Mujahada (Striving)

According to people of the heart, mujahada (striving) means doing what is required by having been endowed with will-power. It includes struggling against the carnal self and seeking ways to defeat it, always preferring to fulfill the religious obligations without neglecting even the secondary ones, when they clash with carnal appetites; never being satisfied with one’s worshipping, acts of obedience to God and doing good, yet being content with what is absolutely required for worship and obedience by way of disciplining one’s eating, drinking, sleeping and speaking.

Those having a certain degree of knowledge of God have always dealt with striving in two categories: one, the major or greater striving (jihad) and the other, the minor or lesser one. The former means struggling against the carnal self and Satan and striving to have a sound belief and to be endowed with virtues or good morals, being able to worship God well, and struggling against evil morals, bad habits and tempers, while the latter denotes being alert against and, when necessary, fighting the enemy. People who serve people with knowledge and thoughts, by imbibing and internalizing belief, the truths of Islam and the morality of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and by representing them in their daily lives and conveying to others, encompass both kinds of striving, and therefore need to have the “endowment” necessary to fulfill both.

Brain Think Thoughts Psychology Conflict

Internal Conflict

In every work or article written on austerity, communication of the Divine messages, and physical or minor striving (jihad), the subject is discussed in the light of relevant verses such as Strive in God’s way in the way that striving for His sake requires (22:78). Here we are interested in major striving.

Major jihad, or striving, in the language of Sufism, denotes that in the face of the mean impulses of the carnal self, the whisperings of Satan, and the excessive desires and pressures of the body or corporeality, we should demonstrate that we are beings endowed with will-power. We should also try to show due respect for the heavenly faculty that we have as human beings, which is a composition of our inner senses, our consciousness, perception, and heart. Jihad in this meaning is the greatest of all strivings, and one who performs it is great and esteemed in God’s sight; such a person is favored with His company. It can be said that it is more difficult to rebel against the impulses and desires of the carnal self and to lead a life in worshipping and performing other acts of obedience to God in piety, sincerity and abstinence in order to obtain God’s approval and good pleasure, than to fight against the enemy under a shower of bombs and shells at the front. It is because of such difficulties that God’s Messenger told the soldiers returning from fighting, Now you have turned from the minor jihad to the major one.[1] It was in this way that he instructed his Companions in such a vital matter. On another occasion, saying, A true fighter is one who fights against his carnal self for God’s sake,[2] he taught that the major or greater jihad consists in the struggles against Satan and the impulses of the carnal self.

While the minor striving can occasionally be necessary or compulsory, a believer must continuously fulfill the major one. In addition, success in the minor striving depends on success in the major one. For this reason, everyone must purify their inner world, so that they may acquire harmony and accord in all their acts-sitting, rising, thinking, speaking, working, etc.-doing these for the sake of God. It is only by success in this striving that one can be supported by God’s Will, which is the real factor in making human endeavors on God’s way beneficial and fruitful.



For those whom belief has not guided to an appointed goal, who have not disciplined themselves with Islamic principles of spiritual training, who have not deepened in doing good consciously so that God sees them, who cannot lead a life of unwavering sincerity nor live in the consciousness of God’s constant supervision, it is not possible to be people of the truth; they cannot restore rights nor display coherent attitudes in social relations. Those imprisoned in the cycle of eating, drinking, and sleeping can neither keep their corporeality under control nor direct their spirits to lofty ideals for spiritual victories nor keep the doors of their consciousness open to God to be rewarded with His company. What is most impossible for them is to free themselves from hatred, rancor, and other malicious feelings in order to embrace all existence only because of God.

A perfect society can only be made up of perfect individuals, and an individual cannot be perfected without spiritual training. It is therefore useless to try to build a sound community with individuals who suffer from mental and spiritual shortcomings. The perfect individuals needed to compose a perfect community are shaped in the crucible of striving.

Such a striving is based on controlling carnal desires and impulses and on having an operative mechanism of conscience. A spiritual journey is the safest way of striving. Concerning what a mortal enemy the carnal self is, Hakim al-Busiri[3] says:

How many lethal delights there are that the carnal self presents to humankind as pleasant;
Almost no one has ever been able to perceive that it presents poison within the butter.

It would be appropriate to end this section with a poem by Hüda’i,[4] which is regarded as a bridge to the spiritual journey:

O carnal self! Give up your many mistakes and errors,
Relent and be just and fair from now on!
Abandon cherishing these long-term ambitions,
Relent and be just and fair from now on!

Why do you have these habits and innovations?
Why such fondness for fame and adornment?
Why expend so much effort that way?
Relent and be just and fair from now on!

One day the wind of death will blow,
To ruin the garden of the body;
So fulfill your obligations in sincerity;
Relent and be just and fair from now on!

Do not be obstinate, O Huda’i!
Submit yourself to Divine orders.
Come and mention the Master,
Relent and be just and fair from now on!

O God, we ask You for forgiveness, health, and Your approval, favors, friendship, and nearness to You. And let God’s blessings be on our master Muhammad, the master of those made near to You, and Your beloved one and Messenger, and on his family and Companions, who had great yearning to meet with You.

By M. Fethullah Gulen

[1] Hatib al-Baghdadi, Tarikh al-Baghdad, 13:523.
[2] Al-Tirmidhi, “Fada’il al-Jihad,” 2.
[3] Muhammad ibn Sa’id al-Busiri (1211-1295) was an Egyptian saintly scholar, calligrapher and poet. He has poems in which he expressed his deep love for the Messenger and his Companions.
[4] Hüda’i was the father of Shahidi Ibrahim Dede (see, footnote: 121). He was from Mughla in the western Turkey and lived in the 15th century. He belonged to the Mawlawi Order. (Trans.)

Leave a Reply