The simplest term in understanding jihad would be the word “struggle.” “Jihad is an Islamic term referring to a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād is a noun meaning ‘struggle’ or ‘resisting’.” [en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Jihad]
Here is where the confusion begins. The confusion is that most of us in the West only understand jihad as a holy war in which Muslims are attempting to conquer and destroy our western culture and way of life.
First, jihad is described as a personal, inward struggle that an individual Muslim makes in a quest to become a better person. CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), a Washington-based PAC (Political Action Committee), states unreservedly that jihad is only the personal struggle a Muslim engages in, denying that Islam is involved in “holy war.” [http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/islam/ blfaq_islam_jihad.htm] The author of this article, Austin Cline, goes on to clarify this misconception of jihad. Within Islam are the writings known as the Hadith which are nearly as revered as the Koran (Qur’an) itself. He writes, “The Hadith is a collection of reports of sayings and actions of Muhammad, and it follows the Qur'an as the most important source of Islamic law. In Hadith collections, jihad almost always refers to armed action. As an example, there are nearly 200 references to jihad in the most standard collection of hadith, Sahih al-Bukhari, and all assume that jihad means warfare. It is not surprising, then, that the majority of classical theologians, jurists, and traditionalists understand jihad in a military sense.”
Second, jihad seems to be the preferred method of forcing the will of Islamists upon infidels, or unbelievers. A rather chilling remark was made by a leader from Hamas, an Islamic terrorist group, who said, “We love death more than you love life.” This should open a window for you into the minds of those who are seeking to conquer us and who wish to subject us to sharia law. In the Koran, it is written in 8:12, “Remember when your Lord revealed to the angels, ‘Verily, I am with you, so keep firm those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over their necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.’” Another translation puts it this way, “When the Lord spake unto the angels, ‘I will be with you: therefore stablish ye the faithful. I will cast a dread into the hearts of the infidels.’ Strike off their heads then, and strike off from them every finger-tip.’”
I have read and studied the Koran, obtaining a copy of this in Arabic from in Imam I met with in Bahrain in August of 2000 while I was fulfilling my military duties for my reserve command in my role as a Navy chaplain. We spent about an hour together at his mosque, discussing various aspects of the Islamic faith. When I prepared to leave, he had his assistant provide me with the copy of the Koran, various other Islamic literature and several videos on Islam.
Nothing would please me more than to tell you that I believe Islam is a religion of peace. It is not. That Islam is more than agreeable to complying with the adage, “live and let live” when it comes to following different beliefs. They do not. That Christians and Muslims can come together in some sort of religious harmony. They will not. Sadly, I do not ever see any of this being possible.
In the book, The Arab Mind, by Raphael Patai, in chapter 13 entitled, Unity and Conflict, section two, Swords and Words, he writes, “When it came to fighting non-Arabs, which in the heyday of Arab expansion meant non-Muslims, the religious fervor instilled by Islam changed the concept of battle radically. It then became a matter of killing or be killed, the only proviso being that if the pagan enemy submitted and accepted Islam, his life was spared. The Arab heroic spirit in these wars was fanned by the Muslim promise of paradise to all those who fell in jihad – a holy war waged by Muslims against non-Muslims – and by the Muslim doctrine that the fate of man was maktub, ‘written,’ that is, predetermined.’”
In attempting to understand Muslims and the manner in which they think, I must always remind myself that Jesus, the Son of God, loves every one of the 1 billion, 6 hundred million Muslims that currently live somewhere on planet Earth. Knowing the extreme violence these radicals bring to our world, witnessing a seething hatred toward those who are non-Muslims, especially Jews and Christians, I must see them through the eyes of God. To do so means I need the Lord’s strength more than ever.
God help me.