Khaled Abou El-Fadl, in his book THE PLACE OF TOLERANCE IN ISLAM, narrated about the woman who asked him this question ”After 9/11 and all that happened, as a Jew and a supporter of Israel, I have become scared of people who look like you, in truth, I am scared of you. So what can you say to make people like me feel safer?”, this is not something new for a Muslim living in 21st century where he has to clarify its religion, the whole world sees him as a terrorist due to his beard or hijab, Islam has been called the extremist religion but is this true? Lets define this in Islams way (or lets define jihad in the light of Quran and hadith). The word Islam is derived from an arabic word saalam which means peace and it is also derived from the arabic word silm which means to submit your will to ALLAH, in short, Islam means peace acquired by submitting your will to Almighty God. and a person who follows this definition is called a Muslim. Non-Muslims think of jihad as any war fought by any Muslim for any reason whether it is for name, fame, wealth, region or any other personal benefit that includes suicide bombing and terrorist attacks and killing nonbelievers, in Islamic context jihad means to strive and struggle.
Quran and hadith have defined various types of jihad as in surah AL-HAJ verse 78 And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. in surah AT-TAWBAH verse 20 The ones who have believed, emigrated and striven in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives are greater in rank in the sight of Allah. And it is those who are the attainers [of success]. and in SAHIH AL-BUKHARI book 52 hadith 46 narrated by Abu Huraira I heard Allah’s Apostle (Peace be upon him) saying, “The example of a Mujahid in Allah’s Cause– and Allah knows better who really strives in His Cause—-is like a person who fasts and prays continuously. Allah guarantees that He will admit the Mujahid in His Cause into Paradise if he is killed (in battlefield), otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty.” And in hadith 2784 narrated by Aisha The best Jihad (for women) is Hajj-Mabrur (i.e. Hajj which is done according to the Prophet’s tradition and is accepted by Allah). in hadith 5972 narrated by Abdullah bin Amar: A man said to the Prophet, “Shall I participate in Jihad?” The Prophet (?) said, “Are your parents living?” The man said, “Yes.” the Prophet (?) said, “Do Jihad for their benefit.”. In SUNAN AN-NISAI hadith 4209 Tariq ibn Shihab reported: A man asked the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, What is the best jihad? The Prophet said, A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler. in SAHIH IBN HIBBAN hadith 4682 it is mentioned that prophet(pbuh) said that a mujahid is a person who strives and struggles against his own nafs for the cause of ALLAH. In Quran surah AL-FURQAN verse 51-52 And if We had willed, We could have sent into every city a warner. So do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them with the Qur’an a great striving. in SURAN AN-NISA verse 135 O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives..
All these are different types of jihad but the most famous or debated type is QITAL that is implemented in the battle filed most of the critics of Islam quote this verse 5 from surah AT-TAWBAH kill the polytheists wherever you find them but it is out of context when we read from verse 1 of the same surah we came to know it is about the peace treaty between Muslims and mushriks of makkah that is unanimously broken by mushriks of makkah and this verse is in the battlefield when mushriks(idolators) have come to fight and in the very next verse ( that is 6 ) it is said that But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakat, let them [go] on their way. every verse in Quran that talks about fighting, immediately the next verse says that the peace is better. This is very explicit in surah AL-MA’IDAH verse 32 whoever kills a soul (whether Muslim or nonmuslim) unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one (whether Muslim or nonmuslim) – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors. It implies that killing of any innocent human being irrespective of its color, religion, language, caste, creed, region etc is strictly prohibited in Islam. In surah AL-KAFIROON verse 9 Muslims are taught that For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.” In surah AL-BAQRA verse 256 There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.
Quran and hadith are the main sources of guidance in Islam and neither promotes terrorism but they do promote extremism by asking Muslims to be extremely kind, extremely honest, extremely just, extremely forgiving, and extremely pious. This is real Islam but then why that woman asked that question? The reason for this is that the world does not know about the real Islam, Khalid Abou El-Fadl mentioned two main reactions to above question, first apologetic and the second defiant but I think that only reaction (that is also the only solution) is dawwah (preaching Islam to non-believers) even Quran mentions the same thing in surah AL-ASR Indeed, mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience. in surah AN-NAHL verse 125 invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction in surah AR MAARIJ verse 17 Invite those who turn back and turn away face.