Jihad and Terrorism – Striking a Difference

Jihad and Terrorism - Striking a DifferenceBy  M Khan Chishti

Jihad is one of the pillars of Islam that elucidates Muslims’ obligation towards the religion whereas terrorism takes into account the ferocious tactics employed by an individual or a group to impart feelings of scare and terror amongst wide-ranging audience. Nowadays, the notion of terrorism has been assorted with Jihad by extremists, who attempt to corroborate their activities with Jihad. Abysmal acts orchestrated by terrorists and their misinterpretation of Islamic teachings have distorted the factual image of Islam resultantly making it imperative to discuss the discrimination between Jihad and terrorism.

The word Jihad stems from the Arabic language which means “to strive”. As per Islam, Jihad is epitomized as the struggle to defend one’s religion, country, family, or hoard a human life. Jihad can even be one’s scuffle against his personal tribulations to make himself a better human being. There is no reference in Islam where the term Jihad is used to justify the killing of innocent people or impairment to their possessions, however contrary to Jihad, terrorism is always directed against innocent civilians. Terrorism is basically the illicit use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments often for ideological or political reasons. The sole purpose of terrorism is to cause adequate impairment, pain and sufferings to others by making them feel frightened and apprehensive.

A statement issued by a group of scholars affiliated to the Muslim World League defined terrorism as an act of hostility or intimidation that is designed to terrorize people or endanger their lives that is strictly forbidden in Islam. They also affirmed that damaging public or private facilities and endangering natural resources is equally an act of terror. Religious scholars also prohibited the killing of non-combatants and innocent women, children and elderly men as well as the fighters who surrender. Moreover, it has been interpreted unanimously in every age and by all schools of thought that no one can compel anybody to convert from one faith to another or impose his version of Islam upon others. This is the very creed of Islam.

As far as Holy Quran is concerned, it delineates the essential principle of preaching in the famous Verse of Surah Baqara “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). It is not only replete in the Holy Quran but has so abundantly been displayed by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the four Caliphs that it is irrefutable for any Muslim to chastise others merely for their divergent views on religion. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was time and again reminded in the Surah Al Shura in Holy Quran that “If they then turn we did not send you as a supervisor, there is no responsibility upon you but to preach” (42:48).


Islam is the religion of peace and harmony that teaches virtues of goodness and humanity. It never tolerates unprovoked aggression as Quran strictly prohibits Muslims from commencing hostilities, embarking on any act of belligerence, violating the rights of others or harming the innocents. Even, hurting or destroying animals or trees is forbidden in Islam. The entire Quran gives an overwhelming message of optimism, faith and harmony to human beings. It repeatedly urges clemency, restraint and warns believers not to transgress or become oppressors as Allah says in Quran:-

“If anyone slays a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people” (5:32).

Nevertheless, the terrorists exploit the religious association of Muslims to substantiate their fierce activities as ‘Jihad’. Sermons and fatwas of religious scholars are also used to provoke anti-western sentiments of Muslims to intense their aversion against West and non-Muslims. In addition, these terrorists proclaim that any Muslim who does not wage Jihad or rejects ideology of Mujahideen deserves to be eliminated or penalized. Muslims supporting global war against terrorism; whether they are government officials or security personnel, are portrayed as infidels. Resultantly, Muslims with diminutive understanding of Jihad get motivated to render their physical and material support to terrorist groups. These groups misinterpret Verses from Holy Quran, quote them out of context as bait for the less-knowledged and under- privileged Muslim youth to indoctrination them for carrying out suicide bombing that is absolutely against the teachings of Islam as Allah says in Quran:-

“O ye who believe, do not kill yourselves, for truly Allah has been to you Most Merciful.  If anyone does so in rancour and injustice, soon shall We cast him into the Fire” (4:29-30).

The discussion leads to a logical conclusion that terrorists today who are waging war in the name of Jihad will be questioned in the grave. Groups like    Al-Qaeda and Taliban are undoubtedly the terrorists of present era, who are pursuing their political and personal agendas for which they are declaring their brutal and inhuman terrorists activities as Jihad. The mere aim of these vicious groups is to make money and trade barbarism under the garb of a holy war.  Terrorism and extremism is a curse and cancer for the society. That is precisely why almost all the Muslim governments have joined hands to wipe this menace.

All segments of society are required to work in collaboration to deny recruitment for terrorist organizations. Renowned religious scholars should be involved to launch anti-extremism campaigns for preaching the correct teachings of Islam and shunning the radical ideology of terrorists. Anti-extremism campaigns should be financed by international community to thwart youth from accepting militants’ beliefs. Intelligentsia and media should devise a comprehensive strategy aimed at rejecting terrorism in all its forms and manifestation which would help in creating a homogenous stance amongst masses and persuading them to deny moral and material support to the terrorists.



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