Jihad has many meanings. One of its meanings, of course, is the physical struggle on the battlefield against ones enemies, but it means much more than that. Jihad also means a spiritual struggle against ones lower desires called “Jihad An-Nafs“. Some people deny this type of Jihad, for some reason, but it does exist. In fact, it is mentioned in several authentic hadiths.
The other types of Jihad are mentioned in the Qur’an itself. The Quran says: “And those who strive (jihad) in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right.” (Al-`Ankabut: 69) This verse was revealed during the Makkan phase of the Prophet’s life (peace and blessings be upon him). During the Makkan phase there was no physical Jihad. So, what does this verse mean then? It is clear that the verse does not mean “physical struggle”.
There is another verse which says: “Therefore listen not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness, with the (Qur’an).” (Al-Furqan: 52) Again, this verse is referring to another type of Jihad, the Jihad of Da`wah and spreading the knowledge of the Deen. Making Jihad with the Qur’an is spreading its message and living by its Truth.
So, Jihad is not limited to one type or one meaning. In fact, these other meanings are the ones that we deal with every day. What is the point of the physical Jihad if it is not for the sake of Allah and for the defense of His Deen? Even during the physical Jihad one must have an internal Jihad. How can you be effective if you can’t even control your own desires? We have to worry about ourselves before we can worry about others.