These are profound words spoken from the great reformer Hassan al-Banna in response to the influx of brothers whom journeyed to Palestine in the 1940’s to be part of the response against the Zionist encroachment. In this light, he was specifically referring to the view that martyrdom in the battle field or through an arm struggle per se, as the epitome of human salvation, is a reductionist perspective in itself.
It perhaps could suggest that the biggest challenge that one face is not in the military expedition through the thick of wars and battles but yet subtly highlights that to live in the spirit of God towards the ways that derives His pleasure, light and love far presents a higher intensive challenge yet.
One would easily be reminded of a narration of the Prophet though scholars have classified this as weak yet the message is consistent with other similar narration - that of the "greater Jihad" more profound then involvement through military expeditions and that is the jihad against the self, the ego and one's indulgence.
This is so true when one considers of the numerous distractions and challenges that exist which effortlessly causes one to be less of the individual that is so desired by God and to lead a sojournhood that is close to the divine. Yet far too often perhaps running off towards the nearest "action" where the potential martyrdom (and I am using the term in the most loose manner) lay attainable might be a far too easy way out - in that respect.
Hence it is through this view that the true sense of jihad is manifested. Jihad in its essence which is to strive or to struggle cannot be narrowly classify as purely armed struggle but truly in its very essence reflect an overarching effort that conjoins one's time, wealth and effort towards a cause that brings about well-being to oneself and especially that surrounds oneself.
In the last few verses of Surah as Saff: " ... and that you strive in the Path of Allah with your wealth and your self, that will be better for you, if you but know." (61:11) reflects the factors of wealth and self as major contribution to the Path of Allah. On a side note, this proves that the jihad itself is not exclusively a mere philanthropic exercise restricted in alms giving alone or in merely volunteering one's time alone but requires both aspect in order of the fullest fulfillment of the term: jihad.
In today's context, with the countless maladies encountered by humanity in general and especially reflecting on the message of the Prophet (saw) viz: "And we have sent you (Muhammad) not but as a mercy for the a'lamin (mankind, and all that exists)." (21:107) hence global issues such as: poverty, climate crisis, human injustice, oppression and countless others falls categorically under the need of a jihad.
Hence, the garnering of efforts and contributions along with solutions to be discuss and actualize into those areas of need is paramount in the spirit of this jihad. To remove permanently whatever residual thoughts of an arm resistance or struggle - a disclaimer here is crucial that the solution does not ,in any way or form, come even close in destruction or bloodshed.
"Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching. And argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious ... And if you punish, let your punishment be proportional to the wrong that has been done to you. But if you show patience, that is indeed the best course. Be patient, for your patience is from God. And do not grieve over them, or distress yourself because of their plots. For God is with those who restrain themselves, and those who do good." (16:125-128)
"Goodness and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune. " (41:34-35)
The concept of jihad has perhaps through Western media created a certain impression in minds of many Muslims and non-Muslims of maniacal bearded Islamist with the Qur'an in one hand and an AK-47 in the other. So much so that in today's reality - the term is jihad itself has become a big hush hush and potentially I am trudging in very soft and malleable ground in that respect. Yet this apologetic view by Muslims no less creates an even far detrimental effect on the whole understanding of the term jihad as largely a mechanism of positive social change or reform.
As citizens of this Earth, Muslims by default - base on their religious obligation has a duty to make positive change to it. Therefore, it is with the jihadic factor that has been so often misunderstood stand its best opportunity in realizing this point.