Prof. Dr. Mahmoud Hamdy Zaqzouq
President of Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue
Dr. Kamal Boraiqa Abdelsalam Hassan
1- There are many non-Muslims who have misunderstood the concept of Jihad in Islam. They even mistranslated the word Jihad as “Holy War”. The truth is that Islam does not acknowledge the term "Holy War". Islam regards wars as being either unjust or just. The word "Jihad" is derived from the word "Juhd" which means exerting one's utmost efforts, which are divided into two forms, the first is the effort made by one's soul and the second is the effort made in fighting a just and righteous war. The first strenuous effort that is made is titled the Greater Jihad by which one endeavors to repel all evil temptations, and to purify one's soul from vice especially vice of jealousy, envy, and hatred. The other form of Jihad is known as the Lesser Jihad and it means fighting a just and righteous war.
2- A righteous and just war according to the teachings of Islam is the defensive war, the aim of which is to repel the enemy's attack or assault, and the following Qur'anic verses permit Muslims to fight the enemy who attacks them: "Those who have been attacked are permitted to take up arms because they have been wronged- God has the power to help them-" (Al-Hajj: 39). Also: "Fight in God’s cause against those who fight you, but do not overstep the limits: God does not love those who overstep the limits" (Al-Baqarah: 190) This Qur'anic verse proves that Islam does not call for war except when the rights and freedom of Muslims are threatened and also prove that despite the permission to fight in self-defence, the Muslims were warned not to go beyond defending themselves to the extent of transgression. The following Qur'anic verse permits the Muslims to attack those who attack them: "So if anyone commits aggression against you, attack him as he attacked you"(Al-Baqarah: 194).
Islam abhors fighting, killing and bloodshed. Fighting in self-defence is the exception that is permitted, "Fighting is ordained for you, though you dislike it" (Al-Baqarah: 216). Thus beginning an attack on others is not permitted in Islam.
3- Although Jihad means fighting in defence of the Faith and the Muslims, this Jihad is not limited to fighting in a battle. It includes Jihad with one's wealth, one's thought, or any other mean which helps repel any attack that threatens freedom of belief and to protect the Islamic community.
Such a principle is the legitimate right of every nation and had been sanctioned by international agreements in modern times.
4- If the Muslim learns that their enemy desires peace and willing to cease all forms of aggression, Islam commands the Muslims to agree to their enemy's request. This is stated in the following Qur'anic verse: "But if they incline towards peace, you [Prophet] must also incline towards it, and put your trust in God" (Al-Anfal 8: 61) Furthermore, Islam calls for peaceful coexistence with others and establishing good and strong relations with them provided that they do not attack the Muslims. The Qur'anic verses urge the Muslims to treat these people fairly justly and benevolently, Almighty Allah says: "…and He does not forbid you to deal kindly and justly with anyone who has not fought you for your faith or driven you out of your homes: God loves the just" (Al-Mumtahinah: 8), thus the aim of Islam is to spread and establish peace and tolerance among people and to urge them to cooperate with each other for the welfare of mankind.
Therefore, the allegations that Islam is a religion which preaches aggression, extremism, fanaticism and terrorism are completely unjustified accusations, which have no foundation in Islam. Islam is, on the contrary, a religion of mercy, peace, tolerance and justice.