Jihad as practiced by radical groups today is a new phenomenon, completely distinct from historical notions of the concept in Islamic culture and tradition. The emergence of political Salafism was a turning point in its development.
Salafism removed jihad from its historical Sufi context and repositioned it in the string of conquests during the first decades of Islam. The Muslim-Western conflict painted by the alleged colonial rhetoric of the major global forces present in the Middle East promoted this trend.
Wahhabism, the major Salafi movement founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula, employed the notion of jihad for the first time in the modern history of Islam to spread religious preaching and control among Muslim communities.
From the second half of the 18th century to the late 19th century, the followers of Wahhabism spread their ideology among tribes in the peninsula and neighboring regions, in Iraq and the Gulf, imposing their ideology forcefully if necessary.
The notion of jihad evolved significantly with the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sayyid Qutb, the group's leading member and chief ideologue, developed jihad in the ideological context of the conflict with the West. According to this vision, secular political regimes in the Muslim world are products of Western culture that should be fought and uprooted because they conflict with Islam.
Al-Qaeda and its offshoots mixed Brotherhood and Wahhabi ideologies in formulating their vision. Jihad subsequently acquired a preaching element to spread Salafism and combat the Western presence in the Muslim world, including political regimes based on Western secularist models.