There are two kinds of Jihad:
(1) The Inner or Greater Jihad against evil within oneself and for the establishment of the good.
(2) The Outer or lesser Jihad which is a self-defence against those who attack Islam. This is mainly, but not necessarily political in nature, e.g. against other non-muslim communities. It can be but need not be military action.
(3) One could also add a third Social Jihad - to remove evil within the community and establish good.- - - -
The short answer is as follows: Jihad is derived from the word Johd which means effort. It is used in Islam to define:
1) Exerting an effort to become a better Muslim and human being.
2) Exerting an effort to defend yourself against aggressors.
After returning from battle against the pagans, Prophet Mohammed ﷺ said:
"We have returned from the minor Jihad [meaning (2)] to the major Jihad [meaning (1)]".
The Quran is very specific that battle is only taken in self defence.
All verses that non Muslims rely on in their claim that the Quran commands Muslims to kill all infidels and such nonsense refer to particular incidents during Mohammed's life that no longer apply. Even the Islamic expansions after Mohammed's death were politically inspired more than religously and very rarely were non Muslims persecuted because of their beliefs (extremely rare).
Bin Ladin and others interpret the US presence in Saudi Arabia and Israeli aggression against Palestinians as an attack on Islam that warrants self defence (recall that he also believes that the governments in many Islamic countries are corrupt and do not follow Islam). They further interpret that American citizens are fully responsible and hence are considered viable targets. Their beliefs come from their twisted interpretations not from any direct verse in the Quran or other sources of Islam (Sunna, Hadith, Seerah).
By the way, remember the Afghan war against the Soviets? The fighters were known as Mujahidin (those who do Jihad) because they were trying to drive away an aggressor.
The problem with the word Jihad, is that it is (often) translated as "Holy War", which is a mistranslation. This brings to Westerners the image of the Crusades and other Holy Wars of early Christianity. They relate this to Islam which is not historically correct.
Hamid S. Aziz
- expired link (before 2023-02-16) altway.freeuk.com