Revisiting the concept of Jihad in Islam

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)*

The word ‘jihad’ is derived from the root juhd, which means ‘to strive’ or ‘to struggle’. It denotes the exertion of oneself to the utmost, to the limits of one’s capacity, in some activity or for some purpose.  This is how the word is understood in Arabic grammar.

Because fighting against one’s enemies is also one form of this exertion or striving, it is also sometimes referred as jihad. However, the actual Arabic word for this is qital, not jihad. Fighting with one’s enemies is something that might happen only occasionally or exceptionally. However, jihad, properly understood, is a continuous action or process that animates every day and night of the life of the true believer. Such a person does not let any hurdle affect his life, including desire for gain, the pressure of customs, the demands of pragmatism, lust for wealth, etc.. All these things serve as hurdles in the path of doing good deeds. Overcoming these hurdles and yet abiding by the commandments of God is the true jihad, and this is the essential meaning of the concept of jihad. There are many references to jihad, as understood in this way, in the collections of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. […]