DALLAS – As American Muslim activist Linda Sarsour faces increasing smear campaign over her use of the word Jihad, an opinion published by Texas Muslim scholar Sheikh Omar Suleiman on HuffPost defended Islamic terms as being hijacked by Islamophobes who impose their definitions, proving that the word Jihad is regularly used in the Arabic version of the Bible.
“Muslim Americans often find themselves in an impossible place,” Imam Omar Suleiman, the Founder and President of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, wrote in an op-ed published on HuffPost on Thursday, July 13.
“Islamophobes define and impose their definitions of Islamic terms, such as jihad, in ways that are inauthentic and violent, and then demand that Muslims reject the terms and texts as they have portrayed them, or risk being deemed extremists for clarifying their meanings.”
The imam referred to the latest controversy surrounding Sarsour’s use of the word during a recent Islamic convention.
“The latest example of this is the controversy surrounding Linda Sarsour’s usage of the word to define opposition to Donald Trump in accordance with the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): ‘The greatest jihad is a word of truth spoken in the face of a tyrant,’” Suleiman added.
Sasour is one of the five organizers behind the Women’s March on Washington, a global movement of rallies and marches in protest of President Donald Trump’s agenda.
The imam went on to clarify that the word is used both in Bible and Qur’an, citing many examples from the Arabic translation of the text which used the word jihad.
“It’s too late to rescue the true meaning of the word now, they insist. But if we’re going to ask Muslims to remove jihad from their dictionary, what about Arab Christians who read the Bible in Arabic?”
For Suleiman, the use of the word jihad for Muslim is similar to that of crusade for Christians.
“The fact of the matter is that Muslims use the term jihad similarly to how Christians use the term crusade,” he wrote.
“The Christian term can mean anything from a spiritual mission to evangelism to politics to military action, depending on context and the individual understanding of the person who uses it.
“To characterize Sarsour’s clear use of the word jihad in a political context as a call to violence would be as misleading as saying all Christian uses of the term crusade are about violence.
“In normal everyday usage, a jihad doesn’t mean killing Christians and a crusade doesn’t mean killing Muslims, even though extremists in our respective traditions may twist those terms that way for their own selfish ends.”
Example for Jihad in Bible
In 1 Peter 4:18, the word jahada, the root of jihad, is used to describe one’s internal struggle. It reads, “If it is a jihad (struggle) for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
إِنْ كَانَ الْبَارُّ بِالْجَهْدِ يَخْلُصُ، فَالْفَاجِرُ وَالْخَاطِئُ أَيْنَ يَظْهَرَانِ؟” (رسالة بطرس الرسول الأولى 4: 18)
In both I Timothy and II Timothy, we find two references to jihad in the Arabic Bible: “I have fought the good jihad (fight), I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (II Timothy 4:7)
جَاهَدْتُ الْجِهَادَ الْحَسَنَ، أَكْمَلْتُ السَّعْيَ، حَفِظْتُ الإِيمَانَ، وَأَخِيرًا قَدْ وُضِعَ لِي إِكْلِيلُ الْبِرِّ، الَّذِي يَهَبُهُ لِي فِي ذلِكَ الْيَوْمِ، الرَّبُّ الدَّيَّانُ الْعَادِلُ، وَلَيْسَ لِي فَقَطْ، بَلْ لِجَمِيعِ الَّذِينَ يُحِبُّونَ ظُهُورَهُ أَيْضًا” (رسالة بولس الرسول الثانية إلى تيموثاوس 4: 7، 7)
“Fight the good jihad (fight) of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (I Timothy 6:12)
جَاهِدْ جِهَادَ الإِيمَانِ الْحَسَنَ، وَأَمْسِكْ بِالْحَيَاةِ الأَبَدِيَّةِ الَّتِي إِلَيْهَا دُعِيتَ أَيْضًا، وَاعْتَرَفْتَ الاعْتِرَافَ الْحَسَنَ أَمَامَ شُهُودٍ كَثِيرِينَ” (رسالة بولس الرسول الأولى إلى تيموثاوس 6: 12)