The Reality of Jihad

The real spiritual meaning of Jihad is devoid of how the word jihad is used often with a strong negative connotation. Contrary to today’s common belief, the religious obligation of jihad is to develop the inner capabilities and reach spiritual ascension. It is utterly devoid of any battle, violence, or warlike meaning.

Derived from the root “j-h-d” meaning “effort,” and endeavor. “Jihad” means “to strive,” and to make every effort to overcome one’s limitations to discover and cognize the true Self. Jihad corresponds to an individual internal endeavor and the inner journey that each “Believer” is summoned to undertake to come gradually closer to the final goal of his esoteric ascent towards God.

The jihad’s objective is to conquer and purify the “Nafs”. Nafs has been translated as lower self, the base instincts, and also as ego. At its lowest level, nafs incites one to low qualities and prevents cognition of the true self. The journey of Self-knowledge consists of constant struggle against the nafs. The holy Quran tells the believers:

“To fear the place of his Lord, and hinder the nafs from desire.” (79:40)
وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَى
“And those who strive in Our (cause) (jâhàdou), – We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily Allah is with those who do right. (29:69)
وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

The nafs at its lowest level is the cause of blameworthy actions such as greed, envy, ego, selfishness, and other negative attributes. One must be aware and in control of his nafs at all times. The same as a horse rider who is holding the bridle and does not let the unruly horse lead him off track. The rider must tame and train the horse. If he loses his focus and gets distracted, the horse will take control and he will never reach his destination.

The struggle with the nafs and its purification process has been called by the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) as “the greater Jihad,” for “the worse enemy you have (the nafs) is between your sides,” as the Holy Prophet said in hadith.

The greater Jihad and purification of self is impossible without the guidance of the spiritual Teacher. The Teacher, called the “Arif” is the guide to the spiritual ascension and the journey of self-knowledge. According to the teachings of the Oveyssi School of Sufism®, the human body is equipped with a built-in mechanism that facilitates ascending of the human being to the most elevated state. Hazrat Salaheddin Ali Nader Angha, the present Sufi Master of the Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi Shahmaghsoudi, School of Islamic Sufism® states:

“When the seeker experiences the reality of the Self, when he or she discovers the “I”, the truth brings certainty as well as peace and tranquility to ones life. Certainty is the key word in the Arif’s teachings; knowledge leads to certainty”. 1

“Jihad” is one of the secondary principles of Islam. Muslims are required to observe these principles in order to purify their nafs and reach cognition:

·        Salat — “Prayer” – performing the five daily prayers
·        Sawm — “Fasting” – fasting during the holy month of Ramadan
·         Khums — “One-fifth” – giving on one-fifth of resources for good cause
·         Zakat — Tazkieh- “Cleansing” the self, deeds, and wealth (by giving to the poor )
·         Hajj — “Pilgrimage” – performing the pilgrimage
·         Jihad — “Endeavor ” – Ultimate effort, to strive to reach cognition
·         Amr-Bil-Ma’roof — Enjoin the knowledge
·         Nahya-Anil-Munkar — Prevent ignorance


  1. Molana Salaheddin Ali Nader Angha, Theory “I”, M.T.O. Publication, Riverside CA, 2002, p.249