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Although the Arabic term jihad is often interpreted as “holy war,” the word is derived from a word root meaning “to strive” or “to make an effort.” The word jihad is commonly followed by the Arabic expression fi sabil Illah, meaning “in the path of God.” The concept of jihad is often defined as a struggle against injustice or ungodliness—from the injunction in the Koran (the Islamic holy book) to “command the right and forbid the wrong.”

The form that jihad should take—violent war or peaceful striving—has been the subject of much discussion and disagreement by Islamic scholars throughout history. The Koran and the hadiths (reports on the sayings and acts of the prophet Muhammad) refer to four ways by which the duty of jihad can be fulfilled: by the heart, the tongue, the hand, and the sword.

Jihad is seen by some Muslims as ...

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