Many folks here asked about Jihad esp. after what the pope said, here you are some info about it:
Meaning of Jihad:
First, we would like to start with stating that Islam does not call for violence; rather it abhors all forms of violence and terrorism, whether against Muslims or non-Muslims. Islam, moreover, calls for peace, cooperation, and maintaining justice, and provides for the happiness and welfare of humanity as a whole.
This fact is declared in the Qur’an when Allah says: (Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition.) (An-Nahl 16: 90)
Islam makes it obligatory upon Muslims to stand by the oppressed regardless of their race, color, religion or affiliation and say NO to the oppressor and ask him to respond to the voice of reason and justice.
Jihad is one of the words that have been misused due to misunderstanding its true meaning. The word “Jihad” is derived from the Arabic word “Jahd” which means fatigue or the word “Juhd” which means effort. A Mujahid is he who strives in the Cause of Allah and exerts efforts which makes him feel fatigued. The word “Jihad” means exerting effort to achieve a desired thing or prevent an undesired one. In other words, it is an effort that aims at bringing about benefit or preventing harm.
Jihad can be observed through any means and in any field whether material or moral. Among the types of Jihad are struggling against one’s desires, the accursed Satan, poverty, illiteracy, disease, and fighting all evil forces in the world.
**Is Jihad Synonymous with Aggression? **
it’s duty of all Muslims to clarify this points to non-Muslims, to give them clear picture as to what is really meant by “Islam”, and the true concept of Jihad. That’s why we find it worthwhile to cite for you the following finest remarks made by Dr Hammudah
Abdul-Aati, in his book Islam in Focus, with some modifications:
"So much has been said or written about the “ruthless” Muslims, who emerged from the burning and dry deserts of dark Arabia to conquer the Roman and Persian protectorates, and even to venture around the walls of Europe. Many have expressed the opinion that those Muslims were motivated by religious zeal to spread Islam by force as far as they could reach. Many others consider this opinion silly and naive, because Islam – by its nature - cannot be forced upon people; and even if it were supposedly forced on the conquered people, it could not have lasted there for long, and non-Muslims would have been liquidated from the conquered regions.
History bears witness to the fact that wherever Islam reached it survived, with the exception of Spain on account of certain reasons, and that wherever the Muslim warriors went, they lived side by side with non-Muslim natives. Moreover, they argue, one cannot force a religion like Islam on any one and find him so sincere and honest about his faith as were those Muslim converts of the new lands. It needs more than compulsion to develop such good Muslims out of a defeated people, and it requires much more than suppression to make them uphold and cherish the “forced” religion.
**Jihad: When and Upon Whom? **
“Jihad becomes an individual duty on all Muslims in certain cases:
When Muslims, who are legally responsible, attend the battlefield. At that time they are obliged to fight their enemy. Hence, Allah, the Almighty says: “O ye who believe! When ye meet an army, hold firm and think of Allah much, that ye may be successful." (Al-Anfal: 45)
If enemies attack the country where Muslims live, all of them, male and female, must confront them. No one has the right to abandon this duty as long as there is no other way to repulse the enemy. In this respect, Allah, Exalted be he, says: “O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you.” (At-Tawbah: 123)
Jihad and Peace in Islam
Islam never believes in force or forcing anyone to become a Muslim. The Qur’an says: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.” (Al-Baqarah: 256)
Also, we read in the Qur’an: “And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?” (Yunus: 99)
We have never had any proof that Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, or his Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, fought for forcing people to accept Islam. This is a matter of fact. Had people entered Islam because of force, they would have gone back to their roots after the fall of the Islamic Caliphate.