Jihad a Spiritual Struggle

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

With God’s Name the Merciful Benefactor The Merciful Redeemer

Jihad a Spiritual Struggle

By Imam Omar Hazim

Special to The Topeka Capital Journal

Jihad is a greatly misunderstood word. It is derived from the Arabic root word “Juhd,” which means the exertion of one’s power or abilities to please the creator. The word jihad itself means to struggle or to strive, and it applies to any effort of good exerted by anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim. When we are faced with two competing interests, it becomes a jihad to choose the best or right one.

There are many components to jihad. The preaching of God’s word throughout the world to mankind and helping to improve the quality of life to all is jihad. Traveling to a distant land for higher education and knowledge in the name of God is a jihad. Going on hajj or pilgrimage, and practicing the other pillars of Islam are components of jihad.

Some Muslims and non-Muslims have generally translated “jihad” as “holy war.”  This is a great misconception popularized by a lack of knowledge or incorrect information.  According to Islamic teachings it is unholy to instigate or start war. However, some wars are inevitable and justifiable.

The word jihad is not synonymous with external war or holy war. The Holy Quran was revealed in Arabic. If holy was in it, it would read close to this “harbun muqaddashah” This phrase Holy War is not found in the Quran, nor is it found in the authentic Hadiths (sayings of the prophet) pbuh.

Many Islamic historians believe the use of the word jihad as “holy war” came about due to the influence of Western propaganda. This could be a reflection of the crusades of over 1,000 years ago.

Islam, like Christianity, permits fighting in self-defense, and on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. Islam has strict rules of combat, which include prohibition against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock.

The Quran mentions jihad or strive in many places. Two of these verses are:

Quran 22:78

وَجَـٰهِدُواْ فِى ٱللَّهِ حَقَّ جِهَادِهِۦ‌ۚ هُوَ ٱجۡتَبَٮٰكُمۡ وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيۡكُمۡ فِى ٱلدِّينِ مِنۡ حَرَجٍ۬‌ۚ مِّلَّةَ أَبِيكُمۡ إِبۡرَٲهِيمَ‌ۚ هُوَ سَمَّٮٰكُمُ ٱلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ مِن قَبۡلُ وَفِى هَـٰذَا لِيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَتَكُونُواْ شُہَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ‌ۚ فَأَقِيمُواْ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَءَاتُواْ ٱلزَّكَوٰةَ وَٱعۡتَصِمُواْ بِٱللَّهِ هُوَ مَوۡلَٮٰكُمۡ‌ۖ فَنِعۡمَ ٱلۡمَوۡلَىٰ وَنِعۡمَ ٱلنَّصِيرُ (٧٨)

“And strive (jihad) for God with the endeavor which is right. God has chosen you and has not laid on you in the religion any hardship…”

Quran 29:6

وَمَن جَـٰهَدَ فَإِنَّمَا يُجَـٰهِدُ لِنَفۡسِهِۦۤ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَغَنِىٌّ عَنِ ٱلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ (٦)

“And whosoever strives (jihada) strives for their own souls, for God is free of all needs from His creation”.

Jihad is striving in the way of righteousness and improving one’s self, family and society. Jihad is for repelling evil, and it is therefore a defensive act and not an offensive act.  Jihad does not include striving for individual or national power, dominance, glory, wealth, prestige or pride. The prophet (pbuh) said, “the strength is not in the one who is able to subdue the other, but the strength is in the one who uses self restraint.” He also said “the greater jihad is the struggling against one’s own weaknesses for its bettermeant,” which continues throughout life.


O Allah Help humanity strive for peace and understanding in this world. Ameen.

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