Essay on Jihad: Moving Beyound Cultural Biases and Misconceptions

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The concept of Jihad was not widely known in the western world before the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. Since then, the word has been woven into what our media and government feed us along with notions of Terrorism, Suicide Bombings, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, and now, Jihad. Our society hears exhortations resounding from the Middle East calling the people to rise up in Jihad and beat back the imperialist Americans. Yet, if we try to peel back all of these complex layers of information we can we attempt to find out what Jihad really means. Webster’s Dictionary defines Jihad as “a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty or a crusade for a principle or belief” (1). Often, media depicts…show more content…
Commenting on this, Asghar Engineer, a learned western Muslim wrote:

Violent Jihad as a struggle against one’s enemies has its root in [these] situations. When the Islamic religion spread over the region, Jihad became a religious tenet and assumed the form of a peaceful, internal struggle to strive for the good and reject the evil in one’s action. Violent, external conflict was never rejected from the definition; it merely became one interpretation.

Thus, the term was essentially divided into an internal and external struggle. The internal struggle was, however, always meant to be the nobler, finer action. It was more in line with peaceful mainstream Muslim practice, including “observing the Five Pillars of Islam and seeing the internal struggle as a complete way of life that should pervade and individuals day to day affairs” (Engineer). The great importance of this inner struggle led to its being dubbed as the “greater Jihad” (Church 111).

However, Jihad’s age old association with violence was nearly unavoidable. Struggle can rather easily be translated into a call to conduct an external Jihad for the Islamic faith. For example, a verse in the Qu’ran states, “go forth, light armed and heavy armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah” (Church 111). This verse clearly pairs Jihad (“strive”)

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