The Holy Struggle (Jihad)

What Does Jihad Mean?


One of the ten practical principles of Islam, Jihad, is literally defined as “hardship, endeavor, exaggeration in work, reaching the height of something and capability”, while in the Sharia of Islam Jihad is sacrificing one’s life and property primarily for the sake of Allah, elevating and sustaining Islamic beliefs and standpoints. In this sense, Jihad is the act of Defending the Islamic territory against the assaults and intrusions of outsiders and invaders.



The essence of Jihad lies in Defense, thus any violence which is shown with the intention of invading a country or a nation’s lives, property, etc. and for manipulating their economic potentials or human resources, not only is not called Jihad but also considered as the overt manifestation of injustice and cruelty which is strongly rejected in Islam. 



Defense: In Which Cases Jihad is Possible?  



If an individual or a nation participates in a struggle in order to defend their life, money, property or independence, they have in fact committed a holy task since they have stood up against the injustice of the intruder who has questioned their legitimate human rights. Therefore, the act of Jihad is permitted in the following cases:



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1. Life and Property:


When the life and possessions of the people of a country are threatened by the invasion of the intruders and opportunists, they have the right to defend themselves against these threats and retain what has been taken away from them.



2. Personal and Domestic Privacy:


It is the whole nation’s responsibility to defend the personal and domestic privacy of its members, preventing the enemies to violate and invade the family units especially women and children.



3. Independence:


To defend the national independence and integrity is a totally legitimate action for a nation. Accordingly, if a government or nation tends to undermine or insult the independence of another nation and try to manipulate them, the latter is bound to defend itself in order to restore its legitimate rights. 



4. Human Rights:


The struggle to retain your rights is not limited to an individual or a nation; rather there are some values which are far beyond these and include the whole of humanity. In other words, Jihad is the act of defending the “right” that spans not only personal and public ones but also that of humanity.



Freedom is one of these human values that is precious for every single person on earth regardless of their nationality or religion, so when it is threatened or undermined in any place around the world every conscious soul finds it necessary and feels responsible to defend and retain it; if a group of people is being oppressed or treated unfairly, one cannot and should not remain indifferent to this injustice and is bound to fight for their freedom. There existed and still exists many freedom-loving people who are not just concerned about their own country or nation and instead strive for the freedom of all human beings around the globe.



To further illustrate this issue, let’s consider this example: nowadays, medical researchers are in a constant struggle to find a final and determinate cure for cancer, but they are still unsuccessful. Imagine the cure was found by a medical company, but its managers amassed it and prevented people from using it in order to increase their own interest, or even destroyed the formula so that no one would reach it, they have violated the rights of the whole humanity and should be fought with.



Are Concepts Like Monotheism (Tawhid) Which Is One of the Islamic Axioms Considered as Personal Matters or Human Values?


The answer is yes monotheism, and the concepts like this are of human values and need to be defended, but it does not mean that we are allowed to impose these beliefs on an individual or a nation since faith and belief is something that each person should reach and accept through his own intellectual and logical investigation and not through force; this is clearly reflected in this verse of holy Quran: “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256).



Nevertheless, if this axiom -or any other fundamental belief in Islam- is being threatened or insulted in order to arise enmity and to undermine Islam, it is every Muslim’s duty to stand up for this cause.


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Peace vs. Surrender 


Up to this point, we understood that the key word in the definition of Jihad is Defense in the four cases above. The religion of Islam is fundamentally the religion of peace and strongly recommends a peaceful relationship with others, as these verses explicitly reveal: “And if they incline toward peace, then you [too] incline toward it, and put your trust in Allah. Indeed He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing” (8:61), or “So if they [polytheists] keep out of your way and do not fight you, and offer you peace, then Allah does not allow you any course[of action ]against them”(4: 90).



However Islam makes a clear distinction between the idea of peace and surrender; while it encourages the former, it emphatically rejects the latter. In other words, peace is reached when both parties are on friendly terms, respecting each other’s beliefs and rights mutually and live beside one another without intruding or violating each other’s rights.



But if one of the parties were to keep on invading the other one – either covertly or overtly -, and the one whose rights have been threatened did not react, this would not be called peace anymore, rather surrendering and yielding to their injustice which is totally unacceptable in Islam.



Finally, it should be noted that Islam is a religion which ranges all aspects of human’s life and has established rules for each; accordingly, it should include a rule which would protect individuals as well as the society against possible threats and guarantee society’s tranquility and harmony through retaining the social justice. Jihad is that principle that would practically provide these opportunities for Muslims.