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by Habeeba Husain

When looking up common misconceptions about Islam, “jihad” is most certainly on the list. The Arabic word jihad is often used as a substitute for “holy war” with images of breaking news broadcasts and capitalized red alerts coming into mind. Despite how widely this depiction of jihad has been propagated across the world thanks to extremist groups and the media’s obsession of covering such groups, your everyday Muslims will tell you time and time again that jihad is better defined as “struggle” or “striving” for the sake of God.

Just look at the bus campaign launched almost five years ago now in Chicago. The CAIR chapter in the Windy City fought hate and ignorance regarding jihad with some eye-opening and very relatable struggles plastered to the sides of buses. The movement continued online with the hashtag #MyJihad that people are still contributing to today, all with the hope of helping people see how everyday Muslims understand jihad.

A Muslim’s jihad could be to educate others about Islam, to fight evil through good actions, or something as simple as performing a random act of kindness for a stranger each day. Jihad can also be a teacher educating children or a single mom struggling to put food on the table—responsibilities that come with the territory, so to speak. Even a person stopping bullying or helping feed the poor falls under the umbrella of jihad. The possibilities are truly endless! What is beautiful about this more commonly practiced but seldom mentioned jihad is how a Muslim strives to achieve his or her goals for the sake of God. The things we strive for can be described as “the right thing to do” — and what else would God want from us other than to do good?

For me, my jihad is consistency. I may experience an “iman rush” (think: adrenalin rush, but a boost in your faith and spirituality) and feel really inspired and motivated to implement new habits of reading Quran and praying extra prayers. However, with just one day skipped, the good habit can depart from my routine as quickly as it came into it. So my jihad—my struggle, is consistency in good actions. It is easy to be holy for a day, but the real goal is to make that piety an indestructible way of life, which of course requires a bit more striving and sacrifice.

Remember, the next time you hear a person raging about jihad or misrepresenting it as a black and white “holy war,” know that most Muslims practice jihad in a much more subtle way. They strive to make themselves better people, make the world a better place, and make others’ lives a better existence all for the sake of God.