“Strive in the cause of Allah in a manner worthy of that striving. He has chosen you (for His task), and He has not laid upon you any hardship in religion. Keep to the faith of your father Abraham. Allah named you Muslims earlier and even in this (Book), that the Messenger may be a witness against you, and that you may be witnesses against all mankind.
(Al-Qur’ān – 22:78)
Jihād does not simply mean fighting and war. The word denotes: ‘to strive, to exert to the utmost’. The words jihād and mujāhid imply the existence of forces of resistance against whom it is necessary to wage a struggle. Moreover, the stipulation that jihād should be fī sabil Allāh (in the way of God) makes it clear that there are forces of resistance which obstruct people from serving God and pursuing His good pleasure, and that it is necessary to engage in strife and struggle to overcome them.
The first and foremost target of jihād should be one’s own self which always prompts one to rebel against God’s commands and distracts one from belief and obedience. Unless one conquers one’s own self within, one cannot fight against the forces without. It is against this background that once the Prophet ﷺ told those who were returning home after waging a jihād: ‘You have now come from a smaller jihad to a larger jihād.’ Asked what was meant by larger jihād, the Blessed Messenger said: ‘A man’s striving against his own self.’