Lashing Ernest Koroma for Use of ‘Jihad’

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This piece aims at interpreting the meaning and use of the word Jihad according to the Holy Quran directly sent to mankind by Allah/God.

Past weekend, the word Jihad was used by a senior political figure in Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma at the All People’s Congress (APC) Party Emergency Delegates Conference in Makeni.

In his own words, Ernest Bai Koroma said: “These are the people who are causing all the commotions within our party. But after this conference, if they continue with this ‘Munku Politics’, I will be the first to lead a Jihad against them.”

His use of the word Jihad at the meeting sparked lots of condemnation against the statesman, with some people accusing him of using the word Jihad in the wrong context.

Well, the root of the Arabic word Jihad is Jahd. This means endurance of rigorous conditions. In true definition, the word Jihad means: “To strive to the utmost for the achievement of a purpose and to leave nothing undone in pursuance of that purpose”.

Without playing the role of the devil’s advocate here, all what the piece aim at is to give readers the opportunity to learn the true meaning of the word Jihad and see if it was wrongly used by Ernest Bai Koroma.

It’s no secret that the word Jihad is mostly negatively used and interpreted but if we are to understand it as it is explained in the Holy Quran, it will be unwise to accuse Ernest Bai Koroma of misusing the word in the context he was speaking from in that Conference.

Simply put, Ernest Bai Koroma’s use of the word Jihad in that conference means he will strive to the utmost for the achievement of rebelling against the ‘munku politicians’ if they continue tormenting the party and will leave nothing undone in pursuance of this purpose.

The usage of the word Jihad in the Holy Quran has its actual meaning and the situations in which it can be used by both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Firstly, the greatest Jihad is the JihadAkbar (purifying oneself). This is because one’s internal struggle to lead a pure good life is very difficult.

God always guides us to good, but our natural tendencies are inclined to evil. The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 12, verse 54, describes this as Nafse Ammarah, ‘the self that inclines to evil’. 

Our natural state, as long as we are not guided by reason and understanding, is to follow our natural bent of eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, anger and provocation, like the animals.

Once a person is guided by reason and understanding and brings their natural state under control and regulates it in an appropriate manner, then they start to develop their moral state to the second stage of development called Nafse Lawwama, ‘the reproving self’ (75:3) and then to the final moral state of Nafse Mutmainnah, ‘the soul at rest’ (89:28).

Thus to purify one’s self is a constant internal struggle which one must strive to practice in order to achieve paradise.

Secondly, the second type of Jihad is JihadKabeer (propagating the religion). This is because to go out and spread the message of God and to try to improve the society that one lives in, means that first you have to overcome your inhibition and be ready to face abuse, humiliation and even persecution.

To propagate the religion means that you have to lead by example and live by what the religion teaches. You cannot say to someone that this is what my religion teaches me, but I personally do not follow it, and then expect that person to take you seriously.

Thirdly, the third type of Jihad is Jihad Asghar (Holy War). This is placed third, because no war can be Holy!

But, Allah recognises that in certain circumstances, there is a need to defend yourself for the sake of your faith – This is the Jihad Asghar. A true Jihadshould only be raised when these two conditions are there a) It is in defence b) The aggressors are trying to prevent you from practicing your faith.

Because ultimately our purpose in life is to worship God, if someone prevents you from worshiping God, then you should reason with them.

If that fails, then Islam teaches us that we should move away and worship in a different place. But if they follow us and still prevent us from worshipping God, then we are permitted to fight them as a means for our freedom of belief and worship.

I am confident that this explains Jihad and why it is wrong to negatively take on Ernest Bai Koroma for its use in that meeting.