When Jihad Became Synonymous with Evil

It seems as if acts of terrorism will never stop haunting humankind. Terrorists can appear anywhere, anytime, unexpectedly, and can target anyone. They seek to ignite “Global Jihad” to oppose all those who do not share their ideology, whatever their religion. And yet the language they use is the language of religion: Jihad. Are they really trying to set in motion a modern Islamic Crusade?

Definitions of Jihad throughout History

 “Jihad” is derived from the root word “mujahadah”, which means “going to war to uphold the religion of God” (al-muqatalah li-iqamati al-din). The order for Jihad in the context of war (qital) was only given after Prophet Muhammad SAW migrated to Madinah. Before that, Muslims were ordered to be accepting of whatever treatment they received from the unbelievers.

Muhammad bin Qasim, in “Fath al-Qarib”, explains that the legal status of Jihad is fardhu kifayah, a collective obligation. However, if “enemies” invade and attack Muslim countries, Jihad is no longer fardhu kifayah, but instead becomes fardhu ’ayn, an obligation for all individuals. In this context, Jihad is meant to “protect” and “preserve” the Muslim community. Jihad is shown to those who attack and war against the Muslim community (kafir harbiy). Conversely, Jihad is not aimed at those unbelievers who choose peace with the Muslims and live among them in harmony, such as kafir dzimmiy (natives), kafir musta’man (travelers), or even kafir mu’ahad (countries which have established diplomatic relations).

Within the context of Indonesia, Jihad in the sense of war was proclaimed by the organization Nahdlatul Ulama in the form of “The Jihad Resolution” of 10 November 20145, when Indonesia faced the Dutch colonialists who sought to regain their control over the country. At that time, the religious teachers, scholars and students, and the whole community, all rushed into the field of battle to do jihad and defend their religion and the homeland.

Nevertheless, as Prophet Muhammad SAW stated, Jihad in the sense of war against “enemies of Islam” falls under minor Jihad (jihad ashghar). The true jihad (jihad akbar) is “to war against desire (lust)” (mujahadah al-nafsi). This is because the real enemy, which exists within everyone, is their passions. Once, as they were returning from the field of battle, the Prophet SAW said to his companions, “Raja’na min al-jihad al-ashghar ila al-jihad al-akbar” (“We are returning from the ‘lesser jihad’ to the ‘greater jihad’” – meaning the battle against one’s passions).

According to Abu Bakar in “l’anah al-Thalibin”, Jihad (war) is only a means (wasilah) to reach a goal (maqashid), which is to provide guidance/ direction. Abu Bakar said that if this goal can be reached without going through Jihad, this is the better way. Meanwhile, Zainuddin al-Malibari, in “Fath al-Mu’in”, is more interested in elaborating the definition of Jihad as not only limited to the context of war. He stated that “Daf’u dhararu al-Ma’sumin min al-muslimin wa al-dzimmiyyin wa musta’man al-ja’i” (“meeting the needs of the poor, whether Muslim, dzimmiy, or musta’man”) also falls under the category of Jihad. A broader understanding of Jihad is to provide basic necessities, health and education.

This is the true spirit and meaning behind Jihad. The true Jihad is the jihad that is not based on hatred and hostility, and is not meant to destroy humanity.

The Prophet Muhammad SAW actually did not like solving problems through war. In other words, waging war was not what the Prophet SAW intended. Evidence of this is that in the eight battles in which the Prophet SAW took part, only one person died by his hands, Ubay bin Khalaf. Before he left for the field of battle, Muhammad SAW always ordered his troops not to kill those who were in the middle of prayers, children, the elderly, those not involved in the war, or even damage trees or kill animals.

The Hijacking of the Definition of Jihad

In recent events, the word Jihad appears with a single definition which seems to be synonymous with violence. The image of Islam in recent times is always associated with the acts of violence carried out by a certain group of terrorists. Jihad is seen as a way to carry out hate, hostility, and merciless killing.

Yet Muslims have long been familiar with Jihad. Jihad has had a variety of meanings and uses. This means that Jihad is not always interpreted as meaning “going to war in the path of Allah” (even in the proper way as of described above).

The term Jihad has been hijacked by a handful of people to fulfill their political ambitions. They use the name of Islam and the Muslim community to wage war against the West. In fact, the majority of Muslims prefer to live in peace, friendship, and mutual respect and appreciation for those of other beliefs and nations. This can be proven by the lifestyle of Muslims in all countries with a Muslim majority. But due to the acts of a handful of people, the religion and lives of Muslims are tarnished.

Therefore, in order to “re-neutralize” the definition of jihad, Muslims need to take back the true meaning for themselves. Muslims must not be trapped by the negative image and politicization carried out by terrorists in order to achieve their political goals. Muslims also need to prove to the rest of society that Jihad is not for violence or treating humankind as enemies.

Terrorism is the common enemy of the Muslim community, and must be eradicated through collective action. No religion on earth is against humanity. A religion that goes against humanity is an enemy of mankind itself. Wallahu a’lam bi al-sawab.

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