"INNER JIHAD - STRIVING TOWARD HARMONY"
By Dr. Shahid Athar
Muslims for centuries have engaged themselves and the world in pursuit of inner
Jihad. This has been their way of getting closer to their Creator, achieving
inner peace and getting closer to God's creations. Unless we are at peace with
ourselves, we can not have peace with the Creator and vice versa.
The word Jihad is from the Arabic root word JHD which basically means striving
or struggle. The question is striving for what or a struggle for what? The
struggle is of two types, one is inner and one is outer. Both have the same
purpose which is to change the status quo - a status which is not in line with
God's will or not in line with nature as such, a status which causes unrest
and disturbance. Thus, if there is an evil temptation for wrong doing and we
struggle very hard to overcome that temptation, it is striving in the cause
of God and is considered one of the best forms of Jihad. Thus if there is
a tyrant ruler who is oppressing people and one stands up to that tyrant
and says a word of truth against his rule it is also one form of Jihad.
In Sufi tradition, the self is the enemy and conquering the self is
overpowering the enemy and one of the best forms of Jihad. Unfortunately,
the West describes Jihad as a holy war which is a wrong translation.
If one translates holy war back to Arabic, the translation would be
harb-e-maqadas or sacred war. Thus, holy war is not Jihad as such.
In fact, the word holy war came from the crusade when this call was made
to the crusaders by then the Pope Urbana to unite them to fight against
"infidels" who were occupying the birth place of Jesus (peace be upon him).
Yet, it is true that one form of Jihad, that is the external form, can be
described as taking up arms in defense of Islam and Muslims when they
are attacked by external forces. But, this form of Jihad can only be
declared by a head of the Islamic state who is a practicing Muslim
or a consensus of Islamic Ulema or Scholars when they agree on a clear
cut threat on Islam or on Muslims by external forces. If a call for
Jihad is made by a non-practicing Muslim ruler then Muslim masses
are not to heed to such call.
Coming back to the inner Jihad, which is the Jihad and the most important part
of Jihad, I must say that there are two forces within us operating all the
time in opposite directions. One is inviting us to do good and the other
inviting us to do evil. These opposing forces are trying to take over our
hearts and our minds which have control over our actions to go in their
direction. The inner Jihad is overcoming the forces of evil by the forces
of good and the triumph of one over the other. Because, if the forces of
evil, which insight us to do wrong doings are not overpowered the man will
be destroyed internally and will be tempted to destroy his surroundings
externally. God in His ultimate wisdom is with the forces of good and
therefore He associates Jihad with listening to him. In translation,
Quran says "Those who believe, who strive in the cause of God with their
wealth and their persons, are the ones who are successful." So, the
winner is not the human being who overcomes the wrong temptations but
the winner is God in this inner Jihad. If we do not submit to the will
of God then we are submitting to the will of the devil and the winner
is the hunter who overtakes our souls at that moment of wrong doing.
Thus, harmony is the creation of a peaceful bliss within our souls so
that we achieve a state of peace to make us worthy of entrance into
Heaven. As Quran says: "O, soul at peace, return to thy Lord well
pleased and well pleasing. Return as His servant, return to His
Heaven." When we are successful in inner Jihad and have subdued
the devil or the forces within us inviting us to do wrong, then
we are not only at peace and a level of surrender and allow God
to carry on our tasks and fulfill His mission. Even those folks
who rely only on external Jihad as a mission from God without
having achieved inner Jihad first must ask themselves if they
are at peace. There is no promise of peace for those who take the
lives of the innocent thinking that they are doing a holy war which
is not holy. In this regard, Muslims
have a great role to play in removing misconceptions about Jihad
as it prevails in the media and give its true meaning which is
"peaceful inner struggle".
Presented on May 25th ,2002 in Seatle, Washington during 9th annual convention of the
International Association of Sufism . Dr . Athar can be reached via email sathar3624
@aol.com web page www.islam-usa.com
Shahid Athar, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Indiana University School of Medicine
8424 Naab Road
Indianapolis, IN 46260