How do you define the word jihad? I’ll admit that the first thing I usually think of if I hear the word is a holy war. That’s how I often see jihad referred to when used by western media. Yet in Arabic, jihad, as a noun, translates to ‘struggle.’ A person who is involved in a jihad is referred to as a mujahid. The plural of mujahid is mujahideen. These are terms associated and used in reference to Al Qaida, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.
In the case of Saudi national, Mansour Al-Nogaidan, he equates the term jihad to extremism. In his article ‘Losing My Jihadism’ he acknowledges that at one time he was an extremist who clung to literal interpretations of the Quran and try to force them on others. In other words, he acknowledged that “he was a jihadist.”
Al-Nogaidan found that when he was 16 years old, he had doubts about the existence of God. Can you imagine such thoughts coming from a Muslim who was born in the country which hosts the two holy mosques of Islam? His doubts of God and Islam led him to join a hardline Salafi group where he abandoned his life and family. His actions took him beyond the worse of the muttawa (religious police) and even landed him in prison.
By the time he was 26 years of age, he states that he “saw the light,” made his own peace with God but then found that his own views of how Islam was practiced in Saudi Arabia changed dramatically. By 1999 he, himself, was working as an imam at a Mosque in Riyadh. He reached out wanting to expand his own views of the teachings of Islam and discovered some books which had a profound influence on him. Al-Nogaidan’s views on how Islam was practiced in Saudi Arabia prompted him to write an article on the subject. He was not greeted with open arms by expressing his views which were contradictory to the mainstream Saudi Islam. Ultimately he had to leave the mosque where he was the Imam.
I believe it could be said that Al-Nogaidan is still a jihadist except that he now has a new cause – Islamic Reform. Or perhaps it is the same jihad that has finally come full circle?
Although not answered in Al-Nogaidan’s article, what I would like to know is what made him, a Saudi Muslim, have doubts about the existence of God? Was it because of how he saw Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia? Was it because of the area from which he came – Buraidah – which has been known to have home-grown extremists (jihadis?) and is one of the most conservative towns in Nej’d? How many more Saudis may be out there like Al-Nogaidan was, confused and uncertain? Easily influenced…and all we can do is pray they take the right path.
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