Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Jihad You Jihad We All Jihad

People, not only Muslims carry out jihad every day. I know everyone today thinks jihad means "holy war". They'd be wrong. Muslims however never used the term "holy war". We can thank Pope Urbaine II who coined the term to promote the crusades. Jihad actually comes from the Arabic word juhud which means "to struggle". This obviously can be used in many situations in life, not only in times of war. You can struggle to provide for your family, to do well in school, to pay the bills every month, to protect your loved ones, to choose right from wrong etc.. But since the most popular version to talk about these days seems to be jihad during war, let's talk about that one. A quote well known to people who hold anti-Islamic sentiments and that is used numerous times on FOX and various other news media is this quote:

"Fight in the cause of God and slay them wherever you catch them, for God loves not the transgressors" (Qur'an). This is not the entire quote. See below.

There are limits in the Qur'an as to what Muslims are allowed to do in times of war, because the idea is to promote peace wherever peace is possible. A Muslim must never instigate or attack another person or party who has not done harm to them. The only attack deemed acceptable is self-defense. Muslims consider these boundaries to be set by God and transgressing these limits will mean suffering the consequences. 

Here is the quote in its entirety and full context:

"Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loves not transgressors. And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter... But if they cease, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful... If they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression" (Qur'an 2:190-193).

As you can see, the context completely changes the meaning of the quote. "The transgressors" refer not to the party Muslims are fighting but rather to Muslims who slaughter them unjustly. If peace is offered, Muslims must accept it. Not doing so is going against God's command.

In America at least we're not in battle every day, so  let's look at some examples of what I like to call "everyday life" jihad. Here are several examples cited in the ahadeeth (sayings and actions of Muhamed during his lifetime) that illustrate what I am talking about. These are examples of people asking if they should fight in battle, and Muhamed advises them to do things that are better for them.
  • Aisha, wife of the Prophet 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:
  • "Should I join the jihad?" He asked, "Do you have parents?" The man said, "Yes!" The Prophet 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 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 

    Context is everything, I can not stress this enough. People see Muslims on the news crying and shouting "Allahu Akbar" God is great, and talking about how they love Jihad. It scares people. If I thought Jihad meant what a majority of the world population thought it meant, I would be scared too.

    For Muslims, jihad is beautiful. It is the struggle to transform yourself into a better person before God.

    This is one reason why the word gets so much press. Muslims love talking about it and the rest of the world doesn't know what it means. It's perfect! But that is partly our fault. As Muslims we should fight to defuse these confusions, but it becomes difficult if no one believes you. People tend to believe a man on the TV telling lies more than a person on the street telling the truth. I think it's a great form of jihad to inform people about things that are misunderstood, and correct peoples misconceptions. I personally do not like being judged for using a term correctly and being punished for someone else's misnomer (thanks again Pope Urban, we owe you one.)

    Speaking of the crusades, look up Salah-el Din Yusuf ibn Ayub (also known as Saladin-yes, the one in Kingdom of Heaven but better) while you're at it. He performed a great example of jihad (fighting justly and showing mercy) during the crusades when Richard the Lion Heart fell sick. He brought him ice water in the dessert. THE DESSERT. As well as his finest physicians. He did not take advantage of him while he was weak and injured, nor when Richard's horse was killed from under him. Instead he sent him his own horse to save Richard the embarrassment of meeting him on foot.

    To learn more on Jihad (or anything really) make sure that when presented with information that your sources are cited.  The sources are cited so that you can check for yourself. Some people cite information and when you go to look for it it ends up being false or out of context, as the quotes from the Qur'an above. Unless it is cited I would recommend considering it to be invalid until proven cited by a reliable source. 

    As Muslims we even have something called "weak ahadith", meaning ahadeeth whose authenticity has fallen under question. For example, a hadeeth by Aisha, the wife of Muhamed who is known for her strong ahadeeth and has given over 3000 of them, has way more authenticity than "Bob" who heard something from someone's neighbour's aunt this one time. Normally those are dismissed, and if they are used, they are labeled as weak so people are aware. 

    Many problems Muslims face today are people saying the first thing that pops into their head that they heard from someone or something that knows nothing about Islam, or Muslims, and did not cite any sources. I don't know why these people think they know what they are talking about, or why other people choose to listen to them without questioning any of their information or where they got it from. It is simply illogical to me. I hope this has been an insightful "lesson" on Jihad, and if you have any further questions you may ask them in comments or messages and I will do my best to answer them or direct them to a scholar who can. Thanks for your time. Really, thank you for listening.


  1. Well written! I wish more could read and understand.

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