This I Believe

Eli - Irvine, California
Entered on July 3, 2006

In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful

I believe in jihad.

First, jihad has nothing to do with warfare or terrorism. The word itself simple means “to struggle” or “to strive”.

The Prophet Mohammad (as), who is widely known to have said to Muslim returning from a defensive battle to their homes “ Congratulations to those who are returning from the LESSOR jihad, and are proceeding towards the GREATER jihad”, meaning that the most important form of struggle is the struggle not against an external enemy but with one’s own self.

Jihad is a well known biological imperative. An animal that refuses to struggle for survival will die, and a species which does not adapt to changes in it’s environment will be replaced by another. However, the evolution of the human soul requires a force greater then any external threat. It requires a willful intention for internal reform absent any immediate external need to do so.

All of us, at some point have a strong desire to become a better person. What generally stops us from vigorously pursuing this as a life-long ambition is both the difficulty of the task and the lack of an immediate, external pay-off. No employer will give you a pay raise because you are kinder to your wife and children. No discount card will be issued for a person who visits their aging parents every day.

Of course, everyone thinks they are a good person. If you doubt this, think about the last time you met someone who told you “You know, I’m not a very good person”. It is only by using some standard of “goodness” which is objective and external to one’s self. Any attempt to create a self-serving “measuring stick” of goodness will only lead to stagnation, and reduce one’s will for reform.

The second major hurdle in the struggle with the self is finding a guide. It is very difficult, if not impossible to actually begin the process of self reformation without reference to an external guide or teacher. This is because a person that has never traveled down a particular road will require a guide, or will quickly become lost.

So with all the difficulty and uncertainty, what is the “pay-off”? Part of the answer is that the struggle itself is the reward. As anyone who has undertaken any difficult task knows, the growth and maturity one gains in the process is a reward in itself.

It is only by living in harmony with one’s creator and with our fellow creatures that one attains the true goal of life itself. One particular verse in the 89th chapter of the Quran sums this up beautifully when it says “”Oh soul at peace, return to your Lord, content and well pleasing. Enter you among My servants! Enter My Paradise!”

Jihad is the struggle with the self, and only through this struggle does one find both enlightenment and peace.