The Arabic word, " Jihad, "simply means "struggle". But, such a definition is too simplistic, since the word,"Jihad",has been used in the Qur'an and Hadiths and hence the question is often asked what kind of struggle one is dealing with. That means that further explorations are needed to achieve more meaningful meaning of the word," Jihad, " as it is expressed in the scriptures of Islam.
"Jihad" means any one of, or all of the following detailed meanings, related to its appearances in the scriptures of Islam:
(A) Since the solid-rock foundation of Islam is " Al-Tawheed, ",meaning ,"The ONE-NESS OF GOD",and since the vast majority of the people of Arabia in the 7th century(AD) were Pagans,it took a great deal of "Jihad" for the converts from Pagan to Islam, to adhere firmly to the belief that there was only one God who created life and the whole universe. Here,the meaning of "Jihad" is to struggle for the sustenance of such a belief.
(B) There are certain negative characteristichs embodied in the human nature that can be most damaging to the common good of any human society. It takes personal " Jihad "to overcome the tendency of such charachteristics before they implode from within of the human nature. In such a case,"Jihad" means struggle for self-discipline and self-control.
(C) As The Prophet Muhammad and his followers had settled in Medina, they had to build a new community for themselves so that they could practice their religion and the Islamic way of life, under the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad." Jihad "meant ,here,struggling within the community to build such a community through cooperation,compassion toward one another as members of a harmonious community, with a common goal: serving the common good.
(D) Islam abhors injustices and abhors starting an aggression, but if injustice is committed against Islam and Muslims and if aggression is committed against Islam and Muslims, it is the obligation or rather the duty of all Muslims to fight back in self-defense, until all injustices are eleminated and the aggression is defeated or at least stopped. There is no " turning the other cheek " in Islam. But,the instruction is very clear: never, never start an aggression which is just as telling about the essence of Islam, as " turning the other cheek " in Christianity.
These are the fundamental meanings of the Arabic word,"Jihad" in Islam.
Although there are other meanings of "Jihad" in Islam such as " Jihad " to aquire knowledge, Jihad to practice all the five pillars of Islam, as they were listed in Topic,(4) of this series, the above list from (A) through (D) makes a fine understanding of what the word ," Jihad "really means.
Just to show the priority of the various meanings of " Jihad, " as The Prophet Muhammad returned to the city of Medina,with his followers,after the Battle of Badr against the caravan of the Meccans who wanted to kill him, he was quoted saying the following statement:
" We are returning from the lesser Jihad and going on the Greater Jihad. " For the authenticity of this Hadith, check Al-Bukhari, the exponent and authoritative scholar on all Hadiths.
It is clear that the meanings of "Jihad" in (A),(B) and (C) take precedent for understanding "Jihad" than (D). That does not mean that (D) should be ignored. It should not. It is just not as great as the other three meanings of "Jihad".
Next will be Topic (12) The Status Of Women In Islam.