A few days ago, I came across statements by 2 people who said the same thing, but had very different understandings of what they were saying. One was the title of a blog written by a Muslim author, Dr. Hesham Hassaballa: Ramadan, the Essence of Jihad. The other is said to be a quote from the well known Muslim basher, Robert Spencer: Amid all the mainstream media spin on Ramadan as a time of devotion and prayer, it is useful also to remember that Ramadan is the month of jihad. (I couldn’t locate that exact quotation in a brief search on Spencer’s website jihadwatch – but I did locate an article or two where it is stated that Ramadan is the month of Jihad.)
Dr. Hassaballa’s article explains “jihad” during the month of Ramadan in a very beautiful way – an understanding of jihad which is common among Muslims. Jihad means simply “struggle”, and particularly during Ramadan this is a struggle against normal physical needs and desires. These needs and desires are not ‘sinful’: the need for food and drink. But by fasting throughout the month, one practices control of those natural needs so that one doesn’t become enslaved to them. As Dr. Hassaballa explains, the fasting has other goals and benefits as well. For Muslims, the “jihad” of Ramadan is a very beautiful, blessed, and peaceful activity.
For Robert Spencer and other Muslim bashers, though, “jihad” is given a very different definition: “holy war”, “conversion by the sword”, “slay the infidel” and generally speaking, terrorism. They will search the news media for anything atrocious done by someone affiliated with the religion of Islam – or at least purported to be done by such a person – label that “jihad”, and then insist that such atrocities are what Muslims really have in mind when they “confess” that Ramadan is about “jihad”. That’s why Robert Spencer’s website is called jihadwatch: jihad is seen to be something terrible and frightening for which we need to be on the lookout, so we can hopefully prevent it.
It is this distortion of the meaning of words and statements – putting the worst possible meaning on them and then insisting that’s the “correct” understanding – that characterizes anti-Muslim rhetoric, of course. For instance, in reading through some of the “jihadwatch” articles, while seeking to find the quote given at the beginning of this article, a statement by Muslims was referred to in which it was said that “jihad” within Islamic nations seeks to counteract evil and harm to the Muslim people from without and within. My, isn’t that awful! 😯 Of course, we won’t mention that members of the US military and public officials have to swear to defend and protect the USA from all enemies both foreign and domestic (external and internal, without and within). Does that make the US military and public officials guilty of terroristic “jihad”? 😆 Of course law abiding citizens and officials of Islamic countries would seek to “struggle against” all those who seek to do harm to them! There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that. But Robert Spencer wants us to think that such struggle, when carried out by Muslims, is evil, though it’s perfectly legitimate when done by anyone else.
Does that mean that everything that claims to be struggle against evil is legitimate, and all means used in that struggle are to be approved? Certainly not. We don’t approve such terroristic organizations as the KKK or the IRA even though they fight against what they perceive to be evil and harmful (although interestingly, US Congressman Peter King – the current Chairman of the House Homeland Security Commission – does support the IRA. I guess we could refer to him as “IRA linked” Peter king! 😀 ). In like manner, Muslims in general don’t support al Qaeda or the Taliban.
One aspect of this type of “jihad” (combating evil and harm from without and within) would of course be “struggling” against evil like murder and terrorism. In this respect, police and FBI reports indicate that something like 40% (I believe) of alleged Muslim terrorist plots in the USA have been uncovered and reported by Muslims. Sometimes, this can be very ironic – as in this California case where an FBI “informant” was reported by officials at the Mosque he was “observing”, and a restraining order was sought against him. It seems he had actually been inciting terrorist activities in his efforts to “expose” terrorism, so the people at the Mosque thought he was himself a terrorist and reported him to the authorities. 😆
Christians in general are appalled at what Anders Breivik of Norway did to oppose a perceived threat to “Christian culture”. Nevertheless, Breivik does claim to represent Christianity by his actions. If we don’t accept his actions as “Christian jihad” just because he makes that claim, neither should we claim that the actions of “Muslim” terrorists are legitimately “Islamic jihad”.
Muslim bashers like to say that in Muslim Mosques Muslims receive instruction in jihad. Well, I’ve only attended one Mosque service, but based on that one service I have to say it’s true! I did receive instruction in jihad! 😯 I was told about the “greater jihad” whereby we struggle against our own lower natures and selfish desires in submission to God’s will. 😀 It was pointed out, however, that there is a military aspect of jihad: a Muslim nation is permitted to defend itself against attack by other nations, and against insurrections from within (just the same as any other nation in the world). This jihad is always defensive, though, and absolutely prohibits indiscriminate killing of noncombatants. Strapping a bomb to one’s body and detonating it in the middle of a mall is not legitimate jihad permitted by Allah! Neither is flying airplanes into buildings, or detonating a car bomb on a crowded street.
The Christian apostle Paul described Christian “jihad” in this way in Ephesians 6 (New International Version): (11) Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (12) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (13) Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (14) Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place… This is a very spiritual struggle (or “jihad”), and the “jihad” recognized by Muslims is very much the same – as fine Muslim people like Dr. Hassaballa explain it.
I will trust Muslims like Dr. Hassaballa to give me a correct explanation of their beliefs and concepts, as opposed to people like Robert Spencer and Pam Geller who have an explicit agenda to defame Islam.