Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Jihad Definition:

A tenet of Islamic law to adherents, with the reward of eternal life in Paradise, if they promote and exhort the word of Muhammad and the Koran to others, and not necessarily excluding the use of violence.

Related Terms: al Qaeda

In theocratic Muslim or Islamic states where the Koran is law, adherents are taught that they can enter Paradise (life after death), through jihad, described in the Koran as:

"Oh ye who believe! Shall I guide you to a gainful trade which will save you from painful punishment? Believe in Allah and carry on warfare (jihad) in the path of Allah with your possessions and your persons."

In his  book Al Risala (Islamic Jurisprudence), written in about 815, Shafi'i, the renowned Islamic law jurist stated:

"God has imposed the duty of jihad. He said: 'Fight the polytheists totally as they fight you totally. Slay (them) wherever you find them and take them and confine them and lie in ambush for them everywhere.'

"These communications mean that the jihad, and rising up in arms in particular, is obligatory for all able-bodied believers, exempting no one."

In Khadduri's book on Islamic law he writes:

"The Jihad may be regarded as a form of religious propaganda that can be carried on by persuasion or by sword."

Jihad is sometimes used by politicians of the Muslim faith to justify the use of violence or armed conflict, just as Christian states defer to the Roman law concept of bellum justum (a just or justifiable war).

Many Islamic jurists insist that while the term jihad, taken in its original historical context does means warfare, but in the context and development of jihad now, it symbolizes not just violent means of persuasion but also other means of persuasion such as oratory, written or political persuasion.

Still other Muslims define the word to mean the English word "struggle; that by jihad, Muhamad referred simply to every Muslim's internal spiritual struggle in the daily choices between the choice of good instead of evil.


  • Khadduri, Majid, War and Peace in the Law of Islam (London: John Hopkins Press, 1955), pages 56-57.
  • Shafi'i's, Al Risala (Islamic Jurisprudence) (translation by Majid Khadduri; Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1961), pages 81-85.

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