It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“The most beloved deeds for Allah are prayer, performed at the time set for it , then showing respect and kindness towards parents, and then fighting / jihad in the way of Allah.”
164 ( صحيح )
أحب الأعمال إلى الله الصلاة لوقتها ثم بر الوالدين ثم الجهاد في سبيل الله
( حم ق د ن ) عن ابن مسعود الإرواء 1198
This hadith was narrated by Ahmad (1/409, 439, 442, 415),al-Bukhari 527 , Muslim (85), ad-Darimi (1/278), Abu Dawood, at-Tirmidhi (1/36), al-Nasai (1/292), Riyad al Saliheen 312 according to Ibn Mas’ud, may Allah be pleased with him.
 This refers to the performance of one or another obligatory prayer immediately after the onset of its time.
The hadith is authentic. See Sahih al-Jami ‘as-saghir (164), Mishkatul-masabih (568), Irvwa-ul-galil (1198).
Imam Ibn Daqiq al-‘Id said: “It follows from the Sharia analogy that jihad is the best of deeds that are a means. After all, jihad is a means for raising the religion, spreading it, refuting unbelief and suppressing it. And therefore his dignity corresponds to the dignity of his goal. ” See Fathul Bari (6/77).
Hafiz ad-Dumyat said: “Jihad is a means, not an end. And the purpose of the battle is to instruct on the true path and achieve the degree of martyrdom. And as for the killing of infidels, this is not a goal as such. And therefore, if there is an opportunity to guide them on the true path with the help of proofs, without fighting then this is more correct and preferable than jihad! ” See I’anatu-t-Talibin (4/181).
Sheikh ‘Abdur-Rahman al-Sa’di said: “Jihad is not being waged to shed the blood of infidels or to appropriate their property. Jihad is waged so that the religion of Allah will triumph over other religions, and so that paganism and everything that is incompatible with true faith disappears on earth. This is what fitnah is, and if this fitnah ceases to exist, then Muslims are obliged to stop bloodshed and jihad. ” See Taysirul-Karimi-r-Rahman (78).
As for the hadith: “I was sent with a sword before the Day of Judgment so that everyone would worship Allah Alone”, then Hafiz Ibn Rajab said: “Allah Almighty sent a prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), calling for tawheed (monotheism) with the help of sword, after being summoned with the help of argument. And the one who did not answer the call of monotheism with the help of the Koran and a clear argument, was called with the help of the sword. See al-Hikam al-Jadira (5).
The scholars of the Standing Committee (al-Lajna ad-Daim) said regarding this hadith: “Islam was spread by means of argument and clarification in relation to those who listened to and answered the call. And it was spread with the help of force and the sword against those who were proud and arrogant. ” See Fatawa al-Lajna (12/14).