Jihad translates to struggling in the way of God (Allah).
Recent media has transcended this ideology to be of a violent nature based on the actions and claims of extremists. However, the idea of Jihad is far more transcending than attacking non-believers as is preached by extremists.
There are two main forms of Jihad. Firstly, an inner Jihad, which is a struggle within one self to curb evil and negativity and prosper in righteous paths. This jihad is a personal struggle which is measured differently for each individual. Perhaps, choosing to wear the hijab in a non hijabi community is an inner struggle. Or forcing oneself to wake up early in the morning for Fajr is an inner struggle. All examples of Jihad.
Secondly, the more misunderstood and misconstrued defensive and aggressive jihad towards non believers. Now one must understand that the latter was ordained in the Holy Quran at a time of unrest for the tribe of Muhammad pbuh. The tribe had to fight for its right to practice Islam, and so in such a setting this form of jihad was encouraged. Meaning, a common man marching off to fight for his right to live on his own land despite opposing religious beliefs was referred to as Jihad. In that form, Jihad was struggling for their freedom to worship Allah while living beside those who didn’t. So referring to their struggle as jihad gave them the status of a martyr and in turn many fold more rewards in Paradise.
The misunderstanding occurs when extremists use the latter form of Jihad to coax and manipulate misinformed youths into thinking that large acts of terrorism upon lands of the non believers equates to the such martyrdom. Which, quite obviously is false and is only a scheme run by extremists to exercise their personal malicious attacks in the name of a greater cause.
Jihad is misunderstood and misinterpreted and people intern fear what they do not know. However, the only solution to such a dilemma is awareness through the spreading of knowledge.