What happened recently in Paris is not the only event that brings up conflicts of the human race and the terms “jihad” and “jihadist” in the global news. That this piece will give the general public a permanent understanding or acceptance of jihad is a long shot. However, as a Muslim, I will present to the best of my ability the real meaning of jihad.
In Islam, jihad does not take only one form. It means “the struggle in the way of Allah (God).” Just as all human beings in the world, regardless of personal beliefs, experience so many struggles in their lives, “the way of Allah” also encompasses a lot of tests and difficult tasks.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who is considered one of the world’s most influential persons, once said, “The best of dealings are the ones done in moderation.” Muslims should exert efforts to achieve a better balance in all aspects of life and, thus, maintain peaceful wellbeing. Living in extreme extravagance or being very tight with spending is discouraged in Islam. Being moderate and taking the right control in dealing with other people are also Islamic values.
Jihad ranges from the simplest intentions to acts of defense. Pursuing one’s ambition with the intention of helping other people in the future or fulfilling the responsibilities of being a real Muslim is a form of jihad. It is so because it takes great discipline to achieve a goal. Doing away with vices such as taking illegal drugs or anything that can be harmful to the mind and body is a form of jihad. Telling the truth can also be jihad. Even fasting in the month of Ramadan can be considered as jihad.
One of the biggest acts of jihad is choosing to do what is just and right. For example, jihad is when someone who has power and authority chooses to preserve justice in a society by not abusing what he or she is capable of doing and not stealing the resources to which he or she has direct access. This is so because it takes a lot from oneself to resist extreme desires or temptations just to accomplish a responsibility, or at least consider the common good.
The most talked-about kind of jihad, and is actually a minor one, is one that uses “the sword” or physical fighting. This is where war is visualized. Most Muslims believe that an armed fight can be considered as jihad only if there are compelling reasons, such as an individual or collective experience of injustice (not necessarily from a government) and self-defense. Only when one’s life or dignity is destroyed can this kind of jihad be justified. Justice and balance are humanity’s mutual aims, after all.
According to a web page, titled “Jihad: A Misunderstood Concept from Islam—What Jihad is, and is not,” of the religious organization Islamic Supreme Council of America, one example of a sanctioned military jihad is Muslims’ defensive battle against the crusaders in medieval times. This illustrates a scene of struggle in avoiding oppressive rule.
Like the way human beings possess unique personalities, jihad obviously has many interpretations. Extremists see jihad as terrorism and as an endless act of killing, while other Muslims accept the “inner or spiritual jihad,” or one that does not require a weapon.
On a personal level, I think that violence does not solve anything. Hurting another person after he or she hurt you will only lead to a cycle of revenge. To a certain point, this is what happens in any type of war and in almost all the wars we know in our history. The ones we lost outweigh the gains, if there were any substantial gains at all. Did we really think that our “mission” would be worth taking the lives of innocent civilians?
In fact, the holy Koran, which is also known as the Furqaan, or human beings’ guide in distinguishing right from wrong, has a verse that says: “[W]hoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land—it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one—it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” Killing innocent people and any misuse of jihad, as these clearly do not encourage self-control and as Islamic scholars say, run contrary to the original and real meaning of Islam.
At a young age, I admit I have not experienced being oppressed or things that would make me regret I was born in this world. That is why I could not perfectly empathize with those who have lost so much that all they have is hatred inside them—the kind that is enough for them to take revenge or at least think of killing.
But the idea of killing and war still disturbs me, and I am still not alone with this feeling. I believe that there is always a right solution to every problem. By not ignoring what is good for everyone and by practicing jihad with its right essence, I think Muslims and non-Muslims can get along well or understand each other in the long run.
Yara Lukman ([email protected]) is an editorial assistant at the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
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