More than 100 people gathered in Bennett Hall Friday night to discuss a word rarely heard before 9/11: jihad.
Guest lecturer Jamal Badawi sought to clear up the misconceptions of jihad, mainly that the Islamic concept justifies terrorism and war in the name of God. The event was sponsored by the University of Maine’s Muslim Student Association.
“Jihad has nothing to do with holy war; ‘Holy war’ is an English term. It is found nowhere in the Quran,” Badawi said. “The term is a contradiction by any religious standard, there is nothing holy about bloodshed, maiming or destruction.”
The lecture, “What Does Jihad Mean?” dispelled what Badawi said were the incorrect definitions of the word. The lecturer, a professor emeritus at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia placed the word in context by providing interpretations from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, where the Arabic word originated.
According to Badawi, jihad means, “to strive for something” with “an exertion of maximum intellectual effort.” Badawi said that in recent years the term has garnered negative attention due to an “erroneous fixation by western media.”
Badawi said the concept of holy war is actually “contra-Islamic;” that the teachings of the religion forbid war waged on behalf of one religion against another. He also stressed the Quran is a nonviolent text that promotes peace at all costs.
“Like other religions and other human activity, war is never a solution unless peace has failed, even then the Islamic religion does not allow war, only in cases of severe oppression, but the oppression must be clear,” he said. “Jihad is not holy war, terrorism or senseless violence.”
Badawi said a correct interpretation of the Quran would include examples ranging from personal or inner jihad to financial jihad in the form of charity. He said that all people engage in one form of jihad or another, because it is a struggle of any kind to better themselves.
“I am making a bold assertion that the core message of all prophets is to engage in jihad,” Badawi said. “I invite all human beings to participate in jihad.”
Though jihad consists primarily of noncombative endeavors, it can include combative actions, such as the resistance of aggression or oppression, which Badawi said is the only justifiable form of combative jihad.
The event was a part of the annual Islamic Awareness Week at UMaine, and a broader effort by Badawi and the Muslim community to reverse stereotypes associated not only with jihad, but with Islam as a whole.
Muna Abdullahi, president of the MSA, said events of the past week had been a success. She said the MSA was able to achieve its goal and solicit questions from both Muslims and non-Muslims on a wide range of topics.
“We have had good participation and we are always active in the community, we achieved what we wanted to this week and we were able to promote good interfaith dialogue,” she said.