Theodore Roosevelt (on deeds-not-words, on *Jihad*)

* In the Islamophobic (and Islam-ignorant) West, we tend to have a hostile perspective on the Muslim concept of jihad, often translated as “holy war”; we think of burning towers, violent coercion and hate. I’m no Islamic scholar, but I think Roosevelt’s famed “Man in the Arena” speech, quoted partially below, is actually a pretty good description of the highest meaning of jihad, as I have come to understand it. I wrote about my efforts in understanding Islam here, plus two other posts that immediately followed. The particular discussion of jihad is in the second one. Roosevelt was talking, in gritty and athletic terms, about citizenship, and I’m fairly sure he wasn’t thinking of jihad at all! It fits, though, and here is part of what he said, the most often-quoted and beloved bit. I love this:

“It is not the critic who counts,…the man who points out how the strong man stumbles….The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood,… who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions,…so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt, from a speech titled “CITIZENSHIP IN A REPUBLIC”, given at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910. A fuller quotation of this part of the speech, along with my commentary about it,  can be found in an entry in the “On First Glance” section of, November 22, 2010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *