Posts Tagged ‘muslim’

Mapping Jihad and Martyrdom: Contested Semantics and Narratives of Dissent

In 2012 on March 7, 2012 at 4:07 am

Mapping Jihad and Martyrdom: Contested Semantics and Narratives of Dissent, a lecture hosted by Dr. Asma Afsaruddin, showcased the meaning of jihad in modern day society. Dr. Afsarudduin pointed out that although people think the term jihad means holy war; that is not the case. Jihad actually is derived from an Arabic word that can be translated either as a “struggle” or an “effort” or it can mean “to strive”, “to exert”, or “to fight for”. Jihad is often misinterpreted as a militaristic term. Although jihad could be a military struggle, it can also refer to the internal struggle an individual has within his or herself. The term jihad is often misconstrued by modern society. Many think that jihad is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.


Dr. Afsaruddin pointed out that many scholars have had their own personal takes on the concept of jihad. Some have agreed that since jihad is not one of the Five Pillars, it is not obligatory for anyone. Other scholars argued the opposite, stating that jihad was an unspoken pillar that was compulsory. The last group believed that jihad was only necessary as a defensive mode. Dr. Afsaruddin focused on how the term jihad has developed from Prophet Muhammed’s time to the present day culture.

Attending the seminar, I learned some interesting facts about Islam that I did not know before. Dr. Afsaruddin spoke of the term shaheed,  which I always defined as a martyr. However, according to her statement, the Quran does not use that definition of shaheed to refer to a martyr. Instead, it emphasizes shaheed as one who bears witness. This was an interesting fact for me because I have always heard that the Quran offers all shaheeds a place in eternal heaven. However, according to Dr. Afsaruddin’s definition, shaheeds do not refer to what we think of as martyrs. The term does have other connotations.

Often in Western society, the concept of martyrdom in Islam is ridiculed. Turn to Fox News and one can hear the jokes about Islam’s 72 virgins. But then again, it is Fox News. This often troubles me because it shows how often the big concepts in Islam are grossly misunderstood. Whether it is ignorance, apathy, or just simple laziness, many people have these distorted perceptions of Islam. In Dr. Afsaruddin’s case, it is about the concept of jihad and martyrdom. Many individuals believe that the Quran promotes holy war and the killing of all non-believers. Plainly false, I believe that people need to just get out more and learn about the Islamic culture with an open mind. We are living in the 21st century and it is about time that we stop stereotyping and judging others based on religious differences.

Happy fishing.