Jihad has two meanings for Muslims. It is both a struggle for faith and a struggle against evil.

Greater jihad

Greater jihad is about making the effort to be a good Muslim through a personal struggle to improve spiritually. It is a duty and an act of worship.

To do this Muslims should:

  • follow the Five Pillars of Islam
  • forgive others
  • work for social justice
  • study the Qur’an
  • help those in need
  • avoid negative qualities, eg greed
  • avoid temptations, eg alcohol
No bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.Qur’an 35:18

This quote shows that greater jihad is a personal struggle. A believer is individually responsible for being a good Muslim.

Lesser jihad

Lesser jihad is about defending Islam from threat. Some people still take up arms against anybody they see as an enemy of Islam. However, many Muslims believe that lesser jihad is of less relevance today than in the past, when Muslims were being persecuted.

Lesser jihad is sometimes called a holy war. It must be approved by a religious leader, fought in self-defence and not used to either convert people to Islam or gain land.

  • There are rules about how lesser jihad can be carried out:
    • it must be in defence of Allah
    • no harm must be done
    • peace must be restored
    • mercy must be shown

Islam teaches that lesser jihad can never be used to justify terrorist attacks.


What are the two types of jihad?

Greater jihad (personal struggle) and lesser jihad (defending the faith from threat).