The Major Jihad: Struggling Against Ourselves During Ramadan

Written by: Abbas Muntaqim [Originally published here]

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem. Ramadan is a month in which we celebrate the revelation of the Holy Quran from Allah SWT to Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). It is a month of fasting, increased prayer, and increasing our taqwa (God consciousness) amongst many more spiritual elevations. Through Ramadan, and the spiritual discipline it requires, we attempt to remove any darkness that may be covering our heart, and purify it, so that we live in a way that Allah SWT intends us to live.

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may observe self-restraint (al-Taqwa).

Quran, 2:183

Ramadan requires restraint. Whether it be restraint from food, water, sexual pleasure between husband and wife during fasting hours, a heavy exercise routine, anger and backbiting (which we should always do), among many more actions and worldly creations, we abstain to bring ourselves closer to our Creator. And it is through restraint that we become more conscious of the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon us, which is something we all can take for granted.

On the first day of breaking my fast, I became aware of how beautiful the sound of cracking open a water bottle is; how blessed I am to be able to not only afford to buy a water bottle, but to have access to clean water. We can become so caught up in our day to day that we forget the beauty of some of the “smallest” blessings. And after a long day of fasting, the sound of the seal breaking off the water bottle was almost melodic.

That’s the beauty of Ramadan: it slows us down and makes us aware of each moment throughout the day. It makes us think about humanity, because I am fasting just like millions of Muslims around the world are, too.

Ramadan requires all Muslims who have the ability to fast, to fast. This puts Muslims (regardless of class status) in the same rank, as Allah intended, so that we can be mindful of Him. Through God consciousness, we become more aware of the blessings Allah has bestowed upon us.

One experience I love about Ramadan, is about how good water and dates taste after hours of fasting. After a couple of dates and a few sips of water, you don’t even feel like you fasted the whole day. Yet at the same time, I know that there are other Muslims who don’t even have a date or clean water to break their fast with. And the temporary hunger that I feel while fasting is something that many Muslims feel every single day outside of Ramadan, because of socio-economic conditions produced by capitalist-imperialism. And if I truly love being able to break my fast with dates and water, it is something that I should want for the whole Ummah.

Anas ibn Malik reported: “The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “None of you will have faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”” (Bukhari, Muslim)

If I truly have faith, I can’t solely have the desire for the whole ummah to have dates, water, and access to sustenance year around. If I truly have faith: I will work to organize to end the conditions that don’t allow Muslims to break their fast in the way our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did. I will work to end the conditions that deny Muslims their God given right to food. I will work to end the conditions of capitalist-imperialism, which plagues humanity as a whole!

Thus, it’s incumbent upon me to develop the spiritual discipline to wage such struggle. Because by no means will it be easy to deal with the system of capitalism and imperialism that has turned God given rights into commodities.

And if I intend to struggle against capitalism and imperialism, I too must struggle against myself. How can we claim to struggle against capitalism, when we don’t struggle against the ways capitalism has warped and indoctrinated our mind into believing it? Because struggling against an oppressor without doing the internal work will always have its shortcomings. So the question must be asked: how can we expect to struggle against capitalist-imperialism if we can’t struggle against ourselves?

Imam Ja’far al‑Sadiq said: “The Prophet of God dispatched a contingent of the army (to the battlefront). Upon their (successful) return, he said: ‘Blessed are those who have performed the minor jihad and have yet to perform the major jihad.’ When asked, ‘What is the major jihad?’ the Prophet replied: ‘The jihad of the self (struggle against self)’”. (Bihar al-Anwar)

Ramadan is a reminder of the internal jihad I must wage to become the best Muslim I can be. It’s about ridding myself of any evil within my soul, so that I can elevate my spiritual state of being, which informs my day to day actions. Because ultimately if we aren’t struggling against ourselves and becoming the best people we can be, then after the minor jihad, our souls will still be lost. Our ways of living will still be lost! What good is a revolution if after said revolution the morals and philosophies of the old order still exist?

“…By the soul and (by) Him who made it perfect, and then inspired it to understand what is wrong and what is right for it. Truly is successful the one who purifies (his soul).

Qur’an 91:7–9

Ultimately I am responsible for my soul. And if I don’t have the discipline to look at my own soul and make the necessary changes I need, how can I expect to truly practice Islam? How can I claim to want to be a revolutionary and end the domination of amerikkkan capitalist-imperialism if I am afraid to discipline and struggle against myself? As Jamil Al-Amin famously said: “everybody can fight but everybody can’t win.” And if I want to win, in this life, and inshAllah in the next, I will make the necessary preparations to deal and combat my own shortcomings. It is through the disciplining and purification of soul, that the blessings of the major jihad come into fruition, which then helps us become successful in the minor jihad.

“The greatest jihad (struggle/striving) is to battle your own soul, to fight the evil within yourself.”

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

I wanted to write this short reflection on Ramadan, in hopes that it may provide some insight. I am no scholar, just a Muslim reflecting. If you take anything good from this reflection, it’s all due to Allah SWT. If something isn’t received well, it’s my own shortcomings.

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People's Programs is an Oakland-based, Black-socialist organization dedicated to the liberation of ALL Afrikan people through scientific socialism. We are guided by the practices and theories of Revolutionary Nationalists and Pan-Africanists, and we are aiming to do our part in the unification and liberation of Afrikans across the diaspora.