Jihad. It’s a word that brings negative connotations to the mind of many, sadly including some Muslims. The reason being that most simply don’t know any better regarding the root of this word, the rulings behind it and the different branches this one word carries in Islam.
On 7th March, 2017, a mainstream Hong Kong newspaper, South China Morning Post, had published an article piece in the student’s section of it’s edition regarding the civil war in Syria (pages 6-7 of the YoungPost section). And in it, they used the word Jihadist, which is commonly used by media and governments worldwide referring to “Muslims fighting a war against those who are considered to be the enemies of Islam”.
What’s concerning for an average Muslim in today’s time is how more and more Islamic phrases are being misinterpreted and presented as being evil – both by certain media/governments and of course by certain extremists.
Having this word, Jihad, being taught as being a barbaric and inhumane act in a student’s newspaper is bound to create more animosity and hatred for the upcoming generation towards Islam and its principles. So it’s important we all educate ourselves before we think of educating others.
What is Jihad?
The Arabic word “jihad” is often translated as “holy war,” but in a purely linguistic sense, the word ” jihad” means struggling or striving. The idea of a holy war doesn’t exist in Islam. Moreover, war in the Arabic language is al-harb, not jihad.
Jihad refers to the concept of how a person wrestles with a difficulty in order to achieve success, solace and satisfaction. In Islam, there are two types of Jihad – the inner-self jihad and the outer jihad.
The Inner Jihad
The inner-self jihad, is in fact the first jihad for a Muslim. This is where the Muslim is fighting his/hers own desires and thoughts in order to become a better Muslim for the sake of Allah. Examples of these include striving to work hard to feed one’s family, staying away from a bad action such as smoking, not being arrogant or selfish and much more of the similar nature.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
“Jihad is of various kinds, with one’s self, one’s wealth, by making du’aa’ (prayer), by teaching and guiding, by helping to do good in any way.”
The Outer Jihad
Now, the outer jihad is what takes the spotlight and again is misinformed to the masses. In Islam, there is indeed the notion of fighting, but what many don’t continue on saying is – when is this jihad applicable?
“And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors”
The Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are filled with statements of telling mankind to be just, even if it’s against your own enemies, even to the extent that Muslims are encouraged to repel an evil act with a good so that the enemy can become a good friend.
Subsequently, when Islam talks about fighting or using means of combat violence, it sets rules and regulations. Furthermore, it’s extremely important to note that the outer jihad is about self-defense – similar to what the police would say they use! It’s to eradicate corruption in a land with the best possible means.
A man asked the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “What is the best jihad?” The Prophet said, “A word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler.”
What Jihad is not!
Military action does exist in Islam, but again, it can’t be done by anyone at anytime. It needs to be strategic, being controlled by the rightful rulers. And here is what Islam has forbidden Muslims to do when the outer jihad is being practiced:
- Harming innocents – those who are not fighting you;
- Hurting the vulnerable – women, children, elderly, etc;
- Killing those who don’t accept Islam – there’s no compulsion in Islam as clearly said in the Qur’an;
- Mutilating the bodies – those who are killed in a war should have their bodies treated with respect since the bodies have their rights;
- Suicide-bombing – killing oneself is a major sin in Islam and some would say it may take you out of the fold of Islam;
- Destroying other people’s houses of worship – such as churches and the like
So what we see is that jihad is a practice that anyone who wishes to enjoin a good and forbid a wrong using the right means ought to be championing. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand [by taking action]; if he cannot, then with his tongue [by speaking out]; and if he cannot, then with his heart [by hating it and feeling that it is wrong] – and that is the weakest of faith”
Sadly, it’s been hijacked, like other notions, thus it’s important we always understand the root of a topic before ending up being part of a problem.