One of the most misunderstood terms in Islam is “Jihad”. Unfortunately, the
word “Jihad” has been misused, and as a result many people associate it
with war and terrorism.
Linguistically, Jihad means striving for good or against evil. Jihad is expressed
in many ways, but generally it means resisting and opposing the
self from base desires. It can also mean resisting oppression, persecution or
standing up to a tyrant.
The Prophet Mohamed said:
“The person who performs jihad is the one
who opposes his own self for the sake of Allah, the Exalted (by obeying
Him).” (Ibn Habaan)
The following are a few ways, that jihad may be expressed:
Jihad can also denote military effort. This is seen as a last attempt to end the
violation of rights of others or any act of aggression. Sometimes the sword of
justice is necessary to prevent the sword of tyranny as is the case with the police.
Yet even during times of war, Muslims are commanded to uphold morality.
Acts of torture are strictly forbidden, as is harming civilians, women, children or
the elderly during times of war. Furthermore, only a governmental authority can
declare a legitimate jihad, not individuals or groups.
The Messenger of God said:
“Fight in the name of God, and for the cause
of God… do not break treaties, do not mutilate, and do not kill young children.”
Islam also prohibits the destroying or desecrating of places of worship, killing
or hurting of animals and destroying trees.
At the time of fighting between Muslims and non-Muslims, Abu Bakr, the first
Caliph after the Prophet ,would advise his commanders saying:
“I command you ten things. Learn them by heart: Don’t betray, defraud (by
stealing the spoils of war), or break treaties. Don’t mutilate or kill women, young
children, or the elderly. Do not uproot or burn palm trees. Do not cut down fruitful
trees, slaughter sheep, cows or camels except for eating. You will also come
across people secluded in monasteries, so leave them and their devotions.”
... And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed] except by
[legal] right. This has He instructed you that you may use reason.