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What is Jihad?

The word Jihad also anglicised as Jihaad is greately misunderstood by non-Muslims and many ignorant Muslims who have accepted the term "Holy War" given it by Orientalists in the West. The term "Holy War" translates into Arabic as "Harb al-Muqadisaat", and the first people to use the term "Holy War" to justify their fighting were the Christian Crusaders in the middle ages, when they fought to capture the lands of the Middle East. The term "Holy War" has no basis from the teachings of Islaam.

The word Jihad stems from the Arabic root word J-H-D, which means "strive " or ”struggle"  Other words derived from this root include “effort,” “labor,” and “fatigue.”  In Arabic, the word Jihad translates as a noun meaning "to strive", "to struggle". Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of God (al-jihaad fi sabeelAllah)”. A person who engages in this striving and struggle is called a mujahid; the plural of which is mujahideen.

Ibn al-Qayyim said: “Jihad is of four stages: Jihad al-nafs (striving against the self), Jihad al-shayaateen (striving against the shayaateen or devils), Jihad al-kuffaar (striving against the disbelievers) and Jihad al-munaafiqeen (striving against the hypocrites). This can be broken down into four kinds each with its own sub-categories:

1. Jihad an-nafs (jihad against one’s self). this is fought against your own desires and weakness to better you as a person and a Muslim. You undertake this Jihad by:

  • Striving to learn the teachings of Islam
  • Striving to make oneself act in accordance with what one has learned.
  • Striving to call others to Islam, teaching those who do not know about it.
  • Striving to bear patiently the difficulties involved in calling people to Allah and the insults of people, bearing all that for the sake of Allah.

2. Jihad ash-Shaytan (jihad against Satan). This is fought against the temptations and whisperings of Shaytan, who tries to weaken your faith and mislead you. You undertake this Jihad by:

  • Warding off the doubts that Satan stirs up to undermine faith.
  • Striving against Satan to ward off the corrupt desires that he provokes.

3. Jihad against the munafiqin (hypocrites) and kuffar (those who disbelievers in Islaam). This is undertaken against those who seek to mislead you, fight you or oppress you. This Jihad is undertaken:

  • with the heart, 
  • the tongue, 
  • one’s wealth 
  • and oneself. 

4.  Jihad against the leaders of oppression and innovation. This is undertaken to establish justice and truth in the face of oppression. One stops a wrong or an injustice:

  • With one’s hand (i.e., physical jihad, fighting, stopping an injustice with your own hands) if one is able.
  • If that is not possible, then it should be with one’s tongue (i.e., by speaking out). 
  • If that is not possible, then it should be with one’s heart (i.e., by hating the evil and feeling that it is wrong).



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