What Jihad Really Means

What Jihad Really Means

Performing jihad is doing good deeds.
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This quarter I am taking a class called Introduction to the Middle East. Basically, we use historical moments in the Middle East to pinpoint how things like ISIL or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict came about.

During one of my lessons, we discussed the origination of the word jihad.

Jihad originally meant expanding Islam through violence. Waging war was considered a way of displaying God to different portions of the world. But before we start throwing up our hands and saying that Breitbart was right all along, it is important to recognize what type of world this was. It was a conquest era. Every empire at this time was trying to expand their boundaries and become more powerful than their neighbors.

However, as the world transitioned to a more stable era where empires were not constantly trying to conquer each other the word jihad also changed. Religious scholars realized that jihad does not need to be violent anymore and instead wrote new doctrines explaining what Jihad is.

Jihad became a community duty and not an individual duty. There are also two forms of jihad. There is lesser jihad, which is fighting. But there is also a greater jihad. This means expanding Islam through good deeds. Someone is performing jihad by being pure, by praying, or by volunteering. This is the form most Muslims follow.

As recent events have shown, small select groups like ISIL and Al Qaeda have dissented from this definition of jihad and have manipulated it to justify their own violent actions.

But it is important to remember that this is not the majority's view of what jihad means.

Words are important. It is how we communicate with each other and express our beliefs and positions.

So when we discuss contentious topics like ISIL and discuss what “all Muslims” believe, we should educate ourselves about other people’s cultures and their histories.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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Being Busy Does Not Give Your Life Meaning, Having Imaan (Faith) Does

How many of us even care to ask Allah (swt) what He would like to see from us?
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Recently, I turned 21, and for the first time ever in my life, I felt that during the 20th year of my life, I truly lived. I experienced so much more than I ever thought I could, but I've been so busy making plans and coming through for them that by the time my 21st birthday rolled around, I realized... I haven't really accomplished my life's purpose. My ultimate life goal is to become a better Muslim, but with each passing day, I have pushed the purpose of my life aside for "new" experiences, like driving to weekly campus events, weekend outings with friends or working hours on end as the Editor-in-Chief of the Alpharetta Odyssey community.

I felt like an independent adult who didn't need anyone or anything. So, unconsciously, I lowered my standards of living in pursuit of these side quests to quench a thirst for fun with whatever pleasure life can offer. But purpose is imbued in ambition and success, so one without the other topples the entire foundation upon which life is structured. I lost sight of my purpose to become a better Muslim, and in turn, my life lost meaning.

There were many points throughout the year that I felt depressed, whether due to personal struggles or external conflicts. These issues went on for quite some time, and I never really resolved them so much as waited for them to somehow resolve themselves. I didn't reach out to Allah (swt) or raise my hands in dua for help, for strength, for guidance, and because of that, I made some decisions stemming from my own crude feelings of inadequacy with situations, myself and others.

I distanced myself from people, because suddenly, there was no clear standard I could confidently judge our relationships by. I busied myself instead, upping my goals for what I wished to accomplish my final years of college but I have yet to follow through all of them despite multiple attempts. I have pushed and prodded myself to overcome silly fears, but I couldn't find a tether of rope to hold onto or any point to direct my feelings at.

I was lost. What was I doing? Why was I doing these things? What was the point? What did any of this accomplish?

Then, I realized, the tether to our lives is Allah (swt). He never let me down all these years, yet since I felt cocky and independent, I loosened my hold on the rope of imaan. And in doing so, I lost myself.

I created lots of memories of little things that have not built me into a better person. I amassed lots of stuff that will be dumped into the trash, sooner or later. I've traveled so many new places yet always left feeling like something was missing. That something is still missing. Every new morning I open my eyes, I continue to feel like my life lacks a purpose, because I've been ignoring the very reason I was born: to love and follow the commands of Allah (swt).

He handpicked where I would be born, which time I would first open my eyes to the world and to whom I would call my mother, father, brother and sister. He has woven fate in my favor, slid chances to repent under my door and has always been present during every ugly and beautiful moment I've experienced. From that, I've realized, all the life moments I have been most attentive and loving of Allah (swt) are the best memories I have. These are the moments I recall when I want to soothe my soul of loneliness or cheer myself on in times of joy. These surmount to the reasons I cling to my imaan desperately in times of need and reach out to grasp it more tightly in times of success.

SEE ALSO: 3 Astronomical Revelations Of The Holy Quran

But, despite that, I have yet to climb higher...

Because as Muslims, we pray five times a day, but how many of us continue to sit after prayer to raise their hands in due and just talk to Allah (swt)?

How many of us go to Allah (swt) first when we have a problem, rather than ranting and backbiting to our friends?

How many of us think of how Allah (swt) would feel about something before we decide to do that thing?

How many of us even care to ask Allah (swt) what He would like to see from us?

Instead, we turn to the physical manifestations besides us. We ask people what they would like to see from us. We change ourselves so others will love and accept us, have fun with us, become close to us. We turn away from Allah (swt) the second we forget our purpose in life.

And what's worse is, we assume because we can't see Him or hear His reply that He's somehow irrelevant. That all the things that make sense because of Allah (swt) don't matter anymore because you don't really care. It doesn't concern you. And then we wonder, why don't I get along with so and so? Why don't I care about this person or that thing? Why does my life look so happy on social media but right after the moment ends, I feel empty and like something is missing?

Your life may look busy and fulfilling from the outside. Your life can be chock-full of amazing people or just a handful of close friends. Your life can be Gucci galore or countryside cottage. Your life can be complex or simple. But either way, each life lived with feel the same: meaningless — without imaan. So don't let go of the tether that ties you to Allah (swt). Hold on tight, and keep pulling yourself close, step by step.

InshAllah, your efforts will pay off.

Allah (swt) says, "For every step you take towards me, I will take 10 towards you. Walk towards me, and I will run towards you. — Hadith Qudsi
Cover Image Credit: WikiMedia

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31 Thoughts Muslims Have While Praying In Public

I really wish this floor was carpeted.
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1. Alright here we go, Dhuhr ends in an hour.

2. Pulling out my portable prayer rug, heck yes, we ballin today fam

Places You'll Pray, @ummbelaal

3. Okay focus, we’re going to make this one count.

4. Qibla, where is the Qibla. Compass says it’s this way but MuslimPro says it’s the opposite way??

5. I wonder if people will think I’m leading a yoga class like the dude on Twitter6. I really hope no one decides to harm me or start yelling at me

7. JK, the plant I’m praying behind is pretty big, so I should be hidden

8. Wait, why am I relying on a plant for protection, Allah will protect me

9. How did I fit behind this plant?

Places You'll Pray, @selhii

10. FOCUS

11. Deen over Dunya

12. Wait is someone playing Taylor Swift

13. Aw heck no, I am not praying to the tone of Bad Blood

14. Why is this song such a bop

15. FOCUS

16. Wait what rakat am I on?

17. Oh no

Places You'll Pray, @shahid_o_

18. OK, we’re reading Surah Ikhlas, Bismillah

19. Can’t wait to finally use the bathroom after this

20. Wait will I get home before Asr ends?

21. FOCUS

22. I really wish this floor was carpeted

23. Sujood, here we go

Places You'll Pray, @farah_harith

24. Should I put my prayer mat in the wash?

25. IS THAT DUDE STARING AT ME

26. I can’t look, I really hope not

27. It’s OK, we’re good, have faith in Allah

28. You are stronger than this

29. Allah created you strong

30. Dang, I am so proud of myself

31. But next time, we’re going to find a bit more a secluded place


*All pictures taken from Instagram account @placesyoullpray (check them out, they're super cool)

**These are taken from my own stream of consciousness. All Muslims have different experiences and level of focus and this was done purely for entertainment purposes.

Cover Image Credit: Places You'll Pray, @a_wayfarer_//Instagram

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