One would have to be almost totally oblivious to current events to be unaware of the term “Jihad”. But no non-Muslim could be faulted for being confused about exactly what Jihad is. If one is willing to believe the explanations that are offered by many so-called "moderate" Muslim spokespeople, jihad is only an inner struggle to approach perfection. Many useful idiots in the Media and in politics in non-Islamic countries will echo the protestations of the moderate Muslims. Some Muslims sincerely believe this is the appropriate definition of the term. Most Islamic terrorists seem to define Jihad as fighting and killing all people that will not submit to Allah (as they perceive him).
We tend to believe the guys with the guns!
As with everything respecting Islam, one should go to the Islamic scripture for the most believable answer. Look at the Koranic verses and hadith quotations about what Mohammad uttered near the end of his life. For example; one translation of Sura 9:24 reads “Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection”. This surah was the second-to-last that Mohammad proclaimed: it was not abrogated.
Answering-Islam.com tells us that “The great medieval scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292-1350) also outlines the stages of Muhammad’s prophetic career: “For thirteen years after the beginning of his Messengership, he called people to Allah through preaching, without fighting or Jizyah, and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war with him. Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until God’s religion was fully established". If this Islamic scholar is correct, there are several phases in Mohammad’s calls to jihad. Based on the Islamic concept of abrogation, after the earliest instructions – those given in Mecca -each of these different instructions from Allah abrogates the previous. Therefore, the latest instruction is the one we should believe is applicable to modern Islam.
This is hardly a reassuring thought to those who want to be at peace with Muslims!.