The Muslim concept of jihad is often confused with the idea of holy war. Jihad means 'to struggle in the way of Allah', and refers at least as much to an inner or personal spiritual struggle as it does to war and fighting.
Most Muslim scholars agree there are two levels of jihad, and that of these, greater jihad is the more important.
This refers to the personal spiritual struggle of every Muslim to follow the teachings of Allah in their daily lives, and includes overcoming evils such as anger, greed, pride and hatred, forgiving people who hurt them, and working for social justice.
Most Muslims are not pacifists, and believe it is justifiable to struggle to defend Islam, for justice, or in self-defence, and to use force if necessary. If all peaceful means fail, a Muslim should be ready to fight to defend the ummah against aggression, to defend the oppressed, or to combat injustice. This is lesser jihad.
According to traditional teachings, war is acceptable as long as:
A war cannot be described as jihad if:
Muslims must fight on behalf of Allah to defend themselves and obey the rules of war:
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.Qur'an 2:190