Islam’s Western apologists sometimes claim that since the Arabic word, Jihad, literally means “fight” or “struggle,” it refers to an “inner struggle” rather than holy war.
This is extremely difficult to reconcile with the Qur’an, which, for example, exempted the disabled and elderly from Jihad (4:95). This would make no sense if the word is being used merely within the context of spiritual struggle. It is also unclear why Muhammad would use graphic language, such as smiting fingers and heads from the hands and necks of unbelievers if he were speaking merely of character development.
With this in mind, Muslims themselves usually admit that there are two meanings to the word, but insist that “inner struggle” is the “greater Jihad,” whereas “holy war” is the “lesser.” In fact, this misconception is based only on an a single hadith that is extremely weak and unreliable.
By contrast, the most reliable of all Hadith is that of Bukhari. The word, Jihad, is mentioned over 200 times in reference to the words of Muhammad and each one is a clear connotation to holy war. By contrast, Bukhari does not contain a single reference to Jihad within the context of “personal struggle.”
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