October 2, 2001, Palm Beach Post, Muslims know the truth about 'jihad': Terrorists are the evil, by Gholam Rahman.
In one of his television addresses, President Bush struggled for a word to define America's war against the Sept. 11 terrorists. I kept shouting silently, "Mr. President, the word is jihad."
But, of course, he reached back to his own Christian past and picked the word crusade, which for Muslims carries bitter connotations.
Jihad would have been so right! One of the most misunderstood words related to Islam, jihad denotes the struggle of good against evil, of right against wrong, of the godly against the godless. The root meanings of the Arabic word are "to struggle," to "strive with might and main."
Prophet Mohammed divided jihad into two categories: the greater and the lesser jihads.
The greater jihad takes place within one's own self against baser instincts such as anger, greed, temptation and lust. These base instincts lead us astray from the "straight path" that Muslims ask God to guide them on at least 32 times a day during the five obligatory daily prayers.
The lesser jihad is waged against outside forces such as aggressive threats to the state and against social oppression and injustices.
The Taliban is using the word jihad to describe its fight against the United States -- but it is the terrorists they support who are the evil, according to my Muslim faith.
The Koran clearly states that if one human being unjustly causes the death of another human being, it is as if he had killed the whole human race. And here the terrorist puppets and their masters have killed thousands from all over the world, including hundreds of Muslims. They have indeed killed humanity many times over.
In my 71 years, I have seen a lot of hate and bigotry. Born a British Indian, I saw India wrenched into two parts in a sectarian bloodbath of epic proportions. Then I became a Pakistani and saw that fair nation fracture into two parts, too -- a truncated Pakistan and Bangladesh, which once was the eastern half of Pakistan. It, too, came through a bloody war born out of cruelty, greed and regional hatred.
Seared into my memory is one scene of evacuation as part of the old town of Dhaka burned.
As the mile-wide semicircle of fire crept toward our house, we grabbed our bare essentials and made a move. I shall never forget the eerie quiet as almost 100,000 men, women and children shuffled silently through the streets, lit on a dark night by the leaping, crackling conflagration. Or the sickly-sweet fragrance of the burning lumber yards, where the shelling had started the fire.
God was kind; our house was saved as the fire turned just before reaching it.
We were lucky, too, that we turned our cars to the left, to a friend's house rather than follow our first inclination to take the right fork toward my cousin's house. We learned later that the army shot everyone who tried to go that way -- shoot first, ask questions later was the order of the day. The civil war, or rather uncivil war, that followed led to my seeking a safe asylum in America.
And now the safety of America, too, has been breached -- doubly so for us Muslims, since some hotheads might see in our Asian visage perhaps one cause of that formless threat. Thank God such short-sightedness has been rare in this vast and tolerant land.
We are loyal citizens not only because it is our civic duty, but also because our Islamic duty requires us to render full allegiance and loyalty to the land that has given us shelter, security and sustenance. Traitors and hypocrites will burn in the lowest depth of hell.
We grieve for those who have perished and those who have suffered physical and mental scars. But we Muslims also believe that God will give those whose lives have been so wrongfully wrenched from them a place of mercy and forgiveness. All their sins are now the onus of those killers, who also deliberately committed suicide, an act strictly forbidden in Islam.
God works in mysterious ways. Who knows what good will come out of this tragedy?
There is a story in the Koran about Moses and his quest to learn the mysteries of life. God told Moses to follow Khidr, a mysterious part-angel, part-human "servant of God," as he went about his daily routine of doing God's errands. The only condition was that Moses could ask no questions, just observe.
Moses and Khidr come upon a river, and a kindly boatman ferries them across. Just before getting out of the boat, Khidr punches a hole in the bottom of the boat, and it soon sinks in the shallow coastal water. Moses is furious and demands a reason for this strange ingratitude.
Khidr finally explains: Next week, he says, the king's men would seize all the boats in the region, and this pious man would lose his livelihood. This temporary and superficial damage will end up saving his property.
Maybe this tragedy is a wake-up call for the nation to make us all reevaluate our priorities. Maybe it will force the feuding foes in the Middle East and elsewhere to look at the larger picture and work for peace.
May God will that it be so!
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