Jihad and World Peace

By Drissa Kone

People long for a world without war, but expect it can come only when others sort out their problems or when external circumstances change. I’m reminded of a relevant biblical story.

Responding to the Pharisees, Jesus Christ said in Luke 17:20-21, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.” Thus, Jesus challenged them to first seek the Kingdom of God, in other words, to seek peace within themselves.

It is impossible to build lasting peace without looking deep inside ourselves. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If we want peace in the world we have to start by becoming peaceful ourselves. We have to learn to resolve issues with non-violent methods such as dialogue, persuasion and negotiation.

Today, many radical Muslims justify their deeds through jihad. They believe the only way to make this world a peaceful one is by violently destroying those who do not believe in what they believe. The popular conception of jihad held today equates jihad with terrorism.

There are, however, two kinds of jihad in Islam, and neither can be construed as terrorism.

The Arabic word jihad means “struggle” or “striving,” which can be interpreted as the struggle to be a better person. Unfortunately, for decades, and especially after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, many Westerners perceive jihad as a call for Muslims to fight non-Muslims.

First, jihad speaks to the universal mission of individual Muslims as well as the Islamic community. This is the spiritual interpretation of jihad, in which itis understood to be the Muslim’s lifelong process of constantly fighting against the evil nature of his soul. This is the greater jihad, or the jihad kabir, which never ceases, according to Islam. It is a constant struggle.

The political interpretation of jihad is the second, smaller jihad, or jihad sagir, consisting of military means to defend oneself and the oppressed. This use of military force is understood to be temporary, initiated by specific causes, and able to cease at any time, for instance, when either victory or negotiations ensue. Political jihad is legitimately carried out only through the state and not by non-state agents.

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