Jihad and Peace
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Jihad is most commonly associated with military ‘holy war’ of Muslims against non-Muslim nations. Yet, the religion of Islam is built upon kindness, fairness, and peace, while Jihad is Arabic word that can be translated differently depending on the context. Thus, jihad can mean “struggle,” “effort,” “to fight,” and it implies much more than ‘holy war’ (BBC, 2009). However, Muslims differentiate two kinds of struggles and efforts, which are known as greater jihad and lesser jihad.
The greater jihad is referred to the internal spiritual struggle of believers to live out Islam faith and Qur’an teachings to the best possible. Righteous Muslims make efforts to live their lives as Allah instructed them. They are devoted to Allah and following Qur’an and other rules of faith, as well as to doing everything to help other people and pleasing their God. There are various ways to be engaged in greater jihad, which include learning Qur’an by heart, participating in life and activities of Muslim communities, overcoming unrighteous feelings and lusts, improving oneself, etc (Ikilas, 2004).
The lesser Jihad involves warfare and holy war of Muslims. However, Islamic laws, Shariah, put forward strict rules for the military actions of Muslims to be considered as lesser jihad or holy war. Thus, Muslims are allowed to be engaged in military action only for the purpose to self-defend Islam and Muslim communities and their freedoms, and only if the opponents start oppressions against Muslims first. Lesser jihad is not justified and is not considered to be holy war if military actions start with the aim to conquer territories and nations, forcefully convert people to Islam. Furthermore, according to the rules of jihad, innocent people as well as women and children should not be killed or hurt in any way, while the soldiers of enemies must be treated with dignity. Lastly, military jihad, or holy war, must stop the time when enemies ask for peace (BBC, 2009). Allah granted Muslims permission for jihad warfare solely with the purpose to defend and protect their own countries and religion (Ikilas, 2004).
As a matter of fact, “the purpose of Islam is to establish peace, teach forgiveness, awaken sense of love among people, form good relations among people, and protect the rights of each individual person” (Ikilas, 2004).