With terrorism in the news daily, it’s important to be educated about Islam, rather than simply terrified by a bogey monster named ‘Muslims’. Let’s start with what the recent attack in Brussels isn’t. Jihad, which we’ve come to understand in the West as the ‘holy war’ championed by Muslim terrorists, actually means ‘struggle.’ Although it fills many of us with alarm, dismay and judgment about the religion, jihad is intended to improve oneself and society as a fundamental religious duty.
There are four major categories of Jihad: jihad against one’s self, jihad of the tongue, jihad of the hand, and jihad of the sword. There is a source text that quotes Mohammad the Prophet referring to Jihad against oneself as the ‘greater jihad’, with all other external forms being ‘lesser’. The practice of ‘inner jihad’ is one of the most universally applicable teachings of Islam.
Imagine how much pain and suffering in the world that could be alleviated if we went to war with our lower natures, instead of with each other.
We all struggle with ourselves every day – we are our own most worthy opponents, and often our own worst enemy. It is easy to project our issues onto the external world, and to blame others for our misery, suffering, and problems. But in truth, if we learn to take responsibility for everything that happens to us, we will mature more quickly as spiritual beings.
Hate has never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the truth, ancient and inexhaustible. Adults have at least 12 sub-personalities. It takes a village of subpersonalities to raise an inner child. That is struggle enough, for a lifetime. There is no need to quarrel with the multitudes within others.
When we hurt others with righteous justification or vengeance to accomplish an external victory, the ‘victory’ is an empty one. When the external oppressor is gone, the internal oppressor remains. Wherever we go, there we are.
On the other hand, when we conquer ourselves, we become more pure, more enlightened and more free. We are able then to inspire others, and to cause external change from a much more powerful position – by our own example. People resent externally imposed change, but when change is inspired to come from within, it sticks.
Transformation of self and struggle against one’s ego and one’s lower nature is truly the noblest form of jihad. If we are going to practice religions, we should be sure we are practicing them for ourselves, and not for anyone else, else, it is moral hypocrisy. If anyone is out there counting sins, you can be sure that the weight of the heart will determine the fate of the spirit.