Contrary to what extremists and anti-Muslim personalities claim, the word “jihad” does not mean “to wage holy war,” or “to kill the infidel,” or “to commit terrorism.” The word “jihad” means “to struggle.” The prophet Muhammad said the best jihad was to speak words of truth “in front of a tyrannical leader” — and this is what Sarsour clearly referenced in her lecture. Not violence. Not terrorism. Indeed, the only two groups who claim “jihad = Terrorism” are Islamic State terrorists and Islamophobes with an agenda. Both are ignorant of Islam and serve only one another.
The Koran describes three types of jihad (struggles), and zero of them mean or permit terrorism. These are: the jihad against yourself, the jihad against Satan — which are called the greater jihads — and the jihad against an open enemy — known as the lesser jihad. Prophet Muhammad explained this upon returning from battle: “We are returning from the lesser jihad to the greater jihad.” This jihad against yourself manifests in many ways. For example, getting your college education is the greater jihad. Quitting smoking, losing weight, beating cancer, learning a skill, parenting, even “adulting” are all forms of the greater jihad. Thus, the first and greatest form of jihad in Islam is the jihad to improve yourself and to improve all humanity.