Dr. Ali S. Awadh Asseri
(Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon)
THE REAL MEANING OF JIHAD
In Islam, Jihad means the internal human struggle to follow the right and the just path of Almighty God. This struggle manifests itself both internally and externally. Internal jihad is jihad within oneself to be a better person, to resist human temptations and eradicate character flaws such as greed. This is the greater jihad. The second, external form of jihad is personal conduct at a time of war or conflict. The holy Prophet (pbuh) is said to have remarked when he came home from a battle: ‘We return from the lesser jihad to the greatert jihad’. This shows the importance of the constant internal struggle that we all face within ourselves. It is the non-violent struggle that makes us become better people. The greater, internal jihad is seen as more important than the lesser, external jihad.
In particular, the Qur’anic reference to jihad had fallen to such misuse and misinterpretation. Muslim jurist classify ‘jihad’ into four different categories:
- Jihad means intense effort of the heart, which represents the internal spiritual and moral struggle and aims at victory over the ego;
- Jihad means intense effort of the tongue, which represents calm preaching and teaching of the morals of Islam;
- Jihad means intense effort of the hand, which represents the setting forth of good conduct as an example for the Islamic community and others; and
- Jihad means intense effort of the sword, which corresponds to conflict with the enemies of the Islamic community in circumstances where believers are persecuted and their freedom curtailed.
Jihad of the sword is further sub-divided into six categories that are regulated by certain conditions to minimize violence and damage done to people and property. These include:
1. Jihad against the enemies of God;
2. Jihad for the defence of frontiers;
3. Jihad against apostates;
4. Jihad against secessionists;
5. Jihad against groups that distrub public security, and
6. Jihad against monotheists who refuse to pay the capitation tax.
There is, however, general consensus among Muslim jurists that jihad of the sword represents a concerted effort to overcome the evil found in human society so that peace and justice is achieved for the entire global humanity and not just for the Muslims alone. It is humanitrian goal to which all Muslims are obliged to be fully committed. If terrorism is an evil, then it has to be fought with the jihad of the sword if all other forms of jihad have been fully utilized. And in this struggle, the Muslims are required under Islam to engage in a concerted cooperative effort with the non-Muslims, since the implications of terrorism for both are equally grave.
(To be continue)
 Marcel A. Boisard, Jihad: A Commitment to Universal Peace (Indianapolis: American Trust Publication 1988), pp. 24-25.