Question 12. Does IONA believe that undertaking jihad in the way of Allah (SWT) is a fundamental Islamic obligation? If yes, how does it plan to fulfill that obligation?
IONA believes that jihad is a central concept and duty in Islam. In fact, the Qur'an repeatedly asserts that no one can be a true believer, or hope for success and salvation in the hereafter, if they do not practice jihad. There is no exaggeration in the statement that Islam as a concrete historical reality cannot exist in the absence of jihad. Indeed, if jihad were to be taken out of Islam, there will be very little left that can be called “Islamic.”
Yet, jihad is a concept that has suffered a great deal from various kinds of misinterpretations and even outright distortions. These misinterpretations and distortions have come from both Muslims and non-Muslims, and have contributed to extremely narrow, truncated, and misleading views of Islam. The common stereotype of the violent, blood-thirsty Muslim is actually a caricature of the notion of jihad, a result of an utter failure to comprehend and appreciate the true significance of this concept. While detailed discussions of jihad, its Qur'anic meaning, and its various kinds and levels can be found elsewhere in this website, a very short introduction of the concept is given below.
The word jihad literally means “struggle.” In the Islamic context the word denotes a particular kind of struggle, one that a believer undertakes in order to fulfill their divinely ordained obligations.
The nature of the human being and the created universe is such that one always faces some degree of resistance as one attempts to perform what is required by the Creator. This resistance may be called “inertia,” after the term used in physics for the tendency of both stationary and moving bodies to maintain the status quo. When an individual tries to quit smoking, he or she experiences a resistance from their own body which is addicted to nicotine. When a group of individuals tries to eradicate racism from society, it runs into resistance from entrenched attitudes and institutions that do not wish to give up their privilege. In both examples, the resistance of inertia must be overcome before any change can take place. The phenomenon of the counter force required to overcome that resistance is precisely what the Qur'an calls jihad.
Now the obligations that all Muslims are charged with can be understood under four headings: (1) the cultivation of a strong and authentic faith; (2) the loving and sincere obedience to the will of Allah (SWT); (3) calling all of humankind towards Islam in the most beautiful and convincing way; and, (4) engaging in the struggle to establish social, political, and economic justice in the world. Because fulfilling these obligations necessarily involves exerting a considerable effort in order to overcome the resistance of inertia, it can be readily seen that jihad is an inevitable part of a Muslim's life. Without exerting a considerable effort, one cannot fulfill one's duties; without fulfilling one's duties to the best of one's abilities, one cannot hope to receive the mercy and grace of Allah (SWT) that one needs to attain success and salvation in the hereafter.
Most forms of jihad, as understood in this light, do not involve violence or warfare. Most forms of jihad are, in fact, spiritual struggles that an individual undertakes either in his or her personal capacity or in solidarity with other believers in a social and communal context, in order to fulfill one or more of the obligations outlined above. IONA is fully committed to this understanding of jihad in both theory and practice.
“And those who strive in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to our paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right.”