The word jihad, an Islamic religious term, actually has a rather broad range of meanings. Most often, people perceive it as a symbol of a holy war, but even here everything may not be so straightforward. And yet what is jihad? Some Muslim theologians claim that this concept has a peaceful meaning. To understand the true meaning of the word “jihad”, it is necessary to analyze this term in the context of its historical development.
Ambiguity of the concept
As already mentioned, many modern Muslim theologians are inclined to assert that the term jihad is peaceful, and its goal is rather a spiritual struggle than a physical war. But here immediately remembered religious wars of the Middle Ages. The result of the crusades was the spread of jihad in the meaning of the “holy war”, when Muslims were forced to defend themselves from the crusaders who were trying to seize the Holy Land inhabited by the followers of the Prophet Muhammad.
The concept of jihad is almost impossible to characterize unambiguously, because it has its own historical development. Depending on the place and time, as well as on how individuals and leaders of the Muslim community understand and interpret this term, it may acquire a slightly different meaning.
The meaning of the word “jihad” in the Quran
Its meaning is a struggle. But what is this struggle, and what is jihad in this context? In Islamic literature, quite often this is the more extended form of the definition of this word: jihad is a struggle in the path of Allah.
After studying the Quran, one can see that approximately 275 out of more than 6 thousand ayahs are talking in one sense or another about struggle, war, etc. The word “jihad” is used only 41 times, while in many cases it is clearly not has any aggressive meaning. An example is the phrase "al-jihad bi anfousikoum", which translates as "fighting the stubbornness of your soul."
After a more detailed analysis of the use of the words with the root -jhd in the Holy Scriptures of Muslims, we can conclude the following: in six cases of its use, jihad means fighting for God, while it is clearly not violent. In most cases, this is a struggle of a slightly different meaning - for your property or land. And only in two examples the word “jihad” can be interpreted as a call to fight against non-believers, with severity towards them. Nevertheless, Islamic Jihad today is mainly perceived in the context of these last two cases.
Use of the word in other sources
It is worth noting that the majority of Islamic theologians and theologians understand the meaning of jihad primarily in a military context. Muslim society, to which their influence extends, can perceive it in the sense of war against the infidels, while it would be better to understand this as the need to fight with oneself and with one’s passions.
Jihad as a service to the highest goal
The pillars of Islam in their classical form do not include jihad in their number. However, some religious groups tend to add a struggle against their own passions to the five pillars of Islam, and the most radical of them consider it their duty to use it as a fight against the infidels.
There is also a noticeable superiority of jihad - sometimes it is equated in importance and even put above such important things as prayer or strict fasting. He becomes a spiritual action, of which there is nothing equal in the world, who commits it deserves material benefits and is even freed from some responsibility, and the one who died during it must enter heaven.
It is important to understand that jihad is a holy war in which there is no place for self-interest or any other personal interests. To commit it is to serve Allah, magnifying his name and fully devoting oneself to the highest ideals.
Modern Muslim theologians, referring to their predecessors, believe that there are several varieties of jihad. So, it can be divided into four types:
- Heart jihad is a struggle with oneself, opposing one's own passions and inclinations.
- Jihad language Done with the help of the sermon, words. Here you can give an example of the prophet Mohammed, who, before taking up the sword, peacefully preached to unbelievers his word.
- Jihad hands - performed by punishing criminals. There is only one law for this - it is Sharia.
- And finally, the jihad of the sword is, of course, carried out by means of warfare. For this reason, religious wars may be waged.
The first three types of jihad, based on moral principles, belong to the “big call” group. Fighting, in the literal sense of the word, can only be called jihad of the sword, which refers to the “small call.”
Conditions for calling for a real fight
The call for jihad of a sword should have a good reason, let's name the reasons for which it is possible:
- There is a plan against Islam that is clearly aggressive. Such conditions can also cause a call to jihad of the heart in cases where the encroachment on Islam is carried out in the spiritual sphere.
- A military force is applied to the Islamic state and the Muslim community, the ummah, open aggression, invasion takes place.
- Jihad of a personal nature, when there is a likelihood of losses, loss of property, territory.
Some Islamic theologians believe that in the event of a real military threat from the infidels, every Muslim who is able to hold a weapon in his hands is obliged to stand up for the state.
The ruler of the country fulfills the role of commander-in-chief - no one except him has the right to declare or end a jihad, and only he has the authority to conclude a peace treaty or some other agreement.
About Muslim Law
The Muslim view of the world has many features and aspects peculiar exclusively to Islam. Only by examining them, one can understand what jihad is and what is the essence of the reasons for calling it.
First of all, it should be noted that it is characteristic of Islamic law to divide the world into different zones that have their own special status. So, the house of Islam - or “dar al-Islam” - is the territory where Muslims live and where the Shari'ah operates. All the rest of the land on which the infidels live is the home of war, in a different way, “the gift of al-Kharb.” Based on these conventions, the policy of jihad is being pursued.
In extreme conditions, a Muslim society must unquestioningly obey its leader, which gives him certain opportunities for manipulation. Hence, the meaning of the term “jihad” is in absolute dependence on the opinion of the ruler.
The relationship between forms of jihad
Comparing the types of jihad with each other, one can see their conjugacy between each other, interdependence. And if the pillars of Islam are the basis of religion, then without the jihad of the heart, aimed at the inner faith of a person, it is simply impossible to accomplish any of its other forms. Only after the Muslim’s spiritual world and personality have been formed, can a believer preach with a word, obey the law, or fight against the enemies of Islam. Without faith, all this would have no meaning.
Here you can cite as an example the prophet Mohammed, who survived the formation of his personality as a person called to special service. Then he secretly preached for several years, which resulted in laying the foundations for a future Muslim society — and only after that he was able to openly begin the proclamation of divine will. All that he created, it was necessary to save. For this, Sharia is needed - a set of rules with the help of which one could regulate the relations of Muslims with each other. Ultimately, there is a need to ensure the integrity of the Muslim Ummah and protect it from external enemies.
It is obvious that the concept of jihad has its own historical development and today is a rather complex system.
To understand what jihad is and what significance it has for a Muslim, it would not be superfluous to mention that he who does it deserves a reward that can be of two kinds: spiritual and material. As already mentioned, participation in jihad means that in the event of his death a Muslim becomes a martyr. This, in turn, guarantees him the opportunity to immediately go to heaven, where he has the right to take his rightful place.
The material reward is those earthly goods, property that can be captured from the enemy in the course of hostilities. In this case, it is important to understand that jihad should not be a means for personal gain, and the reward is meant as encouragement, as something secondary or incidental. In other words, a Muslim has the right to seize the property of the defeated enemy. But jihad is not done for this. Otherwise, it is just a gas - a predatory raid that does not contain a spiritual context.
War or all the same struggle?
As for military actions, in the Islamic historical literature the words “harb” or “kital” are used to designate them, therefore the term “jihad” would be more correctly understood as a struggle of a certain kind. At the same time, this word has a certain spiritual and even sacred shade. Sacred Jihad is a struggle conducted solely for the purpose of protecting Islam, protecting the inner faith of each individual representative of the Ummah from any negative impact.
Jihad is a unifying means, it acts as a guarantor of the protection of absolute and immutable truths and dogmas of Islam, protecting both the entire society and every individual from attacks of any kind.
Based on the foregoing, it can be concluded that the concept of “jihad” does not necessarily have to carry an aggressive or negative meaning. Everything is much more complicated. Even the flag of jihad, no matter how threateningly it looks, is just an inscription on a black background (sometimes on a green one) saying “there is no god but Allah”. The sword, depicted on this banner, symbolizes the struggle, which, as has been said more than once, cannot always be waged through the use of real military force.