The word Jihad stems from the Arabic root word J-H-D, which means "strive." Other words derived from this root include "effort," "labor," and "fatigue." Essentially Jihad is an effort to practice religion in the face of oppression and persecution. The effort may come in fighting the evil in your own heart, or in standing up to a dictator. Military effort is included as an option, but as a last resort.
Hence, in its literal sense Jihad in Arabic simply means struggle - striving to one's utmost to further a worthy cause. As we say in English, "We must struggle against hardships".
It is a common human trait to work very hard in order to achieve some goal. There are words in every language including Arabic, to express this human quality. The word Jihad conveys this same sense of striving, that is, a great striving.
Noble Qur'an says: "And strive hard in (the way of) Allah, (such) a striving a is due to Him..." (22:78)
So, why Islam is so emphatically linked with the idea of struggle? What has the one to do with the other? Cannot a person become a good Muslim without involving himself in a struggle that necessarily requires sacrifices? The answer is: No. And for very obvious reasons.
Islam is not merely the confession of a faith which is made once in a lifetime. The faith is of cosmic dimensions. It requires a radical reorientation of entire life and the world. The confession is not merely verbal; it is an act of witnessing which must transform life into a living and continuing testimony of faith. You enter Islam by saying shahadah (bearing witness). But you can live in Islam only by constantly doing shahadah (al-Baqarah 2:143, al-Hajj 22:28). Doing shahadah will bring you in ceaseless confrontation with false gods inside you, and with those outside you. It will also require a ceaseless striving to reshape self and society so as to attest to your witnessing.
Jihad in Islam: Butterfly and Cocoon (Jihad Story, Struggle Stories, Muslims and Jihad)
A man found a Cocoon of a Butterfly. One day a small opening appeared; he sat and watched the Butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.
Then the man decided to help the Butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the Cocoon. The Butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the Butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the Butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What this man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting Cocoon and the struggle required for the Butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature's way of forcing fluid from the body of the Butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the Cocoon.
Moral: Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If nature allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly. Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle (Jihad)
Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere. Noble Qur'an (2:155)
Jihad in Islam: Change is Inevitable, Changes for Survival, Jihad Story
Maggie wasn't rich like a millionaire or poor in a manner of being homeless. She was living an average comfortable life. It was made even better when a beautiful baby girl came her way. She and her husband made sure their daughter had her needs met and they were still able to take a yearly vacation by the beach.
Maggie was a partner in her husband's business. They both had a different set of duties which kept everything in balance. One day a devastating blow came to her husband's business, and over a three year period the business dropped out of site. Her husband had to totally reinvent himself and was yearning to fulfill a dream with a new vocation. She was happy for him and supported him fully, but still the money was not coming in.
Maggie began to feel guilty that she wasn't contributing with any kind of income. It had been a long time since she had worked outside the home and had to work for someone else. Needless to say she was scared but still had faith that everything would be okay. She began job hunting and found filling out applications somewhat difficult, especially the part asking for job references. Keep in mind that she was self-employed with her husband for almost 20 years. It felt as though that didn't count for anything as she was never called for an interview.
At the time she was job hunting her mom became more ill than she had been and ended up in the hospital for a week. Once Maggie's mom returned home she became her mom's helper one day a week. She did the shopping, changed sheets, vacuumed and did other things that her mother was not able to do anymore. Of course her mom would pay her for her time and labor but she still felt she needed to find another source of income.
One of the first applications she had filled out finally came through. She passed the interview with flying colors and was told she was "exactly" what they were looking for. Although it was only part time it was exactly what she wanted. It was important for her to be home when her daughter arrived home from school. She was told they would be in touch when the schedule was ready. Knowing she had the job made her feel contented and productive again.
Within a few weeks though, she received an e-mail saying that the company had changed the job into a full time position and she was not qualified. Maggie was devastated. She felt betrayed and felt she had been lied to. That evening she was alone as her husband and daughter had gone out for the night. She welcomed the aloneness and wanted to drown her sorrows in a hot tub of bubbles.
As she knew she would, she began to cry, softly at first just from the sheer pain of being rejected. Three long years of struggle had finally caught up with her. Then she became angry; angry at everything from the circumstances that got her there, to God himself. She cried harder and yelled, "What do you want me to do?" She really felt that God had abandoned her.
When she was able to cry no more, she became exhausted and gave up. It was at that moment that a silent idea came to her to offer other elderly people home care assistance.
Using another talent for computers she printed off some flyers and cards and distributed them to her church, grocery stores and even placed a small ad in the newspaper. Within a week she had procured two new clients.
Now, even though she's not a CEO of a major company or a power player she feels happy and productive again. So, had God really abandoned her? Let's look at nature for the lessons and the answer.
Before a butterfly can emerge out of it's chrysalis it has to go through a lot of struggling. Yes, struggling. Each time it lunges out to escape, acids are being removed from its wings. If someone were to come along and break the chrysalis open for it then the butterfly would die from those acids. In essence the struggle (Jihad) is necessary for the butterfly to survive. Then in the stillness, when the struggle (Jihad) is over, the butterfly can come out and share its beauty with the world.
Moral: We as humans are not any different. There are times that we need to struggle (Jihad), to rid ourselves of the acids that make up sadness, fear, and anger. It is only at this time when we are exhausted and still that we begin to hear the Universe whisper to us.
Jihad in Islam: The Cage Bird's Escape (Story of Heroism, Jihad Story, Struggle Stories)
Once upon a time, there was a bird in a cage who sang for her merchant owner. He took delight in her song day and night, and was so fond of her that he served her water in a golden dish. Before he left for a business trip, he asked the bird if she had a wish: "I will go through the forest where you were born, past the birds of your old neighborhood. What message should I take for them?"
The bird said, "Tell them I sit full of sorrow in a cage singing my captive song. Day and night, my heart is full of grief. I hope it will not be long before I see my friends again and fly freely through the trees. Bring me a message from the lovely forest, that will set my heart at ease. Oh, I yearn for my Beloved, to fly with Him, and spread my wings. Until then there is no joy for me, and I am cut off from all of life's sweet things."
The merchant travelled on his donkey through the dense forest. He listened to the melodies of many birds. When the merchant reached the forest where his bird came from, he stopped, pushed his hood back, and said, "O you birds! Greetings to you all from my pretty bird locked in her cage. She sends tidings of her love to you and wants to tell of her plight. She asks for a reply that will ease her heart.
My love for her keeps her captive with bars all around her. She wants to join her beloved and sing her songs through the air with a free heart, but I would miss her beautiful songs and cannot let her go."
All the birds listened to the merchant's words. Suddenly one bird shrieked and fell from a tree brunch to the ground. The merchant froze to the spot where he stood. Nothing could astound him more than this did. One bird had fallen down dead!
The merchant continued on to the city and traded his goods. At last he returned to his home. He did not know what to tell his bird when she asked what message he had brought. He stood before her cage and said, "Oh, nothing to speak of no, no,"
The bird cried, "I must know at once."
I do not know what happened," said the merchant. "I told them your message. Then, one of them fell down dead."
Suddenly the merchant's bird let out a terrible shriek and fell on her head to the bottom of the cage.
The merchant was horrified. He wept in despair, "Oh, what have I done?" He cried, "What Have I done? Now my life means nothing. My moon has gone and so has my sun. Now my own bird is dead."
Merchant opened the cage door, reached in, and took her into his hands gently and carefully. "I will have to bury her now," he said; "poor thing is dead."
Suddenly, the moment he had lifted the bird out of the cage, she swooped up, flew out of the window and landed on the nearest roof slope. She turned to him and said, gratefully, "Thank you, merchant master, for delivering my message. That bird's reply instructed me how to win my freedom. All I had to do was to be dead. I gained my freedom when I chose to die."
"So now I fly to my beloved who waits for me. Good-bye, good-bye, my master no longer." "My bird was wise; she taught me secret," the merchant reflected.
Moral: If you want to be with the ones you love, you must be ready to give up everything, even life itself. And then, by Allah (SWT), you will win your heart's desire.