International Day of Peace: September 21
Since time immemorial, mankind has been searching for an ideal society where man can lead a happier, worthier and more rewarding life. This can only be possible if there is peace and security in the world. Without peace no nation or individual can move forward. Each year the International Day of Peace is observed on 21 September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples. Established in 1981 by a unanimous United Nations resolution, Peace Day provides a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace. At a time when war and violence often monopolise our news cycles, the International Day of Peace is an inspiring reminder of what we can create together.
Allah Almighty in the Quran has encouraged establishment of peace and has told the followers of Islam to be moderate in their behaviour and adopt the qualities of kindness, love and respect for others. “As-Salaam-Alaikum,” the Islamic greeting meaning “Peace be unto you”, is common whenever and wherever Muslims gather and interact. It is evident that the primary principle in Islam is peace. Islam emphasises on peace in communication with all Muslim and non- Muslim people in a society, and encourages its adherents to avoid war and violence.
The Qur’an places limits on the use of force. The Qur’an acknowledges the right of retribution but states, “Those who forgive the injury and make reconciliation will be rewarded by Allah.”
The Qur’an says that “permission to fight is given to people who have been wronged…who have been unjustly expelled from their homes…”. Islam orders its followers to seek peace if the enemy seeks peace: “But if the enemy incline towards peace, you (also) must incline towards peace, and trust in Allah, for He is the One who hears and knows (all things).” Qur’an teaches that enmity with a people or group must not prompt a Muslim to do injustice to them. Allah says in the Qur’an that he does not like mischief-makers. In another verse, the Qur’an says that killing one person is equal to killing whole humanity, and saving the life of one person is equal to saving whole humanity.
Islam is a religion of universalism, tolerance, peace, and reconciliation. Islam teaches that life is sacred and that the believer has a duty to uphold truth, justice and peace. Social justice is the core principle of Islam. Pursuing justice in the face of oppression and suffering is the personal and collective duty of every Muslim.
In defensive battles, the Prophet (SAW) of Islam best practised human and moral principles, even treating his most vicious enemies with humane behaviour. During the Hunayn war, he granted the majority of captives mercy and returned their property to them. In the conquest of Mecca, some Muslims used to chant that today is the day of vengeance, but the Prophet said to them, today is a day of mercy. He told the people of Mecca and the leaders of their war: you are all free and there is no worry for you. The Prophet of Islam during wars never deprived the enemy of drinking water. In the Kheybar battle He was strongly opposed when he was offered the opportunity to close the waterway or poison the drinking water in the fortress, and forbade the spread of poison in the city of enemies and in general everywhere. During the war, the Prophet said: Do not kill women, children and the elders and do not burn palm trees and crops. Never start a war with the enemy unless they start, do not kill the fugitives, do not attack the wounded, don’t go into their homes, don’t attack women, and don’t scold anyone.
One of the major problems in the contemporary world is the social conflicts that arise from political, cultural, ethnic, racial, geographical, and religious causes. Humans are tired of the heart-breaking and devastating struggles and conflicts, and are looking for a way to have a peaceful and non-violent society. The Holy Quran says, “If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel, make you peace between them with justice and be fair. For Allah loves those who are fair. The believers are but a single brotherhood; so make peace between your brothers”. The Quran instructs us that in the face of provocation, we must refrain from reacting and instead defuse the situation. Good and evil deeds are not equal, repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend. If someone behaves in an ignorant way with you, you must respond to his ignorance with tolerance. Allah enjoins the believers to amicably reconcile their mutual differences and conflicts and forbids them from falling into disputes with one another, and warns them if they do not do so they will become weak as a community and their strength will be lost.
“And dispute not with one another, then you will lose courage by getting demoralised and your strength will be lost. And if two factions of the believers get to fight, make them reconcile. Then if either of these (factions) commits injustice and aggression against the other, fight against (the one) that is committing aggression till it returns to Allah’s command (of establishing peace). When they revert and submit, make peace between them with equity. And put justice to work. Surely, Allah loves those who do justice.”
War in Islam is fought as a case of last resort. In Mecca, where the Prophet (SAW) spent the first 13 years of his prophetic mission, he did not allow his followers to resort to violence or even revenge despite a continuous barrage of crimes against his companions. Those who could not tolerate the persecution were advised to migrate to Abyssina (Ethiopia) and later to Madina. After the Prophet’s (SAW) migration to Madina due to persecution, the Quraish with the help of their allies kept attacking Madina time and again (Badr, Uhud, Ahzab etc) and this eventually led the Prophet (SAW) and his followers to march to Makka in January 630 CE and conquer it in an expedition where no drop of blood was spilt. After the takeover of Makkah, the chieftains came and stood in a row in front of the Prophet (SAW) who said, “what do you think I am going to do with you?” The Prophet (SAW) replied, “O, you all are free.” These were the chieftains who persecuted him and his followers at Mecca, expelled him and his companions from Mecca, and repeatedly attacked Madina with their followers and Arab allies. But the Prophet’s (SAW) most generous behaviour after the conquest of Mecca closed a long chapter of violence.
Islam tells its followers: “Fight in the path of Allah against those who fight you and do not transgress limits. Verily, Allah does not like those who transgress limits.” Allah says in Quran, ‘Whoever commits aggression against you, retaliate against him in the same measure as he has committed against you. And be conscious of Allah, and know that Allah is with the righteous.” The teachings of Islam invite people to live a peaceful life based on theism, justice and purity. Therefore, peace in Islam is an eternal constitution. Even the nature of war in Islam is a defensive one, not an offensive one, because the principle of Islam is peace and coexistence, not conflict, violence and war. In many verses of the Qur’an, God has allowed Muslims to fight only for defence. Therefore, war in Islam is a secondary principle, not a primary one.
Islam does not encourage war. The Qur’an says: “O who believe, enter into peace whole-heartedly”. It describes the Prophet as “Mercy to the Worlds”. The Qur’an allows war only when there is no alternative and when it is in defence. Force was not used and cannot be used to spread Islam as the Qur’an in more than one place clearly pronounces that “there is no compulsion in matters of faith”. Hence, it was only Islam in pre-modern times which allowed followers of other faiths to live in peace within its boundaries with no interference in their religion and customs. Everywhere else, subjects had to follow the faith of the ruler. The Islamic teachings attempt to invite people to global peace and a peaceful life on the basis of theism, justice and piety. So, in Islam peace is an immortal and primary law. “Allah loveth not aggressors.” This interpretation of peace which is based on Qur’anic teachings can develop a widespread peace around the world and terminate conflicts.
The Prophet (SAW) fought many wars but the reality is that during all his defensive wars fought over ten years in which he personally took part or sent out forces led by others, only 756 persons were killed from both sides (Muslims and non-Muslims). Compare this with the First and Second World Wars during each of which an estimated millions of people were killed.
“Do not boycott one another, do not turn away from one another, do not hate one another and do not envy one another. Be slaves of Allah, brothers. And it is not allowed for a Muslim to avoid another for more than three days.” (Al-Bukhaari, Muslim).
The writer is a regular contributor to this newspaper and can be reached at [email protected]