The Differences between Jihad and Terrorism

Whereas the Arabic term “al-Harb” means war, and the word” jihad” means struggling or striving but mistakenly the Arabic word “jihad” has been often translated as “holy war”. According to the Quranic and prophetic teachings “jihad” refers to internal as well as external efforts to be a true Muslim and believer.

It must be noted that military use of force or power to protect Islam against its enemies must be performed according to the religious authorities such as the prophet (S), Imam (A) the Imams. To protect faith against other Muslims can use anything from legal, diplomatic and economic to political means.

Another important point which must be taken into consideration while using the term jihad is that the usage of power is not the first step to protect Islam rather it is the final way and solution. If Muslim leaders and legitimate Imams did not have any peaceful alternative except for war in that case, they use force against their enemies.

But if we look at the wars which are waged against innocent civilians, by terrorist and Takfiri groups, such as women, children, or invalids who must never be harmed, we understand that terrorist attacks can never be categorized as jihad that should be based on strict rules of engagements. Therefore, in case military action appears necessary, not everyone can declare jihad. The religious military campaign has to be declared by a proper authority, advised by scholars, who say the religion and people are under threat and violence and it is imperative to defend them.

Killing innocent civilians is not jihad rather it is misuse of power and force which is totally opposed to the major jihad. The Prophet Mohammed (S) told his followers returning from a military campaign:

“This day we have returned from the minor jihad to the major jihad which is the Jihad of the servant against his self (carnal desires)”.[1]

[1] بحارالانوار،ج۶٧/ص۶۵،حدیث ٧ رسولُ اللّه صلى الله عليه و آله ـ مُخاطِبا أصحابهُ قَدِمْتُم خَيرَ مَقْدَمٍ ، و قَدِمْتُم مِن الجِهادِ الأصْغَرِ إلى الجهادِ الأكْبَرِ : مُجاهَدَةِ العَبدِ هَواهُ