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Jihad is a word that has negative connotations all over the world today. However, this is due to many misconceptions about it. People think that Jihad exclusively refers to war against disbelievers. Others believe that Jihad means to spread Islam by the sword. The reality is that there are different types of Jihad that Islam sanctions. According to Imam ibn al-Qayyim, there are four types of Jihad. We will cover these in great detail below to help you understand what Jihad really means in Islam and for Muslims.

You can also read our article about physical Jihad and the history of Jihad here.

Resisting against Shaytaan is a type of Jihad

This type of Jihad is obligatory for each and every Muslim. On the day that Allah created Adam (AS), Iblees pledged to try and misguide humans until the last day. That is the core aim of his existence, and this is what we have to fight against.

Allah revealed to us the way to live, and He outlined what we should and shouldn’t do. The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, knew this as well. However, Iblees misled them into committing a wrong, and as a result, Allah punished them and relegated them from paradise.

This is what we have to watch out for in our everyday lives. Every day requires Jihad if we’re on the right path because it is then that Iblees tries to mislead and misguide us. He whispers evil ideas and thoughts into our minds. If we succumb to them, we have failed.

We have to keep struggling against his whispers constantly. He will sow seeds of doubt about Islam in us and try to make us think negatively about Allah, His Messenger (PBUH), and Islam. He will try to make us give up Islam, as we see in the story of Barsisa.

For people who have strong faith and who are unmoved by Iblees’ whispers and ideas about religion, he will change his strategy. He attacks believing Muslims and people by trying to make us sin. He starts with small sins and keeps increasing their scope if we succumb.

It is for this reason that Muslims must do Jihad and always be wary about falling into sin. We must resist his whispers and avoid following his whispers and suggestions. We have to have patience and fight hard against sins, knowing that they displease Allah and harm us.

Jihad of the Nafs – Against one’s soul, self, and ego

Jihad against oneself is an essential type of Jihad. Allah says in Surah ash-Shams that He proportioned the soul in such a way that it contains both wickedness and righteousness. Then, He says that the successful person is the one who purifies it while the failed person is the one who fills it with more corruption.

Allah also says in Surah an-Naziat that the person who fears Him and prevents his soul from wavering toward corruption will gain admittance into paradise. Hence, we can see the immense importance Allah places on the Jihad of the nafs.

This form of Jihad is further divided into some sub-categories. Firstly, we must learn about Islam and gain as much knowledge as we can about the religion. This will, in turn, enable us to live more successfully according to the rules of the faith. Many Muslims nowadays have weak knowledge of Islam and don’t know right from wrong.

Next, Muslims must focus on implementing their knowledge by acting upon it. This type of Jihad is significant because knowledge alone isn’t enough. Many people have the required knowledge, but they don’t act upon it, neglecting Allah’s commands.

After this, we must also spread the word of Allah and tell others about what is permissible in Islam and what isn’t. We should speak out against evil when we see it instead of being silent. If we observe what’s happening without action, then we are complicit.

Lastly, we must learn to have strong faith and perseverance in the face of difficulties. If we succumb to societal or peer pressure, failure is our destiny. No matter what people think or say, we must know what is right and wrong and inform others about it.

Physical Jihad against the transgressors

Allah prescribed this type of Jihad (Surah al-Baqarah) when he told Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to fight in the way of Allah against the people who fought the Muslims. Still, He told them not to transgress (i.e., to abide by Islamic laws regarding Jihad).

Physical Jihad is also known as the Jihad by the sword. This form of Jihad is obligatory on the community as a whole. Hence, if some of the Muslims take part in it and serve the purpose, then that covers the whole community’s obligation.

Transgressors are those people who oppress Muslims or attack them. If another state attacks a Muslim state, then Jihad in defense of the state is compulsory. If a group of people or community attacks or persecutes the Muslims, then the Muslims must defend themselves accordingly.

Jihad fi sabil Allah is a common term Muslims use to refer to this type of Jihad. It means Jihad for the sake of Allah. Muslims can give Zakat to eight kinds of people. One of them is those who are going for Jihad in the cause of Allah.

Physical Jihad in Islam has strict rules and regulations. The Muslims can only fight those who are actively fighting against them. Only combatants are legitimate targets, and women, children, and the elderly shouldn’t face attack. Muslims must also refrain from destroying property, land, trees, etc.

Thus, we can see the form of physical Jihad advocated by Islam is far above and beyond the forms of conventional warfare we see all over the world nowadays. Innocent people are brushed aside as ‘casualties of war,’ and countries with the most robust and advanced military technology attack large areas indiscriminately, causing death and chaos.

Fighting against hypocrites is another type of Jihad

When the Prophet (PBUH) migrated to Medina, he faced a new, unique society consisting or Muslims, Jews, and disbelievers. However, there was another party among them that posed as Muslims while not actually believing in Islam, looking to benefit from Islam or harm it.

Allah is the All-Knowing, and Muhammad (PBUH) was also aware of who the hypocrites were in Medina. However, he didn’t wage physical Jihad against them because that would have made it look like the state of Islam sanctioned attacks on its own people. Instead, there was another type of Jihad.

As a result of these circumstances, the main action taken against the hypocrites was in the form of words and ideas. Muslims refuted the claims of the hypocrites and humored them while exposing them when the opportunity arose.

The best way to fight the hypocrites is to inform the believers about Islam and its laws with strong evidence and arguments, leaving no room for doubt. Where there is doubt, people like the hypocrites have the opportunity to mislead people and spread falsehood.

This also comes under the banner of enjoining what is right and forbidding what is evil. Muslims must speak up when they see someone doing or saying something wrong so that the others don’t take it as a harmless or permissible deed.

Similarly, promoting good helps to spread positivity and good deeds in the community, which helps everyone get closer to Allah. The more good there is in the community and the lesser evil there is, the easier it becomes for Muslims to practice their religion with confidence and get closer to Islam. So, this type of Jihad has its own specific importance.