The universal struggle: Where it might begin and where it might end

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Sukuni relates on the authority of Abu Abd Allah al-Sadiq (A), verily upon seeing the returning armies from the battlefront, the prophet (sa) of God said: “Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad, and have yet to perform the major one. When asked, “What is the major jihad,” the prophet answered, “the jihad of the self.” [1]

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Many writers have written on the two jihads, mostly on a personal and intimate level of individual journey through this life in preparation for the Day of Judgment. It is important that we understand that the individual journey is part of a larger universal struggle that explains to us our collective duty to God, our neighbors, and self. These two stages of struggle also explain to us the meaning of Islamic revolution and government, and why for many Muslims, these two objectives are paramount in respect to purpose. One is to overthrow the forces of darkness, and the other to create and sustain a peaceful environment that is conducive to man’s contemplative, and introspective struggle to fulfill our potential and to become ready for the final Day of Judgment. The other battle is against our own selves.

These two jihads as the primary aspects of the lives of prophets, who are the exemplars for the human beings who desire righteousness, are a very pronounced theme in the Holy Scriptures. As we examine their lives, we see that first they overcame the external forces that attempted to stand between man and God, to enslave and humiliate the children of Adam, and even more importantly, to usurp the authority of the righteous as the legitimate worldly authority over God’s creation. Once the external evil was vanquished, these men’s missions did not end. Instead, their missions were transformed into personal examples of the struggle against the self in quests to overcome the internal challenges to pure faith. This is not a discussion on the perfection and/or the infallibility of prophets. Rather it is intended as a discussion about how they taught us to fight these battles.

Perhaps the most profound example of this is witnessed in the life of prophet Moses (sa). Moses was raised in the court of Pharaoh, yet he became a shepherd and then a revolutionary, who stood against the wrongfully gained power, and the corruption and tyranny that Pharaoh and his henchmen represented. After many trials, Moses defeated this Pharaoh, and the freed slaves of Egypt followed Moses into the desert. It was not until the external evil was destroyed, that these freed men and women along with the prophet Moses began their spiritual journey. Both the Bible and Qur’an go into great detail about the spiritual challenges that the Hebrews, and other people faced as they made their journey through the wilderness. They were tested by idolatry, fear, and other maladies of the soul that included ingratitude, greed, and jealousy, and other spiritual diseases. Another aspect of the journey was the delivery of the law to Moses, keeping in mind that this law, the Ten Commandments was not delivered only to the Hebrews who were part of the great exodus from Egypt, but to all of those who had followed Moses out of Egypt. This group likely included many different people who had all suffered under the tyranny of Pharaoh, including some Egyptians, and other tribes. More important than the fact that they had all suffered under the tyranny of the Pharaoh, was the fact that they all, to some degree had believed in Moses, and the God of Moses, and put their faith in that God to lead them to a new life. The Bible, in Exodus 14: 29-31, says, “Thus on that day God saved the people from the hand of Pharaoh, and the people got to see Pharaoh dead on the seashore. The people got to see the great hand that God put in action against Pharaoh, and the people began to fear God, and put faith in God, and in Moses, his servant.” Later, in its description of the song that the people sang in celebration of their newly found freedom, there is evidence that they had not at that point become monotheist, but as we learn later, they do make that transition but only after many struggles, mistakes, and disappointments. In their celebration song, according to Exodus15: 11, they said, “Who among the gods is like you oh God?” Later, when God arranged the meeting with Moses at Mount Sinai, God told Moses to go to the people and tell them “I am your God who has brought you out of Egypt, and out of the house of slaves. You must not have any other gods.” This was the first law given to those who followed the prophet Moses, and with the revelation of this law, the larger battle began. In respect to Islamic revolution it is seen as a first step in the preparation for the establishment of Shariah, or Muslim law, which begins the greater jihad, or struggle for the Muslims in such a state who must then struggle to voluntarily conform to God’s laws, with no compulsion or coercion, as did the Hebrews and others who followed Moses, as well as the first community of Muslims who followed the prophet Muhammad (sa).

Understanding these two phenomenon in this way helps us to understand that those who suggest that in order to confront the evils of our time with any hope of victory, or to rid the world of poverty and disease, etc., that we must be perfect people, or that we must be pure, might be wrong. It might explain also why people are hesitant to take on the forces of evil, imaging that this is the duty of angels, or prophets only. Whereas the Holy Scriptures seem to make it pretty clear that a pious and believing leadership is required to guide our efforts, it also seems to suggest what is most important, is that those who long for freedom, and victory over the forces of evil must be obedient and loyal to our righteous leaders, and follow them faithfully. “Oh you who believe, obey the prophet, and those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His prophet if you do believe in God and the last day.” (Holy Qur’an 4:59)

The Qur’an says, “There are men who say, “Oh Lord give us thy bounties in this world,” but they will have no portion of the hereafter. There are men who say, “Our Lord give us they bounties in this world and good in the hereafter, and defend us from the torment of the fire.” To these will be allotted what they have earned, and God is quick in account,” (Holy Qur’an 2:200-201). These verses seem to imply that mankind can achieve good things in this world simply through belief in God and prayer, yet still not attain salvation, and the bounties of paradise. This could be a reference to the smaller jihad, where mankind achieves successes relevant to this life, yet unless we undertake the greater jihad, wherein we struggle the imperfect nature, we might not have success on the Day of Judgment. The Qur’an’s placement of the worldly as a first stage seems also to support the idea that the external jihad is always a precursor to the internal jihad. Note that the verse says that there are those who “pray” meaning they are believers, but they are only concerned with this world, and have forgotten to understand that they must prepare, and struggle for the hereafter also.

Many people complain of feeling a force of evil and darkness pushing us all towards mutual annihilation. Some people believe that they felt this same dark force pushing in Bosnia. Several years ago, several ministers and other religious clerics and people of faith, spoke and wrote about the increasing momentum of this dark force and its seeming focus on the US, then we witnessed the success of that dark force on 9/11, and again in the subsequent US attack on Iraq. Later we felt its push again in the Israeli attacks on the West Bank and Gaza that resulted in the Jenin massacre and that set the stage for what we see in Palestine today, the harsh suffering and daily killings taking place as the secular nationalist Arabs are working in league with others to bring down a democratically elected government of believers. We witnessed this evil in Algeria, and in Rwanda, and the Philippines, Chechnya and other parts of the world that have been subjected to chaotic wars, all aimed to some extent towards Muslims, except in the Rwanda situation. This same veil force was the energy behind the massacres in Haditha, and the torture at Abu Ghuraib, and Guantanamo. No one, except the most naïve person would imagine that all of this chaos is the result of mistake after mistake in either US, or any other country’s foreign or military policy, or any other policy for that matter. Policies are written to support a plan, and what we are not asking is who is writing the plan, and to what end? More importantly, why is it that no one seems inspired with a workable counter plan, and why is there no one to explain to us where we should begin in our struggle to defeat these dark forces, and when and where that struggle should end, if it should ever, or would ever end. Maybe the answers to such questions are found in the truth that all that we are seeking has been provided. Maybe the answers are only available to those who are willing to break the chains of pride, ignorance, racism and other types of supremacism, and exclusivism, and who have broken the chains of superstition and fear, and who are free to seek the truth, and to be guided.

We should begin at the beginning. Does anyone know why religious groups have over the years worked tirelessly to prevent the scientific theory that says man’s origin is from apes and sea creatures, from overtaking the Biblical creation story? Many people have attributed this ongoing struggle to a power struggle between the Church and state, others characterize it is a power struggle between science and religion. Few, if any of us ever assume that people of faith have fought to preserve the creation story, and to make it available to every living human creature for an important and selfless reason. They have struggled to make it accessible, even to those who do not read religious literature, or visit houses of worship or join religious denominations, since within this story; we find the beginning of the universal human struggle, its reason, and its cause. It is within this story, which is much more than a mere story, that God has caused to be written the origin of the dark forces, their intentions, plans and methodology. If we loose the creation story, we will loose the story not only of man’s physical origin as a creature brought into being by a single all powerful entity that we call “God,” but we will also loose the information needed to understand why we were created, and why the dark force has moved to enslave and/or to destroy us, the progeny of Adam, the inheritors of the stewardship of God’s creation, and to establish himself as a single world authority acting in opposition to God, and as the enemy of man.

Along with fighting to completely discredit the creation story, certain people in our world have also fought tirelessly to prevent this story from escaping the limitations of religious institutions, and organized religion where such literature and information has been stigmatized as either superstition or mysticism, and rendered either suspect, or pure fantasy in comparison to what most people wrongly believe is cold hard science, better known as evolution theory. In other instances, members of the various sects and religious denominations have corrupted and polluted the story, hoping to claim ownership of the story and its meaning, in attempts to build memberships, and to collect wealth. They are among the dark forces, yet may not be aware that the impulses for power and riches that have overwhelmed their impulse to do right and good is the effect of that force on the human psyche. The dark forces have also fought to prevent the creation story from being intellectualized, thereby preventing non-religious people who might be educated professionals, academicians and scientists from hearing and transmitting the story in a commonly spoken, or scientific and understood colloquial language that can find its way into non religious institutions of learning and influence where it might inform and empower influential people, young people, and future generations.

Some of the most important lessons of the creation story are those that convey to us who we are, the reason for our existence, and to where we must turn and reach in order to attain the truth, so we can be the benefactors of its attributes, and to sustain the effects of these accoutrements once attained. It also explains to us in glaring detail, who the master of the dark forces is, and why he has undertaken a drive for domination of the world, and the humiliation and enslavement of mankind, even though God has assured us that the dark force will never succeed at its grand scheme, and Satan is aware that his fate has been set by God’s judgment that will not change.

It is impossible for anyone to list the various significant portions of the story quickly. All one can do is to guide, and to warn and also to suggest that God revealed more than one book in which the story is contained, and true seekers should not let denominational supremacism, prejudices and/or stereotypes prevent them from seeking to access the story in any book where it might be found. It is easy enough to notice distinctions, and to research thoroughly any conflicts in sentiment that might impact the overall meaning of the story, and its unifying tendencies.

Along with the creation story another source of guidance in our struggle is the final chapter of the Bible, known as Revelations, which is not an Armageddon story, or story of man’s anticipated destruction, but rather it is a story that reveals the truth about the dark forces, their methods, crimes, and judgment, and most importantly, it explains to its inquirers the meaning of “Last days” as it relates to the end of the battle for human survival against the external forces, and the beginning of the battle for salvation against the imperfect nature of the human being. It is the culmination of the smaller struggle that brings universal, or outer peace, in juxtaposition to the larger internal struggle that will lead to man’s salvation and re-entry into the garden, and reunion with our Creator better known as the millennium. How many of us have sensed that peace is a requirement for some stage in our journey, yet could never understand how it might be achieved on a global level, or even imagine that it is possible, and will come. After reading Revelations of the Bible, the Qur’an is the next stage. It reviews and validates what we have seen of previous scripture pertaining to the first battle between Satan and his forces and man, and all subsequent battles, then it opens a new conversation between God and man wherein we are introduced to the larger battle for true peace, the major jihad that is, in its essence a struggle to perfect the human nature, and to understand and to reach the meaning of Tawheed (ONE GOD), no longer in fear of death, or poverty, or anything other than HIM.

Note:

[1]. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, vol.2, 336, cited in Forty Hadith of Imam Ruhullah Al-Khomeni, an Exposition of Ethical and Mystical Tradition, Islamic Propagation Organization, (Tehran) 1989.

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