Never has there been a word more misrepresented in the media than Jihad.
Humans have been fighting and killing each other for millennia, developing ever more effective ways and enhancing technology to facilitate this killing. People fight to defend themselves, or to attack others. Wars are fought for land, tribe, nation, legacy, fortune, religion , independence, or resources like water and oil.
Today's many wars are mostly fought over resources, like the US and UK fighting for securing 'their' oil in Iraq or Afghanistan, or for land and its minerals as in parts of Africa, or civil wars in South America.
Islam addresses fighting and warfare, laying down rules for when and how it should occur. Islam does not allow wars for material gain, taking other people's resources and lands, or to convert people from their religion . Islam does not sanction the invading and pillaging of the past, nor the colonialism of the present, which all lead to enslaving and impoverishing the conquered people.
Muslims are required to follow the Islamic rules of warfare, if they were to go to war. Examples include: no killing of innocent people, no killing of women and children , no burning of crops or trees, only fight those that fight you, no wanton destruction.
Jihad, then, is the striving of Muslims when they go to war and are governed by these laws. Primarily there are two types of Jihad. The first is when Muslims rally to fight and expel invading armies from their land. Examples are when the Crusaders invaded Palestine during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, or when the Mongols invaded Central Asia, Persia, Iraq and Syria in the thirteenth century. This defensive Jihad aims to protect the citizens and their land by pushing the occupiers out.
The other type of Jihad is only undertaken by an Islamic State. Its aim is to eradicate 'fitna' (injustice and oppression) where it is exists in other places, and replace unjust and oppressive ruling with a just rule under the auspices of the Islamic State. There are three parts to it: first, to invite the people to accept Islam by explaining the Islamic belief and what Islam has to offer people. This is done by dialogue and discussion and maybe over some time. Secondly, the people are invited to unify with the Islamic State, whether or not they become Muslims, enjoying peace, justice, security and protection, thereby ending the injustice and oppression. Historically some non-Muslim peoples opted for this option, which is in exchange for a small yearly tax (taken as a token in exchange for their protection, since they are alleviated from contributing in other financial ways to the society, as the Muslims are obliged to do). The third and final course of action after the first two have failed is war. Such a war is called Jihad and it has its rules, like no wanton destruction or targeting of civilians. When an Islamic State goes to war, it can never be for money, land, or riches –unlike the current and past colonial occupations of the last two centuries.
Jihad is often seen by Western people as barbaric, as a result of the propaganda constantly pushed by the government and media to portray Muslims as bloodthirsty, massacring killers, bent on forcing the world to change their religion . They have even coined the phrase 'holy war' for Jihad to encourage this false opinion. However, an Islamic State would commit to the Islamic foreign policy, showing the world what Islam really is and how Islam can truly make their lives and society better, even if they do not become Muslim. Jihad is a last resort in this process. The Islamic belief is never to be forced upon people once land is taken, with 1400 years of history bearing testimony to this.
When Western nations invade Muslim countries they destroy the infrastructure of the country causing more deaths than those caused by their bullets and bombs. It is estimated that a million or so civilians have died in the Iraq war, which was launched ostensibly to convert the Middle East to following liberal democracy, yet was driven by Western greed
for securing resources – their 'vital security interests'. What further exposes the immorality of such warfare is that contracts are awarded to US and UK companies to rebuild the infrastructure, making the invaded country pay for it as well (Iraq as an example).
Whilst neo-colonial Western powers wage war and invade for resources, places of strategic importance and further increasing their luxurious way of living, Islam expressly forbids that war be waged for such selfish reasons. Even when war does occur, Islam does not allow the kind of killing and destruction that the Western powers have perpetrated over recent years.