Islamic jurists saw jihad in the context of conflict in a world divided between the Dar al-Islam (territory under Islamic control) and the Dar al-h arb (territory of war, which consisted of all lands not under Muslim rule).
Jihad was generally understood not as an obligation of each individual Muslim (known as fard 'ayn) but as a general requirement of the Muslim community (fard kifaya).
This consensus view of a restricted, defensive version of jihad was contested by Muslim legal philosopher Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328).
Islamic law condemns all warfare that does not qualify as jihad, specifically any warfare among Muslims.
Three main views of jihad thus coexisted in pre-modern times.
The last 30 years have seen the rise of militant, religiously-based political groups whose ideology focuses on demands for jihad (and the willingness to sacrifice one's life) for the forceful creation of a society governed solely by the shari'a and a unified Islamic state, and to eliminate un-Islamic and unjust rulers.
Differences in Sunni and Shi'a Interpretations of Jihad
Sunni and Shi'a (Shi'ite) Muslims agree, in terms of just cause, that jihad applies to the defense of territory, life, faith, and property; it is justified to repel invasion or its threat; it is necessary to guarantee freedom for the spread of Islam; and that difference in religion alone is not a sufficient cause.
The question of right authority--no jihad can be waged unless it is directed by a legitimate ruler--also has been divisive among Muslims.
Fighting for the sake of conquest, booty, or honor in the eyes of one's companions will earn no reward; the only valid purpose for jihad is to draw near to God.
Sayyid Abu al-A'la Mawdudi (1903-1979) was the first Islamist writer to approach jihad systematically.
Radical Egyptian Islamist thinkers (and members of the Muslim Brotherhood) Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) took hold of Mawdudi's activist and nationalist conception of jihad and its role in establishing a truly Islamic government, and incorporated Ibn Taymiyya's earlier conception of jihad that includes the overthrow of governments that fail to enforce the shari'a.