A black and white image of an old punch card machine with a punched card in it.

Holy war? Or just war? Or self-improvement?

Jihad is commonly, and incorrectly, translated as holy war. It has a much broader meaning. Even in the context of conflict, jihad is probably better translated as just war – the religious constraints on when and how war is to be waged are also moral and ethical constraints.

Even so, the conflict-related jihad is explicitly considered the lesser jihad.

The greater jihad is the struggle to confront the sin, or moral failures, within each of us. Jihad is the daily effort to seek justice and to improve our own characters.1

And that’s the point. The point of jihad is peace and justice and self-improvement.

The challenge is that different folks have different ideas about what justice is. And justice is tricky and some people are wrong.

This is fundamentally an issue of multiple perspectives.

It’s obvious to me, for example, that terrorists are not furthering the cause of justice.

  1. I’m not Muslim. I’m an atheist.