FOLLOW US

FacebookYoutubeLinkedin

CALENDAR OF EVENTS

August 2018
S M T W T F S
29 30 31 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1

Speeches

A. Sajid: Peace in Islam: Reflections on Original Sources

Delivered at conference on “God and World Peace: An Exploration of the Significance of God for a World in Crisis,” December 26-29, 2002


To appreciate how Islam approaches the question of peace, one has only to consider a few elementary facts about Islam. Peace and Islam are derived from the same root and may be considered synonymous. One of God’s names is Peace. The concluding words of the daily prayers of every Muslim are words of peace. The greeting of Muslims when they return to God is peace. The daily salutations among the Muslims are expressions of peace. The adjective “Muslim” means, in a sense, peaceful. Heaven in Islam is the abode of peace. This is how fundamental and dominant the theme of peace is in Islam. These values cannot fail to make our world a better world, to regain human dignity, to achieve equality, to enjoy universal brotherhood, and to build a lasting peace.

The theme of peace and justice is very important and also very timely. As we know, science has shown great scope for the betterment of the world, offering apparently unlimited hope for human progress. Now mankind finds itself on the threshold of a new era. With technological progress we are able to find a new world of prosperity—a new and better world. But at the same time we see violence and intolerance everywhere in the world. This unhappy state of affairs seems to nullify all our scientific progress. I think that religion has a great role to play in this matter.

What is religion? Religion is simply a discipline of peace, an ideology of peace. Someone has very aptly remarked that religion is peace and peace is religion. Without peace there is no religion. And also, without religion there is no peace.

Peace and Human Dignity

I will give an example from Islamic history. One day, in Medina, the Prophet of Islam noticed a funeral procession passing along the street. The Prophet stood up in deference. A companion of the Prophet remarked at this: “O Prophet, you know it was the funeral of a Jew, that is a non-Muslim.” The Prophet replied: “(alaisat nafsan) Was he not a human being?” It shows that in the Prophet’s vision everyone was a human being. The Prophet saw everyone on an equal plane. Thus, according to Islam, everyone deserves equal respect. Everyone is a creature of God. One can say therefore that according to this brief description, the formula for peace according to Islam is mutual coexistence.

The root word of Islam is silm. Silm in Arabic means peace. One of God’s names is Salam, and Salam means peace. The Qur’an mentions itself as barakah. The Prophet of Islam is described as Rahamah. And barakah and rahamah are only other names for peace. That is, peace is basic to Islam. Islamic living is living in peace. All the teachings of Islam are oriented towards peace. Now the question arises as to why this misunderstanding exists. The answer is simple. People see that a number of Muslims are engaged in violence around the world in the name of Islam. It is this practice on the part of certain Muslims that is responsible for the confusion and misunderstanding. But I would emphasize that you must differentiate between Muslims and Islam. Islam is an ideal. Islam is an ideology, while Muslims are only those groups of people who claim to be followers of Islam. But Muslims have to be judged by Islam, and not vice versa.To explain this point I would like to give a parallel example of democracy. There is democracy as a political ideology. And there are people who claim to have adopted the democratic system. If anyone wants to know what democracy is, he will study authentic literature on democracy. He will not confuse democracy as an ideal with democracy as practiced by a certain group of people. The same course has to be followed when studying Islam. Islam and Muslims have to be seen as distinct entities. Muslims have to be seen in the light of Islam and not vice versa.

Anyone who studies Islam from its direct sources will be convinced that Islam is a religion of peace in the complete sense of the word. If you go through the Qur’an, you will find that most verses of the Qur’an, directly or indirectly, express the spirit of peace. For instance, there is a verse in the Qur’an: “And God calls to the home of peace” (10:25). This means that the destination of Islam is peace.

All the teachings of Islam are oriented toward the goal of peace. Many verses that deal with the objects and events of the universe as signs of nature. These Qur’anic verses project the universe as a model of peace and harmony. For example, there is a verse in the Qur’an that reads, the “sun and moon have no right to change their orbit” (36: 40), and this is true also of all the planets and stars. There are innumerable astronomical bodies in space. All are in motion, but all follow their own orbits without the slightest deviation. The Qur’an presents this universal phenomenon as a model for peaceful behavior. Holding up this phenomenon as an ideal, the Qur’an asks us to follow the same course of peace, that is, to move in one’s own orbit and not trespass on that of others (3:83). Thus peaceful living is the religion for both man and the universe.

There is an interesting story in American history. When America gained its freedom, an American went out to celebrate. Walking along the road, he started waving his hands about enthusiastically and happened to hit the nose of a passerby. The passerby asked: “What’s this nonsense? Why did you hit my nose?” The man replied, “Today America is free. I am free to walk as I wish. I am exercising my freedom.” The passerby replied, “Your freedom ends where my nose begins.”

There is nothing particularly American about this formula. It is, in fact, a formula of nature. As Islam is a religion of nature, it is also an Islamic formula. According to this, everyone should work in his own sphere without trespassing upon another’s domain. And if all people were to act like this, the outcome would no doubt be peace and harmony.

Peaceful Beginning in Islam

When the Qur’an began to be revealed, the first verse of the revelation conveyed the injunction: “Read!” (Iqra!) (96:1). By perusing this verse we learn about the initiation of Islamic action. It begins from the point where there is hope of continuing the movement along peaceful lines, and not from that point where there are chances of its being marred by violence.

When the command of Iqra! was revealed, there were many options available in Mecca as starting points for a movement. For instance, one possible starting point was to launch a movement to purify the Kabah of the 360 idols installed in it. But, by pursuing such a course the Islamic movement would certainly have had to face a violent reaction from the Quraysh. An alternative starting point could have been an attempt to secure a seat in the Dar-al Nadwa (Mecca’s parliament). At that time almost the whole of Arabia was under the direct or indirect influence of the Roman and Sasanid Empires. If the freeing of Arabia from this influence had been made the starting point, this would also have been met with an immediate violent reaction on the part of the Quraysh.

Leaving aside these options, the path followed was that of reading the Qur’an, an activity that could be with certainty continued along peaceful lines: no violent reaction would ensue from engaging in such an activity.

The Prophet of Islam followed this principle throughout his life. His policy was that of adopting nonviolent methods in preference to violent methods. It is this policy, which was referred to by Aishah, the Prophet’s wife, in these words: Whenever the Prophet had to opt for one of two ways, he almost always opted for the easier one (Fathul Bari 6/654).



What are the advantages of nonviolent activism over violent activism? They are briefly stated as under:

1.  According to the Qur’an there are two faculties in every human being that are mutually antipathetic. One is the ego, and the other is the conscience called respectively nafs ammara and nafs lawwama. (Qur’an, 12:53; 75:26) What the violent method invariably does is awaken the ego, which necessarily results in a breakdown of social equilibrium. On the other hand, nonviolent activism awakens the conscience. From this results an awakening in people of introspection and self-appraisal. And according to the Qur’an, the miraculous outcome of this is that “he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend” (41:34).

2.  A great advantage of the nonviolent method is that, by following it, no part of one’s time is wasted. The opportunities available in any given situation may then be exploited to the fullest extent—as happened after the no-war pact of Hudaybiya. This peace treaty enabled the energies of the believers to be utilized in peaceful constructive activities instead of being dissipated in a futile armed encounter. One great harm done by violent activism is the breaking of social traditions in the launching of militant movements. Conversely, the great benefit that accrues from nonviolent activism is that it can be initiated and prolonged with no damage to tradition.

Generally speaking, attempts to improve or replace existing systems by violent activism are counterproductive. One coup d’état is often the signal for a series of coups and countercoups, none of which benefit the common man. The truly desirable revolution is that which permits gradual and beneficial changes. And this can be achieved only on the basis of nonviolence.

Success Through the Nonviolent Method in Islam

All the great successes of the first phase of Islam as well as the succeeding periods were achieved by nonviolent methods. Listed below are some examples of these successes. Of the twenty-three-year period of Prophethood, the initial thirteen years were spent by the Prophet in Mecca. The Prophet fully adopted the way of pacifism, or nonviolence, during this time. Many such issues in Mecca at that time could have been the subject of clash and confrontation. But, sedulously avoiding all such issues, the Prophet of Islam strictly limited his sphere to peaceful propagation of the word of God. This resulted in dawah work being performed in full force throughout this period. One of the great gains during these thirteen years of dawah work was the entry into the Islamic fold of men of the highest moral caliber who were responsible for forming the history of Islam, for instance, Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman and Ali, etc.

1.  In Mecca, when the Quraysh leaders were set to wage war against the Prophet, even then, instead of opting for the way of reaction and retaliation, what the Prophet did was to secretly migrate to Medina. Migration by its very nature was a clear example of nonviolent activism. This peaceful strategy enabled the Prophet and his followers, about two hundred in number, to form a powerful center of Islam in Medina. Had they adopted the path of confrontation instead of peaceful migration, the history of Islam might have been buried right there in Mecca shortly after its inception.

2.  After the emigration, his antagonists took the unilateral decision to wage war against him. Consequently, such bloody encounters as those of Badr and Uhud took place. Then the Prophet made a ten-year peace treaty known in history as Sulh al Hudaybiya, by accepting all the conditions of his opponents. This has been called a “clear victory” in the Qur’an. It is this peace treaty, paving the way for peaceful constructive activities, which ultimately made possible the conquest of Mecca and the whole of Arabia.

3.  By the end of the pious caliphate, a bloody encounter took place between the Banu Hashim and the Banu Umayya. This stopped the advance of Islam for a period of ten years. What set this process in motion once again was the voluntary withdrawal of Hasan ibn Ali (d. 50 A.H.) from the battlefield. This was undeniably a practical form of nonviolent activism. This peaceful move on the part of Hasan ibn Ali reopened to Islam the locked doors of progress.

4.  During the last days of the Abbasid caliphate, Mongol tribes attacked the Muslim world and right from Samarkand to Aleppo destroyed the entire Muslim world. The history of Islam had apparently come to a standstill. At that moment the spirit of dawah work was born within the Muslims. As a result, the majority of the Mongols converted to Islam. And that miracle took place, which has been described by an orientalist in these words: “The religion of Muslims has conquered where their arms had failed.”

5.  Islamic history took a crucial turn when, in the years succeeding the pious caliphate, rot had set in the system of government and the caliphate had turned into monarchy. At that juncture many factors emerged that would result in clash and confrontation between ruler and ruled. But, following the guidance of the Prophet, the Muslims totally avoided a political confrontation. This history, beginning with the Umayyad caliphate, continued for several centuries. This was possible because the tabieen (companions of the Prophet’s companions) and their succeeding generations, consisting of traditionalists, jurists, ulema, Sufis, and other great religious scholars, all scrupulously avoided any clash or confrontation with the rulers.

It was during this period that peaceful dawah work was started in various countries, and the disciplines of Hadith, fiqh, and other Islamic sciences came into existence on a large scale after a long period of great ideological struggle. All the precious books that adorn our libraries, all the classical literature of Islam, are the result of these peaceful activities.

For instance, the Hadith as a source of shariah is second only to the Qur’an in Islam. These traditions now exist in the form of printed books. These books are so precious that, without them, it would not have been possible to develop Islam into a complete system as it exists today. During the Umayyads and Abbasids, when the political system had begun to deteriorate, where were these tens of thousands of traditions? All of them existed in the memory of the religious scholars, whose names are mentioned in the books as chains in the link of authorities who have handed this legacy down to us. Had they adopted the principle of violent activism and clashed with the “oppressive” rulers, they would all have been slaughtered by them and the entire legacy of traditions, instead of finding a place on the pages of books, would have been buried along with them in the graveyards. It is by the miracle of having adopted nonviolence instead of violence that the precious sources of our traditions have survived in book form and, still today, adorn our libraries.

Furthermore, even in the case of the offensive being launched by an opposing group, the believers are not supposed to retaliate immediately. Rather, in the beginning, all efforts are to be made to avert war, and only when avoidance has become impossible is battle to be resorted to inevitably in defense.

According to the Qur’an there was one form of war that was timebound strictly in relation to its purpose. This was to put an end to fitna: “Fight against them until fitna is no more” (2:193). In this verse fitna signifies that coercive system that had reached the extremes of religious persecution. In ancient times this coercive political system prevailed all over the world. This absolutism had closed all the doors of progress, both spiritual and material. At that time God commanded the believers to break this coercive system in order to usher in freedom, so that all doors of spiritual and material progress might be opened to man.

This mission was undertaken and brought to a successful conclusion at the internal level within Arabia during the life of the Prophet. Later, during the pious caliphate, the Sasanid and Byzantine Empires were dismantled with special divine succor. Consequently, intellectual oppression at the international level was replaced by intellectual freedom.

In this connection, those traditions are worth noting that are enshrined in Sahih al Bukhari. When, after the fourth caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib, political conflict ensued between Abdullah ibn Zubayr and the Umayyads, Abdullah ibn Umar, the seniormost companion of the Prophet, held himself aloof from the battle. People approached him and, quoting the verse of qitale-fitna, asked him why he was not joining in the battle. Abdullah ibn Umar replied that fitna as mentioned in the Qur’an did not refer to political infighting, but rather to the religious coercive system they had already put to an end (Fathul Bari, 8/60). From this we learn that the war against fitna was a war of limited duration, meant to be engaged in only until its specific purpose had been served.

Invoking the Qur’anic exhortation to do battle against fitna in order to validate acts of war that had quite other aims was improper. This verse could be cited only if the same state of affairs as existed at the time of its revelation were to prevail once again.
The biographers of the Prophet of Islam have put the number of ghazwa (battles) at more than eighty. This gives the impression that the Prophet of Islam in his twenty-three-year prophetic career waged about four battles a year. But this impression is entirely baseless. The truth is that the Prophet of Islam in his entire prophetic life engaged in war only on three occasions. All the other incidents described as ghazwa were in actual fact examples of avoidance of war and not instances of involvement in battle.

For instance, in the books of seerah, the incident of Al Ahzab is called a ghazwa (battle), whereas the truth is that on this occasion the armed tribes of Arabia, twelve thousand in number, reached the borders of Medina with all intentions of waging war, but the Prophet and his companions dug a deep trench between them, thus successfully preventing a battle from taking place. The same is the case with all the other incidents called ghazwa. The opponents of the Prophet repeatedly tried to get him embroiled in war, but on all such occasions he managed to resort to some such strategy to avert the war, thus defusing the situation.

There were only three instances of Muslims really entering the field of battle—Badr, Uhud, and Hunayn. But the events tell us that on all these occasions, war had become inevitable, so that the Prophet was compelled to counter the aggressors in self-defense. Furthermore, these battles lasted for only half a day, each beginning from noon and ending with the setting of the sun. Thus it would be proper to say that the Prophet in his entire life span had actively engaged in war for a total of a day and a half. That is to say, the Prophet had observed the principle of nonviolence throughout his twenty-three-year prophetic career, except for one and a half days.

In the Islamic method, based totally on the principle of nonviolence, it is unlawful for believers to initiate hostilities. Except in cases where self-defense has become inevitable, the Qur’an in no circumstances gives permission for violence.

The Modern Age and Nonviolence

The greatest problem facing Islam today is, as I see it, that Muslims have almost totally forgotten the Sunnah (Prophet’s way) of nonviolence. In latter times, when the Ottoman and Moghul Empires disintegrated and problems like those besetting Palestine had to be confronted by the faithful, Muslims all over the world fell prey to a negative reaction on a colossal scale; they failed to remember that the policy of Islam is not that of violence but of nonviolence. It is the result of this deviation that, despite almost a hundred years of bloody wars, Muslims have achieved no positive gain. They have lost rather whatever they already had.

According to Imam Malik, later generations of this ummah (Muslim community) settled matters at issue in the same way that earlier generations had done, i.e., by using nonviolent methods. Similarly, Muslims of modern times must likewise resort only to nonviolent methods. Just as no gain could accrue from violent methods earlier, no gain can accrue from violent methods today.

The state of affairs of Muslims in modern times resembles that which prevailed at the time of Hudaybiya. Today once again—only on a far larger scale—this hamiyat aljahiliya prejudice prevailing in pre-Islamic Arabia (48:28) is being displayed by the other party. In the first phase of Islam its solution lay in Muslims sedulously avoiding an equivalent display of prejudice and in holding firmly kalema at-taqwa they became entitled to the succor of God and were granted a clear victory (48:26).

At the time of the Hudaybiya peace treaty, the Quraysh, who had secured the leadership of Arabia, were bent on waging war. The Kabah was in their possession. They had expelled the Prophet and his companions from their hometown. They had taken possession of Muslims’ homes and other properties, and spared no effort in disseminating negative propaganda against Islam. Given this state of affairs, there were only two options before the believers. One was to attempt to put an end to tyranny and launch an outright war on the other party in the name of securing their rights. The result of such a move would certainly have been further loss in terms of lives and property. The second option was to remain patient in the face of immediate loss, be it political or material, and, in spite of the losses, avail of whatever opportunities were already available. The Prophet of Islam and his companions chose this second course. The result was that in just a few years’ time the entire history of Arabia was altered for the better by an Islamic revolution.

The same state of affairs is widespread in modern times. Although today Muslims have suffered great losses, political and material, at the hands of other nations, there still exist a great number of opportunities only for self-betterment and for dawah work on a far larger scale. If availed of wisely, we can rewrite the history of Islam in magnificent terms. Technological advances that have been made possible by the scientific revolution have in turn provided Islam with an improved means of propagating Islam, namely modern communications. By making use of the media, those engaged in dawah work can spread the word of God much farther and much faster than ever before. According to a Hadith, a time was to come when God’s word would enter all the homes in the world. (Musnad, Ahmad). This was indirectly a prediction of the advent of our modern age of communications.

In ancient times the study of religion could be done only as something sacred and as a matter of dogma. That is why established and unestablished religions had not, academically, been distinguished from one another. In modern times, thanks to the influence of the scientific revolution, the study of religions can be done as objectively and as critically as any other matter, which comes under scientific scrutiny. Such critical study has proved, purely academically, that historically there is only one reliable religion, and that is Islam. All other religions are lacking in this historical credibility. Prior to this, the dayees of Islam could resort only to traditional arguments in support of their faith, but it has become possible to measure up Islamic realities by the highest standards of human knowledge and to establish its authenticity by purely logical arguments. Indeed, in latter times, the sciences themselves have borne out the divine truths of Islam.

Yet despite these modern developments, our own times are constantly regarded as being fraught with problems for Islam. Muslims, lacking in understanding and awareness, forget that the modern age has never ceased to be the age of Islam. They fail to appreciate that Islam’s potential remains undiminished, and that it is for believers to convert that potential into an immediate reality. They should take into account the fact that, in the wake of the scientific revolution, which is itself the direct outcome of the Islamic revolution, it has become possible to begin a serious and beneficial dialogue between Islam and non-Islam, the result of which will necessarily be in favor of Islam. Now, this being so, the need of the hour is for Muslims to put an end unilaterally to all violent activities against madu (addressee) nations, so that a normal, amicable relationship may be allowed to grow between dayee and madu.

A Great Opportunity for Muslims

1.  Since direct arguments cannot be applied to religious beliefs pertaining to the unseen world, these can be supported only by indirect or inferential argument. Educated people had therefore come to believe that religious realities belonged only to the domain of dogma and that they were not academic or scientific realities. But after the breaking up of the atom, the science of logic has undergone a change, and it has been accepted that inferential argument, too, in its nature, is as valid and reliable as direct argument. It has subsequently become possible for religious realities to be established on an academic level, i.e., exactly on the same level as material or nonreligious theories.
2.  In ancient times, it appeared that in nature there existed things that were very different from one another. This observation of appearance produced the mentality of idolatry. People began to think that in view of the great diversity of things in existence, their Creator, too, would perforce take many and varied shapes. But scientific study has shown that this variety is only that of appearance. Otherwise, all things in nature are different expressions of the same matter. In this way shirk (idolatry) came to be seen as an intellectually untenable practice while monotheism gained the solid support of logic.
3.  According to a statement of the Qur’an, the signs of God lay hidden in the earth and the heavens. The study of science has made it manifest to all men that the universe is a great storehouse of divine arguments.“We will show them Our signs in all the regions of the earth and in their own souls, until they clearly see that this is the Truth” (41:53).
4.  After the new discoveries of science, many such things have come to knowledge as have rendered it possible to prove with new arguments those events that are of important religious significance. For instance, carbon 14 dating has made it possible to determine the exact age of the mummy of Ramses II, thereby providing scientific proof for the statement of the Qur’an that the body of pharaoh was saved by God so that it might become “a sign to all posterity” (10:92).

Such critical study has proved, purely academically, that historically there is only one reliable religion, and that is Islam. All other religions are lacking in this historical credibility. Prior to this, the dayees of Islam could resort only to traditional arguments in support of their faith, but it has become possible to measure up Islamic realities by the highest standards of human knowledge and to establish its authenticity by purely logical arguments. Indeed, in latter times, the sciences themselves have borne out the divine truths of Islam.

Yet despite these modern developments, our own times are constantly regarded as being fraught with problems for Islam. Muslims, lacking in understanding and awareness, forget that the modern age has never ceased to be the age of Islam. They fail to appreciate that Islam’s potential remains undiminished, and that it is for believers to convert that potential into an immediate reality. They should take into account the fact that, in the wake of the scientific revolution, which is itself the direct outcome of the Islamic revolution, it has become possible to begin a serious and beneficial dialogue between Islam and non-Islam, the result of which will necessarily be in favor of Islam. Now, this being so, the need of the hour is for Muslims to put an end unilaterally to all violent activities against madu (addressee) nations, so that a normal, amicable relationship may be allowed to grow between dayee and madu.

Such critical study has proved, purely academically, that historically there is only one reliable religion, and that is Islam. All other religions are lacking in this historical credibility. Prior to this, the dayees of Islam could resort only to traditional arguments in support of their faith, but it has become possible to measure up Islamic realities by the highest standards of human knowledge and to establish its authenticity by purely logical arguments. Indeed, in latter times, the sciences themselves have borne out the divine truths of Islam.

Yet despite these modern developments, our own times are constantly regarded as being fraught with problems for Islam. Muslims, lacking in understanding and awareness, forget that the modern age has never ceased to be the age of Islam. They fail to appreciate that Islam’s potential remains undiminished, and that it is for believers to convert that potential into an immediate reality. They should take into account the fact that, in the wake of the scientific revolution, which is itself the direct outcome of the Islamic revolution, it has become possible to begin a serious and beneficial dialogue between Islam and non-Islam, the result of which will necessarily be in favor of Islam. Now, this being so, the need of the hour is for Muslims to put an end unilaterally to all violent activities against madu (addressee) nations, so that a normal, amicable relationship may be allowed to grow between dayee and madu.

Islam in the Modern World

Now the question arises as to whether Islam, which teaches nonviolence, can be of relevance in the present age and assume a superior position once again in new situations.

The answer is entirely in the positive. The truth is that Islam’s being a peaceful religion shows that it is an eternal religion. Had it been a religion of violence, it would not have been eternal. For in modern times the way of violence has been totally rejected by contemporary thinking. Now only that system is worthy of consideration and acceptance the teachings of which are based on peace and nonviolence. Islam is a religion of nature. It has held violence as inadmissible from the outset. Islam has been an upholder of peace, not violence, from day one.

In recent times the violent approach of some Muslim intellectuals and leaders of movements is the sole reason for the present violent mentality among some Muslims in some parts of the world. It is as a result of this mentality that, if anyone writes a book against Islam, Muslims are prepared to kill the writer. If any procession raises anti-Muslim slogans, Muslims start stoning the procession instead of killing the evil by observing silence, which, as Umar Faruq advocated, would be the best strategy in this case. If there is any monetary or territorial controversy with any nation, they immediately take up arms against it rather than adopt a peaceful strategy to solve the problem.

This violent mentality of Muslims is responsible for having alienated them from their neighbors everywhere. Their conduct clearly shows that they no longer cherish the ideal of universal brotherhood. Everywhere they are looked upon with aversion and dread. One can even see notices on walls, which say “Beware of Muslims” instead of “Beware of dog.” And if these words are not inscribed on walls, they are certainly inscribed on the hearts and minds of the people. The resulting dissociation has left Muslims a backward group in modern times. Even in advanced countries like America they remain backward as a community in comparison with other immigrant groups.

The only way to alleviate the tragic plight of Muslims is to bring them back to nonviolent Islam by helping them understand that their violent version of Islam is not the true one.

As soon as Muslims take to the path of nonviolent Islam they will be able to become equal partners with other communities. They will have joined the universal mainstream and will consequently be able to participate in all activities, in all institutions. People, instead of dreading them, will welcome them. They will become a part of the universal brotherhood. Their issues will be looked upon with justice. Their equal partnership will be certain in all institutions ranging from the social to the educational. Peaceful interaction will give Muslims the kind of intellectual stimulation and variety of experience that they must have if they are to tread the path of progress.

Interaction will also facilitate the task of dawah on a large scale. The natural result of this vast interaction of Muslims and non-Muslims will be that everywhere dialogue on Islam will be started, formally as well as informally. In modern times, because of the extremist and violent attitude of Muslims, serious dialogue between Islam and non-Islam has almost come to an end. Now when peaceful interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims takes place in a normal atmosphere, serious dialogue will ensue on its own. The beginning of serious dialogue between Islam and non-Islam is, without doubt, a very great success from the point of view of dawah.

The Qur’an describes Sulh Al Hudaybiya in the early period of Islam as a “clear victory.” It was a “clear victory” in the sense that it established peace between the believers in tawhid and believers in shirk, thus making it possible for a serious dialogue to be held between the two on religious matters. In modern times, if Muslims abandon the path of violence and fully adopt the path of nonviolence, this will be for Muslims like reviving the Sunnah of Hudaybiya. And they will start receiving those great benefits that Islam and Muslims had gained after the event of Hudaybiya in the first phase.

Peace and Justice

One great problem for Muslims is that peace does not necessarily guarantee them justice. This has caused Muslims to become violent and neglect opportunities for dawah. In modern times, Muslims want a peace that brings them justice. But according to the law of nature, this kind of peace can never be achieved, that is why Muslims the world over are in a state of physical and mental unrest. Distressed in their minds, they have become violent in their thinking and in their actions.

The truth is that peace does not automatically produce justice. Peace in actual fact simply opens up opportunities for the achievement of justice. At the time of Hudaybiya the Prophet of Islam had not found justice. He had achieved peace but only by delinking it from justice. The Prophet had made this peace not to exact justice but to receive the opportunities. And great opportunities for dawah action did open up with the establishment of peace. The Prophet exploited these opportunities in full measure. Therefore, in just a few years’ time the Prophet not only ensured justice, but set Islam upon a much more solid footing. The Muslims of the present day have to understand this secret of nature. Only then will it be possible for them first to find peace, then ultimately their desired goal of justice.

Islam: The Only Peaceful Way

In October 1997, I met a thirty-six-year-old European, Leon Zippo Hayes, who was born in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand. After having studied Islam, he changed his religion. His Islamic name is Khalilur Rahman. Passing through Muslim countries, he is going to perform hajj by land.

During our conversation he said that in modern times Muslims are engaged in bloody war at many places, at some places with others and at other places among themselves. This had led him (like many others) to conclude that perhaps Islam is a religion of violence. Later he studied the Qur’an with the help of translations, and when he reached this verse in the Qur’an: “Whoever killed a human being should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind” (5:32), he said that he was so moved that he could not believe that it was in the Qur’an. This incident is broadly indicative of the thinking of non-Muslims on Islam. On seeing the actions of Muslims, people today find it hard to believe that Islam may be a religion of peace. But if Muslims stop engaging in violent activities and give people the opportunity to appreciate Islam in its original form, then certainly a great number of people would realize as they never had before that Islam is a peaceful religion and they would rush to it, saying that it was exactly the religion that their souls had been seeking all along.

Another point is that Islam is very unique and firm in asserting that the ends cannot justify the means. A source of most of the fanaticism and intolerance is the mistaken belief that ends justify means. This means that to achieve even good ends, you can resort to evil means. The principle that Islam has enunciated is that “Good and bad are not equal. Replace evil by good” (Qur’an, 41:34).

If you fight falsehood with falsehood, it is falsehood that prevails. If you replace vice with vice, it is vice that triumphs. If you change evil by evil, it is evil that is victorious. Islam says that evil is to be eliminated by good. If you pursue this technique, then only you would be able to fill the earth with goodness, and justice, and peace, and fellow feeling. Islam has struck at the roots of fanaticism. If you reflect upon the system that Islam has given, you would find that fanaticism has no place in it, but idealism is the lifeblood of it. In the Qur’an it has been mentioned that the mission for which this Muslim nation has been created is that you call people to goodness. As far as wrong (munkar) is concerned, you are permitted to eliminate it. But as far as truth and virtue (ma’ruf) are concerned, they are not to be enforced by power.

You can very easily see that Islam has clearly discriminated between idealism and fanaticism. It has done everything to generate in us real idealism, noble idealism, virtuous idealism, and to protect us from the evil influences of fanaticism. The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has said that Islam is a religion of the middle path. The Qur’an has called the Muslim nation Ummat alWusta, the people of the middle and model nation, the people who maintain balance and equilibrium in all their affairs. Adhering to idealism, protecting and avoiding the extremes of fanaticism, this is the middle path, and it is this path that Islam invites to all humanity. Through education, diplomacy, dialogue, and firmness, Muslims are urged to deal with extremism and fanaticism in the world.

What we are dealing with here is a very serious problem of hatred, fear, and prejudice. Those people who were responsible for killing thousands of people in America in what was clearly a carefully planned and expertly executed operation must be brought to justice. However, deep-rooted hatred can only be fought with dignity, education, understanding, dialogue, and diplomacy. Unless the roots of hate are addressed, irrational people will continue to commit such heinous evil crimes against humanity. Let all sensible people stand for peace and justice, and make concerted efforts to fight terrorism by eliminating all injustices and exploitations in their part of world. I believe that being tough on the causes of this evil act is as important as identifying the terrorists themselves. I believe that without a revival of moral values, nurturing a shared sense of forgiveness and understanding, we may face an even greater challenge. We must pray to overcome hatred and violence in ourselves. Let us rededicate ourselves to peace, human dignity, and the eradication of the injustices that breed rage and vengeance. It requires multireligious cooperation of all decent people from all shades and all sections of our communities from all over the globe.

Global Ethics and Interfaith Dialogue

I am reminded the words of Professor Hans Kung “No peace among nations without peace among the religions, and no peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions.” I add, “No peace without justice, and no justice without forgiveness and compassion.” Dialogue and agreement must be conscientiously applied and maintained in order to create bonds of love, care, trust, and confidence. Its prerequisite is proper education and learning from one another. We must speak and act truthfully, with compassion. We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. Every human being must be treated fairly, humanely, and with dignity, without any fear or discrimination.

I have admired the work of Prince Hassan El Talal over the years for promoting better understanding between different faiths and for advocating dialogue as the best way to resolve conflicts. His short book Continuity, Innovation, and Change is a must read for every Muslim. I not only share his vision but also say that he represents true Islamic scholarship in the current debate on the issue of world peace. The building of peace requires an attitude of sanctity and a reverence for life, freedom, justice, the eradication of poverty, dissolution of all forms of discrimination, and protection of the environment for personal and future generations. The ideals of peace include fundamental and global directives such as:
*Do not kill, i.e., have respect for life;
*Do not steal, i.e., deal honestly and fairly;
*Do not lie, i.e., speak and act truthfully;
*Do not commit sexual immorality, i.e., respect and love one another.

I confirm that Islam is a faith of moderation and a girder of unity for all mankind and a blessing for mankind, and confirm Muslim model communities, where:
*All of God’s creation, whether human, animal, or of the environment, is valued and respected;
*People want more to serve others than to get what they can for themselves;
*No one has too little or too much;
*We respect the right of others to disagree with us, and;
*People are sensitive and courteous to all.

We affirm that in Islam the belief in God or the Divine is the bedrock of one’s faith out of which flows ideas on the meaning and purpose of life; on the unity and dignity of mankind. Human dignity thus is an acknowledgment of the divine presence in each and every one of us and unites us into a single family. We believe in “Thinking globally but acting locally.” The world will not change for the better unless the conscience of individuals is changed first.

We should pledge to increase our awareness by positive thinking in understanding one another. We must pledge to be courageous defenders of peaceful teachings and interpretations of Islam, and to be exemplary peacemakers in our personal, family, and social conduct of our lives in order to be a socially beneficial, peace-fostering bridge-builder and enjoy a nature-friendly way of life.

Remember, Remember. Remember. Evil is not in the body. Evil is in the mind, therefore harm nobody. Just change the mind. Lord, You said, and your word is true! Love is stronger than hate. O God Almighty You are peace and from You peace comes. Bestow upon all of us Your peace and make our final destiny in your eternal abode of peace. Let there be respect for the earth, peace for its people, love in our lives, delight in the good, forgiveness for our past wrongs, and from now on a new start.