The word "Jihad" arouses the images of sword- or gun-waving individuals or suicide bombers, bent on killing or getting killed.
The American Heritage Dictionary of English Language translates Jihad as "Holy War" undertaken as a sacred duty by a Muslim. Since Sept. 11, 2001, it has also become synonymous with terrorism. Neither is true.
The same dictionary also gives the meanings as "individual struggle for spiritual self perfection," which is one of the real meanings. Derived from the word "Juhud," Jihad signifies rightful strife, endeavor or struggle to repel evil. Such struggle can be of intellectual, mental, physical or material nature and is done only to win the pleasure of God.
The word Jihad is mentioned about 36 times in the Quran. It does not refer to fighting but encourages "to strive in the cause of God with sincerity and discipline" (Quran 22:78). Being an essential element of Islamic faith, it is earnest activity in scarifying life, person or property in the service of noble human cause.
The Quran appreciates the sacrifice of those "who suffer exile and struggle with their wealth and person for God's noble cause" (Quran 9:20) and permits struggle against elements that are inimical to the human welfare.
Contrary to the common perception, Jihad has many different forms; the least common is struggle by fighting. The brutality of fighting is contradictory to the actual spirit of Jihad. The most common or most difficult form of Jihad is personal as physical or mental struggle against self-temptation. Willingness to spend material, property or wealth for the common good is a valuable form of Jihad, or a person may endanger his own life in struggling to eradicate poverty or disease or to save someone from fire or drowning.
Educating people about disease prevention, awareness of clean and healthy environment, and other matters of benefit to society is considered an intellectual form of Jihad. Answering questions about Muslims and Islam or explaining the teachings of Islam is also believed to be a form of Jihad. (MORE)