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Jihad

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The word Jihad is a word that a lot of people in the western world have heard about, but few actually know the meaning of. The plasticity of the word, especially in regard to its context, has made it a source for a lot of debates. In the West, however, it has become a synonym for the terms “holy war” and “terrorism.” By putting these two terms in a booth limiting the terms’ actual range and meanings often leads to the misunderstanding of Islamic behavior.

Jihad, “to strive or struggle” in the way of God, is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam, although it has no such official status.1 The importance of jihad is rooted in the Quran’s command to struggle in the path of God and in the example of the prophet Muhammad and his early companions. In its most general meaning, jihad refers to the obligation incumbent on all Muslims, individuals and community, to follow and realize God’s will; “to lead a virtuous life and to spread Islam through preaching, education, example, and writing.”2

Jihad also includes the right, as a matter of fact the obligation, to defend Islam and the Muslim community from aggression. Throughout history, the call to jihad has rallied Muslims to the defense of Islam. In order to engage in jihad, one must be defending oneself and attempt to restore equality in an unjust action.3 They both address two of the criteria for just war, the first is the criterion of right intention, and the second is the criteria of proportionality. They indicate that one can only act in order to right a wrong, and in defense. It is important to know that these verses were written in a time when Islam was persecuted and violence was not only necessary for defense of the Muslim community, but also unavoidable.4 However, in the modern day society we have seen many examples of terrorist attacks from different extremist groups, justifying their deeds through jihad. These two broad meanings of jihad, nonviolent and violent, are contrasted in an... Show More

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