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Jihad is an Arabic word which comes from the Arabic root word 'jahada'; it literally means either 'combat' or 'striving'. It is considered a mandatory and fundamental principle of Islam, although the interpretation of this principle varies widely. Jihad is sometimes referred to as "The sixth pillar of Islam" in honour of its religious status and in reference to the Five Pillars of Islam. The two meanings of Jihad are:

  1. A personal, internal struggle (inner or greater Jihad)
  2. An external struggle (including armed combat), against aggressors (outer or lesser Jihad)

Table of contents
1 Jihad in the Quran
2 Authority
3 Terrorism
4 Jihad and Combat against non-Muslims
5 Jihad in interpreting religious law
6 External Links

Jihad in the Quran

In one quote about Jihad, the Qur'an says:

"To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to defend themselves), because they are wronged - and verily, Allah is Most Powerful to give them victory - (they are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right - (for no cause) except that they say, 'Our Lord is Allah'..." (22:39-40)


Muslims hold that an outer jihad can only be declared by a lawful and legal authority who is himself a Muslim, but they differ significantly on just who such an authority actually is. Islamic law also states that such a Jihad may only be carried out against those who are themselves actively oppressing Islam, but the Muslim community has no consensus over what constitutes such an oppression. For some Muslims, the act of saying that woman should be able to vote, and that Jews and Christians should be given equal rights, itself is an act of violence against Islam, and thus all of Western society is a target for a Jihad. Other Muslims consider such views to be extremist and a violation of the intent of the Quran.

There is much debate over both requirements. Islamic parties in democracies, for instance, accept the lawful legal authority of the state, and rules of war that define noncombatant status. This in turn will limit what activities can fit under jihad, but only for those who accept those definitions.


Many modern Arab acts of terrorism have been considered an expression of jihad. Two Islamist groups call themselves "Islamic Jihad": Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. These groups are considered mainstream by millions of supporters within the Islamic world, who see a strong religious justification for a military understanding of the term jihad.

For militant groups within the Islamic cultural sphere, a person who commits suicide as a part of struggle against oppression is considered a shahid - holy martyr - and is held to have earned a place in heaven. Many Muslims disagree with this view, however, saying that even in such circumstances, suicide remains a sin.

Many Muslim Arab clerics encourage suicide bombing and Jihad against the West, mainly against the USA and Israel.[1] Most of these clerics are either sponsored by the Arab governments, or head extremist groups (such as Sheikh Ahmed Yassin of Hamas).

Many Islamic legal rulings view any killings of a civilian nature (whether through combat or any other such militant activity) as unjust, immoral and against the ethics of Islam. However this opinion suggests certain occasions when strategic "suicide bombings" may be permissible on the basis of whether they have been sanctioned as permissible by the local field commander, but this is only during a time of military action and only with regards to military targets.

There is no single position on this issue that all Muslims accept.

Jihad and Combat against non-Muslims

"Jihad has been decreed to repel aggression and to remove obstructions impeding the propagation of Islam in non-Islamic countries." As Lt. Col. M. M. Qureshi points out in his Landmarks of Jihad, "only a war which has an ultimate religious purpose can be termed as jihad." (Shayk Muhammad Abu Zahra, Egyptian member of the Academy of Islamic Research).

There is nothing historically unique about this position, although such clear (and popular) advocacy of forced conversion and proselytization is not permissible according to the laws of Islam. See also the "Reputation and evaluation" section of Crusade for a discussion of how the terms "Crusade" and "Jihad" are perceived differently in the West and the Islamic world.

Many analysts hold that the severe economic and governmental differences between the Islamic world and the rest of the world contribute to fueling this notion of jihad.

Jihad in interpreting religious law

The term Jihad, in its understanding as an inner struggle, is sometimes used to describe the process that an Muslim jurist uses in making decisions on Islamic law; it can be used as a metaphor for intellectual striving. This usage occurs when a jurist is attempting to reach a just ruling (or fatwa) in the Islamic law - that is ijtihad.

A driving idea behind this is that inner and outer jihad are related; each individual must apply inner jihad to conclude what is intolerable for him personally before the social process of deciding to resist can even begin. If it does, the process of declaring and ending outer jihad are themselves the subject of fatwas.

External Links


Jihad is a hardcore punk band fronted by Sean Muttaqi, previously of Vegan Reich.