Does The Word ‘Jihad’ Mean Holy War in Islam?

While Islam in general is misunderstood in the western world, perhaps no other Islamic term evokes such strong reactions as the word ‘jihad’.

The term ‘jihad’ has been much abuse and is readily associated with violence and oppression. However, it must be said that the meaning of jihad, as a ‘holy war’, is something which is totally foreign and not from Islam. In the linguistic sense, the Arabic word “jihad” means struggling or striving and applies to any effort exerted by anyone.

By simply looking into the sources of Islam, one is able to know that the true meaning of jihad is to strive/make effort in the way of Allah. Thus striving in the way of Allah can be both peaceful and physical. The Prophet Muhammed (saws) said:

“The best jihad is (by) the one who strives against his own self for Allah, The Mighty and Majestic”

Thus jihad primarily refers to the inner struggle of being a person of virtue and submission to God in all aspects of life.

Secondarily, jihad refers to struggle against injustice. Islam, like many other religions, allows for armed self-defense, or retribution against tyranny, exploitation, and oppression. The Glorious Qur’an says:

“And why should ye not fight in the cause of God and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? – Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!”
[Al-Qur’an 4:75]

Thus Islam enjoins upon its believers to strive utmost, in purifying themselves, as well as in establishing peace and justice in the society. A Muslim can never be at rest when they see injustice and oppression around them.

Islam enjoins upon all Muslims to work actively to maintain the balance in which God created everything. However, regardless of how legitimate the cause may be, the Glorious Qur’an never condones the killing of innocent people. Terrorizing the civilian population can never be termed as jihad and can never be reconciled with the teachings of Islam.

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