Today I want to take a look at an oft heard term used by Muslims: Jihad. What exactly is jihad? Is it holy? If so, how? And why should those who are not Muslims need to know anything about it?
In last week’s article, “Islam – Muhammad the Militant,” I mentioned that Muhammad considered that there were two types of jihad. The first, called the “greater jihad,” had to do with personal development as an individual, a moral struggle within the soul, striving to be better in a world that does not measure up to the standards of Allah. The second, called the “lesser jihad,” is a political, social, and military struggle to do what is right within society for the betterment of man by warring against the enemies of Allah and his followers.
The best place to understand this business of jihad is to look at what the Muslim holy book, the Koran, says about jihad. I have several copies of the Koran, but the one I primarily am using during this series on Islam will be the one I was given by an Imam in Bahrain after I had finished an interview with him in the capital city, Manama (mah-nah-mah), in August of 2000. This copy of the Koran is a side-by-side translation with the Arabic on the right side of the page and the corresponding English translation on the left. There is also commentary by Islamic scholars within the text and in the footnotes. So that you know when I am copying from the Koran, it will always be contained within quotation marks. This includes capitalization of letters, and italicized words as well. This version of the Koran “is published under the authority of King Fahd in Madinah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is a gift from the Custodians of the Two Holy Mosques for the dissemination of Allah’s Word.”
In their glossary of words, the written definition of jihad is, “Holy fighting in the Cause of Allah or any other kind of effort to make Allah’s Word (i.e. Islam) superior. Jihad is regarded as one of the fundamentals of Islam.” The remainder of this article will focus on the “lesser jihad.”
So let’s see how the term jihad is used within the text and context of the Koran itself. In Surah 2:216, we read, “Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” A companion verse to this is found in Surah 2:190, “And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors. [This Verse is the first one that was revealed in connection with Jihad, but it was supplemented by another (9:36)].”
Well then, let’s see what Surah 9:36 has to say. Please note that I am simply writing what the Koran says. “Verily, the number of months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the Day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are Sacred (i.e. the 1st, the 7th, the 11th and the 12th months of the Islamic calendar). That is the right religion, so wrong not yourselves therein, and fight against the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolators, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) collectively as they fight against you collectively. But know that Allah is with those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious).”
In Surah 9:29-31 we see an attitude in Islam, in particular, toward Jews and Christians, and anyone else who is not a Muslim, that should cause us to ponder just how peaceful and accepting Islam is of those who are of differing faiths and beliefs. Especially note the editor’s commentary in this next passage, Surah 9:29-31, “Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah [a tax levied from the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians), who are under the protection of a Muslim government] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. And the Jews say: ’Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths, resembling the saying of those who disbelieved aforetime. Allah’s Curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth! They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah), and (they took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they (Jews and Christians) were commanded in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) to worship none but One Ilah (God – Allah) La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Praise and glory is to Him (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).”
In closing, it is important to note what is written at the very beginning of the Koran. The opening seven verses (Surah 1:1-7), sets the tone for what we see played out in the violence of Islamic extremists today. Every devout Muslim is expected to memorize these seven verses which they recite five times a day when called to prayer. But it is the sixth and seventh verses that are most troubling. “Guide us to the Straight Way. The Way of those whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians).”
Hmmmm. Doesn’t really fill me with hope, know what I mean?