What Islam Really Teaches Us About Jihad

by Helmy Sa'at

As part of the global ummah, we would inevitably have shared lived experiences and struggles in juggling multiple overlapping identities and responsibilities.

Relationships around us are key building blocks in anchoring strong spiritual piety which forms the basis of our relationship with Allah. This is where jihad is continuously present in our lives.

Jihad has a few meanings attached to it. Fundamentally, it means struggle, or effort which is very much rooted in our humanness, on an individual level, and humanity collectively. It encompasses our duty to lead and live lives following the Islamic principles while actively contributing to building and nurturing an exemplary Muslim community.

Thus, our daily life is wholly, and mostly unconsciously, driven by jihad in fostering our Muslim identity and upholding Islam in every facet of life.

Justifying A Just Jihad

Context is important. Another facet to jihad has been tied closely to the idea and history of engaging in military struggle, when necessary, in the name of protecting Islam. Alas, a reductive understanding of such a complex and nuanced facet of jihad has been easily and conveniently misconstrued as holy war associated solely with war-mongering.

However, such military struggles are not about aggression for the sake of petty material gains, or driven by selfish worldly desires as exemplified through the battle of Tabuk. Instead strict rules are to be adhered to; from acting in self-defence in response to external or foreign antagonism and hostilities to protecting Muslims’ freedom to practise Islam.

Jihad is not about destruction. It is not about forcing conversions upon non-believers, for the sake of resolving disputes by force, or even as an act of displaying military prowess.

We Are All Part Of It

Jihad is inclusionary. Everyone is involved with not only men being permitted for jihad.

It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah said:

‏ جِهَادُ الْكَبِيرِ وَالصَّغِيرِ وَالضَّعِيفِ وَالْمَرْأَةِ الْحَجُّ وَالْعُمْرَةُ
[سنن النسائي ٢٦٢٦]

“Jihad of the elderly, the young, the weak, and women, is Hajj and ‘Umarah.” (Sahah)

[Sunan an-Nasa’i 2626]

At the same time, we are products of intersectionalities of diverse factors and backgrounds. For instance, a young African-American Muslim woman working as an architect in Hong Kong, or even a Chinese Indonesian Muslim teenage boy born in America and now living in France with his family. This does not mean we are coerced to choose between our nationality, cultural identities and religion under the banner of spiritual piety in Islam.

The global ummah has always been diverse and juggling multiple identities at any one time. It does not hinder our individual and collective jihad as Muslims.

At the very core, there is no innate or intrinsic clash in living as a devout Muslim in this day and age. Yes, there have been times when our loyalties have been put to question. Whether internally by our very own discerning voice in our head or externally by others, either within the global ummah or everyone else outside the spectrum of Islam; when certain geopolitically motivated incidents occurred in some parts of the world which have reverberating repercussions for Muslims as a whole.

Yet, in essence, Islam does not preclude our multiple identities as a citizen of any country and belonging to a particular ethnic and cultural background. Islam is present in every facet of our lives as Muslims.

Jihad: Mind, Heart, Tongue And Hand

We are constantly in a state of flux. In the digital age, we are faced with a constant stream of diversions which could very easily descend into a state of uncontrollable frenzy when left unchecked. An enemy of faith is not necessarily tangible, one that we could see, touch and hear. It could very well be lurking in the background of a digital space, or even in our own minds when confronted with intangible distractions which could potentially weaken our spiritual piety and relationships, not only with each other, but most importantly with Allah.

To put it simply, this is when we have to be mindful of our decisions and what we choose to utter and do in our daily lives in juggling faith and human passions which could very easily cross the line into sin.

Narrated AbuSa’id al-Khudri:

قَالَ رَسُولُ اللهِ ﷺ: أَفْضَلُ الْجِهَادِ كَلِمَةُ عَدْلٍ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ. ‏“‏‏ أَوْ ‏“‏ أَمِيرٍ جَائِرٍ‏
[سنن أبو داود ٤٣٤٤]

The Prophet ﷺ said: The best fighting (jihad) in the path of Allah is (to speak) a word of justice to an oppressive ruler.

[Sunan Abi Dawud 4344]

As such, efforts to correct and clarify the understanding of jihad start with us. As Muslims, we are the first line of defense against misunderstandings, misconceptions and misinterpretations that still linger online and offline. In upholding the word of God and the teachings of the Prophet ﷺ, educating ourselves and sharing it with others would also be a form of jihad.

Pssttt! Do look out for the next article touching on the very issue of jihad in our daily lives, in subsequent week. In the meantime, do not forget to share this very article with your family and friends in hopes of expanding our scope of knowledge and meaningfully growing the ongoing conversation on faith and its direct implication on us, the global ummah of today. InshaAllah.