by Dr Irfan Malik
The Western media and Muslim religious extremists have taken ownership of the term ‘Jihad’ in their respective ways.
The Western media often uses the word in a derogatory, negative and offensive manner. They explain that Jihad is a ‘The Holy War’ against non- believers, Kafirs. They stroke the flames of Islamophobia by portraying Jihadists as evil, a danger to the West.
On the other hand the Muslim extremists use Jihad as a powerful recruiting process for their own political aims. Many young minds across the world have fallen to this seemingly attractive and righteous cause.
I wish to describe the true meaning of the concept of Jihad. We as peaceful, law abiding Muslims need to reclaim the term and define its components.
Jihad means to strive to the utmost for the achievement of a noble purpose.
Jihad is of three types.
- Jihad e Akbar
The Greatest Jihad is the Jihad e Akbar. To purify oneself. This is because one’s internal struggle to lead a pure good life is very difficult. Our natural, unrefined tendencies can easily be inclined towards evil eg. greed, lust and worldly desires. However once guided by reason and understanding of Islam, the natural state is controlled and refined to regulate in an appropriate manner. This leads to an improvement of the self and associated moral state. Thus to purify one’s self is a constant internal struggle which one must strive to practise and maintain.
- Jihad e Kabeer
The second type is the Great Jihad or Jihad e Kabeer (propagating the religion). This involves reaching out and spreading the message of Allah, the Almighty to improve society. The Holy Quran stresses that this must be carried out with wisdom, tolerance and respect for others and their beliefs. Any use of force or coercion is prohibited. Our beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated that the use of force is totally forbidden in matters of faith.
One must overcome inhibitions and lead by example, living by Islamic principles. This is the second hardest type of struggle that one must strive for.
- Jihad e Asghar
The third type is the Lesser Jihad or Jihad e Asghar (Holy War). In certain circumstances there may be a need to defend yourself for the sake of your faith. A true Jihad e Asghar should only be raised when two criteria are met, it is in defence and the aggressors are trying to prevent you from practising your faith.
Ultimately a Muslim’s purpose in life is to worship Allah, if someone prevents this then we should reason with the offender. If that fails our religion advises us to move away and worship in a different place. If the aggressor continues to prevent worship and starts a war, then and only then are we permitted to fight as a means for our freedom of belief. For Muslims these are defensive battles, not offensive. Islam teaches us, if a person fighting in a true Jihad dies, he becomes a martyr and will go to paradise.
In the Holy Quran, Chapter 22, verse 40-41, the passage gives a complete definition of Jihad:
Permission to take up arms is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged and Allah, indeed has power to help them Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly, only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’.
Many of the Muslim world’s conflicts and wars are political and economic, not meeting the true criteria for Jihad. Certainly, the religious extremist terrorist activities across the world are not a Jihad. These aggressive offenders should not be termed Jihadists.
As Muslims we need to defend and protect our religion from the Western media, some world Governments and religious extremists. This should not be done through escalating violence or intolerance. Indeed we need to go through a reformation, once again being directed to the basic principles of Islam, a religion of peace.
Let’s start the journey to follow the shining light that leads us to true Jihad, true Islam, a life of peace and tranquillity, rather than the path of false Jihad which leads to hatred, death and destruction.
Let us follow The Holy Quran and the example set to us by our beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa).
We do need to fight battles, not with swords or ammunitions but our articulate responses should be through Jihad of the pen.