In my line of work, I hear it all the time -- from Muslims and non-Muslims alike: "jihad doesn't mean 'holy war.' The Arabic word means 'struggle.' In Islam jihad primarily means the struggle within the soul of the believer to conform his life to the will of Allah." In Onward Muslim Soldiers I discuss all of this at length. From Islamic sources I show that there are indeed many meanings of jihad in Islam, but that radical Muslim theorists like Hasan Al-Banna (founder of the Muslim Brotherhood) and Abdullah Azzam (Osama bin Laden's intellectual mentor) reject the idea that jihad is a spiritual struggle on the grounds that its attestation in the Islamic sources is weak. Their arguments for jihad as holy war are firmly traditionalist: rooted in the Qur'an, the Hadith, the example of Muhammad, and Islamic history.
It does no good simply to pretend that this is not so and hope that it will go away; it must be understood because it is a fundamental cause of innumerable conflicts around the world today. If we don't understand the goals and motives of our opponents, how will we possibly prevail against them in the "war of ideas" that is so central to the war on terror?
In light of all this also, attempts by Muslims to explain that jihad is actually peaceful must be viewed as either well-intentioned but ignorant or outright deceptive. Until Muslim spokesmen acknowledge that violent jihad is a broad tradition within Islam and renounce the doctrines that give rise to it, there will be Muslims somewhere in the world who continue to consider it part of their religious responsibility to wage war on non-Muslims. They will not be swayed by efforts like this one, which only go so far as to show that jihad doesn't mean ONLY holy war, but deceive only those who aren't paying attention into thinking that jihad doesn't amount to holy war at all:
THE word 'jihad' has become so commonly used - and abused - that Muslim religious authorities in the region want everyone to get it right once and for all.
This from the Straits Times.
The official organisations that oversee Islamic practices in Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia are producing a book on the true meaning of jihad.
They want to put right misconceptions of the term by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) yesterday. . . .
Jihad is a term commonly used by the international media to mean a holy war. But most Muslims understand it to mean struggle or perseverance. It could mean struggle or striving in one's daily life, or in one's efforts to become more spiritual, or to avoid temptation.
At the Mabims meeting, the Singapore delegation described the efforts by Muslims here to build a community of excellence as their own brand of jihad, said its leader, Muis president Alami Musa. . . .
'We want to reach out to the non-Muslims, because the word jihad has been misused by many irresponsible groups for their own narrow objectives,' he told The Straits Times. . . .
Yesterday, Muslim leaders contacted lauded the moves, saying the book, especially, was timely. The word jihad has been in the news here this week after it was reported that members of the terror group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) had been put under Restriction Orders and must go for religious counselling.
Community leaders had said that the counselling must focus on correcting the JI members' misconceptions about jihad, including that it means violence is justifiable.
The good thing about the book is that it will go beyond the community and such efforts, noted those interviewed yesterday.
Ustaz Azmi Abdul Samad of Kampung Siglap Mosque said: 'When non-Muslims visit our mosque, many talk about jihad as if it means just 'holy war' when, in fact, it's a broad term with many meanings.'
Indeed. And I can produce a mountain of evidence to show that one of the most important of those meanings throughout Islamic history and today has been warfare -- that is, with guns, not rhetorical warfare -- against non-Muslims. Let the Muis forthrightly acknowledge that that is true and renounce that understanding of jihad, and we'll be getting somewhere.