Spirituality as combat with the self
The reason spirituality is sometimes described as combat is because in the Qur’an itself and in the hadiths the term jihad is used.
According to a hadith narrated by the Prophet (s) (Al-Kafi, volume 4, page 5), military jihad is called minor jihad and struggling with the un-purified soul is called major jihad (jihad-ul-nafs).
There are many reasons why the second one is more difficult. The first challenge is that this jihad has no time limit. We need to be worried right up until the very last moment of our life because satan will certainly not give us any rest.
The second challenge with this jihad is that it has no limit in terms of space or place. It is against an enemy inside us and so we do not have any freedom from this jihad, even for a moment.
The third challenge is that, whereas we might be able to hide some secrets from an external enemy, in this jihad we do not have any secrets from our enemy because they know everything about us.
The fourth challenge is that in other types of jihad we know who our enemy is and so we never incline towards them whereas in this jihad we love our enemy since we love our soul and sometimes even worship it.
The fifth challenge is that whilst in the lesser jihad other people can help us, in the greater jihad each and every person has to do the work alone and no one can help them.
The sixth challenge is that this jihad starts from a very early age and so even a teenager has to be prepared for it.