The world wants Muslims to distance themselves from jihad. To legitimize our claims of being a peaceful religion, to be more authentic in our self-moderation. Something like that, anyway. And yet, how can I distance myself from jihad when I declare jihad every single day?
I declare jihad when I decide to smile at someone I make eye contact with despite being in a terrible mood. I declare jihad when I leave an extra tip, or fish out change for a man on the street. I declare jihad when I join my friends in protests against injustice. Sometimes I declare jihad just by studying what I study. I declare jihad by reminding myself, in the worst of times, that God is always with me. I declare jihad when I peel myself out of bed on days where my anxiety is an ugly black ingot crushing my ribcage. And the scariest part? I’m declaring jihad right now by writing this out.
So please do not expect Muslims to separate themselves from jihad. Your intentions may be good, but they are misguided. Give us the courtesy of nuance and educate yourself on what jihad actually means. Empower us with your own honest-to-goodness understanding of Islam. Reclamation is part of jihad; so help us reclaim our Struggle, in all its truth, and take the power of setting a mainstream narrative back from those that misrepresent us – “avowedly Muslim” or otherwise.