Mahmoud M. Ayoub

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Mahmoud M. Ayoub is a Lebanese scholar and professor of religious and inter-faith studies.


  • To sum up, Islam is a religion of continuous personal and societal reform through disciplined worship. The five pillars of Islam involve individual and communal obligations meant to provide the proper context for social, religious and, above all, spiritual reform. This process of disciplined reform is called jihad, "striving" or "struggling." the greatest Jihad is the struggle of every person against the evil of their own carnal soul. However, depending on social and political circumstances, Jihad can become an obligation as well as a process. Jihad may be regarded as a sixth fundamental obligation (faridah) incumbent on every Muslim when social and religious reform is gravely hampered or the community's integrity threatened. In a situation where the entire Muslim ummah is in danger, jihad becomes an absolute obligation (fard 'ayn). Otherwise it is a limited obligation (fard kifayah), incumbent upon those who are directly involved. These rules apply to armed struggle, or the jihad of the sword. This, and the struggle to reform society and rectify its social, moral, and political ills, is called jihad fi sabil allah ("strugle in the way of God"). Another and closely related form of jihad is jihad bi-al-qur'an, that is jihad by means of the Qur'an. The Prophet is commanded, "Do not obey the rejecters of faith but wage a great jihad against them by means of it [the Qur'an]" (Q. 25:52). This form of Jihad is as imperative today as it was in the time of the Prophet. Yet the greatest and most fundamental striving is the jihad of the spirit, which was called by the Prophet "the greater jihad." It is jihad fi-allah, "struggle in God." As God declares in the Qur'an: "As fo those who strive in Us, We shall guide them to Our ways" (Q. 29:69) These are the ways of peace, to which God shall "guide those who seek His good pleasure" (Q. 5:16). The goal of true jihad is to attain a harmony between islam (submission), iman (faith), and ihsan (righteous living).