Originally Published in The WashingtonPost.com
As a Muslim American, #MyJihad begins every night—get to bed on time so I can wake for pre-dawn prayer and nourish my soul. #MyJihad is not skipping a healthy breakfast—as our Starbucks society is prone to tempt—and thus properly nourish my body. #MyJihad ensures I spend time daily in service to humanity—charity, volunteer work, and mentoring—to nourish my personal moral development. And finally, #MyJihad is to read and learn about ideas that challenge my thinking—to nourish my intellect and foster pluralism.
And all the while, #MyJihad reminds me to treat those who malign, misdirect, and misinform Americans about jihad, with respect and decency—because that is the example prophet Muhammad set for all Muslims. As an American Muslim, #MyJihad is to properly define jihad with my actions of service and love—never hate.
So what is #MyJihad? It is a grassroots public educational and service campaign started by MyJihad.org. The campaign is designed to provide a unifying storm with bus ads, on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and news media. It is an inspiring phenomenon, as people of all walks of faith affiliation and non-affiliation—Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, atheist, and more are uniting to share their struggle towards self-improvement and overcoming the odds in their lives.
#MyJihad defines jihad correctly as—not holy war—but struggle. A struggle that prophet Muhammad taught in three categories—struggle against the self, struggle against Satan, and struggle against a visible enemy.
#MyJihad reminds us that once upon returning from battle, Muhammad remarked, “We are returning from the lesser Jihad to engage in the greater Jihad—the Jihad against the self.” Thus, Muhammad himself defined the greater Jihad as the Jihad against the self-that incites to evil.
Jihad against the self encompasses the struggle against Satan, against satanic thoughts, influences, actions, and injustices. (Think, temptation of Christ).
Finally, jihad is the struggle against a visible enemy. Islam—like most ideologies employed even today—permits fighting in self-defense as a last resort. But the Koran remarkably goes a step further in 22:39-41, commanding Muslims to fight in defense of universal religious freedom, specifically obliging Muslims to protect “temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques” and their congregants.
The need for this long-awaited positive campaign was sown on that fateful day in September 2001. While nothing compares to that horrific loss of life, terrorists did not only destroy 3,000 innocent lives on Sept. 11, 2001. They also condemned the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to an eye of suspicion, misunderstanding, and in a growing number of cases—discrimination. One word many Americans heard for the first time that day continues over a decade later to dominate anti-Islam Web sites, blogs, and books: Jihad. The maligning, misdirection, and misinformation about jihad that spread since by self-proclaimed scholars with degrees in Google-ology has only created more fear and discrimination.
Today, #MyJihad is our opportunity to reverse the trend. #MyJihad allows Americans to unite despite our differences and show the world our beautiful struggle for peace and pluralism. #MyJihad invites all humanity to the common principle of love for all and hatred for none.
Muslims, like myself and countless others, have responded to hate with action—blood drives to honor Sept. 11 victims, multiple BBB-accredited Muslim charities, and now grassroots campaigns like #MyJihad. This unprecedented grassroots campaign on jihad (out of my hometown of Chicago) takes the bold step to champion jihad’s true meaning and take it back from extremists and propagandists alike. And the best part—like the blood drives and charities—anyone can participate in #MyJihad.
If you haven’t participated in #MyJihad, you’re missing out, so stop waiting, join the movement for peace and understanding by following the three steps on myjihad.org.
- Qasim Rashid