Every Muslim has to struggle hard and strive for the sake of God in different ways to make improvements to human life in general and his individual life in particular. The Qur’an says:
He has created you upon the Earth and has asked you to develop it (11:61).
To be indifferent to human catastrophes or to be lazy in one’s personal life is greatly condemned. On the contrary, the one who works hard to earn some money to spend on his family and improve their living conditions is considered as a hero in the struggle for the sake of God, a mujāhid. A very outstanding and vital case of this struggle (jihād) is to defend human rights such as liberty, freedom, and Islamic and human values such as justice, dignity, and a Muslim nation’s integrity. The Qur’an says:
Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully and offensively waged, and surely God is able to give them victory. Those who have been expelled from their homes unjustly, only because they said, “Our Lord is God…” (22:39- 40).
And why do you not fight for the sake of God and the utterly oppressed men, women, and children who are crying out, “O Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors, and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help” (4:75).
Of course, jihād also includes more personal cases in which one’s family, property or reputation is endangered, usurped or damaged. According to Islamic traditions, one who is killed while defending his family or land achieves the same position as the soldier who is martyred in the warfront.
Jihād must continue until the just cause is achieved. The Qur’an says: “Fight against aggressors until oppression is stopped” (2:193). Of course, on a larger scale, a real jihād has always existed from the dawn of creation of mankind, between good and evil, truth and falsehood, and between the party of God and the party of Satan. This battle will more or less continue till the end of the time when the earth will be filled with justice under the government of al-Mahdi.
Jihād, whether it be with the pen, the tongue, a weapon, or any other means is an act of worship, and must be performed with pure intention, that is, only for the sake of God and for just causes. No one is allowed to fight or struggle for materialistic purposes, for personal glory or the glory of any tribe, race, nation, or any other oppressive cause such as occupying others’ land to become richer or more powerful. Indeed, jihād first of all starts within the inner self of a mujāhid (one who struggles). To make sure that one can win the external battle against evil, one has to fight first against his own lower desires and lusts, liberate his own heart from any satanic occupation, and regain the dignity and honour that God the Almighty has given human beings. The Qur’an says:
O the soul at peace, return to your Lord, well-pleased (with Him), well-pleasing (Him). So enter among My true servants and enter into My Paradise! (89:27-30)
According to a well-known tradition, once, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) said to a group of his companions who had won a battle: “Well-done! Welcome to those people who have completed the minor jihād (al- jihād al-asghar) and on whom the major jihād (al-jihād al-akbar) is still incumbent.” Astonished, the companions who had defeated their enemies and were prepared to give up the dearest thing to them, i.e. their life to defend Islam asked, “What is the major jihād?” The Prophet Muhammad replied: “The major jihād is to fight against your own selves [or your souls]”. 1 Thus, to resist one’s temptations, and restrain one’s soul from evil, and to purify one’s self is the greatest and the most difficult jihād.
In conclusion let us refer to some of the merits of those who struggle for the sake of God as explained by God Himself:
Those who believe, and have left their homes and strive hard with their wealth and their lives in God’s way, are much higher in rank with God. These are they who are triumphant. Their Lord gives them good tidings of mercy from Him, and acceptance, and Gardens where enduring pleasures will be theirs. There they will abide forever. Surely with God there is a Mighty reward (9:20-22).
1 Al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 12, no 3 and Al-Amali by al-Saduq, Session 71, p. 377, no 8. For an elaborate account of the subject, see Combat with the Self by Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Hurr al-‘Amili, translated by Nazmina Virjee (London: ICAS, 2003).
Discovering Shi’i Islam Mohammad Ali Shomali 9th Edition