The following a speech, which was delivered on July 23, 2005 at Wayne County Community College District in Detroit, Michigan during a program to promote the Ministerial Studies program:
“Holistic Concept of Jihad in Al-Islam”
Proceeding the testimony of the oneness of G’d, establishment of the five daily prayers, charitable donation, fasting during the ninth lunar month of Ramadan and pilgrimage to the Sacred Mosque in Mecca, an obligation upon a Muslim is Jihad. Jihad, which is mistranslated as “Holy War” by Orientalists and Western media, literally means exertion or struggle in the Arabic language. In fact in the last of the revealed books as believed by Muslims, The Qur’an, contains no terminology called “Holy War.”
Jihad in Al-Islam can be simplified into two components, the Outer Jihad and the Inner Jihad. The Outer Jihad, which is referred to as the Lesser Jihad is exertion through leaving one’s material comforts to establish justice and propagate the Religion of G’d. This form of Jihad ranges from defending the lives and property of Muslims, liberating the oppressed, Muslims or Non-Muslims, and leaving home to educate people about Al-Islam, to seeking religious knowledge.
The Qur’an explains:
[2:190] – And fight in the way of G’d with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely G’d does not love those who exceed limits.
[2:193] – And fight with them until there is no persecution, so religion is only for G’d, but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.
[22:39] – Permission [to fight] is given to those upon whom war is made because they are oppressed, and most surely G’d is well able to assist them.
Furthermore in the prophetic traditions called hadeeth, it is recorded that Prophet Muhammad, the last prophet of Al-Islam said, “Whoever leaves home seeking knowledge, he is in the Path of G’d until returning home.”
Thus, the correct expression of the Outer Jihad is strictly based upon self defense, alleviation of oppression and refinement of society through education. According to Al-Islam, the people on the opposing side are not the object of hostility; the object of hostility is the demonstration of tyranny, criminality and oppression. The rules of engagement in Al-Islam preceded modern standards of “Rules of engagement” and what has also been termed “Just War.” Prophet Muhammad stated 1,400 years ago that women, children and workers in the field may not be harmed and that only those who actively fight against or have stolen the wealth of the Muslims may be attacked. Trees and herbage can not be destroyed nor animals during wartime. Again, the humiliation and devastion of a populace is not the objective; the object is to establish freedom, justice and equality.
The Inner Jihad, which is the Greater Jihad, is the day to day struggle against sin and corruption on a personal level. The Prophet Muhammad stated after a battle that the Muslims were leaving the Lesser Jihad for the Greater Jihad. His supporters were puzzled and questioned him concerning the Greater Jihad. He replied, “The Greater Jihad is the Struggle of the Inner Self.” Therefore, the Qur’an states: And that man shall have nothing but what he strives for.
The Inner Jihad is the struggle against unethical behavior, selfishness, prejudice and perversity; the greater emphasis is to be placed upon the struggle against one’s own shortcomings with the recognition that the person is his/her own worst enemy. The Qur’an states relating to Prophet Jonah’s Inner Jihad: [21:87] – And Jonah, when he went away in anger, so he thought that We would not straiten him, so he called out among afflictions: There is no diety but You, glory be to You; surely I am of those who have oppressed [their own souls].
Only through individuals working on correcting their own shortcomings can a society seek to obtain the peak of moral and ethical excellence.
The main focus, therefore, of Jihad is exertion to establish the entire life in accordance with the universal, ethical standards that G’d decreed, which transcend time period, ethnicity and geography. In the time of Prophet Muhammad, there was no standing military or police force. The Muslims that resided within the vicinity of his town, Medina, policed themselves via the inner struggle that was within their own souls to resist vices and conform to the excellent standards that G’d decreed upon the soul. His community model was established upon Jihad, which was the epitome of ethical society that all humans whose hope is in G’d and accountability to G’d should strive towards emulating.