Dare I say “Jihad”?
First published Dec 20, 2009. Occasionally, I use the term “Jihad” in my articles, as the action needed to help make changes to better the ills of society. I often get feedback in which people worry more about my use of the word “Jihad”, than they do about the injustice about which I wrote; some wonder why I would use such a charged word among non-Muslims.
I intentionally use “Jihad”, because I want to jolt Muslims AND non-Muslims; “Jihad” cannot and must not become de-legitimized just because some people do not care to understand the true meaning of a sacred term and decide to associate it with terrible things.
“Jihad” springs from the Arabic “Jhd” which means “struggle”; “Jihad” means the act of struggle, “Mujahid” (Plural, Mujahideen) is someone who is doing “Jihad”.
At the core (the highest level), it is the duty of every Muslim to struggle against the basic negative predispositions we all have as humans…greed, envy, jealousy, rage, deceit, theft, murder etc.
At the next level, it is the duty of every Muslim to fight against the ills that beset Mankind…hunger, disease, homelessness, illiteracy, injustice, lack of water, pollution etc.,
At the least important level, Muslims are required to fight those who attack us AFTER we have exhausted all other efforts towards peaceful resolution. Even then, if peace is at hand, even at mid-battle, one has to stop and accept terms that are just and preserve the dignity of all parties.
I would imagine these are things that every person needs to subscribe to, not just Muslims.
Yet, there is a growing body of opinion in the non-Muslim West, that “Jihad” can ONLY be equated with murder and mayhem and thus, anyone using the word, can be presumed to be associated with supporting murder and mayhem.
I would suggest that supporters of the body of opinion that would like to taint “Jihad”, are people who consider themselves at “War!” with Islam, Muslims and Arabs. They may be a growing number of people, but they are wrong and it would be wrong for Muslims to lend credence to this opinion by shying away from “Jihad” in word, or in action.
Not so long ago, the Jewish organization ADL, launched an attack on some Muslim groups because the Muslims were wearing the Muslim Affirmation… “Shehada” (“There is no God but one God, and Mohammed is His prophet”) on their headbands and the ADL said that the Shehada stood for terrorism.
There are a growing number of bigots who state that Islam’s holy book, the Quran, is a symbol of evil and violence.
What should Muslims do? Abandon the Shehada and the Quran?
Some may say that we should just not use the Shehada on headbands, why not? Either the Affirmation (Shahada) is sacred or it is not; if it is sacred, then wherever it is used, as long as the use is not profane, is also sacred. If the Shehada is used in a profane manner, then the reflection is not upon the Shehada, but on the abuser.
Hitler took the Swastika as his symbol and today, it strikes fear and revulsion in the hearts of many, especially Jews. However, the Swastika is thousands of years old and among Hindus, the “Savas Tika” (“Peace sign”) is a holy symbol, it is used to adorn temples and used by Hindus at almost every occasion…it can be clockwise or counter-clockwise.
Should the Hindus be asked to abandon the Savas tika as a symbol?
If we dared to make such an absurd demand, we would be laughed off the stage.
The Star of David strikes fear and revulsion among millions of Palestinian men, women and children; should the Jews be asked to abandon the Star of David as their symbol?
I am betting millions of Bosnian Muslims shudder a little when they see a Crucifix, or the Christian Orthodox cross, because of the genocide of Bosnian Muslims by the Serbs and the Croats in the name of Christianity in the 1990s; should those symbols be cast aside?
The principle of “use it or lose it” is quite valid here. If we retreat for any reason, we are acknowledging that our sacred and holy terms or symbols are sometimes themselves, evil. Once we give that ground, then we can no longer use our Savas Tikas, our Crucifixes or our terms…THEN, the bad guys have truly won.
I believe that as reasoned and rational people, we cannot allow ourselves to fall victim to populist bigotries. We must look at what the symbol actually stands for, rather than associate it with the negative events that were tied to it by evil people; we must be able to differentiate between Nazi Swastikas on one hand, and symbols and words that are sacred, on the other.
Jihad; it is a sacred duty for every Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu…for every human being of good will.
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