If we were to make a list of all the Islamic terms and concepts that have been misunderstood or deliberately distorted, by the apologetic Muslims or Western writers, then Jihad can easily be placed at the top of that list.
Although the significance of Jihad in the Qur'an and Sunnah cannot be overstated, its exact place in the overall framework of Islamic values has been a matter of some debate. Some writers have described Jihad as the fifth pillar of Islam, while others have relegated it to a mere Farz-e-Kafayah (a collective, rather than personal, duty). A highly misleading but popular idea in this respect is that any war in which the Muslims are engaged, even if the motives are other than purely Islamic, is Jihad fi Sabeel lillah. In view of the confusions that surround this most fundamental of Islamic concepts, Iam going to discuss the meaning and importance of Jihad compared with the other duties and obligations of a Muslim.
The word Jihad is not synonymous with "Holy War" which is what the Western media wants everyone to believe. After four decades of Cold War, the Western powers suddenly found themselves without a legitimate enemy, and, consequently, they have designated Islam and the Muslims as the most deadly threat to world peace. The image of all Muslims as terrorists was introduced by numerous so-called documentaries. In the face of such widespread media stereotypes, it is indeed an uphill task to educate the non-Muslims regarding the true meaning of Jihad. Much more important, however, is the task of removing the misconceptions among the Muslims themselves.
The foundation of Islam consists in the verbal testimony of God's unity and Muhammad (pbuh) prophethood. Built upon this foundation are the four pillars of Islam with which all of us are familiar, i.e., Salat, Zakat, Saum, and Hajj. Please note, however, that Iman (or faith) also has two pillars: an unshakable inner conviction in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad...