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Does Jihad Truly Mean War?
Jimmy Hitipeuw | Kamis, 9 Desember 2010 | 12:38 WIB
AP Suspected militant Mohammad Jibriell Abdul Rahman is surrounded by journalists after his trial at the South Jakarta District Court in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, June 29, 2010. The court has sentenced Rahman who called himself the "Prince of Jihad" to five years in jail for concealing information about terrorism Tuesday.

JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - Terrorist threats which have recently been  disrupting people’s harmonious life in the many parts of the world, were mostly associated with the word ’jihad’, and interpreted  as an action of war. 

Jihad is an Islamic term derived from Arabic and translated into ’struggle’ in English. It comes under the Muslims’ religious duty  referring to the three main context of struggle:  internal struggle to maintain faith, struggle to improve the Muslim society, and the struggle of a holy war.

Nevertheless, ’jihad’ is sometimes misinterpreted by people who wanted to mandate the God’s word through bomb blasting which take the lives of other people, as we still remember the Bali Blast in  2002, in which 202 people were killed including 164 foreigners and 38 locals, and dragged the perpetrators, Amrozi and his friends, to the gallows.

What does the word really mean?       Dr. Sahiron Syamsuddin, a lecturer of State Islam University Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta, said here on Wednesday that ’jihad’  not always meant war, even though were articles had been written about war in the Quran.

"Jihad means to insist good things for other people and it is not always translated into warfare although the word `war’ existed in the Quran," he said.       Sahiron said the radical group which interpreted  ’jihad’ as literally war because they did not take notice of  the context and take the word literally. The meaning of the main message of war in jihad was not about creating violence, killing others, threatening the life of others, and terrorizing human life,  Sahiron said in a film and discussion  about the teachings of Islam.

"The main message about war in the Quran is about eliminating despotism and creating religious freedom without brutality. So there is no mandate from Allah to kill others or call for war, only if there is no diplomatic effort in solving problems," the lecturer said.

You may make war, but ethically       A Muslim intellectual of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), KH. Masdar Mas’udi, said that ’jihad’ was a very sensitive word in Islam because once we misinterpreted it, other people would also misunderstand it.

"Jihad is the most misunderstood term because when one of us here translates it into war, then people outside will also have a perception about war. So that, let’s embed the right perception on ’jihad’," he said.       Masdar, who is also a member of the Ethics Board of the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), confirmed that there was an article in the Quran saying  that war was allowed for Muslims, but only if they were attacked first.       "There is no command from Allah for us to make  war, war is not a norm and a Muslim is permitted to make war only if he was attacled  by others. So that, don’t start a war but if war cannot be avoided,  fight in an ethical manner," he said here Wednesday.       Fight in an ethical manner, the chairman of the Syuriah PBNU (the highest council in NU) added, means not killing innocent people, destroying buildings and public facilities.       "That’s why the word ’jihad’ must always be followed by ’fi sabilillah’, which means jihad in the path of God. Rather, jihad means to work seriously for the welfare of humanity and to achieve a state of self-transcendent surrender to God," he added.

Ocean of Revelations       Ocean of Revelations is a film and discussion series hold by the German alumni experiences of religious minorities in West countries. In Germany, Muslims are asked to embrace an interpretation of Islam that respects all aspects and the basic understanding of the German Constitution.       Germany has Muslims citizens who Turkish is the majority to a secular and enlightened form of Islam; however radical currents from the Arab world also influence Muslim in the country.       The film and discussion series is hold for a month at Goethe Institut Jakarta, started from December 1 to the next December 20th on every Wednesday. The event series is presented by LibForAll Foundation, a foundation which was co-founded by former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) and American entrepreneur C. Holland Taylor, in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11 and Bali blast.       Ocean of Revelations raised some leading experts on religion in Indonesia in discussing Islam and its application of teaching into the harmony of diversity in life. And in the second discussion on ’jihad’, it delivered a message that no amount of rationalization or extravagant claims can ever justify acts of terrorism in the world.

"Even if you write with a gold ink, in big and bold letters of ’jihad fi sabilillah’, if the intent signified by those words is to kill, terrorize, threaten or cause the death of others, that has nothing whatsoever to do with jihad," said an ulemma in the movie.

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