The Jakarta Post, 29 May 2002
Jihad is parallel in Bible, Koran: Religious leaders
Muhammad Nafik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Jihad is sometimes an awful, feared and notorious word to many Indonesians, who
generally know it only as a holy war against non-Muslims.
Such a meaning has largely been influenced by the translation of the term by Western
literature and media.
But actually, the concept of jihad seems to be, at least in terms of its intentions, in
the Christian and Islamic holy books mostly positive.
It carries a value-added spirit and great expectation for both Muslims and Christians to
promote religious tolerance and develop a heterogeneous nation which is partly being
torn by sectarian conflict here.
In practice, a holy war is merely one of many other meanings intended by the term
jihad in Islam and its parallels in Christianity.
Jihad was derived from the Arabic word juhd for effort, exertion, zeal and diligence,
difficulty, affliction or misery. In the widest sense, it means all action performed to
establish balance in life according to the Islamic norms.
Priest Josias J. Lengkong, head of Jakarta's Kalimatullah Theological Institute (ITK),
and Muslim scholar Ahmad Syafii Maarif both claimed that jihad, as a concept, had
parallel meanings in the Koran and the Bible intended as a positive spirit of struggle to
foster a harmonious, egalitarian and progressive society.
Both Syafii and Josias were among the speakers in a seminar entitled "The Concept
of Jihad and the Perspectives of Islam and Christianity" organized by ITK on May 20,
2002, in Jakarta.
In the seminar, Josias called for the establishment of a joint study center for Muslims
and Christians to explore parallel religious values significant to nurture religious
harmony and tolerance in the predominantly Muslim country.
They said that based on the two holy books, jihad generally means embarking on an
endeavor with maximum power to carry out permitted deeds and to prevent evil deeds
from sidetracking noble goals.
As an example, Josias cited the Koran's Al-Ankabut 29:6 that teaches the need to
work hard and exert all efforts (jihad) to achieve a goal. This could mean self-restraint
or control of passions.
The verse was compatible with Romans 12:11 in the Bible (the New Testament was
originally written in Greek and does not contain the word jihad, but a similar concept)
which requires hard work, diligence, and a sincere spirit of dedication, he added.
"Jihad should therefore not be feared, it should even be loved to undertake good
things. It has extraordinary potential to develop the nation," said Josias.
He said Christians and Muslims should accommodate and accept the concept of
jihad in its contextual and exegetical meanings.
Such a view of jihad should encourage Muslims and Christians to become diligent
workers to create a new Indonesia, Josias said.
"We believe the role of jihad's spirit should be promoted in all aspects of life. It would
be better if its potential was optimized synergetically to develop our nation," he said.
In the Bible, Josias said the jihad parallel covered wide spectrums and aspects of
human life, including the spirit of hard work, discipline, productivity, solidarity, peace,
moderation, competition, initiative, unity and self-restraint.
He said that if perceived and implemented properly, the principles of jihad would help
eradicate the practices of corruption, collusion and nepotism as well as discrimination
against rival groups.
Syafii said that jihad, which is also called qotlu (war or killing) in the Koran, was only
intended for defense against attacks by the enemies of Islam (infidels).
He said the divine order for a minority Muslim community to wage jihad or holy war
was issued to defend and protect themselves from aggression and brutality by their
enemies in Mecca, when they were forced to flee to Medina in miserable and difficult
"The aim was to ensure that this new community remained resolute and stiff and was
not destroyed in a brutal and rough atmosphere filled with hatred and hostility," added
Syafii, chairman of the nation's second largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah.
Apart from the defensive meaning however, Syafii said jihad in the sense of offensive
purposes was also allowed in the Koran as long as it aimed to fight against
destructive forces on earth, safeguard houses of worship and to develop civilization.
He stressed that in the Indonesian context, holy war as many people have mostly
perceived jihad, was not relevant any longer.
What should be promoted now was the doctrine of jihad, which encourages Muslims
to create a socio-political system that respected egalitarianism, justice, morality and
anti-discrimination, Syafii added.
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