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Developing a theology of peace in Islam - iii
By Asghar Ali Engineer
|Islam either spread through Sufi saints
who were good examplars of Islamic morality rather than the rulers who
were any way seen as tyrants. It was sufi saints who were carriers of real
message of Islam and peace by keeping their distance from the power
centres. Also, many people adopted Islam simply because it was religion of
the rulers and had many advantages. Also, once a prominent member of the
community or a tribal chief adopted Islam other members of the community
or tribe followed. Thus it is not borne out even empirically that Islam
spread through violence. There is even the instance of the Umayyad caliphs
stopping conversion to Islam as their treasury was getting depleted as the
converts stopped giving jizyah.
ISLAM AND PEACE
The Qur’an, as pointed out above, tried to spread higher morality of
which peace was the most important component. In fact the word Islam
itself is derived from the root s-l-m which is the root letters for peace.
Islam means establishing peace as well as surrendering to the Will of
Allah. One of Allah’s name is Salam i.e. peace. Many Muslims are named
as Abdus Salam i.e. servant of peace which also means servant of Allah as
Allah is peace.
In Qur’an there are repeated references to the concept of peace.
Significantly the Qur’an calls upon Muslims, “O you who believe, enter
into complete peace and follow not the footsteps of the devil. Surely he
is your open enemy.” (2:208) Entering into complete peace here means
entering into peace whole-heartedly. It would also imply surrendering to
Allah whole-heartedly. Acceptance of violence as the other part of the
verse says is like following in the footsteps of devil. Violence is devil
and devil is violence.
In the verse 2:131 Allah says submit and reply is given I submit myself to
my Rabb of the worlds. Now rabb in Arabic means one who is sustainer or
one who takes us step by step from one stage of perfection to another
stage of perfection. Thus submitting to Allah, or accepting His authority
means dedicating oneself to the cause of peace so that this universe
reaches perfection. Perfection is possible only if there is peace, not
otherwise. In fact violence destroys all the achievements of culture and
civilisation. Since Allah is Rabb i.e. the Sustainer and Perfecter, he
ordains peace and those who surrender to His Will have to work for peace
so that perfection could be reached.
We find in the Qur’an (14:23) “And those who believe and do good are
made to enter Gardens, wherein flow rivers, abiding by their Lord’s
permission. Their greeting therein is Peace!”. Thus it will be observed
that jannah (Garden) is so as there is peace therein. Thus the main
quality of jannah for which all Muslims aspire is peace. This world can
become like jannah only if there is peace in the world. For entering the
jannah Allah says, “ Enter it (i.e. jannah) in peace and security.”
(15:46) Thus peace and security are the main attributes of paradise.
Muslims invoke peace for all Allah’s messengers because they brought the
message of peace for entire humanity. Thus Muslims always write peace be
upon him after the name of the Prophet, in fact all prophets of Allah. All
Messengers of Allah are messengers of peace as Allah Himself, as pointed
out above, is Peace. Again in the verse 56:25-26 we read "They hear
therein (i.e. Paradise) no vain or sinful talk but only the saying, Peace!
Thus peace is so vital for converting this world into paradise. Its
opposite i.e. violence is sin. Sin is nothing if not selfish behaviour. We
have converted this earth into a violent place because of our
interest-oriented behaviour. The harmony of interests is possible only in
need based economy. Clash of interests result from greed-based economy.
Our world today is full of violence as we clash with each other for our
greed. Islam wanted to establish peace on this earth and hence it
emphasised need-based economy and condemned accumulation of wealth,
circulation of wealth among the rich. The chapter 104 clearly says that
obsession with wealth results in fire kindled by Allah.
Same thing happens if we are obsessed with power. Thus this earth can
enjoy peace only if some people are not obsessed with wealth and power.
Islam laid equal emphasis on justice (Allah’s name is also Just ‘Adil
along with Peace, Salam). Thus justice and peace go together. There cannot
be peace without justice. Today there is no peace on earth as there is no
justice. We are living in a violent world because we live in an unjust
world. The Muslim world is also full of injustices and hence of violence.
Islam did its best to emphasise justice and peace but a section of
Muslims, particularly Muslim rulers remained obsessed with wealth and
power and perpetrated injustices and violence. Thus the blame for violence
lay on the doors of some Muslims not on Islam. As far as Islam is
concerned justice and peace are integral parts of its teachings.
Moreover for millions of Muslims Islam is a deep spiritual experience.
They pray, fast, perform Hajj and all other spiritual practices and feel
deeply satisfied. They pray for peace. Such Muslims are in overwhelming
majority. They have nothing to do with politics, violence or use of Islam
for ones interests. It is these Muslims who seek deep spiritual fulfilment
who matter and not the few who use or misuse it for political purposes.
For millions of Muslims Islam, like any other religion, is a great source
of inner peace.
Some countries like America bomb countries in the name of democracy and
human rights. Some Muslims commit acts of violence and terror in the name
of Islam. Is there any difference between the two? How does it matter if
the people are killed in the name of democracy and freedom or in the name
of Islam? We must try to learn between ideals and their misuse by some
vested interests or frustrated people. q
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