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A. Sajid: Islam, UN Renewal, and Peace

A paper prepared for the World Summit on Peace
May 28-June 1, 2009, Seoul, Korea

Bismillah Hir Rahma Nir Rahim (I begin with name of God the Most Kind the Most Merciful). I greet you with the greetings of Islam: Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakathu (May God’s blessing and peace be with us all).

I am honoured to be asked to speak to you on the important issue of “Islam, Renewal of United Nations and Peace.”

First, I want to explain what we have been doing in the United Kingdom for peace and secondly explain the position of my faith.

The main emphasis this year of the Universal Peace Federation has been to support the United Nations in its activities and seek to make it more effective through its organs. The UPF has held various activities in the UN buildings in New York, Geneva and Vienna promoting themes that support the wider direction of the UN. There has been a big emphasis on the UN International Day of Families and the September 21st Day of Peace at UPF branches throughout the world. The UN International Day of Families was supported by the UK branch with two events in London attracting a Member of Parliament, local politicians, a senior UN representative, and interfaith leaders. There have been various activities in the UPF-UK promoting the dialogue between cultures and faiths called for by several UN Resolutions for the Dialogue of Civilisations and Faiths. Interfaith, community cohesion, humanitarian activities and promoting the Millennium Development Goals hare strong emphases of UPF chapters and its international headquarters.

We made the following recommendations at the April 2, 2009 meeting of House of Commons in parallel to the G20 meeting at Excel:

  1. The current financial crisis did not happen by accident. The root cause of the present political, economic and leadership problem is that it has no link with God and it is not based on any ethical foundation. Therefore we recommend an economic ethical reform accompanied by garter transparency and fairness to all.
  2. Consideration of the true relationship based on family life which is the only God inspired institution given to mankind by God and wider economic realities.
  3. Character and peace education in the family with wider community, faith based institutions and public schools be given priority.
  4. Debt forgiveness for the poorest nations of world should become a reality.
  5. Interfaith and intercultural dialogue to promote better understanding of our diverse communities and culture and our roots.
  6. Dedication to fulfilment of the UN Millennium Development Goals be given priority if the international community wants to establish a sustainable economy in the world.

Regarding the Renewal of the United Nations we are working on a three-point agenda:

  1. Increase the Security Council membership;
  2. Become democratic in theory and practice to gain the respect of the people of the world; and
  3. Establish a second chamber consisting of recognised major faith leaders to provide moral and spiritual guidance to political leaders of the world.

The word "Islam” comes from the Arabic root salama, which is the origin of the words peace and / or submission — submission to God and peace to all humanity. Thus, the salutation in Islam is: "Al-Salamu Alaikum," or Peace be with you. In this regard, Prophet Mohammad ordered his fellow Muslims to salute others Muslims or non-Muslims with peace when he said: "Peace before speech.” It is a rule in Islam that during war time, an enemy warrior who pronounces the word peace is totally immune. The United Nations has a link with the peace of the world, but only an Abel-UN and renewed UN can deliver peace.

Let me deal with some principles which Islam teaches for establishing internal and external peace.

Islamic moral and spiritual teachings are the basis of internal peace:

Here are some moral teachings in the Holy Qur'an which come from the idea of promoting good and preventing evil: “Amar bil Maroof and Nahi a’nil Munkar” (3:104; 110; 9:71); Be honest (22:78 and 16:92); Be truthful (25:72 and 104:1); Be pure (23:1-11); Be unselfish (17:32); Be just (4:135); Be good and do good to others (2:83; 2:195 and 41:33); Be part of the change you wanted to see as God will not change unless you change for yourself (13:11); Love (2:195, 9:108 and 96:11); Listen and obey (64:16; Pray – quiet time (7:205), Istikhara – seek guidance from God (1.45).

1) Read and learn. Read and learn in the name of God who has created. [1]

2) Believe and work hard. Those who believe and work hard deserve God’s forgiveness and a great reward.[2]

3) Be pious and respect your parents. God Almighty has prescribed that you worship none except Him and that you do good to your parents...[3]

4) Be honest and fight for your rights. You ought to be engaged in the effort to the way of God courageously and honestly...[4]

5) Be aware of tomorrow. Let every one, male and female, see what he/she is doing for tomorrow...[5]

“That is a past nation. It belongs to it what it has earned by itself and to you belongs what you have earned by yourselves...[6]

6) Be good and do good deeds. ‘And do good. Truly Allah loves the good-doers.’[7]

7) Be peaceful in all aspects of life. The word Islam is itself derived from the word peace (i.e., salaam). And Muslim is the best description of those who believe in this religion:

‘It is the religion of your father Abraham. It is He (Allah) Who has named you Muslims both before and in this (the Holy Qur’an), that the Messenger be a witness over you and you be a witness over mankind!’ [8]The essence of this religion is peaceful submission to the Lord of the worlds:

‘Yes, but whoever submits his face (himself) to Allah (i.e., follow Allah’s religion of Islamic monotheism) and he is a good-doer, then his reward is with the Lord, on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.’ [9]

‘When his Lord said to him, "Submit (i.e., Be a Muslim)!" He said, "I have submitted myself to the Lord of the worlds." [10] ‘"And we were ordered to submit to the Lord of the worlds"’ [11]

Paradise is itself a place of peace: ‘For them will be the home of peace (paradise) with their Lord. And He will be their Helper and Protector because of what they used to do.’ [12] ‘Allah calls to the home of peace and guides whom He wills to a Straight path.’ [13]

Allah, the High, the Blessed, has named Himself "Peace":‘He is Allah other than Whom there is none (that has the right to be worshipped) the King, the Holy, the Peace...’ [14]

8) Be merciful and patient. Mercy is the companion of peace in the salutation of Muslims. The Messenger of Islam is a Mercy to the worlds. And the slogan of Islam, repeated in every utterance and action, is: "In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful." The behaviour between the believers is one of patience and mercy:

‘Then he became one of those who believed and recommended one another to perseverance and patience, and (also) recommended one another to piety and compassion.’ [15]

9) Compassion and forgiveness in Islam. Muslims are enjoined by the Holy Qur'an to "pardon and forbear... [For] do you not desire that God should forgive you your sins, seeing that God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace?" They are reminded of this duty when they pray five times daily to "Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate" or invoke "God the Forgiver" or "God the Pardoner" - four of God's ninety-nine names.

Leadership must be forgiving: "And it was by God's grace that thou [O Muhammad] didst deal gently with thy followers: for if thou hadst been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern; then, when thou hast decided upon a course of action, place thy trust in God: for, verily God loves those who place their trust in Him." [16]

Forgiveness means a different outlook and a new start. In Islamic history one may find an outlook of a different nature. When the Romans conquered any country, the first thing they would do is mass massacre. When the Muslims entered any country, they would give guarantees of life, property and honour to all the non-belligerents. Even in war Muslims are not allowed to kill an old person, a woman, and a child, those who are crippled or disabled. Not only that, even trees are not to be cut and crops are not to be burnt. The entire Islamic history does not know of the concept of mass killing or massacre of enemies. One cannot find one single example of any Inquisition or ethnic cleansing in the name of Islam.

The ends cannot justify the means: Another point is that Islam is very unique and firm in asserting that the ends cannot justify the means. This means that to achieve even good ends you should not resort to evil means. The principle that Islam has enunciated is that

"Good and bad are not equal. Replace evil by good." (The Holy 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. As far as wrong (munkar) is concerned, you are permitted to eliminate it. But as far as the truth and virtue (ma'ruf) is concerned, it is not to be enforced by power.

10) No coercion in Islam and justice and fairness to non-Muslims. Unlike many other religions where people were offered either conversion and peace or death, Islam came with the just word of our creator. In the Holy Qur’an 2:256; God said "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error..." [17]There are many other verses in the Holy Qur’an that deals with the nature of spreading God's message. One of my favourites which I keep quoting is Verse 10:99 "If it had been thy Lord's Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!" [18]

In conclusion, regarding global ethics and interfaith dialogue, I am reminded of 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, humanly, and with dignity without any fear or discrimination.

I admire the work of Prince Hassan El Talal over the years for promoting better understanding between different faiths and advocating dialogue for resolving 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. To build peace requires an attitude of sanctity and reverence of life, freedom and justice, the eradication of poverty, dissolution of all forms of discrimination, and the 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 faith of moderation and girder of unity for all mankind and blessing for mankind because for Muslims, a model communities are where:

  • All of God's creation — whether human, animal, or 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;
  • People respect the right of others to disagree with us;
  • People are sensitive and courteous to all.

The world will not change for the better unless the conscience of individuals is changed first. Remember, Remember, remember. Evil is not in the body. Evil is in the mind. Therefore harm no body. 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, and delight in the good. Forgiveness our past wrongs, and from now on let us make a new start.

This is a brief sketch of the basis of true peace within our selves for the sake of all humanity. May God have mercy upon all of us and show us the true guidance for establishing peace and making necessary changes in the United Nations. May God guide us all and show us the right path in our lifetime. Amen.

~ ~ ~

Imam Dr. Abduljalil Sajid:

  • Chairman, Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK;
  • President, National Association of British Pakistanis;
  • President, Religions for Peace UK and Deputy President of European Religions for Peace;
  • Chairman, European Inter-cultural Dialogue;
  • Deputy President and International Secretary, World Congress of Faiths;
  • Adviser to European Council of Religious Leaders/Religions for Peace;
  • Adviser to the Muslim Council of Britain, Europe and International Affairs Committee;
  • Link Officer, Brighton and Hove Interfaith Contact Group for National and International Inter-faith matters;
  • European Representative of World Council of Muslims Inter-faith Relations

[1] The Holy Qur’an, 96:1

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 5:9

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 17:23

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 22:78

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 59:18

[6] The Holy Qur’an, 2:134

[7] The Holy Qur’an, 2:195

[8] The Holy Qur’an, 22:78

[9] The Holy Qur’an, 2:112

[10] The Holy Qur’an, 2:131

[11] The Holy Qur’an, 6:71

[12] The Holy Qur’an,16:127

[13] The Holy Qur’an, 10:25

[14] The Holy Qur’an, 59:23

[15] The Holy Qur’an, 19:17

[16] The Holy Qur’an, 3:159

[17] The Holy Qur’an, 2:256

[18] The Holy Qur’an, 10:99