a majority of Muslims Jihad enjoys at least sympathy and support, if not active participation. It follows that Jihad then, in practice, serves as a functional pillar (obligation) of official Islamic theology. Indeed, any preview of Islamic written theology in relation to Jihad reveals that the practice is at least as important to the salvation of Muslims as are the other pillars. In many verses, the importance, and the promised benefits of Jihad (in both this life and the next) appear much larger than the more spiritual benefits associated with the other 5 pillars mentioned.
In the correct context of the Islamic sacred texts, ‘Jihad‘ means literally ‘holy war‘, but today there is an effort in some quarters to extend or redefine its meaning and scope. To some it essentially means, "struggle", and to those there are two types or divisions in Jihad: greater and lesser. "Greater Jihad," is the struggle within the soul of a person to be better, more righteous — the fight against the devil within.
"Lesser Jihad" is the fight against the devil without, the military struggle against those who subjugate Muslims or frustrate her aims. For those Muslims who ascribe to this differentiation, the struggle against the external oppressor waxes and wanes, but the fight to suppress the evil inclinations within is perpetual. When asked which is more important to Islam, greater Jihad or lesser Jihad, many ‘moderate’ Muslims tell infidels something like; "They don’t call it greater Jihad for nothing". Unfortunatly, the rather small effort within some communities of Islam to redefine/reform Islam to exclude ‘physical violence against non-believers’ from the concept of Jihad, is losing.
Amongst mullahs from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to points across the globe, a somewhat different definition of the Greater and Lesser Jihad is now offered; "They are of equal importance", say even Moderate Muslims. "Jihad against the oppressor of Muslims is an absolute duty. Islam is a religion that defends itself." The newer emphasis and message resonating now is as was described by a Pakistani Cleric interviewed in 2002; "Both the Jihads have their importance. In one, we struggle to amend our inner self, and in another, we defend our religion. Islam is a religion of limits, except for Jihad, where there is no compromise. Jihad must be fought without limits". This new emphasis places Jihad against ‘the devil without’ as more applicable today. Jihad against outside devils, in particular against the ‘Great Satan America‘, is waxing strong, assuming a permanent place of overriding importance. This is very disturbing with grave implications because once a Jihad has been declared and accepted by the followers of Muhammad, they tend to see it through to the end, even if that effort involves huge sacrifice and spans decades.
What follows are several classical definitions of Jihad. Thereafter we will examine passages from the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira related to Jihad and violence in Islam. "Jihad" or other forms of the word occur in the Qur’an about 35 times. Additionally throughout the Qur’an there are other words used for various other forms of violence. References to all these terms (fighting, war, attack, Jihad, slay, kill, etc) are almost continuous.
From the "Concordance of the Qur’an", 1983 comes a definition, probably the simplest most straightforward found. Kassis essentially derived it from the Qur’anic context of the word:
JIHAD = JAHADA (verb). To struggle, strive, fight for the faith.
The following is a more detailed definition of Jihad from the Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, page 89:
DJIHAD, holy war. The spread of Islam by arms is a religious duty upon Muslims in general. It narrowly escaped being a sixth "rukn", or fundamental duty, and is indeed still so regarded by the descendants of the Kharidjis. The position was reached gradually but quickly. In the Meccan Suras of the Kuran patience under attack is taught; no other attitude was possible. But at Medina the right to repel attack appears, and gradually it became a prescribed duty to fight against and subdue the hostile Meccans. Whether Muhammad himself recognized that his position implied steady and unprovoked war against the unbelieving world until it was subdued to Islam may be in doubt. Traditions are explicit on the point; but the Kuranic passages speak always of the unbelievers who are to be subdued as dangerous or faithless. Still, the story of his writing to the powers around him shows that such a universal position was implicit in his mind, and it certainly developed immediately after his death, when the Muslim armies advanced out of Arabia. It is now a "fard ‘ala ‘l-kifaya, a duty in general on all male, free, adult Muslims, sane in mind and body and having means enough to reach the Muslim army, yet not a duty necessarily incumbent on every individual but sufficiently performed when done by a certain number. So it must continue to be done until the whole world is under the rule of Islam."
Many Westerners have wondered in amazement at the number of men leaving safe and relatively comfortable lands to undertake a perilous journey and face death to fight superior forces in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Iraq. Clearly, those who do so, do it out of a strong sense of religious duty, fully expecting to be rewarded for their sacrifice. The "Dictionary of the Qur’an", op cit, defines Jihad as;
Regarding Jihad, the "Tafsir of Ibn Kathir", volume 2, pages 116, 117 on verse 2:191 states:
As Jihad involves death and the killing of men, Allah draws our attention to the fact that the disbelief and polytheism of the disbelievers, and their avoidance of Allah’s path are far worse than killing. Thus Allah says, "And Fitnah is worse than killing." This is to say that shirk (Polytheism) is more serious and worse than k
The classic manual of Islamic sacred law, "Reliance of the Traveler" , is one of the more respected, classical works in Islamic theology. This 1200+ page voluminous book on Sharia contains fundamentals of Islamic jurisprudence compiled by "the great 13th century Hadith scholar and jurisprudent", Iman Nawawi, and others. This work was not written with a Western audience in mind. Nawawi wanted to produce a book on Islamic law that was precise and accurate, one that taught true Islamic values. There are additional statements regarding the rules of Jihad found in "Reliance of the Traveler", but we quote only one relevant statement that portrays Jihad’s scope and application, from page 599:
o9.0 JIHAD: "Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word "mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion. And it is the less Jihad. As for the great Jihad, it is spiritual warfare against the lower self, (nafs), which is why the Prophet said as he was returning from Jihad.
Scholarly consensus by all reputable Islamic experts is sourced by scriptural basis for Jihad from such Qur’anic verses as: "Fighting is prescribed for you" (2:216), "Slay them wherever you find them" (4:89), "Fight the idolaters utterly" (9:36), and such Hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet said:
"I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah."
A Hadith report by Muslim confirms this philosophy:
"To go forth in the morning or evening to fight in the path of Allah is better than the whole world and everything in it."
Finally, from Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadis #0033, and Sahih Bukhari, volume 1, Book 8, Hadis #387, comes a telling insight on the true meaning and scope of Jihad:
Muhammad said, "I have been ordered to fight against people until they say that "there is no god but Allah", that "Muhammad is the messenger of Allah", they pray, and pay religious taxes. If they do that, their lives and property are safe."
According to Muslim doctrine, to deny Allah and Muhammad’s exclusive right to be believed in and adored is a terrible crime. Having established the ‘best religion’ that abrogates all others, the Prophet undeniably prescribed that the correct course of action against non-believers is to fight them. Since the biggest crime any person or nation can commit is denial of Islam, it is quite clear the true solution to the problem has been dictated to be perpetual war (Jihad) against such renegades. Based upon Islamic scholars’ writings, it appears undeniable that violent Jihad is permitted in Islam for both offensive and defensive purposes. It was commanded by, and praised by Muhammad as being one of the greatest forms of true Islamic spirituality. Further, some of the final direction from Muhammad was that that Jihad is to continue until all people are subjected to Islamic rule. Offensive aggression toward non-Muslims is clearly and unashamedly allowed, but prior to attacking, the Muslims are to offer them a choice: 1- Become Muslim; 2- do not become Muslim but pay the extortion (Jizya) tax; 3- defend yourself unto death.
Jihad embodies both an ideology and a jurisdiction, formally conceived by Muslim legal experts and theologians from the 8th to 9th centuries onward, based on their interpretation of Qur’anic verses and long chapters in the Traditions (the hadith). The consensus on the nature of jihad from all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi’i) is clear:
Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (Maliki),
Jihad is a precept of Divine institution. Its performance by certain individuals may dispense others from it. We Malikis (one of the four schools of Muslim jurisprudence) maintain that it is preferable not to begin hostilities with the enemy before having invited the latter to embrace the religion of Allah except where the enemy attacks first. They have the alternative of either converting to Islam or paying the poll tax (jizya), short of which war will be declared against them. 
Ibn Taymiyya (Hanbali)
Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God’s entirely and God’s word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought. As for those who cannot offer resistance or cannot fight, such as women, children, monks, old people, the blind, handicapped and their likes, they shall not be killed unless they actually fight with words (e.g. by propaganda) and acts (e.g. by spying or otherwise assisting in the warfare). 
From (primarily) the Hanafi school, as given in the Hidayah
It is not lawful to make war upon any people who have never before been called to the faith, without previously requiring them to embrace it, because the Prophet so instructed his commanders, directing them to call the infidels to the faith, and also because the people will hence perceive that they are attacked for the sake of religion, and not for the sake of taking their property, or making slaves of their children, and on this consideration it is possible that they may be induced to agree to the call, in order to save themselves from the troubles of war If the infidels, upon receiving the call, neither consent to it nor agree to pay capitation tax, it is then incumbent on the Muslims to call upon God for assistance, and to make war upon them, because God is the assistant of those who serve Him, and the destroyer of His enemie
s, the infidels, and it is necessary to implore His aid upon every occasion; the Prophet, moreover, commands us so to do. 
The mushrikun (infidels) of Dar al-Harb (the arena of battle) are of two types: First, those whom the call of Islam has reached, but they have refused it and have taken up arms. The amir of the army has the option of fighting themin accordance with what he judges to be in the best interest of the Muslims and most harmful to the mushrikun Second, those whom the invitation to Islam has not reached, although such persons are few nowadays since Allah has made manifest the call of his MessengerIt is forbidden tobegin an attack before explaining the invitation to Islam to them, informing them of the miracles of the Prophet and making plain the proofs so as to encourage acceptance on their part; if they still refuse to accept after this, war is waged against them and they are treated as those whom the call has reached. 
These consenting opinions are all in complete harmony. In the violent, nearly 1,400-year relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, Jihad and dhimmitude were firmly established by the 8th century. Perhaps the preeminent Islamic scholar in history was Ibn Khaldun, a renowned philosopher, historian, and sociologist. In his writings in 1406, he summarized these opinions and five centuries of prior Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of Jihad:
In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force…The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense…Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations. 
The simple terrible fact is that Jihad does not represent a mere excess or defect of Islam, but rather is an integral part of its timeless core. According to Muslim scholar Bassam Tibi,
"Muslims are religiously obliged to disseminate the Islamic faith throughout the world…. If non-Muslims submit to conversion or subjugation, this call can be pursued peacefully. If they do not, Muslims are obliged to wage war against them. Those who resist Islam cause wars and are responsible for them"
World peace, according to his Islamic teaching, "is reached only with the conversion or submission of all mankind to Islam." So by Tibi’s logic, when Muslims wage jihad, they are performing pious acts of worship to bring about the peace of universal Islam. So it is, by this convoluted logic, that when Muslims disseminate Islam through violent means it is not war (harb), but rather a sacred act of "opening" the world to Islam. In other words, by simply existing, the entire non-Islamic world is always responsible for any and all Jihadic acts against them.
All this official Islamic scripture and sacred writings shows that the official meaning, purpose, and scope of Jihad is in fact quite clear and unambiguous. Further evidence will be outlined in subsequent chapters and appendix laying out carefully and chronically both the permanent basis for violent Jihad today, and its application by Muhammad , his ‘rightly guided Caliphs’ who followed him, and all subsequent followers of Islam throughout history.
Bat Ye’or wrote in The Decline of Eastern Christianity "Jihad is a religious obligation. It forms part of the duties that the believer must fulfill; it is Islam’s ‘normal’ path to expansion". It must now be noted that there is a deliberate effort underway by Islamists and their apologists to present the term Jihad differently. Some of these efforts may be genuine attempts to soften the religion and perhaps cause less military Jihad, but it seems most representations are simply propaganda efforts intended to disseminate misinformation for political purposes. The relatively new phraseology and interpretation is offered mainly to westerners, with the real meaning still taught in the vast majority of Islamic institutions around the world as it has always been. Obviously Islam does not want to alarm the intended audience with the truth, especially the Americans who have been acting badly of late.
In Jihad: How Academics Have Camouflaged Its Real Meaning (by Daniel Pipes Ph.D. in history and director of the Middle East Forum) Mr. Pipes states there is nearly universal falsification on the meaning of jihad amongst elitists. He cites an intellectual scandal wherein even scholars at American universities issue public statements that avoid or whitewash the primary meaning of Jihad in Islamic law and Muslim history. The result is obfuscation as we try to make sense of the Jihad declared on us and discover who the enemy is and what his goals are. Such apologists are dangerous because even people who think they know that jihad means holy war are susceptible to the combined efforts of scholars and Islamists brandishing notions suggesting Jihad means ‘resisting apartheid’ or ‘working for women’s rights’. To quote his article:
through an examination of media statements by university-based specialists, they tend to portray the phenomenon of jihad in a remarkably similar fashion-only, the portrait happens to be false. from the more than two dozen experts I surveyed, only four of them admit that jihad has any military component whatsoever, and even they, with but a single exception, insist that this component is purely defensive in nature. To another half-dozen scholars in my survey, jihad may likewise include militarily defensive engagements, but this meaning is itself secondary to lofty notions of moral self-improvement. But an even larger contingent-nine of those surveyed-deny that jihad has any military meaning whatsoever. The trouble with this accumulated wisdom of the scholars is simple to state. It suggests that Osama bin Laden had no idea what he was saying when he declared jihad on the United States several years ago and then repeatedly murdered Americans in Somalia, at the U.S. embassies in East Africa, in the port of Aden, and then on September 11, 2001. It implies that organizations with the word "jihad" in their titles, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad and bin Laden’s own "International Islamic Front for the Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders," are grossly misnamed. And what about all the Muslims waging violent and aggressive jihads, under that very name and at this very moment, in Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao, Ambon, and other places around the world? Have they not heard that jihad is a matter of controlling one’s anger? But of course it is bin Laden, Islamic Jihad, and the jihadists worldwide who define the term, not a covey of academic apologists. More importantly, the way the jihadists understand the term is in keeping with its usage through fourteen centuries of Islamic history.
Pipes got it right, pointing out that the argument and issue is really a moot point. In fact it does not matter what propagandists, our educated elitists, Pipes, or all Islamic apologists claim Jihad means. What really matters is how millions of self-described devout Muslims understand it today and how they intend to act on their belief. What it has meant in the past (up to and including today) has already been fully defined by all previous actions of Muslim Militants in their conduct toward non-believers, and further debate to clarify or change that historical reality is just plain silly. Any honest review of Islamic history from 610 to 2004 answers the question of Jihadic definition quite convincingly, a portion of which will be reviewed in subsequent chapters. As far as majority Muslim understanding and use of the Jihad term goes, nothing much has changed through the last 1400 years. The lesser Jihad cannot be separated out from the greater Jihad and ignored; it appears they are both a part of unalterable core Islam. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either being deceitful or has been deceived. The basic Islamic worldview sees all lands as either as Dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam), or Dar al-Harb (the abode of war). All those countries and societies not currently dominated by Islamic supremacy are by default the abode of war, where Jihad (and deception) is always fully justified. Those who contend that jihad war is not a main tenet of traditional Islam do so either deceitfully or in blissful ignorance.
The writings of two contemporary Muslim scholars of jihad, the late Majid Khadduri, and Bassam Tibi, confirm that Islam in our age is still in uniform compliance with the earlier sacred writings. The uniquely Islamic conception of "House of War" (Dar ul-Harb) and "House of Islam" (Dar ul-Islam) was a consensus formulation from the early classical period of Muslim jurisprudence.
Majid Khadduri’s 1955 treatise on jihad remains one of the most respected analyses of this institution, summarizing the consensus views of these previous Islamic experts as follows:
Thus the jihad may be regarded as Islam’s instrument for carrying out its ultimate objective by turning all people into believers, if not in the prophethood of Muhammad (as in the case of the dhimmis), at least in the belief of God. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have declared "some of my people will continue to fight victoriously for the sake of the truth until the last one of them will combat the anti-Christ." Until that moment is reached the jihad, in one form or another will remain as a permanent obligation upon the entire Muslim community. It follows that the existence of a dar al-harb is ultimately outlawed under the Islamic jural order; that the dar al-Islam (Islamic community) are permanently under jihad obligation until the dar al-harb is reduced to non-existence; and that any community accepting certain disabilities- must submit to Islamic rule and reside in the dar al-Islam or be bound as clients to the Muslim community. The universality of Islam, in its all embracing creed, is imposed on the believers as a continuous process of warfare, psychological and political if not strictly military. 
And in 1996, Bassam Tibi wrote this:
At its core, Islam is a religious mission to all humanity. Muslims are religiously obliged to disseminate the Islamic faith throughout the world. "We have sent you forth to all mankind" (Q. 34:28). If non-Muslims submit to conversion or subjugation, this call (da’wa) can be pursued peacefully. If they do not, Muslims are obliged to wage war against them. In Islam, peace requires that non-Muslims submit to the call of Islam, either by converting or by accepting the status of a religious minority (dhimmi) and paying the imposed poll tax, jizya. World peace, the final stage of the da’wa, is reached only with the conversion or submission of all mankind to IslamMuslims believe that expansion through war is not aggression but a fulfillment of the Qur’anic command to spread Islam as a way to peace. The resort to force to disseminate Islam is not war (harb), a word that is used only to describe the use of force by non-Muslims. Islamic wars are not hurub (the plural of harb) but rather futuhat, acts of "opening" the world to Islam and expressing Islamic jihad. Relations between dar al-Islam, the home of peace, and dar al-harb, the world of unbelievers, nevertheless take place in a state of war, according to the Qur’an and to the authoritative commentaries of Islamic jurists. Unbelievers who stand in the way, creating obstacles for the da’wa, are blamed for this state of war, for the da’wa can be pursued peacefully if others submit to it. In other words, those who resist Islam cause wars and are responsible for them. Only when Muslim power is weak is ‘temporary truce’ (hudna) allowed (Islamic jurists differ on the definition of ‘temporary’).
Finally, as author Ram Swarup observed in Understanding Islam through Hadis: "Jihad is a divinely ordained institution in Islam. By many authorities it is counted as one of the pillars of Islam. Theologically, it is an intolerant idea: a tribal god, Allah, trying to be universal through conquest. Historically, it was an imperialist urge masked in religious phraseology."
Recent Muslim Views on Islam and Jihad
Several more modern Muslim leaders have put forward their reasoning describing when waging war is justified and allowed. From "The Qur’anic Concept of War", by Pakistani Brigadier S.K. Malik, it says (in the preface):
"But in Islam war is waged to establish supremacy of the Lord only when every other argument has failed to convince those who reject His Will and work against the very purpose of the creation of mankind."
"Many Western Scholars have pointed their accusing fingers at some of the above verses in the Qur’an to be able to contend that world of Islam is in a state of perpetual struggle against the non-Muslims. As to them it is a sufficient answer to make… that the defiance of God’s authority by one who is His slaves exposes that slave to the risk of being held guilty of treason and as such a one, in the perspective of Islamic law, is indeed to be treated as a sort of that cancerous growth on that organism of humanity…. It thus becomes necessary to remove the cancerous malformation even if it be by surgical means, in order to save the rest of humanity."
That Muslim writer, from our ally Pakistan, states that those who reject Islam are viewed as a cancerous growth to be violently removed (i.e. murdered). Note that the writer basically agrees with "Western Scholars" observations that Islam is indeed "in a state of perpetual war" with non-Muslims. Indeed, reviewing conflicts worldwide today, it is Islamic militancy which is causing more death and despair in the world than any other religious or political ideology. Review the following news release from an Egyptian party newspaper issued after Sept 11th.
"I would have liked to add to the flood of crocodile tears flowing from the four corners of the earth, as an expression of sorrow for America’s victims but I have found that my reservoir of tears ran dry a hundred years ago Perhaps in another hundred years the time will come for me to cry over five thousand or even fifty thousand slain Americans." "Did I say five thousand? Did I say fifty thousand? By Allah, this number is miniscule" "The tyrants of the world and of history (i.e. the Americans) suddenly discovered that their leader too could be attacked, and that the white Christian man can scream, suffer pain, bleed, and die" "Do you want me to cry, right this minute, over two or three buildings? By Allah, that’s ridiculous. How can someone who knows how you destroyed countries and obliterated cities from the face of the earth be sorry about two buildings" "Despite all this, I did not exult. Death has glory and majesty, even when it is a dog that dies, let alone five thousand souls. I sat in front of the television and tears filled my eyes. I admit, I did not cry out of sympathy [for the victims]; [I cried] out of fear of Allah the powerful, the precious, the victor, the avenger, the just; how he takes the tyrants just when they think they rule the Earth and are capable of confronting Him" "Islam is alive and well. The hero martyrs in Palestine are the ones who showed the world the incredible potential of the martyr’s body. Whoever the perpetrators of the act [in the U.S.] may be, Islam is their teacher and their professor"
© 2009 – 2011, Matt. All rights reserved.