Islam and World Peace
ISLAM AND WORLD PEACE
This book is a collection of articles that I have published over the years in the Urdu magazine Al-Risala on the subject of Islam and peace.
These articles were written with the basic intention of clearing up the misunderstandings that abound about Islamic teachings about peace and war and to state the authentic position on these matters.
Islam is a completely peaceful religion. In Islam, peace is the general rule or norm and war is only an exception.
This rare exception is always as a compulsion in response to the actions of others. War is not something that Muslims should initiate unilaterally.
The basic aim of Islam is to transform people’s thinking and to bring about an intellectual revolution in their minds based on tawhid, or the oneness of God.
A hadith, contained in the Fath al-Bari, tells us that the Prophet observed that if the heart is in a proper condition, the whole human body will likewise be so. Conversely, if the heart is in poor condition, the whole body will malfunction.
The ‘heart’ and ‘body’ are symbolically used in this narrative to suggest that just as our bodily health depends on the health of our hearts, the quality of our religious lives depends on our faith or iman.
Psychologists tell us that our thoughts determine our actions. Thus, the quality of our actions depends on the quality of our thoughts. That is why Islam places great stress on nurturing right thinking.
This being the case, war is excluded from Islam’s plan of affirmative action. Islam teaches us to focus entirely, and under all conditions, on the awakening of right thinking and awareness.
War is something that undermines, rather than facilitates, the plan of human reform that Islam stands for. One can derive no real gain or benefit from war or any other form of violence.
This is why if all possible efforts to prevent war are made but, yet, they fail and one is compelled to engage in war, the first thing for the followers of Islam to do is to seek to put an end to the fighting as soon as possible, so that in a climate of peace the real positive work of Islam can carry on unhindered.
In this context, it is pertinent to say a few words about the notion of jihad in Islam. Jihad is, in fact, another name for peaceful struggle.
In today’s parlance, it could be called ‘peaceful activism’—or, in other words, using peaceful means to try to attain certain lofty objectives.
The literal meaning of jihad is ‘effort’ or ‘struggle’. The Quran speaks about a ‘great jihad’ (jihad-e kabir)—engaging in jihad through the Quran (25:52). According to a hadith, a mujahid, one who engages in jihad, is one who, for the sake of obedience to God, combats his own lower self, or nafs.
According to another hadith, when the Prophet returned from the Tabuk campaign, he said, ‘We have returned from lesser jihad to greater jihad.’
The ‘lesser jihad’ is military struggle, while the ‘greater jihad’ is the struggle against one’s own lower self, that is to say, the struggle to control one’s negative and undesirable feelings and to persevere in the life of God’s choice in all circumstances.
Jihad, if understood correctly, is an entirely peaceful action. At the individual level, to engage in jihad is to refuse to deviate from God’s path in the face of the desires and inclinations of one’s nafs and the baneful influence of the environment.
It is to face the difficulties and challenges that stand in one’s path and remain steadfast on the path of the Truth. At the collective level, jihad may be defined as a peaceful struggle.
Jihad is linked to intellectual awakening. It entails enkindling among people a healthy spirit, exhorting them to positive action and seeking to refine their character.
Jihad inspires people to seek to become beneficial to others and to be concerned about their welfare. The weapon used in jihad is love, not hatred or violence.
Some people misunderstand jihad as the equivalent of war, or what is called qital in Arabic.
Considering the two to be synonymous is really to misconstrue or distort the significance of jihad. The fact of the matter is that qital is a very limited and temporary action.
On the other hand, jihad is a continuous and comprehensive or all-embracing process. Jihad is an exalted process in Islam, which should carry on continuously, every day and at every moment in our lives.
Under no condition should it stop.
When a person seeks the Truth, he is immersed in an intellectual jihad. When he realizes the Truth, his jihad continues throughout his life, taking on added dimensions.
He must now engage in jihad or struggle to the utmost against his own self and his base, Satanic, desires and against the difficulties and challenges of his surroundings. In this way, he strengthens and deepens his faith and trust in God.
He engages in continuous constructive intellectual development, and so his realization of the Truth continuously develops, till at last he reaches the highest possible stage.
According to a hadith, one’s faith increases and decreases. To save one’s faith from erosion requires a continuous jihad. Living in society, one is repeatedly beset by negative feelings or emotions, such as anger, jealousy, revenge, pride, ingratitude, greed, and so on.
These negative emotions threaten to weaken or decrease one’s faith. In such a situation, one has to awaken one’s consciousness and struggle against these negative tendencies and inner feelings and eliminate them. This is a jihad, and without this jihad no one can save his or her faith from damage, decrease or erosion. Wahiduddin Khan