What Is This Thing Called Jihad or Islamic Holy War?

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a buddhist monk in harmony as...

It is claimed that various worldwide groups and individuals are doing "Jihad." The word Jihad is an Arabic word. The root of which is Jahada. Some of its Arabic nouns are: Juhd, Mujahid, Jihad, and Ijtihad, etc. Some English meanings are: endeavor, strain, exertion, effort, diligence, fighting to defend one's life, land, religion and internal struggle.

One of the better explanations of this Arabic word comes from The Islamic Supreme Council of America. According to this organization, "the Arabic word "jihad" is often translated as "holy war," but in a purely linguistic sense, the word "jihad" means struggling or striving." The Arabic word for war is: "al-harb" and not jihad.

In a religious sense, as described by the Quran (the last revelation sent to mankind) and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, (the last messenger sent to mankind) "jihad" has many meanings. It can refer to internal as well as external efforts to be a good Muslim or believer, as well as working to inform people about the Islamic faith. Based on the above meanings of jihad, perhaps many of you reading my words have experienced a jihad or two in your life, correct?

The organization further said, "if military jihad is required to protect the faith against others, it can be performed using anything from legal, diplomatic and economic to political means. If there is no peaceful alternative, Islam also allows the use of force, but there are strict rules of engagement. Innocents - such as women, children, or the disabled - must never be harmed, and any peaceful overtures from the enemy must be accepted." Furthermore, according to Islamic City, "Not only in peace but also in war Islam prohibits terrorism, kidnapping, and hijacking, when carried against civilians. Whoever commits such violations is considered a murderer in Islam, and is to be punished by the Islamic state."

During wars, Islam prohibits Muslim soldiers from harming civilians, women, children, elderly, and the religious men like priests and rabbis. It also prohibits cutting down trees and destroying civilian constructions." It also prohibits destroying places of worship. Furthermore, the Islamic Supreme Council of America mentions that, "Military action is therefore only one means of jihad, and is very rare. To highlight this point, the Prophet Muhammed, may peace be upon him, told his followers returning from a military campaign: "This day we have returned from the minor jihad to the major jihad," what he said meant returning from an armed battle to the peaceful battle for self-control and betterment. This major jihad can last much longer and be much more challenging than the minor jihad.

Additionally, the Islamic Supreme Council of America also mentioned, "in case military action appears necessary, not everyone can declare jihad. The religious military campaign has to be declared by a proper authority, advised by scholars, who say the religion and people are under threat and violence is imperative to defend them."

The concept of "just war" is paramount in the Islamic faith. The above clearly outlines the Islamic rules of engagement that must be adhered to or violators of the Islamic rules of engagement will have to face the punishment from Allah for their actions. Allah's punishment is just, swift and painful.

The concept of jihad has been hijacked by many political and religious groups over the ages in a bid to justify various forms of violence. In most cases, Islamic splinter groups or so called Islamic splinter groups invoked jihad to fight in the name of Islam. Scholars say this misuse of jihad contradicts Islam.

Examples of sanctioned military jihad include the Muslims' defensive battles against the Crusaders in medieval times, and before that some military responses by Muslims against Byzantine and Persian attacks during the period of Islamic growth.

Also, fighting those who came to the Muslims' peaceful stronghold town of Medina with the intent to either conquer or destroy the Muslims and those protected by the Muslims such as members of the Jewish faith and polytheists.

Jihad is not a war to force the Islamic faith on others, as many people think it is. It should never be interpreted as a way of forcing of the Islamic belief on others, since there is an explicit verse in the Qur'an that says: "There is no compulsion in religion" Al-Baqarah (2:256). Religious belief and practice is based on faith and free will and these would be meaningless if induced by force and fear of man.

Additionally, the Islamic Supreme Council of America mentioned, "Jihad is not a violent concept. Jihad is not a declaration of war against other religions. It is worth noting that the Quran specifically refers to Jews and Christians as "people of the book" who should be protected and respected."

Furthermore, military action in the name of Islam has not been common in the history of Islam. Scholars say most calls for violent jihad are not sanctioned by Islam. Furthermore, suicide/suicide bombing in the name of Islam is not permissible in Islam, The Prophet, may peace be upon him, said, "Whoever purposely throws himself from a mountain and kills himself, will be in the (Hell) Fire falling down into it and abiding therein perpetually forever; and whoever drinks poison and kills himself with it, he will be carrying his poison in his hand and drinking it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever; and whoever kills himself with an iron weapon, will be carrying that weapon in his hand and stabbing his abdomen with it in the (Hell) Fire wherein he will abide eternally forever."

Finally, warfare in the name of GOD is not unique to Islam. Other faiths throughout the world have waged wars with religious justifications. The right or wrong of these faiths, at war, will be judged or punished by Allah. The above explanation/definition of jihad is not absolute, but it is a good start towards understanding this Arabic word.