Islam & Jihad

By: Schezreh Nauman

What is Jihad?

  • 'Jihad' is an Arabic word which translates to struggling or surviving. However, it's often translated as 'holy war'.
  • Jihad has many meanings when it comes to the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.
  • The "peaceful" meaning of Jihad can refer to the internal & external efforts of a person to be a good Muslim.
  • The "radical" meaning, however, is a violent concept referring to military action (mostly against other religions) in the name of Islam

Jihad in Sacred Texts

There are various verses in the Quran which talk about Jihad, a couple of them are:

  • "The true believers are those who believe in God and His messenger, then attain the status of having no doubt whatsoever, and strive (jahadu*) with their money and their lives in the cause of God. These are the truthful ones." 49:15
  • "As for the messenger and those who believed with him, they eagerly strive (jahadu*) with their money and their lives. These have deserved all the good things; they are the winners." 9:88

*'jahadu' is the verb version of 'jihad'

When it comes to Prophet Muhammad's teachings of Jihad, he's often cited for considering the violent aspect of jihad "minor" or "little", while the "greater" jihad is the improvement of one's self.

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Malcolm X and Islam

Malcolm X is a well known human rights activist. He's also well known for being a part of the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam often taught twisted versions of the religion's teachings. After visiting the Holy city of Mecca, to complete his Hajj, Malcolm X's views on the religion completely changed. Before he thought Islam was all about violence and physically fighting in order to get what you want. He supported this and followed these principles throughout much of his life, even as an activist. Similarly, non-believers (of Islam) may believe that Islam is a religion of violence, especially because of what they think Jihad means. But after experiencing the religious practices and learning more about the religion by himself, Malcolm X realized that Islam is heavily revolved around peace. All the principles he thought were apart of Islam were just twisted interpretations. The same thing also happens to the concept of Jihad -- non-believers hear the twisted interpretations of Jihad, made by Muslim extremists, and based on that knowledge, they make an assumption on a whole religion.
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Peaceful & Radical Jihad in the Modern World

  • Muslim extremists often use the radical meaning of Jihad as an excuse to kill, saying they are killing in the name of Islam.
  • Peaceful Jihad is practiced often in the modern world by Muslims everywhere.
  • To bring awareness to the difference of the two meanings of Jihad, many Muslims around the world are participating in a campaign called "MyJihad" by posting on social media what their Jihad is.
  • This campaign is to bring awareness to the true meaning of Jihad that is practiced by the majority of Muslims.

Jihad in Other Religions

The concept of Jihad, which is the internal & external struggles of an individual trying to be a good Muslim, is similar to many other principles in other religions.

For example, Buddhism has something called the "Middle Way" which is the balance of all things in life (desire, money, impulses). An individual can achieve this by living their life in moderation. This is similar to the concept of Jihad because for a Buddhist to reach the middle way, they must struggle with overcoming their desires, etc. to be the best person they can be. Similarly, a Muslim must struggle, using all their internal & external efforts, to be a good Muslim.

Incorporating Jihad in my Life

Personally, incorporating the concept of Jihad into my life is much easier than it may be for others since I am Muslim. However, since I've never really been very religious due to not knowing much about my own religion, incorporating it into my life is a new thing for me. Incorporating Jihad into my everyday life will be mostly about being a better person and also following the rules of Islam as best as I can.