The Reality of Jihad
The real spiritual meaning of Jihad is totally different from the negative meaning often attached to it. Contrary to today's common belief, the religious obligation of jihad is to develop inner capabilities and reach spiritual ascension. It is utterly devoid of any battle, violence, or warlike meaning.
Derived from the root "j-h-d” meaning effort and endeavor. Jihad means "to strive," and to make every effort to overcome one’s limitations to discover and cognize the true Self. Jihad corresponds to an individual internal endeavor and the inner journey that each seeker is summoned to undertake to come gradually closer to the final goal of his esoteric ascent towards God.
The jihad's objective is to conquer and purify the nafs. Nafs has been translated as the lower self, the base instincts, and also as the ego. At its lowest level, nafs incites one to low qualities and prevents cognition of the true self. The journey of Self-knowledge consists of constant struggle against the nafs. The Holy Qur'an tells the believers:
و اما من خاف مقام ربه و نهى النفس عن الهوى
"To fear the place of his Lord, and hinder the nafs from desire." (Al Nazi'at 79:40)
و الذين جاهدوا فينا لنهدينهم سبلنا و ان الله لمع المحسنين
"And those who strive in Our (cause) (jâhàdou), - We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right. (Al Ankabut 29:69)
The nafs at its lowest level is the cause of blameworthy actions such as greed, envy, ego, selfishness, and other negative attributes. One must be aware and in control of his nafs at all times, the same as a horseback rider who is holding the bridle and does not let the unruly horse lead him off track. The rider must tame and train the horse. If he loses his focus and gets distracted, the horse will take control and he will never reach his destination.
The struggle with the nafs and its purification process has been called by the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) as "the greater Jihad," for "the worse enemy you have (the nafs) is between your sides," as the Holy Prophet said in a hadith.
The greater Jihad and purification of self is impossible without the guidance of the spiritual Teacher. The Teacher, called the Arif, is the guide to the spiritual ascension and the journey of self-knowledge. According to the teachings of the Oveyssi School of Sufism®, the human body is equipped with a built-in mechanism that facilitates ascending of the human being to the most elevated state. Hazrat Salaheddin Ali Nader Angha, the Sufi Master of the Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi Shahmaghsoudi, School of Islamic Sufism® states:
"When the seeker experiences the reality of the Self, when he or she discovers the "I", the truth brings certainty as well as peace and tranquility to ones life. Certainty is the key word in the Arif’s teachings; knowledge leads to certainty (Angha 249).
Jihad is one of the secondary principles of Islam. Muslims are required to observe these principles in order to purify their nafs and reach cognition.
1. Angha, Salaheddin Ali Nader. Theory "I", Riverside, CA: M.T.O. Publications, 2002, Print.