Jihad-Struggle With One’s Nafs-JIHAD AL-NAFS [FIGHTING THE EGO]

Jihad (English pronunciation: /dʒɪˈhɑːd/; Arabic: جهاد‎ ǧihād [dʒiˈhæːd]), an Islamic term, is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates as a noun meaning “struggle”.The word jihad appears in 23 Quranic verses.Jihad means “to struggle in the way of Allah”. Jihad appears 41 times in the Quran and frequently in the idiomatic expression “striving in the way of God (al-jihad fi sabil Allah)”There are two commonly accepted meanings of jihad: an inner spiritual struggle and an outer physical struggle.The “greater jihad” is the inner struggle by a believer to fulfill his religious duties.The “lesser jihad” is the physical struggle against the enemies of Islam.In Modern Standard Arabic, jihad is one of the correct terms for a struggle for any cause, violent or not, religious or secular (though كفاح kifāḥ is also used) It can simply mean striving to live a moral and virtuous life, spreading and defending Islam as well as fighting injustice and oppression, among other things.Muslim scholar Mahmoud Ayoub states that “The goal of true jihad is to attain a harmony between islam (submission), iman (faith), and ihsan (righteous living).The forces of ‘Jihad’ come from fundamentalist ethnic groups who want to protect their traditions, heritage and identity from modernization and universalized markets.When it refers to the military aspect, it is understood primarily as defensive warfare.

Muslim jurists explained there are four kinds of jihad fi sabilillah (struggle in the cause of God):

  • Jihad of the heart (jihad bil qalb/nafs) is concerned with combatting the devil and in the attempt to escape his persuasion to evil. This type of Jihad was regarded as the greater jihad (al-jihad al-akbar).
  • Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan) is concerned with speaking the truth and spreading the word of Islam with one’s tongue.
  • Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad) refers to choosing to do what is right and to combat injustice and what is wrong with action.
  • Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif) refers to qital fi sabilillah (armed fighting in the way of God, or holy war), the most common usage by Salafi Muslims and offshoots of theMuslim Brotherhood.

Some contemporary Islamists have succeeded in replacing the greater jihad, the fight against desires, with the lesser jihad, the holy war to establish, defend and extend the Islamic state.


The Sufic view classifies “Jihad” into two parts: the “Greater Jihad” and the “Lesser Jihad”. Muhammad{sws} put the emphasis on the “Greater Jihad” by saying, “Holy is the warrior who is at war with himself”. In this sense external wars and strife are seen as but a satanic counterfeit of the true “jihad”, which can only be fought and won within. There is no salvation for man without his own efforts being added to the work of self-refinement.


The Training of the Ego (Riyadat an-nafs) and The Practice of the Saints (Sirat al-awliya’), in which are found, with ALLAH’s permission, cures for all who aspire to knowledge in this matter.

Those that seek ALLLAH’s Grace by worshipping Him, fulfilling His commands and avoiding His prohibitions, then turning to perform as many voluntary good works as they can, seeking through them salvation from the fire and attainment of the rewards He has prepared for His workers.


For whoever seeks ALLAH{Swt} Most High, must take pains and ask for sincerity in the secret of his heart until the door is opened for him. When the door opens and the gift is given, at that time the cost of his journey will be repaid in full. He will be strengthened and continue on his way, and the further he goes the more his gift is increased for him and he continues even further. This does not stop until he reaches ALLAH{Swt} through his heart (hatta yasil ilallah qalban). At that time ALLAH{Swt} appoints him according to his degree and he becomes a Friend of ALLAH{Swt} ( waliyyullah). He has made his heart stand still in the presence of ALLAH{Swt} wherefore he received his appointment. From that point he proceeds to works with a heart strong with ALLAH{Swt}’s strength and rich with ALLAH{Swt}’s wealth, with a faultless ego free from sins and devils. He has parted ways with vain passions and the pursuit of honor and he has purified himself.


"Greater Jihad" , "Holy is the warrior who is at war with himself"
“Greater Jihad” , “Holy is the warrior who is at war with himself”


"Greater Jihad" , "Holy is the warrior who is at war with himself"
“Greater Jihad” , “Holy is the warrior who is at war with himself”


"Greater Jihad" , "Holy is the warrior who is at war with himself"
“Greater Jihad” , “Holy is the warrior who is at war with himself”




Translated from his book ‘Aadaab al -muridin’ [Rules of Conduct for the Seekers of ALLAH{Swt}] Ed. Abdulfattah Abdullah Baraka, Cairo: Matba`at as-sa`adat, 1976.