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The true meaning of the word "Jihad"

Reader comment on item: Jihad through History

Submitted by Octavio Johanson (Italy), Jun 1, 2005 at 03:47

A Hindu frind of mine once tried to explain to me the meaning of the word "Jihad". He comes from India (120 million Muslims) and spent 14 years in Muslim Saudi Arabia.

This is how he put it: "I am sure that 'Jihad' can mean self-improvement as well as holy war, but the problem is that the Koran leaves room for both interpretations. In no other holy book, do you find a concept which is anywhere near the concept of Jihad. I have read the Bible, and it certainly does not leave any room for such ambiguity".

He then went on to talk about the concept of "infidels" or "Kaffir" or "Kuffar". Again, he said, "you don't find these concepts in the Bible".

Therefore, the problem is that there is room for such ambiguity. Muslims often dispute the Western interpretation of words: an "Islamic fundamantalist" is not a violent Muslim, but it is just a Muslim who follows the fundamentals of his religion.

Do these definitions really matter? If we examine the Arabic words behind these concepts, we will find out a lot of interesting things.

However, even if Jihad means "self-improvement", that does not change the nature of Muslim wars against the West.

What John Esposito does is totally pointless. Don't waste time with words.
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