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Jihad – The American Way by Ayhan Ozer

It is fair to admit that one component of Jihad is, in fact, “divinely sanctioned” holly war, but only as a last resort. Muslims are enjoined to search for peaceful solutions to resolve their disputes and conflicts. Understanding, compromise and empathy should precede the confrontation as they are more constructive, and they lead to a healthy relationship

Jihad is a multi-level concept and has a larger connotation than its casual meaning would suggest. It is, in principle, to strive in the way of God, to struggle against evil inclinations within oneself. It may come as a surprise to most people, it is not strictly religion-specific, it is a way of dealing with the human conditions; therefore it is universal. During their lifetimes most individuals, as well as the societies, have had their own moments of Jihad. With a stretch of the mind, for instance, the tremendous will power put forth by a drug addict to free himself from the tentacles of the addiction can be construed as a Jihad. Similarly, the ordeal of an alcoholic who seeks liberation from his “purgatory” can also be characterized as Jihad. All private struggles, such as gambling, over-eating habit, and all other lonely human vices that demand unrelenting will power and nervous energy to overcome the evil within ourselves can also be termed as Jihad.

There is an anecdote attributed to Prophet Muhammad to illustrate the inner struggle that each of us is required to exert from time to time. According to tradition, the Prophet had just returned from battle-field, victorious, which He had proclaimed a Jihad as it was waged against the realm of disbelief to defend the faith and the faithful. One of his men said to Him, “Oh Muhammad, you have achieved your Jihad, you must rejoice it.” And the Prophet said,” It was a lesser Jihad, now we have a greater Jihad that lies ahead of us, and we must overcome it.” The man was puzzled, he asked, “Oh Muhammad is there any more important goal than to be victorious in a war?” Prophet replied, “Yes there is…Now it is time to wage war to conquer the evil forces within ourselves and restrain our ego lest we should slide into vainglory, and dilute our victory…”

Almost every society has its own flaws. Some are intolerant of the religious or ethnic differences, others are racists, and some societies treat their fellow citizens as untouchables, while others oppress women or deny basic civil liberties to their people. Racism, for one, is a human defect to which we can relate naturally as it is built in our subconscious. It plagues most advanced societies. America, for instance, at one time in its history suffered from Racism and anti-Semitism. Like all evils, these two require

constant vigilance lest they raise their heads again. Racism, specifically, needs constant vigilance; it may not be defeated, but it can be managed through education and reinforcement. What is remarkable about America is its conscious and unrelenting persistence to purge itself of these moral shortcomings. America cleansed itself successfully from the virus of anti-Semitism. As for the Racism, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and the simultaneous spread of liberal values held a mirror to the psyche of the American society, and have helped the country struggle continuously to eliminate those forms of bigotry and prejudice from the public sphere.

The above are inspiring examples that describe the concept of Jihad. There is a common thread in all of these examples, which is a conscious effort to transcend oneself in pursuit of moral perfection. What makes America great is the arduous journey it undertakes tirelessly in the way of self-edification, and its readiness to fight the evil forces. In the Islamic lexicon, it is called “Supreme Jihad.”

Ayhan Ozer

2nd September 2012

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