What does Jihad Mean? What are Types of Jihad?

Jihad is the name given to every activity and movement in the way of Allah (SWT). It means endeavoring to make justice superior and dominant. In other words, jihad has to do with action in Islam; it is the power of Islam to act.

The word jihad is often interpreted as “holy war” in Western languages. (1) Such an interpretation stems from the efforts to show Islam as a religion which spreads by the force of weapon.

However, the meaning of the word “jihad” is not “war.” To fight for the sake of Allah (SWT) is also a sort of jihad but, in general terms, this word includes any kind of activity and action to make the religion of Allah go everywhere.

1-Abu'l Ala Mawdudi, Jihad in Islam, Islamic Publications LTD, Lahor, p.1; Rudolph Peters, İslam ve Sömürgecilik ( Islam and Colonialism), Trans. Süleyman Gündüz, Nehir Pub. ist.1989, p.29; M.J. Kister, "Land Property and Jihad" , Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, Leiden, 1991, XXXIV, 276; W. Montgomery Watt, Islamic Political Thought, Edinburgh, p. 14; Ahmet Özel, İslam Hukukunda Milletlerarası Münasebetler ve Ülke Kavramı (International Relations In Islamic Law and The Concept of Country), Marifet Pub. Ist. p. 64

 Types of Jihad

1. Jihad against Ignorance:This jihad means to teach people the truth and the good. God Almighty addresses the Prophet as follows in the Quran:

“Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.” (an-Nahl, 125)

The following is stated in another verse:

“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity.” (Aal-i Imran, 104)

The Quran is a spiritual drug that is enough to cure the material and spiritual, and individual and social wounds of not only one nation but also all of the people to come until the Day of Judgment. The duty of presenting this drug to humanity was given to Muslims.

2. Jihad against one's Soul:The believers are warned against the trick of the soul as follows in a verse: “…nor follow thou the lusts, (of thy heart), for they will mislead thee from the Path of Allah.” (Sad, 26)

The Prophet (pbuh) stated the following “The greatest jihad is the one against your soul.” He also said, “Your greatest enemy is your soul, which is inside you.” (Ajluni, Kashfu’l-Khafa, Beirut, I, 143, Hadith No: 413)

The Prophet attracts attention to the importance of this jihad. As a matter of fact, while returning from a battle, the Prophet (pbuh) said, “We have returned to the great jihad from the small jihad.” (Kanzu’l-Ummal, IV, 430, Hadith No: 11260 ) Thus, he expressed concisely that overcoming one's soul was more difficult and more important than fighting the enemy.

3. Jihad against Satan:The following verse in the Quran shows that Satan is the greatest enemy to man: “Verily Satan is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy.”(Fatir, 6 ) Thus, attention is attracted to the fact that the greatest jihad is the one done against the greatest enemy.    

4. Jihad with Weapons:This jihad is not continuous. It is not fard for everybody. If the state has enough power, jihad is fard al-kifayah; that is, when a group of people makes jihad, the other people are not held responsible.

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