Are you a good person? Or, are you a bad person? It’s a simple question. Yet the answer is not so simple as you might think. In most cases, a conscientious human being would probably answer that he or she is a good person, or at the very least tries to be one as much as possible. The reality is, no human being is purely good or purely evil. We all have the faculties to be good, and at the same time we have the neurological predispositions to be evil. In the end, the choice is ours. And that choice determines our external characteristic image.
The way we behave, becomes our identity. If we behave more in the line of goodness than evil, then hopefully we are hailed by others as good. And if we behave more in the line of evil, instead of practicing the good in us, we are hailed as evil or bad. One way or another, each one of us is struggling to act in the line of goodness as much as possible. Each one of us is struggling to become better – to become a better human. And that struggle makes each one of us an active Jihadi.
Because, the term “Jihad” does not actually mean some imaginary “Holy War” (“war” in Arabic is “harb” and “holy” is “muqadassa”) in the name of God or Allah, as presented by modern media. “Jihad” means our internal “struggle” to become better. The term may have come from an Islamic background, but the religion Islam does not have an exclusive authority over it. Think about the term “Yoga” for example. The term “Yoga” which means “union”, comes from ancient Sanskrit literature of India, but the nation India does not have an authority over it. Every human endeavor is the possession of the human mind, and nothing else. Every feat of the mind is the possession of the mind, not of a nation, a race or a religion.
Jihad is a feat of the human mind. And as such, no religion in a clear state of mind, can claim any sort of copyright of it. Also, just because ignorance and bigotry have made the term Jihad highly infested with elements of violence in the minds of the non-muslim population, does not mean that Jihad actually is all about spilling blood and killing non-muslims. Just like, Yoga is not merely about various body postures. The physical exercises which most of the Western population hails as Yoga exercises, are actually only one type of Yoga, which is “Hatha Yoga”, commonly misrepresented as “Hot Yoga”.
However, we cannot also ignore the fact that in the text of the Quran, Jihad is normally found in the sense of fighting in the path of God. In the Islamic texts the term Jihad is mentioned mostly to describe warfare against the enemies of the early Muslim community. In the Hadith, the second most authoritative source of the sharia law, jihad is used to mean armed action. And the reason for this is, in the ancient times, when Islam was a young religion, it had to defend itself from foreign invasion, by whatever means necessary. Hence, it sanctioned external Jihad, that is military action against invasion, just like in India Sikhism sanctioned military action to defend itself against Islamic invasion. Eventually, in the hands of authoritarian fundamentalists, unlike in Sikhism, the defensive external Jihad turned into radical imperialist external Jihad in the religion of Islam. In the process, the actual internal Jihad got lost. It got lost both within the Muslim population as well as outside of it.
The point is, in the ancient times external violent Jihad might have made some sense, but in the modern civilized society, the only Jihad that is qualified to be sustained by the humans as a part of the civilized society, is the internal Jihad, that is, your internal struggle to become better. To quote from my book “Illusion of Religion: A Treatise on Religious Fundamentalism”.
“The real Jihad is an internal process, not an external one. It is the jihad between the good and evil characteristics inside you. The most intriguing example of such inner jihad can be found in our studies of racial attitudes in people. This specific internal jihad is between the subconscious expression of racial attitude and the brain’s conscious control of that attitude.”
Basically, Jihad, struggle or cognitive dissonance, whatever you call it, is the battle that goes on everyday inside every human being- the battle between good and evil – between selfishness and altruism – between love and hatred – between humanism and animalism. Once the humans recognize this simple fact of the human mind, it would inadvertently contribute to the eradication of prejudicial evil of “Islamophobia”. And getting rid of such prejudicial stereotypes is imperative if we are to become a real wise species.
(Simultaneously Published on Goodreads.)