Jihad” is “misunderstood” spiritual struggle, Muslim scholar tells Oprah

If jihad is simply a spiritual struggle, then why is there an entire chapter of the Qur’an entitled “Booty” or “The Spoils of War” (al-Anfal). What spoils ensue from a spiritual struggle? If jihad is simply a spiritual struggle, how is a Muslim supposed to make Jews and Christians “pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” (Qur’an 9:29) spiritually? If jihad is simply a spiritual struggle, why are there thousands upon thousands of Muslims worldwide who have joined violent jihad groups? Why are there any violent jihad groups at all? Why is this misunderstanding of jihad so widespread?

Speaking during a segment on Oprah Winfrey’s controversial “Belief” series, an Islamic scholar claimed that jihad is one of the most misunderstood and misused concepts of the religion.

Varun Soni, the dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California, spoke about Islam in the introductory video for the “Belief” segment, which aired on OWN last week, according to the Christian Post.

While “jihad” is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty,” the scholar asserted that such an explanation of the word is actually far from accurate.

“One of the most misunderstood concepts of Islam is ‘jihad’, which many people interpret as ‘a holy war,’” Soni contended.

“But there is nothing holy about war,” he argued. “What ‘jihad’ actually represents is an internal struggle, the battle that is raging in our own heart. And all of our religious traditions talk about that internal struggle. In that respect, jihad is not just a Muslim idea but it’s a reality of the human condition.”

Oprah’s seven-part series explored religious and spiritual belief around the world, and was shot at 33 different locations worldwide, taking over three years to complete. Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, with 1.5 billion followers worldwide. The media giant reportedly reached out to 100 faith leaders from Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Sikhism for an advanced screening of the series before it premiered.

“Muslims see themselves as coming to god with great humility,” Soni said in explaining his religion. “For Muslims, submitting to god creates a radical sense of equality. The most sacred text for Muslims is the Quran, which most Muslims believe is the direct word of god, as revealed to the prophet Muhammad.