Prophets The Nature of God

Peace and Governance

40 The Review of Religions – September 2005 I greet you all with the Islamic salutation of peace!- Assalaumu Alaikum Warahmatullah Wabarakautuh! – ‘May the Peace, Mercy and Blessings of Allah be upon you all.’ It is gratifying to participate in this conference organised by the Inter-religious and International Federation of World Peace (IIFWP). As an adherent of a world religion whose very name means ‘PEACE’, I consider it a religious duty that should be discharged with absolute commitment. The participation in any endeavour that seeks to promote peace anywhere in the world, deserves every encouragement and support of all genuine lovers of peace because IIFWP’s aim at fostering cooperation in the quest for peace in our troubled world is highly commendable. The history of our world abounds with countless instances of the destruction of national and international peace through wars that have painted many lands red with the blood of innocent millions of people – men, women, and children. Prominent among the causes of these wars have been the attempt by countries to dominate and exploit others, racial, religious, and political intolerance, injustice, and denial of human rights. These diabolical attempts begin as ideas that originate in the minds of leaders whose world view is shaped by nations that reject the equality of P E A C E A N D GOVERNANCE Based on a statement by Maulvi Abdul Wahab Adam Amir (Head) and Missionary In Charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, Ghana, at the Conference on Peace and Governance organised by the International and Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace at Cheong Pyeong International Conference Centre, Korea, from 12- 16 February 2005. 41The Review of Religions – September 2005 PEACE AND GOVERNANCE man and universal brotherhood. Such people wish for others what they do not wish for themselves and their peoples. Thus, the theme for this conference ‘Leadership and Governance’ is very apt for its bold attempt to discuss and define the quality of leadership that can ensure good governance and peace in the world. From the religious perspective, it is easy to discern why God, in His infinite wisdom, planned that the organisation of human societies needs to revolve around leaders. The Scriptures of all religions reveal that their Founders did not only provide moral leadership through preaching moral values and spiritual verities which aim at transforming the societies to which they were sent, they also offered leadership in secular matters that advanced the material conditions of those societies. But even more importantly, these religious leaders lived the teachings they sought to inculcate. The teachings of Prophets, including Krishna(as), Budha(as), Confucius(as), Jesus(as), and Muhammad(sa), exemplified all that is good and noble and radically influenced their peoples in a positive direction. Therefore, the application of their unadulterated teachings can produce a leadership which cannot but bring about good governance so lacking in many countries of the world today. The result is the undermining of national, regional and international peace. In examining leadership, we must pose the question: What is expected of leadership? My submission is that leadership has a transformational element. A Leader should tread a path that makes an imprint on both his office and the political, social, and the moral environment that he/she leaves behind. For this to happen, people aspiring to leadership positions or already in leadership positions must recognise the fundamental tenets, as mentioned a short while ago, that should promote good governance, rule of law, human rights and peace. Without this, leadership falls victim to self aggrandisement, arrogance, and capriciousness which are recipes for the destruction of peace. 42 The Review of Religions – September 2005 PEACE AND GOVERNANCE Foundations Of Islamic Thought On Governance Let me reflect on the theme from the Islamic perspective. The starting point of all Islamic thought, whether political, economic, or social, is the truth that real ownership, sovereignty, and power belong only to God. We read in the Holy Qur’an: And blessed is He to whom belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and with Him is the knowledge of the Hour, and to Him shall you be brought back. (Ch.43:V.86) The verse makes it clear that all empires and kingdoms, and all instruments of control by man over man, and even the lower animals, are a trust put into his care for the common good of all. No one, therefore, should presume to act as if he/she were the absolute master, because the real proprietorship ownership and dominion over everything and everyone rest only with God. Others in their respective spheres are no more than TRUSTEES, answerable before and accountable to God for the manner in which they discharge the trust entrusted to them. The Moral Basis Of Government The Holy Qur’an again proclaims the moral basis of government and leadership. Say, ‘O Allah, Lord of sovereignty, Thou givest sovereignty to whomsoever Thou pleasest; and Thou takest away sovereignty from whomsoever Thou pleasest. Thou exaltest whomsoever Thou pleasest and Thou abasest whomsoever Thou pleasest. In Thy hand is all good. Thou surely hast power to do all things.’ (Ch.3:V.27) This verse is an unmistakable declaration that sovereignty and the right to rule over others emanate from God. No one has any inherent, personal, intrinsic, or independent claim to it. We are told that Allah is the King of kings, Master of masters. He bestows sovereignty and king- 43The Review of Religions – September 2005 PEACE AND GOVERNANCE doms upon whomsoever He deems fit and takes away kingdoms from whomsoever He pleases. So when power falls to the lot of anyone, it bestows upon him only a mandate, not a right, of absolute ownership. No matter what form authority takes, no matter in what shape the instruments of control are fashioned, empires, kingdoms, democracies or dictatorships, whatever usages or laws are established by such agencies, they remain answerable and accountable to God for putting them into operation. If their laws create unrest, discord, strife and unhappiness, or if they fail to make a positive contribution to the common objective of human civilisation, these agencies expose themselves to indictment before the august Throne of the Divine Maker and Master of the universe. Major Injunction For Leaders The Holy Qur’an lays down another important principle for leadership and that is the requirement that leaders carry out their duties with strict impartiality and absolute justice. They should not attempt to pervert the course of justice for the sake of relationships, whether at the personal, group, national, or international levels, through bribery, presentation of false evidence, or self interest. The Holy Qur’an says: O ye who believe! Be strict in observing justice, being witnesses for the sake of Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful of them both than you are. Therefore, follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do. (Ch.4:V.136) Again it states: O ye who believe, be steadfast in the cause ofAllah, and bear witness in equity; and let not a people’s hostility towards you incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. 44 The Review of Religions – September 2005 PEACE AND GOVERNANCE And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is well aware of what you do. (Ch.5:V.9) The cumulative effect of these verses is that appointees to leadership positions at the local, national or international levels are to guard against partiality for or against particular individuals, classes of people, or nations for any reason. We are told, moreover, that this is not an arbitrary order devoid of rational basis. It rests on the sure foundation of a deep truth which leads to far reaching beneficial results when properly observed. Evenhanded justice for all, irrespective of circumstances of birth, race, colour, ethnicity, class or political or religious leaning, is the foremost condition needed to create a sense of security and peace in society and in the world. Peace As Dividend Of Good Leadership The peace that we seek for our world and which appears to elude us can only be found in our recognition of the principles that our Creator has laid down for us through His Messengers for our guidance. Persons in leadership positions at all levels owe it as a duty to exercise the mandate given them within the purview of the divine principles which in many countries form the basis of moral and criminal laws. We ignore them at our own peril. We ignore them at the expense of peace because God alone is the Source of all peace.