The word Jihad confuses many, including many Muslims, and stirs strong feelings within the general public. To many, Jihad is a scary word – let’s face it. What does it mean? Jihad is an Arabic word that means to struggle or strive. It is a ‘doing’ word.
The Qur’an uses the word and its derivatives commonly, to describe a life lived struggling for God’s cause. Therefore, in religious terms, struggling to do good, or bring justice, or better one’s person, or resist temptation, are all forms of jihad. For Muslims, Jihad carries noble and healthy connotations of upholding what is right, standing for justice, working hard and acting selflessly. When we think admirably of, say, brave firefighters, we are in tune with the meaning and spirit of Jihad.
What kinds of struggles are forms of Jihad? A struggle here can mean personal struggles, it can mean communal struggles, and also, a struggle of an entire nation. In Islamic terms, our battle against the Coronavirus would be a Jihad of all three kinds. Jihad can take the form of an economic or political struggle without violence. It can also be applied to a military struggle, but only towards righteousness, only to protect, and subject to strict qualifications. The Qur’an teaches that a people can defend themselves against an attack as a last resort, and can use force necessary to stop oppression and violence against others. The aim and vision throughout here is justice and peace, and even when engaged in a necessary war, children, the elderly, worshippers, places of worship, non-combatants, crops and trees must not be destroyed.
The Qur’an provides guidance and stern reminders about the reality of human beings, and how many can commit great wrongs and harms. History and events show us the same. The Qur’an calls upon believers to be upholders of truth and righteousness, and to live lives of pro-action. The spirit of Jihad encapsulates that personal and collective struggle needed for goodness to triumph over evil, for right to put a stop to wrong.