Many aspersions have been cast on Islam and Muslims so much so that Islam has been condemned as a religion of terror, and the concept of jihad has been totally linked with terrorism and aggression. Thus, it is the duty of Muslim scholars to clarify this point and to give a clear picture as to what is really meant by Islam and the true concept of jihad.
Answering this question, Dr. Hatem Al-Haj, dean of Shari`ah Academy of America, said,
Jihad is not limited to the use of military force. The use of military force (armed struggle) is a form of it.
Jihad, in the sense of armed struggle, has been practiced and sanctioned by all nations from the beginning of time. After all, there is no nation (not a small group) that does not have an army.
That practice could be good or bad depending on the motives, which are made manifest, not by one’s words, but rather by circumstantial evidences, one’s conduct, and course. The history tells who fought a just war, and who didn’t.
The Muslims fought against the Romans, who fed human beings to the lions; they fought in India against people who oppressed large masses of people by convincing them that they were created of God’s feet and that touching them would make one impure, etc.
Armed struggle was prescribed in Islam to defend the Muslims, and the oppressed as well, even if they were not Muslims. It is also meant for the protection of people’s right to free access to the worship of God, who created them, in complete security. It is natural that He would want that right granted to His servants.
Like usual, God elects of the people a group that will carry out His plans and execute His will. That is what this life is for — a trial. This is exactly how the Jews and Christians explain the wars of Deuteronomy, Joshua, etc.
The etiquettes of jihad in Islam are superior to any other religion or system.
Finally, the Messenger of Allah said, “Do not wish to confront your enemy, but if you do, be patient.“ (Al-Bukhari)