The young soldiers who marched into Kabul, Afghanistan in the early days of Taliban rule were mostly boys and young men who had lost their families when Soviet bombs destroyed their villages. As orphans, the men grew up in Pakistani refugee camps under the intense tutelage of imams who taught the most severe interpretation of Islam. This creed promising provision, belonging, and power also offered a promise of heaven: those who died for Allah would be taken directly to Paradise.
Deep within every human heart is a longing to know God. Throughout the ages, man has tried to reach Him, to find Him, to know Him. The jihadist is no different in this most fundamental human pursuit. However, for the jihadist, a strictly prescribed path has been given through Islam, guaranteeing the fulfillment of man’s deepest hope. At least this is what he or she has been taught to believe. Jihad is a guaranteed way to heaven.
What is Jihad?
The literal meaning of the word jihad is “struggle”. Although the Qur’an sometimes uses jihad to refer to a spiritual struggle, jihad is most often used to describe a physical struggle for a spiritual purpose. (For an in-depth discussion of this, read Answering Jihad by Nabeel Qureshi, 2016.) The Hadith uses jihad frequently in the context of a violent physical battle. Over the centuries, jihad has grown into a systematized doctrine of warfare. (Nabeel Qureshi, 2016).
In recent years many have sought to emphasize spiritual jihad, purporting that the intended purpose of jihad in Islam is spiritual and peaceful, not violent. However, the evidence found in the Qur’an, the Hadith, the Islamic traditions, and Islamic history reveal this portrayal as false.
The culmination of evidence for Islam-prescribed, violent, physical jihad is found in the ninth and chronologically final Surah of the Qur’an. In this surah, Muslims are commanded to conquer Jews and Christians so that Islam may prevail over every other faith. If they do not fight, they are considered faithless hypocrites. For those who do fight, they are to kill or be killed, with Allah’s promise that those who die will immediately go to paradise.
The Power of the Qur’an in Jihad
The importance of the Qur’an to Muslims is best understood when compared not to the Bible, but to Jesus Himself. Jesus is the Word of God. (John 1:1). Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the living word of God sent down from heaven. It is revered much like Christians revere Christ Himself.
Behind every act of terror today is the Qur’an. Those who prescribe to violent jihad are fully convinced that they are doing so in obedience to the living word of Allah sent down from heaven. Such commitment reveals a greater crisis than even the problem of terrorism; it exposes the desperation of a human heart to know God and reach him by any means.
A Jihad of Our Own
With this knowledge, Christians face their own personal jihad, or “struggle”. How would Christ have us respond to the knowledge that desperate longing for God is driving young men and women around the world to commit cruel acts of terror and destruction?
The media confuses and overwhelms us, making it difficult to hear God’s voice on the matter.
“Islam is a religion of peace.”
“The terrorists who attacked on 9/11 were not true Muslims.”
“Islam is not our adversary.”
With so many conflicting statements flooding our culture, how can we really know what is true? Does my kind friend Fatima, the one whose little girl plays with mine in the park, secretly want me dead? Does her religion tell her that I am an enemy?
Does the nice, friendly Muslim man who sold me my car attend secret meetings to plan an attack on our city?
Does the gorgeous guy with dark eyes and dark hair in my Organic Chemistry class at University just want a Western education so he can become a jihadist?
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Fear immobilizes us. It keeps the good news of Jesus Christ under wraps. It stops us from gaining the power that comes through wisdom and knowledge. It creates an unstable mind, unproductive and paranoid. Fear does not build the kingdom of God.
God has called us to be people of power and love through the name of Jesus Christ. And this leads to a sound mind, one able to rightly judge truth from error and courageously reach out to Muslims.
Examining the ideology behind jihad is essential to understanding how to engage in the cultural conversation. It is vital to our formulation of opinions about the Muslims living in our community. Fouad Masri often says, “Muslims are not the problem. Islam is.”
From the little veiled Iraqi girl to the proudly armed jihadist, all Muslims were created in the image of God, and He loves them. Each deserves an authentic witness of Christ. You may be the person who shows them the one and only way to heaven.
Join us for Part Three of this series: Will Jihad ever End? An Interview with the President of Crescent Project
imam: The leader of prayers and services in a mosque.
jihad: Most commonly the struggle or fight against the enemies of Islam.
jihadist: A Muslim who participates in jihad.
Qur’an: The sacred text of Islam, considered by Muslims to contain the revelations of God to Muhammad
Surah: A chapter in the Quran.
Hadith: A collection of traditions containing sayings of the prophet Muhammad that constitute a major source of guidance for Muslims apart from the Koran.