Jihad an-nafs, the Spiritual Struggle

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy.

“Those believers who stay at home, apart from those with an incapacity, are not equal to those who commit themselves and their possessions to striving in God’s way. God has raised such people to a rank above those who stay at home – although He has promised all believers a good reward, those who strive are favoured with a tremendous reward above those who stay at home – high ranks conferred by Him, as well as forgiveness, and mercy: God is most forgiving and merciful.” Holy Quran 4:95-96 (M.A.S. Abdel Haleem)

Though often understood to refer to those taking part in a battle, surely this verse is teaching us not to be lazy! Do something in God’s cause, don’t just sit around at home wasting time! Make something of your life. Though all Muslims are rewarded by God, those who do good deeds are a degree above those who don’t. This point is clarified in the following verses that were revealed in Mecca, long before Muslims were permitted to take part in any military struggle.

“But as for those who strive for their meeting with God, God’s appointed time is bound to come; He is the All Seeing, the All Knowing. Those who exert (Jaahada) themselves do so for their own benefit God does not need His creatures – We shall certainly blot out the misdeeds of those who believe and do good deeds, and We shall reward them according to the best of their actions” Holy Quran 29:5-7 (M.A.S. Abdel Haleem)

“Hence, whoever strives (jahada) hard [in God’s cause] does so only for his own good: for, verily, God does not stand in need of anything in all the worlds!” Holy Quran 29:6 (Asad)

“But We shall be sure to guide to Our ways those who strive (jaahado) hard for Our cause: God is with those who do good.” Holy Quran 29:69 (M.A.S. Abdel Haleem)

“by the soul (nafs) and how He formed it and inspired it [to know] its own rebellion and piety! The one who purifies his soul succeeds and the one who corrupts it fails” Holy Quran 91:7-10 (M.A.S. Abdel Haleem)

“Think [Prophet] of the man who has taken his own passion as a god: are you to be his guardian?” Holy Quran 25:43 (M.A.S. Abdel Haleem)

“for anyone who feared the meeting with his Lord and restrained himself from base desires, Paradise will be home” Holy Quran 79:40-41 (M.A.S. Abdel Haleem)

These verses clearly refer to ‘jihad an-nafs’ the spiritual struggle, even if the word jihad is not itself mentioned. To restrain oneself from sin, can at testing times be a tremendous struggle!

Jihad means struggle or striving, though it can be used in reference to fighting in a battle or war, it primarily refers to striving in God’s way in good deeds, leading one’s life in a righteous and just manner, not giving in to sinful temptations e.t.c. As we can see from the following ahadith, jihad can refer to many things that require a degree of effort, commitment or struggle.

Narrated Aisha: the mother of the faithful believers, I requested the Prophet permit me to participate in Jihad, but he said, “Your Jihad is the performance of Hajj (Pilgrimage to Mecca).”
Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Number 127

Narrated Abdullah bin Amr: A man came to the Prophet asking his permission to take part in Jihad. The Prophet asked him, “Are your parents alive?” He replied in the affirmative. The Prophet said to him, “Then exert yourself in their service.”
Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Number 248

Narrated Abdullah bin Amr: A man said to the Prophet, “Shall I participate in Jihad?” The Prophet said, “Are your parents living?” The man said, “Yes.” the Prophet said, “Do Jihad for their benefit.”
Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Number 3

“Do Jihad for their benefit.” i.e. strive to help them.

Another man asked: “What kind of jihad is better?” The Prophet replied, upon him peace: “A word of truth spoken in front of an oppressive ruler.” Sunan Al-Nasa’i, Number 4209

For information on the well known hadith regarding the lesser and greater Jihad, visit: http://www.livingislam.org/n/dgjh_e.html

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