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Jihad is an Islamic concept of spiritual (and sometimes physical) struggle. Though jihad is not considered to be a pillar of Islam, some scholars liken it to a sixth pillar of Islam after Shahadah, Salat, Zakaat, Sawm and Hajj.[1][note 1]. It is sometimes referred to as a duty or call and can be considered a form of worship. Jihad can be divided into four types:

  • Jihad against one's self: this is directed against the evil side of one's self which is affected by Satan.[2]
  • Jihad of the tongue: this is a form of jihad which involves spreading the message of Allah
  • Jihad of the hand: this is the jihad of doing the right
  • Jihad of the sword: this is form of jihad which involves a holy war and can be directed against the non-Muslims or unbelievers. Ironically, this is virtually the exact definition of "Crusade", which many Mujihadeen (people on Jihad) claim to be fighting against. Arguably the others can fall under the category of various forms of "moral crusades".


Historically, jihad against non-Muslims has been important in the wars of many Islamic peoples. More recently, militant and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Daesh, and al-Qaeda have appropriated the concept of jihad, and consequently the term has come to be known in Western countries and has been used exaggeratedly in some anti-Islamic scaremongering.[3] Justification for jihad normally comes from the hadith and from the Quran. According to Islamic scholar Ibn Tammiyah, physical jihad can take two forms:[citation needed]

  1. when there is no pre-emptive attack (offensive jihad)
  2. when there is a pre-emptive attack (defensive jihad)

Offensive jihad takes place in order to "introduce" Islam to people. According to Fatwa Shami (alternatively called Raad Al Mutthar) an imam is obliged to raid neighbouring non-Muslim countries[citation needed] once a year (ghazwa[4])in order to spread the Darul Islam (The land of Islam/The land of peace).[5] The imam has to put three classical options before the non-Muslim countries -

  1. pay jaziya[6] with willing submission
  2. accept Islam
  3. meet on the battlefield

Despite the numerous calls for jihads against the West, the Muslim world ignores these - for good reasons:

  • Only a high-ranking member of Islam can call for a jihad. For example, for much of the Ottoman Empire's history only the Sultan could call for a jihad as he was both the Sultan of the largest and most powerful Muslim state as well as the Caliph.[7] Since the caliphate was destroyed in 1923 by Turkey, the claim for the power to call jihad has more or less fallen into the hands of Saudi Arabia for Sunnis. Any terrorist group calling for a jihad against the West and/or Israel has no real power to do so and is doing the Islamic equivalent of talking shit.
  • Simply because a jihad is called does not mean Muslims must follow it. During World War I, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire called for a jihad against the Allied Powers, but many Muslims ignored the call as they viewed the war as pointless.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. Fard Ayn {the greatest degree of obligation}. Qadi Ibn Rushd reported that the scholars are agreed that when jihad becomes Fard Ayn it has more of a priority than fulfilling the Fard Hajj. The reason being, that if jihad is Fard Ayn it must be carried out immediately, whereas the obligation to perform the pilgrimage may be postponed.


  1. John Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, pp.93
  2. Rueven Firestone, Jihad: The Origin of Holy War in Islam, p 17
  4. See the Wikipedia article on ghazwa.
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Divisions of the world in Islam.
  6. See the Wikipedia article on jaziya.