Most Highly Rewarded
A man came to Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam) and asked, “Instruct me as to such a deed as equals Jihad (in reward).” He replied, “I do not find such a deed.” Then Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam) added, “Can you, while the Muslim fighter is in the battle-field, enter your mosque to perform prayers without cease and fast and never break your fast?” The man said, “But who can do that?” [Bukhari]
This hadith makes it clear that the most highly rewarded deed is fighting in the path of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala). What could be equivalent to fighting in Jihad, is fasting and praying continuously, without breaking one’s fast until the mujahid (Muslim fighter) comes back from combat. This, both Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam) and the inquirer knew, was not possible.
There is a fabricated hadith used to mislead Muslims, that devalues combat in protecting the lives of Muslims and the Islamic state. The ‘hadith’ relates that Rasul Allah as he was returning from a Jihad expedition said, “We returned from the minor Jihad to the major Jihad.” As a result, Jihad bil Nafs is portrayed as the major Jihad and combative Jihad as the minor Jihad.
Ibn Taymiyah states: “The hadith of, ‘We returned from the minor Jihad to the major Jihad’ is fabricated and is not narrated by any of the scholars who have knowledge of the words of Rasulullah (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam).” While the fight against one’s nafs/base desires is not to be under-estimated, the most highly rewarded deed is combative Jihad and whatever aids it.