What is a jihad

Sura 2 verse 218The importance of jihad

"Whoever believes, emigrates and works with all his might on the path of God [" jâhadû "] has hope in God's mercy."

If one follows the order of the suras in the Koran, the word "jihâd" is used for the first time at this point.

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According to the Arabic lexicographers, its basic meaning is: "especially" or "to work hard". In Arabic, the basic form of a word is given as a verb in the 3rd person singular male. It consists of three letters - the so-called radicals. Here: "dsch [îm]", "h [â]" and "d [âl]". The word "jihâd" formed from it expresses a mutual action or relates one action to something else.

Reuven Firestone is an American rabbi and Koran expert. (priv.) "Jihad" therefore means to exert one's greatest effort in relation to something that is usually defined as an ethical or moral injustice. Such efforts can range from working against the bad behavior of other people in the sense of community responsibility to personal wrestling with one's own evil tendencies.

"Jihâd" sometimes stands for the effort to overcome one's own drug addiction, sometimes for struggling with oneself in order to remain compassionate despite aggression, or for example for the great effort to protect and care for one's family even in distress. It is precisely this that takes on a very special form in our historical moment, when many families are forced to flee their countries under terrible and violent circumstances.

The term "jihad" can therefore have numerous meanings and can be applied to a multitude of different forms of action.

It is easy to explain that he is religiously charged. Because it stands for the most fundamental ethical message of religion: strive to do good by overcoming evil!

In addition, the word "jihâd" in the Koran is often associated with the phrase "on the path of God" - Arabic: "fî sabîl allâh"; I mean, therefore: to make a special effort on God's way.

Linguistically, the word "jihad" has no connection whatsoever with the idea of ​​warfare. This meaning is found in two other Arabic words: "qitâl" and "harb". The former is the most common name for fighting in the Koran.

How did it come about that the word "jihad" in post-Koranic literature and law stands for a religiously legitimized war? Conflicts between peoples, religions and individuals are part of life. The Koran recognizes this. In sura 22 verse 40 it says: "And if God had not [some] people who were holding back one by the other, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, in which the name of God is often mentioned, would have been destroyed."

So sometimes conflicts are fought violently. Other means of resolving disputes can also be found in the Koran - for example that of discussion or argument (Sura 15, verse 25; 29:46). However, some verses in which God urges effort do indeed suggest military effort on behalf of the community of believers. Or they even order it - for example in sura 60 verse 1, where it says: "If you went out with the intention of waging war for my sake ...".

This steepness stands in the context of the defense against enemies who are out to harm the community of believers (see also sura 9 verse 41). Although the Arabic term "qitâl" occurs far more frequently and is used for various kinds of fighting, the idea of ​​a holy effort, especially in the name of God and religion, was linked to the much less common term "jihâd". In the post-Quranic tradition the term developed into a euphemism for divinely authorized violence; even if it has never been restricted to that sense.

The audio version had to be shortened slightly for airtime reasons.