Jihad (جِهَاد) Basic Definition – The effort of an individual or sanctioned body in uplifting spiritual, educational, and governmental furtherance of an individual or populous, in alignment with God’s will. We kindly urge you to read the more detailed definition for context.

Linguistically (LI)

As it relates to the Arabic language, to kindle one’s fortitude toward overcoming struggle. (1)

Legislatively (LE)

The using, or exerting, of ones utmost power, efforts, endeavors, or ability, in contending with an object of disapprobation; and this is of three kinds namely, a visible enemy, the devil, and one’s self. (2) Further, Jihad is defined as exerting effort in fighting oppressors, lawbreakers, and otherwise criminals, be they Muslim or non-Muslim, with the expressed goal of maintaining God’s given rights to humanity. (3)

Misinterpretation (ME)

Jihad is commonly misinterpreted as being synonymous with the term Crusade and incorrectly defined as Holy War. Jihad has been utilized as a social construct to justify indiscriminate killing as well as absorbing the property of either innocent partiers or those not in theological agreement with a given body.

Application by example – (ABE)

The correct usage of the term:

Example 1:
Jihad is not only permissible but obligatory against anyone who enters my home and attempts to hurt my family.

In this sentence Jihad is not general or open ended, it is being used regarding a specific threat.

Example 2:
The Muslims of Baghdad waged Jihad against the Mongol invaders. 

This statement is regarding the war between the Muslims of the 11th and 12 century and the invading Mongol army. Here we have a Muslim state defending itself, this is an example of defensive jihad with regard to armed combat.

Example 3:
I wage a daily jihad against myself to keep myself from drinking alcohol.

This example refers the internal spiritual struggle an individual experiences while trying to practice tenants of his faith.

The incorrect usage of the term:

Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims,’ the speech by Islamic State spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani said. (4)

There are many factual, contextual, and religious problems with this statement, however, in the interest of brevity we will focus on the term “Jihad” is used incorrectly.

  • Firstly, this statement implies that Russia and America are at war with all Muslims, globally. Even if this was that case, which it is not there are theological conditions for fighting against an enemy (for more info on the conditions of Jihad click here).
  • Secondly, this statement assumes that Abu Mohammad al-Adnani has been granted the religious position and stature to order other Muslims to perform Jihad, which he has not.
  • Thirdly, we have no textual evidence nor any authenticated manuals that show Prophet Muhammad, or the four Caliphas that succeeded him, ever used the term Jihad in such a general and callus manner. (Side note: the two major pieces of source material for Islamic law come from the era of Prophet Muhammad and the four Caliphas that succeeded him).

Usage in the Quran:

Example 1:
Surah 2:216

Jihad is ordained for you though you dislike it, and it maybe that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.

This verse speaks to physical combat when the proper conditions have been meet for such.

Example 2:
Surah 2:78 

And strive hard in Allah’s cause as you. He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in religion any hardships: it is the religion of your father Ibrahim (Abraham)…

This verse speaks to the spiritual manifestations of Jihad in alignment with the Abrahamic world view. In the verse above Jihad is used in the Arabic but “strive hard” in used in the English translation for proper fit.

Example 3:
Surah 25:52

So obey not the disbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost endeavor with it.

The context of the above verse speaks to utilizing Quranic thermos as a foundation in properly educating others about the faith of Islam.

Usage in Prophetic Narrations (Hadith):

Example 1:
Narrated on the authority of ‘Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) reported (That she said):

O Allah Apostle! We consider Jihad as the best deed. Should we not fight in Allah’s Cause?” He said, “The best jihad (for women) is Hajj-Mabrur (i.e. Hajj which is done according to the Prophet’s tradition and accepted by Allah). (5)

This prophetic narration shows that in Islamic theology the term jihad can have a mired of meanings.

Example 2:
Narrated on the authority of Abdullah bin Masud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

I asked Allah’s Apostle, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is the best deed?” He replied, “To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times.” I asked, “What is next in goodness?” He replied, “To be good and dutiful to your parents.” I further asked, what is next in goodness?” He replied, “To participate in Jihad in Allah’s Cause.” I did not ask Allah’s Apostle anymore and if I had asked him more, he would have told me more. (6)

The Jihad referred to here is the physical form of Jihad. Further, this pronouncement of Jihad is solely under the authority of the Caliph of the Islamic global state (more on this subject to follow), be it in its offensive or defensive forms, and to a lesser degree under the authority of the ruler of a Muslim nation; not dissimilar from the President being the commander in chief or the military authority of the United States.

(1) Source Lisan al-Arab, vol 1, page 708.
(2) Arabic-English Lexicon vol 2, page 473.
(3) Tawdih Al-Ahkam vol 4, page 277.
(4) Statement taken from Reuters Article http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-islamicstate-idUSKCN0S72DH20151013 
(5) Hadith Collection Sahih Bukhari, book of Jihad.
(6) Hadith Collection Sahih Bukhari, Book of the Times of As-Salat.