Featured Islamic Concepts and Beliefs

Islam and the Creation of Peace Loving Men and Women

40 The Review of Religions – September 2003 Importance of the subject Since the creation of mankind, it has been the cherished desire of all to establish, enjoy and share the fruits of peace and tranquillity. But, we have to admit this bitter reality that it has always remained a desire never accomplished in t o t a l i t y. Mankind is yearning for peace today more than ever before. How is it that having passed through the shattering and devastating experience of two world wars and in the shadow of a nuclear holocaust, despite all the e fforts that have so far been put forth to the contrary, man continues to be far far away from the realisation of his dream about universal peace. In order to bring about real peace in our society, or for that matter in the world we live in, it is most essential to go about it through the components our society is composed of i.e. men and women. Human beings have this inborn quality to love for peace and tranquillity but the experience shows that the same peace-loving men and women are occasionally seen destroying the very concept of peace. Where does the fault lie? What is the remedy? How can this problem be solved? These and several other questions of similar nature find their answer in the subject under discussion today. Islam, the religion of peace provides the full answer. Firstly, through its most elaborate and comprehensive teachings, it provides the doctrinal basis for the establishment of peace. Secondly, the noble example of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad(sa) further illumines this path of peace, studded with historical land marks, serving as Based on a speech presented by Ataul Mujeeb Rashed, Imam London Mosque, in Toledo, Spain March 1988 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women 41 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 a model to be followed. Thirdly, the emphasis on living up to the teachings of Islam and the noble example of the Holy Prophet(sa) goes a long way in the creation of peace-loving men and women to ensure the ultimate translation of all ideals of peace into reality. Islam: Religion of Peace and Submission This subject has a direct and deep relevance to Islam which literally means peace and submission. Both these mean-ings, describing two main aspects of its teachings, are closely related to each other. Therefore, explaining the basic teachings of Islam, we can say that Islam stands for establishment of real peace in all directions and at all levels through total obedience and submission to the will and commands of God Almighty. It can also be said that peace is the ultimate object of Islam and submission to His com- mandments is the key to it. According to Islam, God Almighty is the fountain head of guidance which is made manifest to the people in various ages according to their particular needs and requirement. This manifest guidance is called religion and the torch-bearers of this guidance are described as the messengers of God. As all the religions have emanated from the source of God, the Most Gracious, Ever Merciful, it is but natural that all religions, taken in their pure form, at their sources, always stood for peace. They all had this common theme. But in spite of all that, no religion other than Islam was given a name which literally means peace. This happened for the first time, in the history of religion, only in the case of Islam and it certainly constitutes a unique distinction of this great religion. M o r e o v e r, this name was given by God Almighty Himself, yet another distinction of Islam. Both these facts very clearly indicate the Divine plan of things. God Almighty reserved this special name to be bestowed upon that religion which presents the best and the most elaborate and comprehensive teachings about 42 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 peace in a way never witnessed before in the history of religion. Islamic teachings on peace and war Islam forbids aggression, but it urges to fight if failure to fight jeopardises peace and promotes war. If failure to fight means the extirpation of free belief and of the search of truth, it is our duty to fight. This is the teaching on which peace can ultimately be built, and this is the teaching on which the Prophet of Islam( s a ) based his own policies and his practice. The Holy Prophet( s a ) s u ffered continuously and consistently at Makkah but did not fight the aggression of which he was an innocent victim. When he migrated to Madinah, the enemy was out to extirpate Islam; it was, therefore, necessary to fight the enemy in defence of truth and freedom of belief and in order to establish and ensure peace for one and all. Before proceeding any further, it will be appropriate to study the passages in the Holy Qur ’ a n which bear on the subject of war. Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged -and Allah indeed has power to help them- Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said. ‘Our Lord is Allah’– And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated. And Allah will surely help one who helps Him. Allah is indeed Powerful. Mighty. (Ch.22:Vs.40-41) And fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not t r a n s g ress. Sure l y, Allah loves not transgressors. And kill them wherever you meet them and drive them out from where they have driven you out; for persecution is worse than killing. And fight them not in, and near, the Sacred Mosque until they fight you 43 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 therein. But if they fight you, then fight them: such is the requital for the disbelievers. But if they desist, then surely Allah is Most Forg i v i n g , . Merciful. And fight them until there is no persecution, and religion is freely professed for Allah. But if they desist, then remember that no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors. (Ch.2:Vs.191-194). Say to those who disbelieve, if they desist, that which is past will be forgiven them; and if they return thereto, then v e r i l y, the example of the former peoples has already gone before them. And fight them until there is no persecution and religion is wholly for Allah. But if they desist, then surely Allah is Watchful of what they do. And if they turn their backs, then know that Allah is your Protector. (Ch.8:Vs.40-41) And if they incline towards peace, incline thou also towards it, and put thy trust in Allah. Surely. it is He Who is All-Hearing, all-Knowing. And if they intend to deceive thee, then surely Allah is sufficient for thee. He it is Who has strengthened thee with His help and with the believers. (Ch.8:Vs.62-63) Excepting those of the idolaters with whom you have entered into a treaty and who have not fallen short of fulfilling their obligations to you nor aided anyone against you. So fulfill to these the treaty you have made with them till their term. Surely, Allah loves those who are righteous. (Ch.9:V.4) And if anyone of the idolaters ask protection of thee, grant him protection, so that he may hear the word of Allah: then convey him to his place of security. That is because they are a people who have no knowledge. (Ch.9:V.6) 44 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 It does not behove a Prophet that he should have captives until he engages in a regular fighting in the land. Yo u desire the goods of the world, while Allah desires for you the Hereafter. And Allah is Mighty, Wise. (Ch.8:V.68) Then afterw a rds either release them as a favour or by taking ransom – until the war lays down its burdens. (Ch.47:V.5) And those of your slaves who desire a deed of liberation to be contracted, write it down for them if you see in them any good potential and give them out of that wealth which truly belongs to Allah which He has bestowed upon you. (Ch.24:V.34) Conclusions Categorically, we may say, these verses teach the following rules: (i) War is to be resorted to only for the sake of God and not for the sake of any selfish motives, not for aggrandisement or for the advancement of any other interests. (ii) We can go to war only against one who attacks us first. (iii) We can fight only those who fight against us. We cannot fight against those who take no part in warfare. (iv) Even after the enemy has initiated the attack, it is our duty to keep warfare within limits. To extend the war, either territorially or in respect of weapons used, is w r o n g . (v) We are to fight only a regular army charged by the enemy to fight on his side. We are not to fight others on the enemy side. (vi) In warfare, immunity is to be afforded to all religious rites and observances. If the enemy spares the places where religious ceremonies are held, then Muslims also must desist from fighting in such places. 45 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 (vii) If the enemy uses a place of worship as a base for attack, then Muslims may return the attack. No blame will attach to them if they do so. No fighting is allowed even in the neighbourhood of religious places. To attack religious places and to destroy them or to do any kind of harm to them is absolutely forbidden. (viii) The fact that the enemy started the attack from a religious place is not to be used as an excuse for attacking that place. (ix) Fighting is to continue only so long as interference with religion and religious freedom lasts. When religion becomes free and interference with it is no longer permitted then there is to be no war, even if it is the enemy who starts it. (x) If the enemy desists, it is the duty of Muslims to desist also, and forgive the past. Muslims are to fight, while religious persecution lasts, and so long as religion is not for God and interference in religious matters is not abandoned. When the aggressor desists, Muslims are to desist also. They are not to continue the war because the enemy believes in a false religion. (xi) Muslims have no right to meddle with another people’s religion even if that religion seems to them to be false. If after an offer of peace the enemy continues to make war, then Muslims may be sure of victory even though their numbers are small. (xii) If in the course of a battle the disbelievers at any time incline towards peace, Muslims are to accept the offer at once and to make peace. Muslims are to do so even at the risk of being deceived. They are to put their trust in God. Cheating will not avail against Muslims, who rely on the help of God. An offer of peace is to be accepted. (xiii) Pagans, who enter into a pact with Muslims, keep the pact and do not help the enemy against Muslims, are to have 46 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 reciprocal treatment from Muslims. Piety requires that Muslims should fulfill their part of a pact in the letter as well as the spirit. (xiv) If any of those at war with Muslims seek refuge with Muslims in order to study Islam and ponder over its Message, they are to have refuge with Muslims for such time as may be reasonably necessary for such a purpose. (xv) It is not permitted to make prisoners of the enemy save as a result of regular war involving much bloodshed. The system of making prisoners of enemy tribes without war and bloodshed practised until – and even after the advent of Islam, is here made unlawful. Prisoners can be taken only from the combatants and after a battle. (xvi) Regarding the Prisoners of War the best thing, according to Islam, is to let off prisoners without asking for ransom. As this is not always possible, release by ransom is also provided for. (xvii) Those who do not deserve to be released without ransom but who have no one to pay ransom for them if they still ask for their freedom – can obtain it by signing an undertaking that, if allowed to work and earn, they will pay their ransom. The Holy Prophet’s(sa) directions about war Islamic teachings however, do not consist only of precepts laid down in the Holy Qur’an. It also include the precepts and example of the Holy Prophet of Islam(sa). What he did or what he taught in concrete situations is also an essential part of the Islamic teachings. We append here some sayings of the Prophet on the subject of war and peace. 1. Muslims are forbidden altogether to mutilate the dead. 2. Muslims are forbidden to resort to cheating. 47 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 3. Children are not to be killed, nor women. 4. Priests and religious functionaries and religious leaders are not to be interfered with. 5. The old men or women and children are not to be killed. 6. When Muslims enter enemy t e r r i t o r y. they should not strike terror into the general population. They should permit no ill-treatment of common folk. 7. A Muslim army should not camp in a place where it causes inconvenience to the general public. When it marches it should take care not to block the road nor cause discomfort to other wayfarers. 8. No disfigurement of face is to be permitted. 9. The least possible losses should be inflicted upon the enemy. 10. When prisoners of war are put under guard. those closely related should be placed together. 11. Prisoners should live in comfort. Muslims should care more for the comfort of their prisoners than for themselves. 12. Emissaries and delegates from other countries should be held in great respect. Any mistakes or discourtesies they commit should be ignored. 13. If a Muslim commits the sin of ill treating a prisoner of war. atonement is to be made by releasing the prisoner without ransom. 14. When a Muslim takes charge of a prisoner of war, the latter is to be fed and clothed in the same way as the Muslim himself. 15. Public buildings and fruit- bearing trees and food crops are not to be damaged. 48 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 16.The possibility of peace should always be kept in view From the sayings of the Holy Prophet(sa) it is evident that Islam has instituted steps which have the effect of preventing or stopping a war or reducing its evil. The principles which Islam teaches are not pious precepts only; they have their practical illustration in the example of the Prophet(sa) and the early Khalifas of Islam. As all the world knows, the Holy Prophet( s a ) not only taught these principles, he practised them and insisted on their observance. Turning to our own time, I do wish to say that several proposals for peace have been forwarded and many ideal plans have been presented but no practical and realistic example has been offered to show the world how to prevent war, minimise its sufferings or stop it altogether. To preach a method of stopping wars, but never to be able to afford a practical illustration of that method indicates that the method is impracticable. It would, therefore, seem that human experience and human wisdom point to only one method of preventing or stopping war; and that method was taught and practised by the Prophet of Islam. One more point should be added here. The above-mentioned teachings were given by the Prophet about the conduct and behaviour of the Muslims in a battle field. Generally it is said and believed that there is no rule to be followed when you are in a state of war. Question of mercy and good treatment does not arise. No one thinks of doing any act of charity and grace to any one. But here we see a man advising his followers to take every possible step to be kind and considerate even to the enemies. Here is a man who preaches and urges peace and morality even in the battle field. He is the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad(sa) who was rightly described by God as the embodiment of mercy for the whole of mankind. 49 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 The Holy Prophet’s(sa) farewell address A landmark was set by the Holy Prophet of Islam ( s a ) when he spoke to his followers on the occasion of his last pilgrimage and outlined the fundamental teachings of Islam. Apart from so many other things, he touched upon the equality of human beings and their equal rights and obligations. Needless to say that this very point shatters the concept of racial superiority, discrimination, hatred and enmity – the various causes which have plagued our society today. In this background, the address of the Holy Prophet(sa) is a monumental declaration of human rights, proclaimed over 1400 year ago, establishing the real basis of universal peace. I wish to quote the relevant portion. The Holy Prophet( s a ) declared: ‘O men. what I say to you. you must hear and remember. All Muslims are as brethren to one another. All of you are equal. All men, whatever nation or tribe they may hold, are equal. Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another. No one has any right. any superiority to claim over another. You are as brothers. “Even as this month is s a c red, this land inviolate, and this day holy., so has God made the lives, property and honour of every man sacred. To take any man’s life or his p ro p e rt y. or attack his h o n o u r, is as unjust and w rong as to violate the sacredness of this day, this month. and this terr i t o ry. What I command you today is not meant only for today. It is meant for all time. You are expected to remember it and to act upon it until you leave this world and go to the next to meet your Maker.’ In conclusion. he said: ‘What 1 have said to you, you should communicate to the ends of the earth. May be those who have not heard me 50 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 may benefit by it more than those who have heard’. The Holy Prophet’s(sa) address is an epitome of the entire teachings and the spirit of Islam. It shows how deep was the Holy P r o p h e t ’s( s a ) concern for the welfare of man and the peace of the world. Inequality between man and man always oppressed the Holy Prophet( s a ). The conditions which made for this inequality were conditions which made for antagonism and war between nation and nation and country and country. Unless the spirit of inequality was killed and conditions which induced one people to usurp the rights of another and to attack their lives and their possessions – unless these conditions which become rampant at times of moral decay were removed, the peace and progress of the world could not be assured. The Holy Prophet(sa) taught that human life and human possessions had the same sacredness which belonged to sacred days, sacred months and sacred places. No man ever showed such concern and such care for the peace between nations as did the Prophet of Islam. No man ever did as much as the Holy Prophet(sa) to promote equality among mankind. No man pined as much as him for the good of man. This address of the Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) is an outstanding example of the beautiful way in which he used to teach his followers how to become peace- loving people. He helped and guided them by pointing out the pit-falls and high-lighting the ways of achieving the object. This process continued throughout his life. Practical guidance of the Holy Prophet(sa) Islam is a practical religion and its founder, the Holy Prophet(sa) was a practical man. Throughout his life, he made it a point to practically guide his followers into various ways of translating the teachings of Islam into real practice. In order to make his followers peace-loving men and women he provided a living example of such qualities which 51 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 go a long way in shaping the human character. By way of illustration, I wish to present the following examples. 1. Self Control In the East, one way of showing respect for a person whom one is addressing is not to address him by his personal name. The Muslims used to address the Holy Prophet(sa) as ‘O Messenger of Allah’, and non-Muslims used to address him as ‘Abu’l Qasim’ (ie., Qasim’s father: Qasim being the name of one of his sons). On one occasion a Jew came to him in Madinah and started a discussion with him. In the course of the discussion he repeatedly addressed him as ‘O Muhammad, O Muhammad’. The Holy Prophet( s a ) paid no attention to his form of address and went on patiently expounding the matter under discussion to him. His Companions, however, were getting irritated at the discourteous form of address adopted by the Jew till one of them, not being able to restrain himself any longer, admonished the Jew not to address the Holy Prophet(sa) by his personal name but to address him as ‘Abu’l Qasim’. The Jew said that he would address him only by the name which his parents had given him. The Holy Prophet(sa) smiled and said to his Companions: ‘he is right. I was named Muhammad at the time of my birth and there is no reason to be upset at his addressing me by that name.’ 2. Justice and Fair Dealing The Arabs were greatly given to favouritism and applied different standards to different persons. Even among the so-called civilised nations of today one observes a reluctance to bring prominent persons or persons occupying high positions or o ffices to account for their doings, though the law is enforced rigorously against the common citizen. The Holy Prophet(sa) was however, unique in enforcing uniform standards of justice and fair dealing. On one occasion a case came before him in which a young woman named Fatimah, belonging to a highly 52 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 respectable family was found to have committed theft. This caused great consternation as, if the normal penalty were imposed upon the young woman, a leading family would be humiliated and disgraced. Many were anxious to intercede with the Holy Prophet(sa) on behalf of the offender but were afraid to do so. Eventually Usama was prevailed upon to undertake the mission. Usama went to the Holy Prophet(sa) but the moment the latter perceived the trend of his submission he was much upset and said: ‘You had better desist. Nations have come to a bad end for showing favours to highly placed persons while pressing hard on the common people. Islam does not permit this and I will certainly not do it. Verily, if my own daughter, Fatima, were to commit an offence like that I would not hesitate to impose the appropriate penalty’”. 3. Respect for the feelings of others: People are generally careful not to hurt the feelings of their friends and relations but the Holy Prophet(sa) was very particular in this respect even regarding people who were opposed to him. On one occasion a Jew came to him and complained that Abu Bakr(as) had hurt his feelings by saying that God had exalted M u h a m m a d( s a ) above Moses ( a s ). The Holy Prophet(sa) summoned Abu Bakr(as and asked him what had transpired. Abu Bakr ( s a ) explained that the Jew had started by saying that he swore by Moses (as) whom God, he said, had exalted above the whole of mankind, and that he (Abu Bakr(as)) had thereupon retorted by swearing by Muhammad(sa), whom God exalted above M o s e s( a s ). The Holy Prophet ( s a ) said: ‘You should not have said this as the feelings of other people should be respected. Nobody should exalt me above Moses’. This did not mean that the Holy Prophet(sa) did not in fact occupy a higher position than Moses(as) but that an affirmation like this addressed to a Jew was likely to hurt his feelings and should have been avoided. 53 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 4 . Regard for the poor A poor Muslim woman used to clean the Holy Prophet’s( s a ) Mosque in Madinah. The Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) did not see her in the Mosque for some days and made inquiries concerning her. He was told that she had died. He said: ‘Why was I not informed when she died? I would have wished to join her funeral prayers.’ And added, ‘perhaps you did not consider her worthy of consideration as she was poor. This was not right. Direct me to her grave.’ He then proceeded to her grave and prayed for her. 5 . Tolerance in re l i g i o u s m a t t e r s A deputation from a Christian tribe of Najran visited him in Madinah to exchange views on religious matters. It included several Church dignitaries. The conversation was held in the Mosque and extended over several hours. At one stage the leader of the deputation asked permission to depart from the Mosque and to hold their, religious service at some convenient spot. The Holy P r o p h e t( s a ) said that there was no need for them to go out of the Mosque, which was itself a place consecrated to the worship of God, and they could hold their services in it. 6 . Fulfilling of covenants On one occasion an envoy came to him on a special mission and after he had remained in his company for some days, he was convinced of the truth of Islam and suggested that he might declare his adherence to it. The Holy Prophet( s a ) told him that this would not be proper as he was there in a representative capacity and it was incumbent upon him to return to the headquarters of his Government without acquiring a fresh allegiance. If, after he had returned home, he still felt convinced of the truth of Islam, he could return as a free individual and declare his acceptance of it. These are only a few examples, just like a few drops out of a vast ocean, but how beautifully do they illustrate the nobility of the Holy Prophet’s( s a ) c h a r a c t e r. Such was his logical and convincing 54 Islam and the Creation of Peace-Loving Men and Women The Review of Religions – September 2003 way of teaching and inculcating the values of peace among his followers through his personal example. The six principles high- lighted above are of fundamental nature. if these principles are strictly adhered to and followed by the people in general, fundamental causes of hatred and enmity will be up-rooted. The actual outcome and the result of this wise way of reformation and moulding the human character can be witnessed in the life time of the Holy Prophet( s a ). The great revolution which took place in Arabia over 1400 years ago is undoubtedly unparalleled in human history. A nation known for its short temper and indulgence in tribal war-fare was reformed into a people dedicated to the cause of peace. He turned the fighters – who loved to destroy peace – into ambassadors of peace, spreading and preaching the message of peace throughout the world. He found the whole world in darkness and by his appearance that darkness was converted into light. Such perfect reform was particular to him that he taught a people who were at the level of animals the ways of humanity; in other words, he converted wild beasts into men, and then turned them into educated men and then made them men of God. This miraculous change has been described in a beautiful couplet by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad( a s ) of Qadian. Addressing the Holy P r o p h e t( s a ), he says ‘You found them (the Arabs) in a hopeless moral state. lower than the filthiest thing in the world. And then you transformed them into a glittering piece of gold.’ Finally I wish to submit that Islam provides the theoretical as well as the practical answer to the question of creation of peace- loving men and women. It is the need of the time that the true teachings of Islam, contained in the Holy Qur’an and practically demonstrated by the Holy P r o p h e t( s a ), should be followed in letter and spirit, with a sincere and pious intention for the establishment of world peace.