Defining Jihad

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The world changed on September 11th 2001. Along with the reshaping of the New york skyline and national security came another reshaping...the perception of the Islamic world. Although the term Jihad is as old as the koran itself it was now being used by the media and government officials on a daily basis when referring to the war that was declared on the United States when two commercial airliners were used to successfully topple the twin towers of the World Trade Center. It became a common word in the public’s vocabulary when speaking of Muslim fanaticism and has been associated almost exclusively with terrorism. The meaning of Jihad seemed pretty clear cut. Jihad is a “holy war.” A war waged specifically on all those who do not worship Allah. But is the true meaning? Is it it possible that the meaning has changed over time or that there is actually more than one definition. The Koran, much like the Bible, is blessed and cursed by its antiquity. On one hand the mere fact that it age gives it great relevance and adds to its magic. On the other hand the complex ideas and terms with multiple meanings are up to interpretation with no right or wrong answer. In David Cook’s booked titled Understanding Jihad he explains that in Arabic, the word’s literal meaning is “striving” or “exerting oneself,” with the implication, on the basis of its usage in the Koran, “with regard to one’s religion.”(1) But this is obviously not the meaning used by radical Muslims like Bin Laden when he speaking of the war on the Western world. The Encyclopedia of Islam states “In law, according to general doctrine and in historical tradition, the jihad consists of military action with the object of the expansion of Islam and, if need be, of its defense.”(Cook 2) There are many muslims who would rather distance themselves from the military definition instead claiming that jihad is a spiritual and non-violent undertaking. So which one direction is the correct one? Or is it possible that...
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