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Defensive jihad, in contrast with offensive jihad, is the defense of Muslim communities. Islamic tradition holds that when Muslims are attacked, then it becomes obligatory for all Muslims of that land to defend against the attack. Indeed, the Qur'an requires military defense of the besieged Islamic community.
In contemporary Jihadism, it is impossible to draw an objective distinction between offensive and defensive jihadism, as even unilateral attacks on the soil of non-Muslim states are justified as retaliatory for events conceived of as "attacks on Muslims" (e.g. 2009 Fort Hood shooting, Woolwich attack).
The notion of "defensive Jihad" is derived from certain passages in the Qur'an, among others Al-Baqarah verses 190-193. Some Muslims argue that the very absence of a Caliph (since the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924) constitutes a grave violation of Islamic law and is in itself sufficient to justify defensive jihad.
Abdullah Yusuf Azzam (1979) made the distinction of "offensive jihad", which at the very least requires "the sending of an army at least once a year to terrorise the enemies of Allah", from "defensive jihad", involving the "expelling the Kuffar from our land", considered compulsory for every Muslim.
The beginnings of Jihad are traced back to the words and actions of Muhammad and the Quran. This encourages the use of Jihad against non-Muslims. The Quran, however, never uses the term Jihad for fighting and combat in the name of Allah; qital is used to mean “fighting.” Jihad in the Quran was originally intended for the nearby neighbors of the Muslims, but as time passed and more enemies arose, the Quranic statements supporting Jihad were updated for the new adversaries. The first documentation of the law of Jihad was written by ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Awza’i and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybani. The document grew out of debates that had surfaced ever since Muhammad's death.
- Islam as a political movement
- Offensive jihad
- Rules of war in Islam
- List of battles of Muhammad
- "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress, for Allah loves not the transgressor. Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers." (Al-Baqarah 190-193)
- DEFENCE OF THE MUSLIM LANDS The First Obligation After Iman
- ... the Ulama [pious scholars] of the four Mathhabs (Maliki, Hanafi, Shaffie and Hanbali), the Muhadditheen, and the Tafseer commentators [classical Muslim commentators of the Qur'an], are agreed that in all Islamic ages, Jihad under this condition becomes Fard Ayn [personal religious obligation] upon the Muslims of the land which the Kuffar [infidels] have attacked and upon the Muslims close by, where the children will march forth without the permission of the parents, the wife without the permission of her husband and the debtor without the permission of the creditor. And, if the Muslims of this land cannot expel the Kuffar because of lack of forces, because they slacken, are indolent or simply do not act, then the Fard Ayn obligation spreads in the shape of a circle from the nearest to the next nearest. If they too slacken or there is again a shortage of manpower, then it is upon the people behind them, and on the people behind them, to march forward. This process continues until it becomes Fard Ayn [a personal religious obligation] upon the whole world. 
- Does the Quran Really Sanction Violence Against 'Unbelievers'? by Shaikh Kabir Helminski, The Huffington Post
- Rudolph Peters, Jihād (The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World); Oxfordislamicstudies. . Retrieved February 17, 2008.
- Jonathon P. Berkey, The Formation of Islam; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2003