(ANTIMEDIA) When Americans—or non-Muslims in general—hear the word “jihad,” they immediately associate it with extremist groups such as ISIL, Al-Qaeda, or the Taliban, as well as their terrorist acts in the name of “Allah.” They might also envision these groups enforcing their corrupted version of Islam onto people of other faiths. However, this misconstrued definition of the word “jihad” is one of the most widespread misconceptions about Islam.
Jihad—in the most pure, Quranic sense of the word—does not instruct Muslims to wage war against non-Muslims or non-believers. It does not promote the use of violence, period. It literally means, “struggling or striving.”
For most Muslims, jihad represents“internal as well as external efforts to be a good Muslim or believer, as well as working to inform people about the faith of Islam.” Therefore, Jihad is the way that a Muslim strives to be as pure as possible in mind, body, and spirit to avoid straying from their faith, to keep God in mind, and to do good deeds—with one’s actions as well as with one’s money (i.e. giving to charity).
Violence in regards to performing jihad is not permitted unless it is in self-defense: “When used in the narrower sense of fighting against a visible enemy, jihad means fighting only in self-defense, when the initiative of attack is taken by the other party.”
Similar to Islam, one can say that Christianity, too, maintains an essence of jihad. Christians, as guided by the Bible, should fight one’s compulsions to commit sin or to act in a way that would go against the teachings of Jesus Christ. As Huffington Post states, “struggling is a fundamental element of the Christian faith. (Jesus) told his disciples to ‘strive to enter in at the narrow gate…’, which mirrors the popular Muslim notion of staying on the ‘straight path’ and maintaining dedication to practicing Islam to the best of ones[sic] ability.”
Western media is largely to blame for these misconceptions about Islam— including the meaning of jihad. Like every other major faith, Islam and its teachings do not promote violence. Rather, extremists take the religion they “follow” and manipulate it to fit their own agendas. From there, the corporate-owned mainstream media further perpetuates the falsified “faith-based” ideologies and allows the public at large to continue believing things that are simply untrue.