Commentary: Is America ready to embrace true meaning of ‘jihad’?

Every year, Sept. 11 reminds us of the horrific terrorist attack that occurred on the soil of America and took the lives of thousands of innocent souls. The anniversary directs our attention towards paying tribute to those who died and families affected by this tragedy.

That day shook our nation and gave birth to fear and hatred. Right after 9/11, life for Muslims in America became a daily struggle; we did not feel secure in our own homeland, while non-Muslims began to feel insecure around Muslims.

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Unfortunately, 16 years after 9/11, terrorist attacks by Islamic State and other extremist groups continue to make lives miserable for the majority peace-loving Muslims and make it difficult to present the true teachings of Islam.

While it is important to organize dialogues to educate others about Islam, remove misconceptions and strengthen understanding between communities, many Muslims have been consistently demonstrating the true teachings of Islam through practical steps.

Recently, when Texas was hit by Hurricane Harvey, members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community volunteered in various capacities, ranging from evacuating people from their homes, donating food and supplies to the shelters, distributing hot meals, repairing homes and keeping the door of our mosques open to anyone in need.

The Prophet Muhammad taught Muslims that “love for one’s country is part of the faith.” Therefore, one cannot be a true practicing Muslim if he or she does not have regards for one’s country and its citizens. Many Ahmadiyya Muslim youth members are working diligently in providing relief to the victims and working towards establishing a safe situation.

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These individuals are doing “jihad” — which basically means “struggle” — by stepping out of their comfort zone, sacrificing valuable family and work time and stepping in dangerous flooded zones. Individuals who have volunteered to be away from home have also made their families go through some sort of struggle. Therefore, in this situation, the blessings of true jihad derive from offering support in some way, whether by being active in the field or by supporting the ones who volunteer to be away.

Jihad is a very important concept in Islam because it determines one’s ability to sacrifice what one loves dearly and what one can give up for the happiness of others — all of which require “self-reformation” to some degree.

The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community — Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India — explained jihad in the following words: “The Holy Qur’an clearly forbids the use of force for the spread of the faith and directs its propagation through its inherent qualities and the good example of the Muslims.”

In addition, every year, the Ahmadi Muslims in the U.S. hold blood drives across America near Sept. 11 to commemorate the lives lost in 2001. The aim of holding a blood drive at this sensitive time is to show that Muslims want to save lives rather than take lives.

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These are just a few ways where Ahmadi Muslims are taking practical steps towards portraying the true face of Islam — by serving mankind, being in the forefront of disaster relief efforts and working tirelessly to manage and overcome crises. Through these practical strategic steps, Ahmadi Muslims are hoping to eliminate misconceptions about Islam, deliver the peaceful message of Islam and uphold their love and loyalty for their nation.

Khurshid is interfaith coordinator for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association in Austin

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