Retrieving the True meaning of word Jihad

True meaning of word Jihad

Words Jihad and Jihadi have been in abundant use for the negative purposes from last two decades in particular. They have been closleyl linked to the word terrorism and violence, done by section of Muslims here and there. This global use of word is particularly a post 9/11 phenomenon. Just to recapitulate after the WTC was hit by two aeroplanes; the building sunk leading the death of nearly three thousand innocent people. The victims belonged to most countries and religions. In the aftermath; Osama bin Laden called it Jihad. American media coined the word Islamic terrorism since then. Most of the acts indulged in by Muslim terror groups have been labelled under this title. This; irrespective of the fact that many an Islamic Scholars, many a Muslim clerics like Maulanas of Deoband and Barelvi, stating that Islam does not approve of violence against innocent people. The words have stuck.

This has also beoame one more weapon in the hands of communal sectarian elements. Apart from the mainstream media social media has been delving this with gay abandon using these words in a derogatory way. The lap media also called Godi media, which is an important part of the opinion making against Muslims has been using it day in and day out.

Recently (March 11, 2020), Mr. Sudhir Chaudhary, the Editor-in-Chief of Zee channel in a show went on to the limits of this misrepresentation by showing a chart and classifying Jihad into various categories, Love, Jihad, Land Jihad and latest in series being Corona Jihad in the wake of Tablighi Jamaat event. Mr Chowdhary concluded that all these types of Jihad are being done to weaken India. Surely, these types of programs have been increasing and intensifying Hate against Muslims and Jihad.

Unlike most of the times, this time around a complaint was filed against the said editor, a FIR was filed and lo and behold the editor’s tune changed. In the next program he talked respectfully about the word Jihad! The tone and tenor changed. Was it a late realization or the fear of facing criminal action which made him change the tune, he alone should know, but that’s another chapter to the story?

As such jihad is by and large used as synonym for violence, terrorism. This is very much contrary to the its use in Koran. Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer argues that its use in Koran is multilayered. It stands for ‘utmost striving’ and has nothing to do with violence against innocents. As per him the concept of Jihad is far above violence. Those indulging in power games have used it as a cover for expanding power and called it as Holy War. This is very similar to the use of word Crusade by Christian Kings and Dharm Yudh by Hindu kings.

A deeper and more rational study of Koran and Hadith bring forth the real meaning of the term. Sufi’s who were away from the power struggle and focussed on spiritual aspects of religion like Bhakti Saints or liberation theologians, unfolded the deeper meaning of the term. Engineer points out that “it is for this reason that they describe war as jihad-e-Asghar and jihad to control one’s greed and selfish desires as jihad-e-Akbar (Great jihad)” (On Multi Layered Concept of Jihad, in A Modern Approach to Islam, Dharmaram , Page 26, 2003, Bangalore)

The reference to Jihad comes in Koran over 40 times, mostly referring to Jihad-e-Akbar, striving to overcome personal greed and selfishness. The real transformation of the word Jihad in popular perceptions and Chaudhary is the extreme example of that, takes place during the training of Mujahideen in the few specially set up Madarssas in Pakistan. This was initiated and coordinated by America in the decade of 1980s, when the Russian Army occupied Afghanistan. That was the time American forces were totally demoralised due to their humiliating defeat in Vietnam, at the hands of Vietnamese people.

To confront the Russian army, US planned to join the anti Russian forces. For this with the help of extremist Salafi version of Islam, they promoted the radical tendencies within a section of Muslims. The brain washing of the Asian Muslim youth as Mujahedeen to Taliban took place in few Pakistani Madrassas, totally funded by America. For this funding opium trade was also put into operation. The brainwashing module designed in Washington incorporated many components which also distorted the concept of Kafir, and created Hate against communists. Communists were labelled as Kafirs (Non believers) and so killing them was presented as Jihad. Getting killed while doing such an act was to be rewarded with entry pass to Jannat with 72 virgins waiting for those embracing this path.

America further went on to promote Taliban and Al Qaeda, which joined anti Russian forces, leading to defeat of Russian forces. Mahmood Mamdani in his book ‘Good Muslim Bad Muslim’ makes an inference based on CIA documents that America invested 8 thousand million dollars and also supplied seven tonnes of armaments, including the most sophisticate missiles to these forces. One also recalls the Al Qaeda leaders’ visit to US, White house. In the Press meet the then US President Ronald Regan, introduced them as being the equivalents of founding fathers of United States as they are fighting against the evil of communism.

Now of course the situation has taken its own turn and nearly three decades after their inception the same elements, later followed by ISIS and IS acted like Frankenstein’s monsters, killing Muslims in large numbers. It is estimated that over 70000 Pakistanis have been killed due to the action of these groups, who were propped up and nurtured by US to enhance its control over the oil wells of West Asia.

The likes Sudhir Choudhary can merrily propagate the Hate using the term Jihad. That such elements can also be partly controlled through the process of law is a part of great learning after the FIR filed against him. One hopes that such hate filled programs will come to a halt once we combat them ideologically and after resorting to the provisions of Indian Constitution.


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Dr Ram Puniyani

Dr Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. Email: [email protected]

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