Linguistically, the Arabic word "jihad" means a striving or a struggle, no one really disputes that fact. Do they?
But Ms. Sarsour was at the ISNA convention, and clearly seemed to be speaking as a believing pious Muslim in her speech, and not, per se, as a linguist. So that alone, in and of itself, is more than reason enough to examine the theocratic component of "jihad". Leading one to seek clarification and further context of the word, examining the religious constructs, and cultural concepts behind it. Sources that can be used to help us accomplish that task are dictionaries, encyclopedias, and research universities. Jihad is also found clearly described in codified Islamic sources, Quran, hadith, legal text sharia/ fiqh (the reliance of the traveller), and various religious discourses published by widely recognized religious authorities within the community of belief itself.
Definition of Jihad Webster's dictionary
1: a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty; also: a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline
2: a crusade for a principle or belief
Definition of jihad Oxford dictionary
1 A struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam.
‘he declared a jihad against the infidels
’mass noun ‘the importance of jihad as a uniting force’
1.1also greater jihad The spiritual struggle within oneself against sin.
The " personal struggle" or "greater jihad" is from a hadith classified as Maudu (fabricated, forged) and as such, it can not be found in any of the "Al-Sihah al-Sittah", which translates as "The authentic six" in Sunni Islam.
Definition of jihad Encyclopedia Britannica
Jihad, also spelled jehad , (“struggle,” or “battle”), a religious duty imposed on Muslims to spread Islam by waging war; jihad has come to denote any conflict waged for principle or belief and is often translated to mean “holy war.”
Definition of jihad Oxford University Research Encyclopedias
In both popular and scholarly literature, jihad is primarily assumed to be a monovalent concept referring to “military/armed combat,” and martyrdom (shahada) is inevitably understood to be of the military kind. This assumption facilitates the discussion of jihad and martyrdom as terms with fixed, universal meanings divorced from the varying sociopolitical contexts in which they have been deployed through time. Such a monovalent understanding of these two concepts emerges primarily through consultation of the juridical literature and official histories that were produced after the 2nd century ce (8th century ah) and that are unduly privileged in academic discussions of this subject.
In contradistinction to this approach, a more holistic and historical approach to the term jihad can be undertaken by focusing on the changing significations of jihad from the earliest formative period of Islam to the contemporary period, against the backdrop of specific social and political circumstances which have mediated the meanings of this critical term. This larger objective entails canvassing a more varied genre of texts to recreate a more multifaceted understanding of jihad and martyrdom as dynamic discursive terms through time. Such sources include Qurʾan exegetical works (tafsir), early and late works of hadith which purport to contain the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, the excellences of jihad (fadaʾil al-jihad) and the excellences of patience (fadaʾil al-sabr) literatures, which are often not consulted on this topic. Furthermore, the comparison of early and late sources and texts from these genres allows one to chart both the constancies and changes in the spectrum of meanings and repertoire of activities included under the terms jihad and shahada. This recovery of a broader semantic landscape undermines exclusively martial conceptualizations of both these terms and has important implications for the contemporary period.
The Qurʾanic Discourse
The specific Qurʾanic terms that are associated with military activity are jihad, qital, and harb. Jihad, however, is a much broader term and its basic Qurʾanic signification is “struggle,” “striving,” “exertion.”
The lexeme jihad is frequently conjoined to the phrase “fi sabil Allah” (lit. “in the path of God”)
See "Jihad fi sabilliallah" by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi http://www.muslim-library.com/dl/books/English_Jihad_in_Islam.pdf
Description of jihad from a Tafsir or Quranic commentary, as recommended above by Oxford University: source Tafsir Ibn Kathir.
Since Jihad involves killing and shedding the blood of men, Allah indicated that these men are committing disbelief in Allah, associating with Him (in the worship) and hindering from His path, and this is a much greater evil and more disastrous than killing. Abu Malik commented about what Allah said:
﴿وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ﴾
(And Al-Fitnah is worse than killing.) Meaning what you (disbelievers) are committing is much worse than killing.'' Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that what Allah said:
﴿وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَشَدُّ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ﴾
(And Al-Fitnah is worse than killing.) "Shirk (polytheism) is worse than killing.''
On page 52 in the footnotes of verse (2:190) from the Noble Quran, published by the Saudi government we find.
(V. 2:190) Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah’s Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands). By Jihad Islam is established, Allah’s Word is made superior […] and His Religion (Islam) is propagated. By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfill this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite.
Full-text.... jihad in the Quran and Sunnah by Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, ex-Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia and of the Sacred Mosque of Mecca.
In an introductory note to an article “Jihad in the Qur’an and Sunnah” by Sheikh Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, ex-Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia and of the Sacred Mosque of Mecca, Abdul Malik Mujahid, General Manager of Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, Saudi Arabia on the website (www.islamworld.net) writes:
“Jihad is regarded as the best thing, one can offer voluntarily. It is superior to non-obligatory prayers, fasting, Zakat, Umra and Hajj as mentioned in the Qur'an and the Ahadith of the Prophet(pbuh). The benefits of Jihad are of great extent and large in scope, while its effects are far-reaching and wide-spreading as regards Islam and the Muslims.”
Sheikh Abdullah, ex-Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia defines Jihad as:
“Praise be to Allah swt Who has ordained Al-Jihad (the holy fighting in Allah's Cause):
See also Book 56 (the entire book) of Sahih Bukhari the most recognized and highly regarded of the authentic six. It has a common theme running through it, that soon becomes apparent to the intellectually inquisitive enough who actually take the time to read it.
Fighting for the Cause of Allah (Jihaad)
Chapter: The superiority of Jihad
The official 9/11 report defined our nation's enemies as Jihadists. engaged in the holy war
Who Is the Enemy? Who is this enemy that created an organization capable of inflicting such horrific damage on the United States? We now know that these attacks were carried out by various groups of Islamist extremists. The 9/11 attack was driven by Usama Bin Ladin.
In the 1980s, young Muslims from around the world went to Afghanistan to join as volunteers in a jihad (or holy struggle) against the Soviet Union. A wealthy Saudi, Usama Bin Ladin, was one of them. Following the defeat of the Soviets in the late 1980s, Bin Ladin and others formed al Qaeda to mobilize jihads elsewhere.
From Linda's speech.
Why sisters and brothers, why are we so unprepared. Why are we so afraid of this administration and the potential chaos that they will ensue on our community?…I hope, that when we stand up to those who oppress our communities, that Allah accepts from us that as a form of jihad….We are struggling against tyrants and rulers not only abroad…
In Israel (Hamas/ Hezbollah/Islamic Jihad are struggling), in Afghanistan (al-Qaeda is struggling ), in Kashmir (Pakistani ISI/ and Iran are struggling ), in Syria (Islamic state vs the Islamic Republic are struggling), in Yemen(the Islamic republic vs Saudi Arabia are struggling ), in Lybia (Ansar al-sharia is struggling ), in Sudan (the government is struggling) in Nigeria(Boko haram is struggling ) in Somalia (al Shabaab are struggling) the "struggle" (jihad) continues globally with no end in sight.
but here in the United States of America where you have fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes reining in the White House.
Of course, Mohammad was a white theocratic supremacist. But Ms. Sarsour will never mention that.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
While we were sitting with the Prophet (ﷺ) in the mosque, a man came riding on a camel. He made his camel kneel down in the mosque, tied its foreleg and then said: "Who amongst you is Muhammad?" At that time the Prophet (ﷺ) was sitting amongst us (his companions) leaning on his arm. We replied, "This white man reclining on his arm."
I have no doubt that Lee Smith (in Tablet) is correct: Sarsour is a provocateur who was trying to call attention to herself while laying the groundwork to play the victim when she was inevitably criticized. What I have found amusing, however, are the two premises urged by her apologists: (a) we should take the jihad revisionism seriously; and (b) she must have meant “non-violent” jihad because she introduced the term by referring to a hadith in which Mohammed, Islam’s prophet, explains that, rather than violence, “the best form of jihad” is to speak “a word of truth” before a tyrant.
On the first point, jihad is essentially a forcible struggle. As Lee Smith points out, the evidence of sense should tell us all we need to know about it: just look at what is happening “on the killing fields of the Middle East.” Still, we do not need to make a deduction because the meaning of the word is clear, and because non-violent connotations of jihad are understood to be in support of the same mission as forcible jihad: the implementation of sharia, Islam’s societal framework and legal code.
Mohammad himself spoke truth to power. He invited the ruler of the Byzantine empire to accept Islam. See full hadith at the link.
"In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful (This letter is) from Muhammad, the slave of Allah, and His Apostle, to Heraculius, the Ruler of the Byzantine. Peace be upon the followers of guidance. Now then, I invite you to Islam (i.e. surrender to Allah), embrace Islam and you will be safe;
What could his meaning have been? Would there be consequences for declining his offer?
The Book of Jihad and Expedition (Kitab Al-Jihad wa'l-Siyar)Muslim :: Book 19 : Hadith 4294
It has been reported from Sulaiman b. Buraid through his father that when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and to be good to the Muslims who were with him. He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhairs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muilims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers). If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya.
If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them. When you lay siege to a fort and the besieged appeal to you for protection in the name of Allah and His Prophet, do not accord to them the guarantee of Allah and His Prophet, but accord to them your own guarantee and the guarantee of your companions for it is a lesser sin that the security given by you or your companions be disregarded than that the security granted in the name of Allah and His Prophet be violated When you besiege a fort and the besieged want you to let them out in accordance with Allah's Command, do not let them come out in accordance with His Command, but do so at your (own) command, for you do not know whether or not you will be able to carry out Allah's behest with regard to them.
Prayers (Salat)Bukhari :: Book 1 :: Volume 8 :: Hadith 387
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Allah's Apostle said, "I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.' And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah." Narrated Maimun ibn Siyah that he asked Anas bin Malik, "O Abu Hamza! What makes the life and property of a person sacred?" He replied, "Whoever says, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah', faces our Qibla during the prayers, prays like us and eats our slaughtered animal, then he is a Muslim, and has got the same rights and obligations as other Muslims have."
On page 245 in "the reliance of the traveller" Jihad is defined, justified, sourced and explained in great detail. This is not a full presentation of the words, open the link to read all.
The scriptural basis for jihad, prior to scholarly consensus (def: b7) is such Koranic verses as:
(1) ``Fighting is prescribed for you'' (Koran 2:216);
(2) ``Slay them wherever you find them'' (Koran 4:89);
(3) ``Fight the idolators utterly'' (Koran 9:36);and such hadiths as the one related by Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: `
`I have been commanded to fight people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and perform the prayer, and pay zakat. If they say it, they have saved their blood and possessions from me, except for the rights of Islam over them. And their final reckoning is with Allah'';and the hadith reported by Muslim,``To go forth in the morning or evening to fight in the path of Allah is better than the whole world and everything in it.'
'Details concerning jihad are found in the accounts of the military expeditions of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), including his own martial forays and those on which he dispatched others. The former consist of the ones he personally attended, some twenty-seven (others say twenty-nine) of them. He fought in eight of them, and killed only one person with his noble hand, Ubayy ibn Khalaf, at the battle of Uhud. On the latter expeditions he sent others to fight, himself remaining at Medina, and these were forty-seven in number.)
THE OBLIGATORY CHARACTER OF JIHAD
o9.1 Jihad is a communal obligation (def: c3.2). When enough people perform it to successfully accomplish it, it is no longer obligatory upon others (O: the evidence for which is the Prophet's saying (Allah bless him and give him peace),"He who provides the equipment for a soldier in jihad has himself performed jihad,"and Allah Most High having said:"Those of the believers who are unhurt but sit behind are not equal to those who fight in Allah's path with their property and lives. Allah has preferred those who fight with their property and lives a whole degree above those who sit behind. And to each, Allah has promised great good" (Koran 4:95).
WHO IS OBLIGED TO FIGHT IN JIHAD
o9.4 Those called upon (O: to perform jihad when it is a communal obligation are every able bodied man who has reached puberty and is sane.o9.5 The following may not fight in jihad:
(1) Someone in debt, unless his creditor gives him leave;
(2) or someone with at least one Muslim parent, until they give their permission;unless the Muslims are surrounded by the enemy, in which case it is permissible for them to fight without permission.
o9.6 It is offensive to conduct a military expedition against hostile non-Muslims without the caliph's permission (A: though if there is no caliph (def: o25), no permission is required).
o9.7 Muslims may not seek help from non-Muslims allies unless the Muslims are considerably outnumbered and the allies are of goodwill towards the Muslims.
THE OBJECTIVES OF JIHAD
o9.8 The caliph (o25) makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: o11.4)-which is the significance of their paying it, not the money itself-while remaining in their ancestral religions) (O: and the war continues) until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (O: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High,"Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden-who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled" (Koran 9.29),the time and place for which is before the final descent of Jesus (upon whom be peace). After his final coming, nothing but Islam will be accepted from them, for taking the poll tax is only effective until Jesus' descent (upon him and our Prophet be peace), which is the divinely revealed law of Muhammad. The coming of Jesus does not entail a separate divinely revealed law, for he will rule by the law of Muhammad.
As for the Prophet's saying (Allah bless him and give him peace),"I am the last, there will be no prophet after me,"this does not contradict the final coming of Jesus (upon whom be peace), since he will not rule according to the Evangel, but as a follower of our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)).
o9.9 The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim (O: because they are not a people with a Book, nor honored as such, and are not permitted to settle with paying the poll tax (jizya)) (n: though according to the Hanafi school, peoples of all other religions, even idol worshippers, are permitted to live under the protection of the Islamic state if they either become Muslim or agree to pay the poll tax, the sole exceptions to which are apostates from Islam and idol worshippers who are Arabs, neither of whom has any choice but becoming Muslim (al-Hidaya sharh Bidaya al-mubtadi' (y21), 6.48-49)).
THE RULES OF WARFARE
o9.10 It is not permissible (A: in jihad) to kill women or children unless they are fighting against the Muslims. Nor is it permissible to kill animals, unless they are being ridden into battle against the Muslims, or if killing them will help defeat the enemy. It is permissible to kill old men (O: old man (shaykh meaning someone more than forty years of age) and monks.o9.11 It is unlawful to kill a non-Muslim to whom a Muslim has given his guarantee of protection
(O: whether the non-Muslim is one or more than one, provided the number is limited, and the Muslim's protecting them does not harm the Muslims, as when they are spies) provided the protecting Muslim has reached puberty, is sane, and does so voluntarily (O: and is not a prisoner of them or a spy).
o9.12 Whoever enters Islam before being captured may not be killed or his property confiscated, or his young children taken captive.
o9.13 When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman's previous marriage is immediately annulled.
o9.14 When an adult male is taken captive, the caliph (def: o25) considers the interests (O: of Islam and the Muslims) and decides between the prisoner's death, slavery, release without paying anything, or ransoming himself in exchange for money or for a Muslim captive held by the enemy.If the prisoner becomes a Muslim (O: before the caliph chooses any of the four alternatives) then he may not be killed, and one of the other three alternatives is chosen.
Is there really any controversy surrounding the meaning of these words?
[The Reliance of the Traveller] (1250 pp., Sunna Books, 1991) is the first Islamic legal work in a European language to receive the certification of al-Azhar, the Muslim world's oldest institution of higher learning.
One of the most discouraging attributes of the Jihad (for the nonbeliever) is its never ending compulsion for the believer to continue "struggling" in the way of allah. It may be temporarily suspended, but never ended. As Stephen Decatur learned after the first Barbary war.
When our gallant [[Stephen] Decatur ref had chastised the pirate of Algiers, till he was ready to renounce his claim of tribute from the United States, he signed a treaty to that effect: but the treaty was drawn up in the Arabic language, as well as in our own; and our negotiators, unacquainted with the language of the Koran, signed the copies of the treaty, in both languages, not imagining that there was any difference between them. Within a year the Dey demands, under penalty of the renewal of the war, an indemnity in money for the frigate taken by Decatur; our Consul demands the foundation of this pretension; and the Arabic copy of the treaty, signed by himself is produced, with an article stipulating the indemnity, foisted into it, in direct opposition to the treaty as it had been concluded. The arrival of Chauncey, with a squadron before Algiers, silenced the fraudulent claim of the Dey, and he signed a new treaty in which it was abandoned; but he disdained to conceal his intentions; my power, said he, has been wrested from my hands; draw ye the treaty at your pleasure, and I will sign it; but beware of the moment, when I shall recover my power, for with that moment, your treaty shall be waste paper.
And the jihad will resume.
From Page 274 in the American national register, years 1827- 9
From Al Jazeera, they seem to understand what a Jihad is. Do you at this point?
“When the Islamists seized power in Khartoum, the civil war became jihad. Jihad is a religious and an Islamic term. It has nothing to do with what happened during the civil war. They were determined to do as much harm as possible to non-Muslims. “What really saddens me is that everything was agreed in the CPA to enable unity was then betrayed by the north. “African blood runs through my veins. This is the truth so why are we running away from it? It is shameful, because you’re contradicting yourself. University students, government employees, doctors, engineers and businessmen were kicked out. How can you explain this?” Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the Popular Congress Party – (Sudan)
“I encouraged jihad for good reasons. I wanted them to fight for God’s sake and for the unity of the country.
From the archives of David Litman, Sudan's jihad caused a Genocide https://www.hmh.org/la_Genocide_Darfur.shtml
[In 1999, the Sudanese delegation had managed to muzzle a charismatic African leader, the late Dr John Garang, accredited by Christian Solidarity International. The veteran head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), later nominated as Sudan’s Vice-President just before his untimely death in summer 2005, came to the UN Commission on Human Rights as the representative of the long-suffering Christian and animist in Southern Sudan. On 23 March 1999 he was twice stopped on a ‘point of order’ by the delegation of Sudan before he could ask a key question on “the genocidal character of the war in Sudan” In 1992, the regime in Khartoum declared Jihad in Khartoum against the people of southern Sudan and the Nuba mountains. Since then, Jihad has been declared again and again. I ask this very important question: is the Jihad a religious right of those who declare and wage it or is it a violation of the human rights of the people against whom it is declared and waged?] (21)
[A day later the former Sudanese Prime Minister Al-Sadiq Al-Mahdi sent his letter to Mary Robinson, in which he referred to Jihad and slavery in Sudan – his letter was widely circulated at the Commission. Under the title, War Crimes, he asked (his 5th question): “Is it legitimate for the ruling regime in an Islamic State to call for a JIHAD against its citizens, be they Muslims or Christians?” He concluded by writing that: although no one would justify slavery today, under shar’ia, “the traditional concept of JIHAD does allow slavery as a by-product.”]
At one minute and forty-eight seconds Ms.Sarsour in the embedded video, at the top of the article mentions who is her “favorite person" in the room, Imam Siraj Wahaj, praising him as her “mentor, motivator and encourager.”
Here is Imam Siraj Wahaj, her “mentor, motivator, and encourager", commenting on Jihad.