Jihad جهاد in Arabic does not mean “holy war.” It literally means “to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, to persevere.” With the objective of pleasing God All Mighty.
Jihad can be personal or it can be a community of persons struggling against oppression. Who would disagree that a jihad against poverty, crime and all forms of injustice is praiseworthy.
In essence, it means to become closer to God in lifestyle and community. This type of struggle (jihad) is to ensure that a peaceful and equitable community continues to exist. Defensive means are acceptable to safeguard the community however offensive aggression is strictly prohibited.
The Arabic word for fighting is qital and harb means war. Jihad in any form is mentioned 28 times in the Qur’an and qital/harb (fighting/war) are mentioned 94 times in the Qur’an. Some sources claim jihad is mentioned as much as 164 times, but this is incorrect. Combining fighting, war, struggle and similar connotations may equate to 164 (in the Qur’an) but all of these are not representative of jihad.
Extremist leaders and islamophobes, each on opposite sides of the spectrum, have changed, edited or misinterpreted the Qur’an to suit their needs.