Examine the concept of Jihad in modern Islamic practice.  

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I had to pare down the original question, but I invite you to resubmit the other part as I think that it is a part of a valuable and needed discourse.  Putting aside just for a moment the conception of jihad as "holy war" and all that such images indicate, there is a scholarly line of logic that suggests the concept of jihad in modern Islam is one of "struggle."  This idea posits the notion that modern Islam's jihad is one in which the follower of the religion struggles to bring forth its intrinsic precepts in the modern setting.  Coming in large part from the Sufi tradition, this vision of jihad is one in which Allah is worshipped amidst the challenges of a modern setting that might seek to divert the individual from religious spirituality:  

"O you who believe! Choose not your fathers nor your brethren for protectors if they love disbelief over belief; whoever of you takes them for protectors, such are wrong-doers. Say: if your fathers, and your children, and your brethren, and your spouses, and your tribe, and the wealth you have acquired, and business for which you fear shrinkage, and houses you are pleased with are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His way: then wait till Allah brings His command to pass. Allah does not guide disobedient folk." 9:23-24

Quoting verses such as this from the Qur'an details the nature of jihad as a struggle.  In this light, the jihad is not a "holy war" or something of the sort.  Rather, it is a challenge issued to the follower of Islam to be able to recognize the clarity and power of Allah in a world besieged by individuals and forces that might divert individuals from accepting the word of Allah as the sole word that is to guide consciousness.  The concept of Jihad in modern Islamic practice is thus one in which the individual must struggle within their own conception of self to worship Allah in the most open and selfless of manners.  It is interesting to see jihad in this light, one that embraces the struggle to be more pious and to develop a stronger relationship between the individual and divine.  Such a notion is seen in the thinking of Catholicism.  Teresa of Avila says that "We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can- namely surrender our will and fulfill God's will in us."  Teresa of Avila's words speak to the idea of a struggle in which individuals fight daily, sometimes hourly, to recognize the spirit of God both within us and guiding us.  In this, Teresa of Avila speaks of the same idea as Jihad in modern Islam.  While Jihad has come to mean something more, its practice in the spiritual conception of modern Islam ends up revealing much more.

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