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Islam and world peace today
By Syed shahabuddin
Muslims all over the world claim that their religion Islam is synonymous with peace. This claim is not easily acceptable to the non-Muslims because whatever their justification and motivation, Muslims have engaged in wars against the non-Muslims and among themselves almost from the very inception.
At peace with God and Creation:
Muslims pray at Delhi’s Jama Masjid
The subject, therefore, needs to be studied indepth both in theory through the Holy Qur'an and the Traditions of the Holy Prophet as well as in practice, in the light of the historic events of the last 1400 years.
A perusal of the Holy Qur'an and the Traditions make it absolutely clear that Islam permits the use of force for the cause of Allah in specified circumstances. The cause must therefore, be a just cause: to eliminate anarchy and lawlessness and restore peace, to defend the community against aggression, to aid and assist those who have an agreement with the Muslim community when subjected to persecution or aggression. Use of force is also permissible when an agreement is broken and when the party which breaks the agreement blocks all avenues of peaceful resolution. Islam at the same time preaches forbearance and forgiveness, friendly relations with individuals and among peoples. Islam also prescribes that force applied in retaliation must be in measured doses, commensurate with the situation and, therefore, prohibits massacres or even spoliation of the environment. In war, it prohibits the killing of old men and women and children who are generally non-combatants, the destruction of religious places and their keepers and functionaries even the burning of crops or cutting of trees. In this way Islam anticipates the modern laws of war and peace. Islam is not committed to the philosophical position of absolute non-violence. But there is one stipulation in the Qur'an against the taking of innocent life which must always be kept in view by those fighting 'in the cause of Allah'. The Qur'an says that taking of one innocent life is equivalent to the killing of whole mankind. The Qur'an also envisages a multi-religious world because had Allah so desired, all mankind would follow one common religion. The Qur'an respects free will and prohibits coercion in matters of faith. Free Will guide, each individual to choose a path for his spiritual growth, which has what religion is all about.
As is a universal religion and the repository of the last Message of Allah to mankind, Islam can co-exist with plurality and multiplicity in freedom because Islam never defines superiority in terms of any factor which divides mankind but in terms of Taqwa - the pursuit of virtue. The essence of Islam is monotheism. Belief in one God, who has created and sustains the universe and who guides and controls the destiny of mankind leads immediately to the concept of unity of mankind, free from vassalage in all its forms and manifestations, endowed with equal rights over the resources of the earth and intelligence to explore and exploit them to Man's benefit. Today the political structure of the world consists of nation-states, well defined by borders. They are the players in the international arena. They make war and peace and sometimes live in a situation which is neither war nor peace. War is no longer limited to land but extends to air and to the sea. Neither it is limited to armies and combatants facing each other but targets the enemy formations and supporting bases with long distance aircraft and missiles. Neither it is limited to the conventional weapons and there are nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction. Mankind today has the capacity to destroy itself with weapons of mass destruction many times over. In this sense modern warfare is indeed un-Islamic because it produces inevitably collateral damages including loss of innocent life and long-term degradation to the environment.
Today, Inter-State disputes arise out of territorial claims as in the past. In theory at least the international political order no longer recognizes the right of conquest or of forcible occupation or annexation against the will of the inhabitants. Disputes arise on account of alleged violation of bilateral and multi-lateral agreements, understanding and commitments. They are also caused by economic competition among the nation-states and exploitation of non-renewable natural resources, which are not uniformally distributed over land or sea, by more powerful nation-states on unequitable terms unfavourable to the states which own them. Of late, new factors relating to the resources of the sea and the air have entered the arena. Modern political ideologies emphasize Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights. Persistent and systematic denial of freedom and democracy and massive violation of Human Rights may lead to international intervention. Sometimes the question of human rights within a nation-state has been seized upon by a hostile state, for justifying unilateral intervention. Lately, international terrorism has been adopted by UN as a universal cause. The point is not whether economic exploitation or political repression and violation of human rights or denial of freedom and democracy can be remitted by war but that these factors may lead armed conflict among nations becomes possible, sometimes serving as an excuse or an alibi. This issue in conflict is often projected as a 'just cause'. The social demography of the world shows many diversities apart from geography and Man has remembrance of the things past, which makes history. The Muslim may believe that Islamization of the world is the final guarantee of world peace but history informs us of the Muslim community engaging in battles within decades of the demise of the Holy Prophet. It also tells of Muslim States, kingdoms, Sultanates, Imamates, Sheikhdoms fighting each other, once the overall umbrella of the Caliphate had been shattered by the onslaught of the Mongols in the 13th Century. Similarly the Christian world and the Hindu world has also been grappling with internal and inter-state conflicts. It can not, therefore, be accepted, and this applies to all religions, that a common religion of all mankind will guarantee world peace, as other factors which lead to conflicts of interest, territorial, economic, ideological and ethnic, will continue to operate. The same applies to race, language or culture. A peaceful world, therefore, cannot be envisaged in terms of the pre-eminence or dominance of one religion, one language or one race or one culture but only in terms of universal acceptance of the ideal of peaceful co-existence of a multi-religious, multi-racial, multi-cultural world, engaged in friendly cooperation for advancing the frontiers of knowledge and exploiting the renewable and non-renewable resources of the earth to the common benefit of all mankind. The nation-states are already bound by the growing network of international law and international governmental organizations. The international order is slowly and steadily moving towards a World Government. A World Government will eliminate many factors which lead to war among nation-states.
From the Islamic point of view a World Government is the final destination of mankind as an approximation to the sovereignty of God on earth and, if organized democratically, it may enthrone Man, without distinction of race, language, culture, nationality and even religion, as Khalifatul Allah fil ard i.e. God's Vice-regent on earth. A World Government will guarantee freedom of religion and of conscience to all members of the human race. It will provide for the minimum needs of all human beings so that they can walk on this earth with dignity. It shall give equal and unrestricted access to knowledge, to science and technology and free goods of trade, commerce and of culture to all parts of the world. It will provide for free flow of skills, experience and expertise of the human race as well as development capital across the world. It will protect the natural environment which knows no borders, from degradation and pollution and destruction. It shall extend relief to man against the recurrent cycle of natural disasters with all resources of mankind put together. Above all world governance will abolish armies, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, missile and anti-missile systems, because mankind under a world government will need just a police force to keep peace and maintain law and order and divert the resources so saved to the progress and development of mankind.q
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