The term ‘jihad’ is derived from the root word ‘jahada’ which means to strive, to be diligent.  From that comes another specific verb ‘jaahad’ which means specifically, to endeavour, to struggle, to strive, to contend with, to fight against. ‘Jihad’ is from the latter verb.

In essence it literally means to do utmost effort to achieve an objective – in Islamic terminology it means to endeavour and sacrifice for the cause of Allah to establish, preserve and revive Islam.


This is the struggle for self-purification and control of one’s desires. In more basic terms jihad al-akbar means fulfilment of our duties to Allah and to His creation. In respect to the Muslim umma it means to wage war –

  • Against ignorance by acquiring and spreading knowledge
  • Against disease by employing our resources
  • Against poverty by ensuring that every member of the community has the means of basic subsistence
  • Against conflict by giving up our destructive habit of point scoring and by trying to understand the points of view of others
  • Against anti-Islamic forces from within, by amr bil ma’ruf and nahyi anil munkar
  • Against religion becoming a mere ritual by making every effort to raise the level of our spirituality


This means to struggle for Islam. Not for extension of boundaries, not for personal glory, not for the glory of any tribe, community or nation, but for the defence of Islam and the protection of its values. Such a struggle can take many forms, through the use of pen, through the use of tongue or through the use of the sword. This last form is often referred to in the Qur’an as “qitaal” (warfare).