Muslims teach that jihad, the Arabic term for struggle and often defined as holy war, is an important part of their faith. In fact, death as a martyr in jihad is the one way the Qur'an teaches a Muslim can be guaranteed a place in paradise: "Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur'an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme" (Surah 9:111).
The Bible, especially the Old Testament, also records much violence. How is the Islamic idea of jihad different from violence in the Bible?
Several important differences can be noted. First, the military violence in the Old Testament was often mentioned as a fact of history rather than the command of God. In other words, many military battles in the Bible were recorded as part of history, but were not recorded as events commanded by God.
Second, God's commands to Israel to destroy their enemies were limited to a particular time and place. God chose to use Israel to bring judgment on people who had rejected the Lord. However, this destruction was not to serve as Israel's ongoing mode of operation for other locations or times.
Third, the violence in the Old Testament was not seen as a way to spread the Jewish faith (and the New Testament nowhere promotes violence as a means of spreading Christianity). In contrast, Islam has historically used jihad to spread its faith to new lands. Though accusations are made in this regard with the Crusades in the Middle Ages, these battles do not represent an accurate application of the teachings of the Bible.
Fourth, Jesus came with a message of peace. He did not promote violence. His followers did not begin a holy war; they shared the message of the resurrected Jesus and started churches. In fact, the apostle Paul taught, "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God" (Romans 12:19). Though the Bible may permit self-defense or the protection of those in harm, the New Testament's teachings do not teach the spread of Christianity by violence.
Fifth, Jesus, the founder of Christianity, did not come in violence. Instead, He served others, ultimately giving His own life in death on a cross. In contrast, Muhammad, the founder of Islam, promoted militant jihad as a means of spreading the Muslim faith. Both religions have grown greatly since their founding, yet Christianity has spread as a message of peace, offering salvation based on faith in Christ alone, while Islam has often spread as the direct result of militant violence.
Both the Qur'an and the Bible record many accounts of military violence. Yet many differences can be found in their accounts. Islam fundamentally and historically includes holy war as a means of spreading its faith. Christianity uses a spread of the teachings of Jesus as its means of growth (Matthew 28:18-20).