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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.

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! 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.

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