Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Jihad Explained

In the linguistic sense, the Arabic word "jihad" means struggling or striving and applies to any effort exerted by anyone. In this sense a student struggles and strives to get an education and pass course work; an employee strives to fulfill his/her job and maintain good relations with his/her employer; a politician strives to maintain or increase his popularity with his constituents and so on. The term strive or struggle may be used for/by Muslims as well non-Muslims; for example, Allah, One and Only True God says in the Qur'an:

"We have enjoined on people kindness to parents; but if they strive (jahadaka) to make you ascribe partners with Me that of which you have no knowledge, then obey them not..." 29:8, also see 31:15.

In the above two verses of the Qur'an, it is non-Muslim parents who strive (jahada) to convert their Muslim child back to their religion.

In the West, "jihad" is generally translated as "holy war", a usage the media has popularized. According to Islamic teachings, it is unholy to instigate or start war; however, some wars are inevitable and justifiable. If we translate the words "holy war" back into Arabic we find "harbun muqaddasatun", or for "the holy war", "al-harbu al-muqaddasatu". We challenge any researcher or scholar to find the meaning of "jihad" as holy war in the Qur'an or authentic Hadith collections or in early Islamic literature. Unfortunately, some Muslim writers and translators of the Qur'an, the Hadith and other Islamic literature translate the term "jihad" as "holy war", due to the influence of centuries-old Western propaganda. This could be a reflection of the Christian use of the term "Holy War" to refer to the Crusades of a thousand years ago. However, the Arabic words for "war" are "harb" or "qital", which are found in the Qur'an and Hadith.

For Muslims the term jihad is applied to all forms of striving and has developed some special meanings over time. The sources of this development are the Qur'an (the Word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad(S)) and the Hadith (teachings of Prophet Muhammad(S) [(S) denotes Sall-Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam meaning peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The Qur'an and the Hadith use the word "jihad" in several different contexts which are given below:

1. Recognizing the Creator and loving Him most.

It is human nature to love what is seen with the eyes and felt with the senses more than the UNSEEN REALITY. The Creator of the Universe and the One God is Allah. He is the Unseen Reality which we tend to ignore and not recognize. The Qur'an addresses those who claim to be believers:

"O you who believe! Choose not your fathers nor your brethren for protectors if they love disbelief over belief; whoever of you takes them for protectors, such are wrong-doers. Say: if your fathers, and your children, and your brethren, and your spouses, and your tribe, and the wealth you have acquired, and business for which you fear shrinkage, and houses you are pleased with are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His way: then wait till Allah brings His command to pass. Allah does not guide disobedient folk." 9:23,24

It is indeed a struggle to put Allah ahead of our loved ones, our wealth, our worldly ambitions and our own lives. Especially for a non-Muslim who embraces Islam, it may be a tough struggle due to the opposition of his family, peers and society.

2. Resisting pressure of parents, peers and society:

Once a person has made up his mind to put the Creator of the Universe above all else, he then comes under intense pressures. It is not easy to resist such pressures and strive to maintain dedication and love of Allah over all else. A person who has turned to Islam from another religion may be subjected to pressures designed to turn him back to the religion of the family. We read in the Qur'an:

"So obey not the rejecters of faith, but strive (jahidhum) against them by it (the Qur'an) with a great endeavor." 25:52

3. Staying on the straight path steadfastly.

Allah says in the Qur'an:

"And strive (jahidu) for Allah with the endeavor (jihadihi) which is His right. He has chosen you and has not laid upon you in the deen (religion) any hardship ..." 22:78

"And whosoever strives (jahada), strives (yujahidu) only for himself, for lo! Allah is altogether independent of the universe."29:6

As for those who strive and struggle to live as true Muslims whose lives are made difficult due to persecution by their opponents, they are advised to migrate to a more peaceful and tolerant land and continue with their struggle in the cause of Allah. Allah says in the Qur'an:

"Lo! As for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wronged themselves, (the angels) will ask: in what you were engaged? They will say: we were oppressed in the land. (The angels) will say: was not Allah's earth spacious that you could have migrated therein? ..." 4:97

"Lo! those who believe, and those who emigrate (to escape persecution) and strive (jahadu) in the way of Allah, these have hope of Allah's mercy ..." 2:218

Allah tests the believers in their faith and their steadfastness:

"Or did you think that you would enter Paradise while yet Allah knows not those of you who really strive (jahadu), nor knows those (of you) who are steadfast." 3:142

"And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and fruits; but give glad tidings to the steadfast." 2:155

We find that the Prophet Muhammad(S) and his clan were boycotted socially and economically for three years to force him to stop his message and compromise with the pagans but he resisted and realized a moral victory.

4. Striving for righteous deeds:

Allah declares in the Qur'an:

As for those who strive (jahadu) in Us (the cause of Allah), We surely guide them to Our paths, and lo! Allah is with the good doers." 29:69

When we are faced with two competing interests, it becomes jihad to choose the right one, as the following Hadith exemplify.

Aisha, wife of the Prophet(S) asked, "O Messenger of Allah, we see jihad as the best of deeds, so shouldn't we join it?" He replied, "But, the best of jihad is a perfect hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah)." Sahih Al-Bukhari #2784

At another occasion a man asked the Prophet Muhammad(S): "Should I join the jihad?" He asked, "Do you have parents?" The man said, "Yes!" The Prophet(S) said, "then strive by (serving) them!" Sahih Al-Bukhari #5972

Yet another man asked the Messenger of Allah: "What kind of jihad is better?" He replied, "A word of truth in front of an oppressive ruler!" Sunan Al-Nasa'i #4209

The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad(S) said: "... the mujahid (one who carries out jihad) is he who strives against himself for the sake of obeying Allah, and the muhajir (one who emigrates) is he who abandons evil deeds and sin." Sahih Ibn Hibban #4862

5. Having courage and steadfastness to convey the message of Islam:

The Qur'an narrates the experiences of a large number of Prophets and good people who suffered a great deal trying to convey the message of Allah to mankind. For examples see the Qur'an 26:1-190, 36:13-32.

In the Qur'an, Allah specifically praises those who strive to convey His message:

"Who is better in speech than one who calls (other people) to Allah, works righteous, and declares that he is from the Muslims." 41:33

Under adverse conditions it takes great courage to remain a Muslim, declare oneself to be a Muslim and call others to Islam. We read in the Qur'an:

"The (true) believers are only those who believe in Allah and his messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their selves for the cause of Allah. Such are the truthful." 49:15

6. Defending Islam and the community Allah declares in the Qur'an:

 "To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to defend themselves), because they are wronged - and verily, Allah is Most Powerful to give them victory - (they are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right - (for no cause) except that they say, 'Our Lord is Allah'.... "22:39-40

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