Regarding those who use Ibn al-Qayyim’s 4 stages of Jihaad to not fight in Jihaad

The following is taken from “The Absent Obligation” by Muhammad Abdus Salam Faraj, PP 59 – 60 with slight modifications:

It is clear that jihad is now obligatory upon every Muslim, yet there is the one who protests that he is in need of educating himself, that jihad is divided into stages, and that he is still in the stage of struggling against his nafs (inner self), proving this by the classification of jihad made by Imaam Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah in which he said:

“Jihaad is of four stages: jihaad al-nafs (striving against the self), jihaad al-shayaateen (striving against the shayaateen or devils), jihaad al-kuffaar (striving against the disbelievers) and jihaad al-munaafiqeen (striving against the hypocrites). Jihaad al-nafs means striving to make oneself learn true guidance, and to follow it after coming to know it, calling others to it, and bearing with patience the difficulties of calling others to Allaah. Jihaad al-Shaytaan means striving against him and warding off the doubts and desires that he throws at a person, and the doubts that undermine faith, and striving against the corrupt desires that he tries to inspire in a person. Jihaad against the kuffaar and munaafiqeen is done in the heart and on the tongue, with one’s wealth and oneself. Jihaad against the kuffaar mostly takes the form of physical action, and jihaad against the munaafiqeen mostly takes the form of words… The most perfect of people are those who have completed all the stages of jihaad. People vary in their status before Allaah according to their status in jihaad.” (Zaad al-Ma’aad 3/9-12)

Using this as evidence notifies us of either ignorance or the evil cowardice of the one who is behind it, because Ibn al-Qayyim classified Jihad into categories and not stages, otherwise we would have to stop struggling against the Shaytaan until we are finished with the stage of struggling against the inner self!

But the truth is that these three categories proceed together on a straight line. However, we do not deny that the person who has a stronger Iman and practices jihad of the nafs among us will be firmer (in Jihad). But he who studies the Seerah (life of the Messenger sallallahu alayhe wa salam) will find that when jihad was called for, all the people used to march forth in the cause of Allah even those who committed al-Kabaa’ir (major sins) as well as those who were new in Islaam. It was narrated that a man embraced Islam during a battle, partook the battle and was martyred, so the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhe wa salam) said of him: “A small amount of deeds but a great reward.” (This was in relation to a man called al-Usairim who did not embrace Islam until the day of battle of Uhud, and yet never prayed neither one unit of salah nor fasted on day of his life, but was given glad tidings of such reward.) (The Sealed Nectar by Safi Uddin Mubarakpuri)

Also, there is a story of Abu Mahjan ath-Thaqafi who drank alcohol, but his Jihad against the Persians was so famous. Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned that the hadeeth saying:

“We have come back from the minor jihad to the major one” someone asked: “What is the major Jihad O Messenger of Allah?” he replied: “Jihad of the nafs,”

It is a fabrication. (This report, collected by Bayhaqi is fabricated as mentioned in Mannaar as-Subl of Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah).

The reason behind the fabrication (of this hadeeth) is to belittle the value of fighting by the sword so as to divert the Muslims from fighting the disbelievers and hypocrites.