Jihad – The True Meaning

The Qur’an and Jihad

The Quran strongly urges believers to “strive for the course of Allah as it behoves you to strive for it. ” (22:78)

This earnest struggle is expressed in Arabic by the word ‘ Jihad ‘ which is derived from the root ‘ Juhd ‘, which means to strive, to struggle, to exert oneself to the utmost to achieve one’s goal.

Thus, the original meaning of jihad in Arabic is striving very hard.

Since historically the early Muslims had to strive hard during wars with aggressors, these wars came, in an extended sense to be called ‘Jihad’.

It is worth mentioning that war with an aggressor is a chance occurrence, which take place as warranted by particular situations, while Jihad is a continuous action which is at the core of the believers life dynamic in and day out – it is an ongoing process. This constant Jihad means strict adherence to the will of God in all aspects of one’s life, and the prevention of any obstacle coming in the way of fulfilling God’s will – for instance, the desires of the self, the urge to serve one’s own interests,the compulsion of social traditions, the need for compromises, ego problems, greed for wealth etc.

All these things directly thwart righteous actions. Overcoming all such hurdles and persevering in obeying God’s commands are the real jihad. And the word jihad has been used primarily in this sense.

Below, I quote the role of mujahid:

1. A mujahid is one who struggles with himself for the sake of God(Quran 6:20)

2. A mujahid is one who exerts himself for the cause of God (6:22)

3. A mujahid is one who struggles with his self in submission to the will of God.

‘Jihad’ is therefore essentially a peaceful struggle. One form of this peaceful struggle, known to every Muslim is what is called dawah (communication of the message of God)

The Qur’an states that:

” Do not yield to the unbelievers, but fight them strenuously with it (the Qur’an) (25:52).

No military activity is referred to in this verse of the Qur’an. We are not required to engage in physical combat with the non-believers, what this verse actually means is that we must engage ourselves in dawah activities through the teachings of the Qur’an, that is, striving ourselves to the utmost on an ideological level, while sifting truth from falsehood.

In the present times groups of Muslims in many countries are known to have launched movements of armed jihad in the name of Islam. But a movement cannot be a jihad just because its leaders describe it as such.

An action can be termed a ‘jihad’ only when it fulfills the conditions set by Islam, as mentioned above. Any military action which is carried out without fulfilling these conditions will not be a jihad. It amounts to spreading corruption across the world.