Spiritual jihad as an emerging psychological concept: Connections with religious/spiritual struggles, virtues, and perceived growth

Seyma N. Saritoprak, Julie J. Exline, Hisham Abu-Raiya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Religious/spiritual struggles, defined as conflict or tension around religious and spiritual beliefs, practices, or experiences, have been associated with both distress and perceived growth. One type of struggle that may promote growth is spiritual jihad, which has been described extensively in Islamic literature. Although some people may associate the term jihad with violent acts, the term actually refers more broadly to struggle or hardship. Drawing from earlier Islamic writings, we frame spiritual jihad as a mindset that Muslims may adopt when coping with religious/spiritual struggles, particularly those of a moral nature. In spiritual jihad, the struggle focuses on a conflict between higher and lower parts of the self, with ultimate aims involving making good choices, behaving morally, and drawing closer to God. A closer investigation of the Qur'an and the hadith suggest that a mindset of spiritual jihad could encourage pursuit of virtues such as patience, forgiveness, gratitude, self-control, and positive action. Although empirical research is in the early stages, the concept of spiritual jihad has potentially valuable implications for researchers and clinicians interested in Islamic psychology. Our aim here is to build on earlier articles that have focused more narrowly on measurement by providing a theological and psychological framework for the conceptualization of spiritual jihad. Specifically, we will discuss spiritual jihad from the perspective of Islamic theology, examine links with psychological concepts such as religious/spiritual struggles and perceived growth, and briefly describe preliminary empirical evidence related to the construct.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Muslim Mental Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2020


  • Growth
  • Islam
  • Muslims
  • Religious/spiritual struggles
  • Spiritual jihad

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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