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Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Meaning Of The Word "Jihad"


There are multiple meanings to the word Jihad. Truth is, it can mean a moral struggle to become a better person. But, it can also mean, your ass is dead, infidel.

How do we tell the difference? Punditarian has a great article up over at Astute Bloggers. Here is an excerpt.


Years before the September Eleventh Atrocities, in 1997, Douglas Streusand published an article discussing the meaning of the word "jihad." It is well worth reading in its entirety. He concludes:


Muslims today can mean many things by jihad-the jurists' warfare bounded by
specific conditions, Ibn Taymiya's revolt against an impious ruler, the Sufi's
moral self-improvement, or the modernist's notion of political and social
reform. The disagreement among Muslims over the interpretation of jihad is
genuine and deeply rooted in the diversity of Islamic thought.

The unmistakable predominance of jihad as warfare in Shari'a writing does
not mean that Muslims today must view jihad as the jurists did a millenium ago.
Classical texts speak only to, not for, contemporary Muslims. A non-Muslim
cannot assert that jihad always means violence or that all Muslims believe in
jihad as warfare.

Conversely, the discord over the meaning of jihad permits deliberate
deception, such as the CAIR statement cited above. A Muslim can honestly dismiss
jihad as warfare, but he cannot deny the existence of this concept. As the
editor of the "Diary of a Mujahid" writes, "some deny it, while others explain
it away, yet others frown on it to hide their own weakness."

The term jihad should cause little confusion, for context almost always
indicates what a speaker intends. The variant interpretations are so deeply
embedded in Islamic intellectual traditions that the usage of jihad is unlikely
to be ambiguous. An advocate of jihad as warfare indicates so through his goals.
A Sufi uses the term mujahada or specifies the greater jihad. Bourguiba clearly
did not advocate violence to improve education and development in Tunisia.

When ambiguity does exist, it may well be deliberate. In the case of
Arafat's statement about a "jihad for Jerusalem," he intended his Muslim
audience to hear a call to arms while falling back on the peaceful definition to
allay concerns in Israel and the West. Only his later actions reveal whether he
was co-opting Islamists by adopting their rhetoric or duping Israelis by hiding
his violent intentions.


Go read the whole thing.
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