Jihad has become a very burning issue in recent times, and a discussion about it is very important today, especially when it has unfortunately been misconstrued and misunderstood due to lack of knowledge, lapses in verification of facts and the communication gap between the ordinary Muslim man and the learned scholars. This has led to a deviated understanding of Jihad from its real meaning and which has resulted to a deviant behavior.
Jihad literally means to exert effort, and working by exerting energy.
Contextually, when Jihad is mentioned it is mostly used to refer to the struggle against the unbelievers and fighting them to elevate the word of Allah.
But, Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah sees it to be the exertion of effort, and the ability to attain that beloved by Allah, while according to Ibn al-Qayyim, Jihad is an individual obligation either by the heart, tongue, wealth or hand. Therefore, it is incumbent upon every individual Muslim to struggle and exert energy in carrying out any one of these he can.
TYPES OF JIHAD
Scholars have it that Jihad is of four types or levels namely; Jihadun-Nafs (self struggle against ones whims and caprices), Jihadush-Shaitan (struggle against Satan), Jihadul-Kuffar wal-Munafiqeen (struggle against the unbelievers and hypocrites), and the struggle against oppressors, evil doers or perpetrators.
1) Self struggle is of four types and begins with knowledge; searching to know the basic knowledge about Islam, worship and other obligations needed of every Muslim in terms of Halal (lawful/permissible things) and the unlawful (prohibited) things. This is an individual obligation.
Then, the struggle to carry out and observe, as much as possible, these obligations such as observing the five daily prayers and other good deeds and abstaining from wrong deeds and other prohibitions. This, likewise is an individual obligation.
Then, the struggle in the path of Da'awah (calling to the path of Allah), with knowledge, foresight and wisdom. It entails calling non-Muslims to join the path of Islam as well as enjoining good and forbidding bad among both Muslims and non-Muslims. This is an obligation upon the society, if some people do it the obligation falls off the shoulders of the others.
Finally, under self struggle is patience. One must exercise patience and self restraint in the path of Da'awah and his general interaction with fellow human beings. This is an individual obligation, too.
2) Struggle against the Devil, Shaitan (Satan). According to scholars, it is of two levels; struggling to cast away his evil and devilish whispers of doubt and misconceptions about ones faith in Allah. One must do away with such whisperings which always come when one cannot get answers to some questions bothering him. If one's knowledge is not enough to answer these posing questions, then one must go to the scholars. This is an individual obligation.
3) Struggle against the unbelievers and hypocrites. Allah says in the Qur'an:
﴿يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ جَاهِدِ الْكُفَّارَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَاغْلُظْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَمَأْوَاهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ وَبِئْسَ الْمَصِيرُ﴾
"O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be stern with them. Their abode is Hell-what a miserable destination!" (Q9:73)
The strife against the unbelievers is of two types; Jihad At-Talab and Jihad Ad-Daf'. As for the Jihad At-Talab, it is when the Muslim army wages a war against the non-Muslims and fight them not to compel them to renounce their religion;
﴿لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَدْ تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ﴾
"There shall be no compulsion in religion; the right way has become distinct from the wrong way." (Q2:256),
The doors of Da'awah should be opened; i.e. to pave the way for Muslims to be able to call to Islam and to let the message of Islam get to people without hindrances from a non-Muslim power or authority. In this case only that Muslims are allowed to launch a war against an authority that prevents them from carrying out Da'awah (the call and invitation to Islam), and to it refers the following verses and their kinds in the Qur'an:
﴿فَإِذَا انْسَلَخَ الْأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدْتُمُوهُمْ وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُوا لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ فَإِنْ تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآَتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ فَخَلُّوا سَبِيلَهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ﴾
"When the Sacred Months have passed, kill the polytheists wherever you find them. And capture them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayers, and pay the alms, then let them go their way. God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Q9:5)
﴿ وَقَاتِلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ كَافَّةً كَمَا يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ كَافَّةً وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَ الْمُتَّقِينَ﴾
"And fight the polytheists collectively, as they fight you collectively, and know that God is with the righteous."(Q9:36)
As for the defensive war, it is an individual obligation (i.e an obligation on every single individual Muslim to partake in), while the offensive is a communal obligation. The defensive is when the Muslim lands are being invaded and they fight back to repel the invasion. And to such instances refers the following verse:
﴿وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ﴾
4) Struggle against religious innovations and evil deeds. The holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was narrated to have said; "Whoever among you see an evil deed (being perpetrated) then he should correct it with his hands (i.e. practically do so by stopping the evil being done with authority or force), but if he cannot (do so with his hands) then with his tongue (by speaking up against the evil and those perpetrating it), but if he cannot (speak up against them) then he should do so with his heart (by abhorring the evil action being carried out), and that is the least level of faith."
Every Muslim is therefore expected to wage this Jihad against evil doers and those innovating new practices in the religion from which they erroneously believe that they can derive rewards from Allah.
So, Jihad does not mean just going into war with non-Muslims and killing of the innocent, it starts from one fighting his soul, whims and caprices. As for the Jihad At-Talab, it is a very sensitive and wide topic but underlining it is that it must be done with the permission of the Caliph, Imam or leader of the Muslim nation, and not by individuals or sect leaders amongst other rules guiding this kind of Jihad.