The Meaning of Jihad
Jihād in its meaning is ‘to struggle’ as a general description. Jihād derives from the word juhd, which means at-ta'b, fatigue. The meaning of Jihād fī sabīlillāh, struggle in the Way of Allah, is striving to excess in fatiguing the self, to exhaust the self in seeking the Divine Presence and in bringing up Allah’s Word, all of which He made the Way to Paradise.
For that reason Allah said:
َجَاهِدُوا فِي اللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِ
And strive hard (jāhidū) in (the way of) Allah, (such) a striving a is due to Him;
It is essential to understand that under the term jāhidū come many different categories of Jihād, each with its specific context. The common understanding of Jihād to mean only war is refuted by this tradition of the Prophet’s:
حدثنا عبد الرحمن بن مهدي عن سفيان عن علقمة بن مرثد عن طارق بن شهاب أن رجلا سأل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وقد وضع رجله في الغرز أي الجهاد أفضل قال كلمة حق عند سلطان جائر
A man asked the Prophet “Which Jihād is best?” The Prophet said, “The most excellent Jihād is to say the word of truth in front of a tyrant.”
The fact that the Prophet mentioned this Jihād as “most excellent” means that there are many different forms of Jihād.