Jihad. A loaded word.
A term most people around the world associate with terrorism, extremism, and the “violent religion” of Islam. It’s most commonly used by the media and politicians and has become a prominent topic of debate and discussion after the terror attacks of September 11.
But that begs the question. What is Jihad?
To an uninformed mind, it’s merely a word to describe extremists, terrorists, Islamic fanatics that take everything in the Qura’an too literally and kill for the religion. And to an extent, it is true. The image the ignorant and uninformed see is of people dressed in Islamic clothes with the Prophet Muhammad’s names written on flags and Allah’s name echoing on their lips, killing hundreds of innocents without a second thought. Unfortunately, that image is what people still see and associate with Muslims all around the world.
In actuality, Jihad isn’t a word for an “Islamic Holy War,” nor does it have anything to do with violence. In fact, the literal meaning of the word Jihad, in Arabic, is struggle. And like many words and phrases taken from the Qur’an and used by the media, the term Jihad is always taken out of context.
There are two main types of Jihad that pertain to us. The lesser Jihad and the greater Jihad.
Fighting racism, Islamophobia, speaking out against the bad going around the world, writing articles and stories in favour of Islam and to teach people more about our beautiful religion is the best kind of Jihad.
The greater Jihad is the struggle of oneself, of living in this world and following the rules and laws set by Allah SWT to the best of our ability. Some people refer to this as a spiritual Jihad. It encapsulates almost all parts of human life. Walking to the masjid during a long day of work and meetings is Jihad. Praying 5 times a day is a Jihad. Being able to wear the hijab is Jihad. Reading one page of Qura’an per day is a Jihad. Fasting and performing Hajj are both Jihad. Having good relationships with family and friends, and being able to raise good Muslim children is Jihad. Giving Zakah, earning a halal living, supporting masjids, and giving donations to educational centers and universities is also part of Jihad.
According to a hadith, the Prophet Muhammad SAWS said the best form of Jihad is speaking the truth in front of an oppressive/tyrannical ruler. Learning, gaining more knowledge, using that knowledge for the sake of Allah SWT is all Jihad too. Fighting racism, Islamophobia, speaking out against the bad going around the world, writing articles and stories in favour of Islam and to teach people more about our beautiful religion is the best kind of Jihad.
Every aspect of the life of a Muslim is Jihad. These things are all struggles, struggles that we strive to do and complete because we want to be closer to Allah, we want him to love us even more than He already does.
There’s also the lesser Jihad. This pertains to the physical form of Jihad, fighting physically for the sake of Allah SWT. Many Prophets such as Prophet Muhammad SAWS and Prophet Musa had to struggle in the battlefield, fighting for the rights to practice their faith and live in peace. It is an undeniable fact, but it exists.
However, it is essential that we understand this lesser Jihad according to the Qura’an, Sunnah, and history of Islam. The physical form of Jihad was only ever justifiable in certain strict conditions and only as a last resort- such as self-defence, protecting your properties and family, protecting their faith, or have fled their homes to find peace. In fact, there is an Ayah in the Qura’an where Allah SWT commands Muslims to engage in Jihad to protect Churches, Synagogues, Temples, and Mosques. The act of fighting using violence and aggression should be avoided at all costs unless absolutely necessary.
Jihad isn’t a term we should be afraid of.
Unlike what most people believe, protecting oneself from oppressors, violence, and attacking in retaliation is only 1 small part of the term Jihad. The people who go around, killing in the name of Allah are Muslims by name only. More Muslims have died because of these so called Jihadists. In the Qura’an, Allah SWT specifically says that a man who kills another man, unless he is provoked and is in a dire situation such as battle, is like a man who has killed all of mankind. They use the term Jihad and Islam to further their own political gains and agendas. They abuse both the term Jihad and their status as a Muslim. The Prophet Muhammad SAWS said these are the ones who recite the Qura’an but it does not go below their throats, it does not reach their hearts.
At the end of the day, Jihad is a term that Muslims need to embrace because it is a part of who we are. Both the greater and lesser Jihad are part of Islam. Many enlightened Muslims tend to completely deny the existence of the lesser Jihad, which is denying a part of something Allah has put in place for us to acknowledge and understand. Jihad isn’t a term we should be afraid of. It may be loaded, but only because we have let it become twisted and turned to fit other people’s games. We need to strive to make sure Jihad, a daily struggle for all Muslims, is seen in the correct light once again.
Asiya is a writer and journalist based in Brisbane, Australia.