In the wake of a set of terror attacks reported in Europe, including those on Barcelona more recently, it is important for Muslims, particularly Ahmadis who have actively condemned such acts at every opportunity, to remain informed about the true meaning of Islamic doctrine. Increasingly, terms like “Jihad” and “Jihadist” have received much coverage in the media. To this extent, many confuse the concept of Jihad with a mandate for mass murder endorsed by Islamic teaching. The aim of this article Is to help explain how this is a false representation and misconception. The meaning of the word “Jihad” in Arabic is to “strive” or “struggle”. More recently however, the term has become associated with deadly forces of war and terror, first by those groups waving them as the justificatory banners for their violent deeds, and later by those who misunderstand such extremist interpretations as a representation of the entirety of Islam.
The Jihad of our age
As Ahmadi Muslims, we do not reject the idea of Jihad altogether. Instead, we recognise that Jihad “by the sword” (i.e. through warfare and weaponry) is not appropriate for this age. Our duties with regards to Jihad, as we have been taught by the Holy Prophet (sa), the Promised Messiah (as) and his Successors, should in fact be carried out through peaceful means.
Fundamentally, Jihad refers to an internal struggle with oneself in an effort to achieve and maintain righteousness. Such a struggle is said to have been referred to as the “greater Jihad” by the Holy Prophet (sa). Ideas of warfare and killing are in no way inherent within this concept.
As stated by the Promised Messiah (as), ”the Jihad of this age is to strive in upholding the word of Islam, to refute the objections of opponents, to propagate the excellences of Islamic faith, and to proclaim the truth of the Holy Prophet (sa) throughout the world”. Conducting ourselves as devoted Muslims in the modern world, particularly in the west, contributes to the upholding of the word of Islam, spreading and promoting the many benefits of Islamic teaching. To this extent, modern Jihad can in many ways be supplied through the internal struggle referred to above.
Moreover, defence of Islam by spoken word and by the pen through the alleviation of misconceptions by definition constitutes a form of Jihad. Thus, it is important for Atfal to absorb the message in articles like this one, as well as the many speeches of the Khalifah of our time, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V (aba) , and to pass it on where appropriate, for it is our duty to speak and write in the defence of Islam.
Fighting for the preservation of faith
However, the concept of Jihad is broader still. The picture of Jihad presented thus far in this article is in not, and cannot be, a comprehensive representation. Indeed, in the right circumstances, Jihad has historically meant standing and physically fighting in the defence of Islam. Such circumstances were present in the time of the Holy Prophet (sa), when the growing Islamic community of the time was subjected to brutal attacks from the non-believing Meccans. At the time, religious wars were sanctioned only against those who forcefully prevented others from accepting Islam, or those forcing people to deny it. Indeed, in their given situation, the partaking in warfare by Muslims constituted Jihad.
It is notable that the Muslims of the time under the guidance of the Holy Prophet (sa) were instructed to fight by Allah the Almighty only when the enemy attempted to eradicate them and their religion. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty states that. “Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is waged because they have been wronged. Allah, indeed, has the power to help them.” (Surah Al-Hajj verse 41) Inherent in this verse is an idea of necessity to utilise force where one is attacked for his or her belief in Islam. As such, fighting in that circumstance would achieve the same goals as our version of Jihad appropriate today (mentioned above): upholding the word of Islam through self-preservation and defence. As The Promised Messiah (as) informed countless times, preservation in today’s world should be achieved by the pen, not the sword. He stated
”Without a doubt the causes of Jihad do not exist in this country in these days. Therefore, the Muslims of this country are today forbidden to fight in the name of religion and to slaughter those who reject the Islamic law. God Almighty has clearly forbidden Jihad by the sword in a time of peace and security.”
For the age that we live in, our motto “Love for All, Hatred for None” is points towards the greater Jihad of our time—spreading the real, peaceful message of Islam. Every Tifl should strive to contribute to this task, for this is a means of defending Islam from its dangerously misplaced label as a religion that (God forbid) spreads terror. True Islam shows that, in fact, Jihad and terror are very separate entities indeed.