By: Tashbih Sayyed
Zayed Yasin a Harvard senior, chosen as one of three student orators for this year's graduation, has decided to urge his fellow students to apply the Islamic concept of jihad to their lives. His speech, originally titled, 'American Jihad,' intended to inform the Harvard community that the institution of 'jihad' calls for a spiritual struggle - a personal struggle for selfhood and not a 'holy war' that the world at large has come to believe. Yasin's mission received a blow when the Islamic Jihad a terrorist group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in which a Palestinian pulled a car packed with explosives alongside a moving bus in Israel and blew it up in a huge fireball that killed 17 passengers. No one can call these acts a 'spiritual struggle.' For Islamists these terrorist attacks are acts of jihad and they justify it by quoting the Qura'n - Islam's holy book.
It is important for all to realize, though, that we judge each other by our actions and not by what our faiths or holy books say. Ever since Islamists started employing violent methods to terrorize the civilized world, culminating in the tragedy of September 11, Muslims all over the world are now being looked as terrorists. Since their world was hijacked by Islamists, and Saudi Arabia's extremist version of Islam, Wahabbism, Muslims, in reaction, are fighting back, trying to show that the terrorism, and violence in general does not represent the Qura'n or the life of their prophet, Muhammad. Ironically, the Islamists are and will continue to commit these barbaric deeds in the name of jihad.
Behind this back drop, unless Zayed Yasin begins with an admission and acknowledgment that the violence and terrorist activities being carried out in the name of Islamic institutions like Jihad are not only un-Islamic but an out right blasphemy, no one in the civilized world will believe him. In order to be credible the deeds of the faithful have to reflect the spirit of the holy book.
According to Islamic texts, the word Jihad is derived from Jihad which signifies exertion, striving, endeavor and ceaseless effort to one's utmost capacity which Allah has bestowed upon the individual. It is also used to express the exertion of one's power and ability, and discipline without implying any sense of war. In the language of Shariah, or Islamic law, this word is also used for war - Jihad-bis-Saif ( struggle with sword ), with the object of bringing an end to oppression and aggression against Islam, i.e. acts in defense. Its object is not to 'propagate Islam', but to remove those tyrannical forces which are inimical to Islam and are not prepared to give all a fair dealing.
Jihad can be carried out by the heart, the tongue, the hand, money and the sword. The first consists in the form of spiritual purification by battling the devil, and his temptations to sin. Second, the propagation of Islam through the tongue and hand is accomplished by supporting what is right and correcting what is wrong. The use of money to fight against infidels has also been recognized as an important way of carrying out jihad. Lastly, the fifth way to fulfill one's duty is to wage war physically against unbelievers and enemies of the Islamic faith.
By going through these provisions and requirements of jihad, it is clear that in today's globalized world good deeds and noble ideas have a much easier way of finding their own way to the inquiring minds and winning them over through dialogue, reading, and the media. There is no room for violence as a method to impose any ideology or religion upon any one else. No one's faith is in danger if they simply practice what is prescribed in his faith, and 'lead' by example. Piety and modesty elicit interest much more naturally and freely than guns or force.
The noble principles of Islam put it in a unique position to influence the world by its ideas alone. But its adherents failed to practice what was prescribed. This 'ceaseless effort to one's utmost capacity bestowed by Allah,' was supposed to have been carried out by Muslims to maintain a possible level of piety. This striving could have been employed by Muslims to establish a system of social justice in their communities. Moreover, this endeavor could have allowed them to rid themselves and their societies of mental, intellectual and material corruption. But Islamists, working with corrupt rulers prevented the practice of true Islam. They distorted Islam to divert the peoples attention away from the corrupt practices of their rulers.
And in order to protect the corrupt rulers who were the real oppressors and aggressors, Islamists created the myth that Islam is in danger. Mosques and madrasas were used to brainwash generations into believing that Jews, Christians and Hindus are responsible for their downfall, not their own rulers. And only by picking up the 'sword' against this Jew-Christian-Hindu nexus, can they now save themselves and their faith. Incrementally, and over centuries, the Islamist clergy and scholars brainwashed the unsuspecting Muslim main street into believing that true jihad is carried out only with the sword (Jihad-bis-Saif), with the object of bringing an end to 'oppression and aggression' against Islam prevalent today.
Territorial conflicts have been turned into religious feuds and all the political and power struggles have been transformed into clash of faiths. Thus, it was easy for Islamists in Palestine to kill Israeli civilians in the name of Islam and keep the fires of hatred burning all over the world in their favor.
Zayed Yasin has to speak up against this tyranny of extremism and Fascist manipulation of Islam, which has prevented the Muslims from learning about its noble principles, let alone the rest of the world. He will have to condemn acts of terrorism carried out in the name of jihad in places like Palestine and Kashmir before any one can begin to believe him or his faith.