Nostalgic for Islam
Islam is Peace
|Subject: Islam is Peace Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:46 am|| |
Surely there has come to you from Allah a Light and a Clear Book. Wherewith Allah guides all those who seek His good pleasure to the ways of peace, and leads them out of darkness, by His Will, unto the light and guides them to a Path that is Straight. (Al-Ma’idah 5:15-16)
Allah calls to the Home of Peace and He guides whom He pleases to a Way that is straight. (Yunus 10:25)
Islam is the religion of peace. Its very name is derived from the word ‘salam’. Salam is not only the absence of violence and aggression but it also means total well being and happiness. It means literally ‘to be safe, secure, sound, wholesome, unharmed, unimpaired and intact’. From these meanings in the physical sense it has also acquired the metaphysical and moral meanings, namely, ‘to be blameless, faultless and perfect’. In the Qur’an, God is called Al-Salam i.e. the Perfect one (Surah 59:23). The state of salam is the state where every thing finds its fullness, glory and perfection. Hence the Qur’an calls Heaven as Dar al-Salam which is the abode of peace and perfection (10:25). The paths of righteousness and virtue that lead to God are also called subul al-salam (5:16) and the greeting of peace both in this world and in the Hereafter is Assalam ‘alaikum which is emphasized in Islam and is taught as a proper greeting for the believers. The Prophet -peace be upon him- said, “The best Islam is to give salam to every one, whether you know that person or not.” (al-Bukhari, Hadith no 11)
Islam is often translated as ‘submission’ or ‘surrender’. However, its full meaning is:
• to give oneself fully and completely to God,
• to enter into a covenant of peace with Him,
• to accept the path of wholesomeness and perfection which God made available for humanity through His prophets and messengers throughout history and finally through Prophet Muhammad.
Islam is the religion of salam. Salam does not mean ‘peace’ in the sense of being inactive, motionless or quiet. People use the word ‘peaceful night’ when it does not have the activities and noise of the day. People say ‘peaceful ocean’ when it has no waves. Similarly they call the cemeteries ‘the gardens of peace’ because every one is dead there and there is no sign of life. The word ‘salam’ does not mean ‘to be quiet’ or ‘to be motionless’ or ‘to become dead’. Salam is an active and dynamic involvement to keep and to restore the right order. Salam is both an individual quest for peace and harmony for one’s self and it includes the concern for the well being of all people regardless of their races, colors or genders.
There are three major components in the concept of peace (salam) in Islam. It is
1. Inner peace and harmony in the life of every individual
2. Social cohesion in the community
3. Treatment of tensions and conflicts.
1. Inner Peace and Harmony in the life of every individual
Islam pays much attention to the individual. It is the individuals who make the society. In order to have peace and harmony in the society and in the world at large, it is necessary that the individuals be developed in such a way that they fulfill this objective.
Islam teaches that the inner peace and harmony come through faith in God. Faith is to recognize God as the Creator of everything, Lord of every thing and Ruler of every thing. Faith is to know that this whole universe is moving according to the will of God and according to His command. The whole universe is in harmony with God. By submitting to God an individual lives in harmony within his/her self as well as with the entire creation of God.
The Qur’an says, “Do they seek other than the religion of Allah, when unto Him submit whosoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and unto Him they will be returned.” (Al ‘Imran 3: 83) Prayers five times a day, obligatory charity, fasting in the month of Ramadan and pilgrimage to Makkah once at least in one’s life (for those who can afford it physically and financially) are the principles that inspire and motivate a person and community and keep their relationship good with their Creator as well with His creation.
Peace comes when people take their actions seriously. Thus Islam teaches that human beings are responsible. Every person is responsible for what he or she does. Responsibility is first of all before God. Every person has direct access to God. There is no need for mediators or intercessors. The prophets only work as teachers and guides, similarly there is no priestly class who acts as intermediaries between God and the believers. No one should pass the blame onto some one else. “No bearer of the burden will bears the burden of another in the Hereafter,” says the Qur’an (6:164; 17:15; 35:18; 39:7; 53:38). It also says:
Not according to your desires, nor those of the People of the Book, whosoever works evil, will be requited accordingly. He will not find beside Allah any protector or helper. If any do deeds of righteousness, be they male or female, and have faith, they will enter heaven and not the least of injustice will be done to them. (4:123-124)
Islam recognizes that people have various impulses and needs. We have both spiritual as well as our physical impulses and needs. Harmony and balance between the two bring peace in the personality. The beautiful things of this life such as food, clothes, home, spouses, children, business, money are not evil, they are actually the gifts of God, but all these gifts should be used with care and in moderation. Moderation is the key for all moral and ethical principles and values of Islam.
Islam teaches individuals to be honest, truthful, patient, contented, charitable, cheerful and tolerant. It tells them to control their anger and to forgive when others do wrong to them. The Qur’an says:
Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a Garden whose width is that of the heavens and of the earth, prepared for the righteous. Those who spend in charity whether in prosperity or in adversity, who restrain anger and pardon people - for Allah loves those who do good. And those who, having done something to be ashamed of or wronged their own souls, earnestly bring Allah to mind, and ask forgiveness for their sins - and who can forgive sins except Allah? - and they are never obstinate in persisting knowingly in the wrong they have done... (3: 133-135)
The Qur’an describes the true servants of God:
The servants of the most Gracious are those who walk on the earth gently and when the ignorant address them they say, “Peace”, those who spend the night in adoration of their Lord prostrate and standing. Those who say, “Our Lord, avert from us the wrath of Hell, for its wrath is indeed an affliction grievous. Evil indeed is it as an abode and as a place to rest in. Those who when they spend, are not extravagant and not miserly, but hold a just balance between the two extremes. Those who invoke not with Allah any other god, nor slay such life as Allah has made sacred, except for just cause, nor commit fornication …. Those who witness no falsehood and if pass by futility they pass by it with honorable avoidance…. (25:63-72)
2. Social Cohesion in the Community
Islam is not only for individuals; it also emphasizes social cohesion and harmony. Its basic point is that one should not harm others. The Prophet -peace be upon him- said, “ A believer is one from whom people feel secure as regards their lives and property.” (Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith no. 2551) At another occasion he was reported to say, “By God, he is not a believer from whose nuisance his neighbor is not safe.” (Al-Bukhari, Hadith no. 5557).
Family is a strong unit both for the development of individuals and society. Morally and intellectually balanced child does not normally grow in a broken family. Similarly no civilization was ever constructed on broken family units. Islam urges the believers to pay special attention to their families. Peace in the family comes when spouses respect, love and care for each other. When sexual morality is observed, fornication, adultery and homosexuality are banned and a proper order of responsibility and authority in the family is maintained.
For social cohesion and harmony, Islam teaches that we must recognize all human beings as one family. “O people, be conscious of your Lord, who created you from one soul and from it created its mate and from them twain scattered many men and women. Be conscious of God and remember the rights of the wombs. Surely God is always watching you (4:1). People have rights: the right of life, property, justice, honor, religious freedom, and the right of living decent moral life. These rights are not mere conventions. They cannot be accepted and set aside at the whim and wishes of an individual, group or government. These are God-given rights and they must be observed under all circumstances. Shari’ah, the law of Islam explains these rights in full detail.
The law in Islam emphasizes justice and fair dealings with all people. Do not do injustice even to your enemies is the command of the Qur’an (5:2; 5:8) The believers have to be just and to maintain justice all the time. The Qur’an says:
O you who believe, stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing and let not the hatred of others to you make you to swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just, that is next to piety. Be conscious of Allah, for Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do (5:8 see also 4:135 and 6:152)
The opposite of justice in Islam is not injustice but oppression (zulm). Wherever justice is not done, it eventually turns into oppression. Allah does not allow oppression under any circumstances. The Qur’an says:
|Subject: Re: Islam is Peace Thu Jan 08, 2009 1:46 am|| |
Allah commands justice, the doing of good and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, evil and rebellion. He instructs you so that you may receive admonition. (16:90)
Justice requires fairness in economic dealings without cheating, exploitation, fraud, deception as well as coercive policies. Islam considers gambling and interest also a kind of fraud and exploitation and tells us that these evils do not only create poverty and inequality in the society, but they also breed hatred, animosity and violence.
Peace in the political system works through a representative government. All people should be equal under the law. People should have freedom to choose their own leaders and hold them accountable. The government must work with the consultation and consent of the governed. Islamic government is basically the government by the people and for the people under the broad moral principles and laws given by God.
While the Islamic law is based on justice, Islamic moral teachings emphasize benevolence, charity and kindness. Islam teaches that people in their dealings with each other should be more benevolent and charitable. The Qur’an says, “Be kind and Allah loves those who are kind.” (2:195). “The reward of an evil is an equal evil, but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah. Surely Allah loves not the wrongdoers.” (42:40) The Prophet -peace be upon him- said, “God fills the heart of him with faith and contentment who having the power to avenge himself exercises restraint and tolerance.” (Abu Da’ud, Hadith no. 4147)
3. Treatment of Tension and Conflicts
Tension and conflicts are natural in human society. No society has ever been completely free of tensions and conflicts. Tensions and conflicts existed within the members of the societies as well as in their relations with other societies. They cannot be totally eliminated, but they can be reduced and minimized. Islam emphasizes peaceful resolution of conflicts in every situation. The Qur’an says, “Reconciliation is the best.” (4:128) Peace and reconciliation should be established in the family to reduce the break up of families and wherever two parties quarrel or fight each other, it is the duty of the believers to make reconciliation among them.(49:9)
Tension and conflicts occur when people lose patience with each other. The Qur’an again and again teaches patience. God loves those who exercise patience. Jihad is a struggle that a person has to make continuously to establish good and to eradicate evil. This struggle begins with one’s own self and then towards the society. The purpose of Jihad is not to dominate others, or to coerce people to accept Islam, but it is to establish justice and to eliminate oppression.
It is wrong to translate the word Jihad as ‘holy war’ . Jihad means struggle for goodness, for peace and justice. Salam or peace according to Islam means that one should do one’s utmost to eliminate tension and conflicts. Islam accepts non-violence resistance. There is nothing un-Islamic in resisting evil non-violently. Actually one has to try and use all means to eliminate evil through peaceful means without the use of force as much as possible. In Islamic history from the time of the Prophet until now, Muslims most of the time resisted oppression and struggled for liberation in non-violent and peaceful manners. It was their enemies who imposed wars upon them. When it was not possible for them to work without taking arms then and then only they took arms.
Islam accepts the theory of just war. The just war is a war whose purpose and objectives are just. The war has to be when peaceful negotiations and all efforts of dialogue and negotiations fail. The war is to be waged only in self-defense against aggression and oppression. The Qur’an says, “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not do aggression, for Allah loves not the aggressors. …So if any one makes aggression against you, you may likewise aggress against him, and be conscious of Allah. Surely Allah loves those who are conscious of Him.” (2:190-194)
The war is allowed in Islam under the righteous leadership that understands God’s rules concerning inflicting harm upon or taking the life of another person. Those who do not know these rules have no right to proclaim a Jihad. It is the rule of war in Islam that non-combatants and civilians should not be harmed. The civilian targets such a homes, markets, places of worship, animal forms or agricultural lands should not be attacked. This condition alone is so stringent that one may wonder how the modern warfare can be permissible in Islam. One Muslim writer observes:
Modern war is a technological, nuclear, poison gas, germ war which is calculated to torture and annihilate the human race, to poison the healthy sources of life, including food and water, to maim the unborn child in the mother’s womb physically and psychologically, to abolish the frontiers between the combatants and noncombatants, and to wipe out the gracious fruits of man’s precious cultural heritage. It cannot obviously be carried on within the kind of conditions envisioned by Islam. (K. G. Saiyadain, World Religions and World Peace: The International Inter-Religious Symposium on Peace1968, p. 55)
This is a very important observation, but it does not mean that Islam teaches Muslims to be weak and be at the mercy of their enemies. Strength is necessary because often weakness invites attacks. However, Islam’s purpose is not war. It wants peace and it teaches its followers to accept peace if and when the enemy inclines to peace. Allah says in the Qur’an, “But if the enemy incline towards peace, do you also incline towards peace and trust in Allah…” (8:61)
It is obvious then that Jihad in Islam works also under the principle of Salam and its main objective must be to reduce tensions and conflicts. It should be used only as a surgical operation under extreme necessity and with full precautions. It must be carried out under the supervision of a competent religious authority and leadership. Its purpose is not aggression but the restoration of peace and justice and the elimination of oppression.
Terrorism against the innocent civilians is under no circumstances permissible in Islam. Islam encourages the oppressed people to struggle for their liberation and it commands other Muslims to help those who are oppressed and suffering, but Islam does not allow terrorism against the innocent people. Modern terrorism in the Middle East did not originate with Islam. Some Western scholars have observed that “the first modern act of political terrorism in the region was the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1947, which was carried out by Jewish terrorists led by Menachem Begin, then leader of Irgun. Following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Begin became a leader of the political opposition, and in 1977 he became the prime minister of Israel. In the 1960s and 1970s, Palestinian fida’iyin (guerrillas) launched dozens of horrendous acts of violence against innocent bystanders, all in the name of gaining recognition for Palestinian nationalism…. Significantly, the Palestinian perpetrators were inspired by a secular irredentist ideology, not by religion.” (Augustus Richard Norton, “Terrorism” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, vol. 4, p. 205) Terrorism in the name of Jihad or Islam is a rather recent phenomenon which began, perhaps, in 1980s, it is, however, not accepted by Muslims in general as a proper method of Jihad. The horrible terrorist crime of September 11, 2001 was universally condemned by all Muslims.
Islam wants to establish a world order where all human beings -Muslims and non-Muslims - can live with justice in peace, harmony and good will. It gives its followers full guidelines to find peace in their personal and social lives, but it also tells them how to extend the good will on the basis of human relations towards others. Muslims worked under these principles for centuries. People of many faiths lived with them and among them. Islamic societies were known for their tolerance, generosity and humanity.
This is a challenge that we have today in our modern society where non-Muslims are living with Muslims in the Muslim countries and Muslims are living with non-Muslims in countries where non-Muslims constitute a majority. It is our task to bring better understanding among ourselves, work for peace and justice for all people and cooperate with each other in matters of goodness and virtue in order to stop all terrorism, aggression and violence against the innocent people.
There are many challenges that we are facing at this time. We have tremendous possibilities to increase the good in this world and we have also plenty of means to do harm to others as well as to our own selves, and to destroy this world. It is time that we work together with care and with wisdom.
Selfishness, greed and lust for power and pleasure are taking over the whole globe. Societies and cultures are in disarray. People are loosing a sense of value, balance and equilibrium. There are many problems in the world today: There are spiritual problems, moral problems, social problems, economic problems, political problems, and national as well as international problems. Families are breaking down. Racism is at a rise and there is all kind of violence on all levels.
The people of religions should be in the forefront of the movement for a moral and spiritual reform of the world. Peace and justice for all people, human rights of all people, protection of families, protection of the environment, elimination of the weapons of mass destruction from the whole world should be our priorities.
We must give the message of hope to the world and its villages. Let us remind that we are all one people, one race (human race) regardless of our colors, ethnicity, languages or nationality. Let us remember that injustice to some is a threat to justice in every place. Let us remind that we must eradicate intolerance and injustice from our neighborhoods, towns, cities and countries. Let us remind to take care of the poor and needy. It is not right for some to have so much that they do not know what to do and for others in their own neighborhood to live in deprivation and starvation. Let us remind that globalization should not be domination of the weak by the powerful. Let us remind that there should not be double standards in political relations.
As religious people we should not misrepresent each other. We must wish for others what we wish for ourselves. We should encourage dialogue and cooperation rather than prejudices and confrontations. We should learn to live with our differences and we should also agree to disagree sometimes.
As religious people it is our responsibility to live in peace with others. Instead of talking about the clash of civilization, let us talk about building bridges between the civilizations. Let us preserve and develop peace, justice and tolerance in our families, in our neighborhoods, in the places of work, among the people we know and we do not know.
Islam is Peace