The term Jihad, etymologically derived from the word “mujahada“, is primarily used in contemporary discourse to describe martial resistance. This is an unfortunate post-modern phenomenon, for Jihad as “holy war” – while being a valid part of the Islamic tradition in the face of persecution, oppression and foreign aggression – is but one aspect of this panoptic term.
Even then, the use of the term in martial struggle has been usurped unceremoniously by those who have gone beyond the acceptable remit of Prophetic example [sunnah] and the parameters of the Islamic legal code [shar’i]. We disassociate ourselves from such methodologically-challenged-extremists who are far from the teachings of the Islamic faith and code of conduct.
The people of spiritual excellence [ihsan] have always been at the forefront to set things right in moments of difficulty. In this regard, we turn to the Sultan of the Saints, Sayyidina-sh Shaikh Muhyiddin Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (may Allah be well pleased with him and perfume his resting abode), for direction and clarity in these times of dismay and confusion. We let the master’s blessed words speak for themselves:
The Qur’anic guidance on this matter is contained in the following revelation:
And as for those who strive in Our cause [jâhadû fî-nâ], surely We shall guide them in Our ways. [29:69]
The Prophet of Allah (upon him be blessings and peace), on returning from the military expedition of Tabuk, said:
We have come home from the lesser holy war [al-jihad al-asghar] to fight the greater holy war [al-jihad al-akbar].
What he (Allah bless him and give him peace) meant by “the greater holy war” was the struggle with
- the accursed Satan,
- the lower self, and
- passionate desire
[mujahadatu-sh shaitan wa-n nafs wa-l hawa]. He referred to it in such a manner because of its constant duration, the extent of the exertion it demands, the danger it entails, and the fear that it might turn out badly at the very end. We seek refuge in Allah from such a calamitous end!
The struggle with the accursed Satan is an inner struggle [mujahada batina] for it is waged by
- the heart,
- the core of one’s being, and
[bi-l qalb wa-l janan wa-l iman]. Therefore, when you struggle with him, your succour and support is the Universally Merciful [ar-rahman], your mainstay is the Mightiest King and Fairest Judge [al-malik ad-dayyan], and your hope is the beatific vision of the Countenance of the Majestic Benefactor [al-jalil al-mannan].
The “lesser holy war” is the outer battle [jihad az-zahir] with the sword and the spear, in which your support is provided by the worldly ruler and the armed forces, and in which your hope is to enter the Gardens of Paradise. If you are killed in the struggle, your reward will be life everlasting in the abode of perpetuity, Allah willing!
But if you are slain in the course of waging war on the accursed Satan and while you are committed to opposing his vile schemes, due to the expiration of your appointed term and because your decreed moment to die has arrived, your reward will be the beatific vision of the Countenance of the Lord of All the Worlds at the Meeting.
If you are killed by the enemy in battle, you will be a martyr. But if you are slain by the accursed Devil through following him obediently and carrying out his orders, you will be a pariah [tarid], banished from the intimate proximity of the All-Compelling King [al-malik al-jabbar]. May Allah save us from such a wretched state of being!
The war on the battlefield has a fixed term and there comes a point when it is over. But the struggle against the accursed Devil and the lower self [jihadu-sh shaitan wa-n nafs] is one that has no final end and no point of termination. As Allah (eminent is His Glory) has declared:
And serve your Lord, till Certainty comes to you. [15:99]
That is to say, the “greater holy war” is waged till death arrives and the meeting (with Him) materialises, for worshipful service [ibadat] is performed by opposing the accursed Satan and passionate desires. Failing which, Allah (eminent is His Glory) has ordained:
Then they shall be pitched into it (the Fires of Hell) – they and the perverse, and the hosts of Iblis, all together. [26:94-95]
And Allah is the Guide.
Compiled from the works of Sayyidina-sh Shaikh Muhyiddin ‘Abdul Qadir al-Jilani (may Allah be well pleased with him and perfume his resting abode).