Today’s many wars are mostly fought over resources, like the US and UK fighting for securing ‘their’ oil in Iraq or Afghanistan, or for land and its minerals as in parts of Africa, or civil wars in South America.
Islam addresses fighting and warfare, laying down rules for when and how it should occur. Islam does not allow wars for material gain, taking other people’s resources and lands, or to convert people from their religion . Islam does not sanction the invading and pillaging of the past, nor the colonialism of the present, which all lead to enslaving and impoverishing the conquered people.
Muslims are required to follow the Islamic rules of warfare, if they were to go to war. Examples include: no killing of innocent people, no killing of women and children , no burning of crops or trees, only fight those that fight you, no wanton destruction.
Jihad, then, is the striving of Muslims when they go to war and are governed by these laws. Primarily there are two types of Jihad. The first is when Muslims rally to fight and expel invading armies from their land. Examples are when the Crusaders invaded Palestine during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, or when the Mongols invaded Central Asia, Persia, Iraq and Syria in the thirteenth century. This defensive Jihad aims to protect the citizens and their land by pushing the occupiers out.
The other type of Jihad is only undertaken by an Islamic State. Its aim is to eradicate ‘fitna’ (injustice and oppression) where it is exists in other places, and replace unjust and oppressive ruling with a just rule under the auspices of the Islamic State. There are three parts to it: first, to invite the people to accept Islam by explaining the Islamic belief and what Islam has to offer people. This is done by dialogue and discussion and maybe over some time. Secondly, the people are invited to unify with the Islamic State, whether or not they become Muslims, enjoying peace, justice, security and protection, thereby ending the injustice and oppression. Historically some non-Muslim peoples opted for this option, which is in exchange for a small yearly tax (taken as a token in exchange for their protection, since they are alleviated from contributing in other financial ways to the society, as the Muslims are obliged to do). The third and final course of action after the first two have failed is war. Such a war is called Jihad and it has its rules, like no wanton destruction or targeting of civilians. When an Islamic State goes to war, it can never be for money, land, or riches -unlike the current and past colonial occupations of the last two centuries.