Misuse of “jihad” portrays Islamic faith in bad light

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Ben Ridgeway

While I am not an expert on Islam or Christianity, I believe that Radical Islamists, or Jihadists, and a subset of Christians have a lot in common.

Rather, I suggest that Islamic believers and Christian believers can be each susceptible to distorted teachings of their faith. Let’s examine the definition of “jihad.” 

Jihad means to struggle with one’s personal faith.

The use of jihad to mean “Holy War” has often been a distortion of the term by radicals who seek political cause.

The world media has in turn adopted the word “jihad” as a negative term that has connotations of hate and intolerance.

Because of this publicity, extremists groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS deliberately use the word in their broadcasts.

Effectively, the media has created our fear of the word “jihad.”

In fact, the term that best describes the agenda of ISIS and Al Qaeda is hirabah, which means “to wage war against God and spread disorder throughout the land.” I propose that the reason radical Islamic terrorist groups fight “in the name of jihad” is because they have been taught incorrectly about what the term actually means.

Those who turn to terrorism probably had an Imam that was either undereducated about the Quran or an Imam who was focused upon gaining political power rather than fostering spiritual maturity.

Distortions of faith occur within all religions. There are Christian preachers who misinterpret passages within the Bible for the same reason that Imams misinterpret texts within the Quran.

It should be noted that the majority of Imams denounce terrorism.

After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Shaykh Muhammed Sayyid al-Tantawi, Imam of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt, said that “attacking innocent people is not courageous; it is stupid and will be punished on the day of judgement. It’s not courageous to attack innocent children, women and civilians. It is courageous to protect freedom; it is courageous to defend oneself and not to attack.”

As for my Christian faith, radical believers are not a new occurrence. The Crusades and Inquisition are prime examples of how religious intolerance among Christians turned violent.

While each person may derive differing personal meaning from religious texts, I do not believe that religious texts outwardly endorse hate or murder.

In my point of view, the Bible, Quran, Torah and all other religious literature teach love and acceptance at their core. 

I view believers of all religions who seek development of their spiritual self as having declared a personal jihad. 

A jihad in which hate is extinguished. A jihad in which love grows and nurtures the soul. A jihad of enlightenment and peace … peace within and without.