The 3 Motives of Islamic Jihad (The Jihadi Triangle).


Islamic commentator, and former atheist turned Christian apologist, David Wood explains that there are three factors involved in jihad (1); the waging of war against unbelievers. It takes form in well-articulated and simplistic triangle with each component required for one to understand the motives behind jihad.

1. The Jihadi Triangle.

Firstly, there is belief in Islam. To become a jihadist you have to believe in Islam which is to essentially believe that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger. In this way access to the commands of Allah and Muhammad is foundational because if one doesn’t believe in Allah then he’s not going to wage jihad.

The second fact is knowledge of what Islam commands. You can believe in Islam without knowing that Allah commands Muslims to fight those who do not believe in Allah (Koran 9:29). Muhammad also said that he’d been commanded to fight people till they say there is no God but Allah (Sahih al-Bukhari 6924). Wood explains that when he “quotes these passages to westernized Muslims they generally have no clue what I am talking about even though I am quoting Allah and Muhammad. But the jihadist is familiar with these kinds of passages so jihadists aren’t merely Muslims, they’re Muslims who know that they have been commanded to fight and subjugate unbelievers.”

The third, and final, factor is obedience. Some people are willing to forfeit their lives for what they believe. You get people that do this for a good cause, namely to save the life of another (Dietrich Bonhoeffers martyrdom under the Nazi regime). We also get those who do this for an evil cause, namely taking another’s life in the name of an ideology (jihadi Muslims, for example). This character trait, explains Wood, “combined with belief in Islam and acknowledgement of Allah’s commands results in obedience and willingness to “fight the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them” (Koran 9:73).


2. One Needs All Three.

However, Wood rightly notes that “belief in Islam itself doesn’t itself alone produce jihad. Knowledge of what Islam teaches by itself doesn’t produce jihad, [nor does] obedience itself produce jihad. Any two of these factors combined without the third won’t produce jihad. You can believe in Islam and be thoroughly willing to obey Allah as long as you don’t know that he commands you to wage jihad. You can believe in Islam and know that Allah commands you to wage jihad as long as obeying Allah isn’t a priority. You can know what Allah commands and be the sort of person who is willing to lay done his life for what he believes as long as you don’t believe in Islam.”

3. What About Peaceful Muslims?

The Jihadi Triangle helps us to put this into perspective. The interjection made is that if Islam is a violent religion then why are so many Muslims peaceful? This is because, explains Wood, they are missing one of the sides to the Jihadi Triangle, “They believe in Islam but they don’t know what Islam teaches, and even if you tell them what it teaches they are not going to obey if it’s something they don’t like.” The foundations of the Islamic religion, as informed by the Koran and Hadiths, is violent, however, that doesn’t mean the Muslim has to obey the commands to wage war on unbelievers. But these Muslims are living inconsistently with their religion if they are aware of what the Koran teaches (jihad) and do not obey it. That’s not to say that obeying this would be a good thing at all. Rather it is groups like ISIS and Al-Shabaab who are staying true to what Islam teaches.


1. YouTube. The Jihad Triangle (David Wood). Available.


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