It’s time for jihad!

INsights 040, Friday 5th May 2023

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Assalamu-alaikum. Peace be upon you.

Take a moment to think about the word ‘jihad’.

What comes to mind?

What images do you picture?

What kind of people or events do you associate with this term?

Now if you’re a little confused or anxious about where this is going, or if you feel negatively about the thoughts that have just come to your mind, my guess is that you’re in the majority. 

Rather than having noble or positive associations with jihad, many believers have had their understanding of this topic completely subverted by the way in which it has been discussed in the media in recent decades. 

According to the narratives that have played out in our lifetime, jihad is some combination of terrorism, violent extremism and dissatisfaction with the status quo expressed in the worst possible terms. 

Now what has our response to these narratives been?

In my observation, it’s been mostly passive or silent altogether. 

In the public realm, the best we’ve been able to do is to try and disassociate our faith from terrorism by repeatedly quoting the verse (5:32) about the significance of taking or saving a single person’s life being as though one has taken or saved the lives of all people.

We’ve felt the unreasonable pressure of having to selectively condemn acts of grave wrongdoing in a way that has been tiring and embarrassing.

Within our own community, parents have become worried if the word ‘jihad’ has been mentioned at home. Mosques would not entertain any discussion of the subject for fear of being shut down. 

But without conversation and addressing such matters head on, all that results is apathy and ignorance.

Because of this vacuum of information, we’ve collectively internalised some aspects of the false narratives with which we have been bombarded year after year.

Inevitably we too have become uncertain or frightened about jihad and its implications...

Maybe it is a barbaric practice. Maybe it is outdated. Maybe it’s better for everyone if we just pretend that it doesn’t exist. 

But this simply won’t do. 

Various derivations of the word jihad come up 35 times in the Qur’an. The verses in which the subject features are amongst the most challenging and inspiring in the entirety of revelation. 

In the following examples, it is abundantly clear that jihad is central to the life of a believer, a notion whose manifestation is a condition of entry into paradise and being saved from punishment: 

True believers are the ones who have faith in God and His messenger, then put all doubts behind them and strive (jāhadū) with their possessions and their persons in God’s cause; they are the ones who are true. 

(Chapter 49, The Private Rooms, al-Hujurāt, Verse 15)

Did you think that you would enter paradise without God first knowing which of you would struggle (jāhadū) for His cause and remain steadfast? 

(Chapter 3, The Family of ‘Imran, Āli-‘Imrān, Verse 142)

You who believe, shall I inform you of a trade which will save you from a painful punishment? Have faith in God and His messenger, and struggle (tujāhidūna) for His cause with your possessions and your persons – that is better for you if only you knew. 

(Chapter 61, Solid Lines, as-Saff, Verses 10-11)

Based on these verses, and so many others, what you must accept is that you need to find a way to “do jihad” in your life. You can’t be afraid of the word or the idea.

You can't let the negative stereotypes surrounding the issue affect your determination to understand it or your resolve to act based on your understanding.

You see, the reason we feel so much hesitation around this subject is that we’ve failed to realise what the term actually means, let alone give life to its true meaning in the way in which we view the world and our place in it. 

But don’t worry: reclaiming, reframing and revitalising jihad are at the heart of my mission in life. So you’re on the right mailing list to get some help when it comes to this topic! 🙂

The word jihad simply means to exert, to struggle, to strive, to sacrifice. Wherever it comes up, it’s associated with a cause.

The point about jihad is that it’s not just about your internal battles; it’s also very much about the external ones too. After all, the God vs Devil or Good vs Evil drama doesn’t just play out within us. It manifests all around us.

Understand this: anyone anywhere who is working hard or spending money to promote any agenda is, linguistically speaking, “doing jihad”.

Whether it’s an environmental activist, a senior leader in the transgender movement, a prominent politician, an advocate of technological development based on artificial intelligence, or a spokesperson for the rights of minorities...

...all of them have ideas and visions about the future, and all of them are working ridiculously hard and spending vast sums of money for their visions to be realised.

So the notion of jihad is a human one, a universal one. It’s doing what humans have done for millennia: envisioning a seemingly unlikely future and sparing nothing to make it a commonplace reality. 

What makes it particular to those who believe is that their striving and spending is for the One in whom they believe. It’s for God. It’s for God’s cause. It’s putting time, energy, skills, networks and resources to use in preserving and promoting faith. 

In our context, that means incubating, developing and funding narratives, projects, initiatives, organisations and movements that align with what our Lord wants to see on this earth in the societies in which we live.

It means jumping into the battlefield of ideas and efforts to promote them, finding our place within our team, and making a determined contribution so that we can be successful. 

Once you appreciate this, you realise that jihad is as relevant to us today as it always has been. You realise that you can't see it as someone else’s task nor can you wait for the perfect time to get involved at some point in the future.

It’s time for jihad… right now. 

One of my resolutions from Ramadan has been to shift my focus exclusively to this issue over the course of 2023.

The Last Day Leader programme which I’ve developed and taught a handful of times is my way of supporting people to engage with the practicalities of the jihad journey that I believe we all need to take.

If you have thoughts and questions, please do share them with me. Because going forward, this is all I’m planning to talk about. 

Just as all the ungodly causes of the world have their energetic and organised ambassadors and funders, so too must God’s cause. 

The question simply is: will you be one of them?

If so, watch this space... and know that I’m with you all the way.


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Have a blessed fortnight. I'll see you in two Fridays, God willing.

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