What is jihad?

The Muslim concept of Jihad has always seemed to me to indicate something more profound in the human emotional makeup than the rather shallow image of physical conflict with which it is commonly associated.

The concept of struggle i.e. conflict seems to go to the heart of virtually all human experience; indeed it could be said to be the very essence of existence.

Without the knowledge of vice, could we truly value virtue? It appears to be a law of nature that every state has its opposite: male/female, hot/cold, love/hate etc.

Where we see balance, equilibrium, in both the human and natural worlds, there is an innate sense of rightness; conversely in arenas of stress, warfare or natural disasters, all tranquility is absent.

chris plant vice

Humanity employs a great deal of its collective energy, in unceasing search for conflict resolution; be it international, i.e. east vs. western ideologies, capitalism vs. communism etc. or drug, religious or racist scourges that afflict our communities.

Just occasionally we are cheered by the bright spark of enlightened intelligence. For instance, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation committees, which probably saved that country from the fate of the Congo and many others?

Northern Ireland is also a welcome example of the triumph of rational compromise over ingrained prejudice. Another beacon is Columbia which is hopefully about to bring a many decades long civil war to an end – again through enlightened dialogue and compromise.

Sadly, the opposite is only too frequently the case, for example in Israel vs. Palestine, where exists a deadly convergence of […] race, religion, culture. External pressures have combined to produce a Gordian knot of intractability which, like a malignant growth, will not simply go away but will fester relentlessly to its fatal conclusion.

When we humans harness the best of our inclinations, miracles can and do happen.  


Text: Christopher Plant

Image credits:  Svenwerk (feature image), William Brawley

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