Let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace
Peace is built on the foundations of spiritual practices: connections, compassion, justice, unity. It is a goal of all spiritual people. Peace is an inner state of well-being and calm. The spiritual path is focused on the mind with practices aimed to clearing the mental state, taming thoughts, and attaining a calm equilibrium. These cooling, meditative practices bring equanimity, tranquility and clarity of mind. Islamic spiritualism, i.e., Sufism, is a path of spiritual advancement, an expansion of consciousness, leading to awareness of the self and the universe.
The substance of Sufism is selfless experience and the actualisation of truth. The practice of Sufism leads to the development of innate spiritual and intuitive abilities. Islam focuses on meditations which enable Muslims to keep their heart open. A true Muslim follows Islam and is at perfect peace with himself and others. Professor Alexander D Knysh at the University of Michigan, an expert in modern Sufism, describes it as a very wide and amorphous movement. In modern times, according to Prof Knysh, the predominant view of Sufism is of ‘love, peace and tolerance’, making this style of worship synonymous with peace.
The Sufis believe in a strong soul as it brings them close to the divine and this belief is strengthened by the spiritual training given by the perfect spiritual guide. According to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (an American Sufi cleric of Egyptian descent), ‘Sufism is Islam but we focus on meditation, on chanting sessions, which enable the Muslims to have their heart open. The myths people have about Sufis are analogous to the myths people have about Muslims.’ Sufis believe that physical body is a reflection of spiritual body as Prophet Mohammad (SAW) stated that “Actions are but by Intentions.” The essential message of Sufism is to remember God and serve others. The true practice of devotion is service. If you wish to serve the beloved, you must serve others. In selfless service we begin to see ourselves clearly. The finest service is building a peaceful atmosphere. However, peace and peaceful co-existence is not an innovation or addition of Islamic spirituality but it is one of the fundamental aspects of Islam that is being practised as such in Sufism.
The root of the word Islam is ‘silm’, which refers to ‘making peace’, being in a mutually peaceful environment, finding peace, reaching salvation and well-being or being far from danger, attaining goodness, comfort and favour, keeping away from troubles and disasters, submitting the self and obeying, respect, being far from wrong. Islam is a peaceful religion that stands for peace and desires peace. Islam literally means peace as Quran says, “He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind, and he who saves a life will be as if he had saved lives of all humankind.” Allah Almighty in Quran has encouraged the establishment of peace and followers of Islam have been obliged to be moderate in their behaviour and adopt the qualities of kindness, love and respect for others. Prophet Mohammad (SAW) underscored importance of peace and spreading of peace in Islam, said that “O people, spread peace, feed the hungry, and pray at night when people are sleeping and you will enter Paradise in peace.” He (SAW) further added that, “The most hated person in the sight of Allah is the most quarrelsome person.” Peace in Islam is not simply an absence of war, peace opens doors to all kinds of opportunities that are present in any given situation. A perfect Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands mankind is safe.
The Sufis are considered as ambassadors of peace, love, compassion, harmony, patience, tolerance, mercy and kindness. Their method of preaching Islam is impressive and attracts a large number of people. They spread peace by their soft and gentle behaviour towards Muslims and non-Muslims alike. They value humanity over everything, introduce a culture of forgiveness and repentance for all. To love Almighty Allah, the human being must love humanity and discourage the ideas and acts of harming others. Sufism heals all the hatred which is implanted by the ego in an individual. For Sufis the lighthouse for peace and tolerance in society is the life of the Holy Prophet (SAW). They are people who stand away from hatred, distrust and resentment. Islamic spirituality welcomes all human beings equally and its basic theme is humanity.
The President of the International Sufi Academy, Sheikh Dr Aziz al-Kubaity, reported that Sufi teachings have played a major role in world peace. Science without a true understanding of tassawuf can give birth to radicalism in the name of Islam. Religion with lust also often makes fellow Muslims blame each other. The history of Islam in the world has recorded that the Sufis have always put forward ethics, not only in religion, but also in the nation and state.
Peace and peaceful co-existence is an inspirational aspect of life. John Kennedy jotted down that ‘peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, and quietly building new structures.’ A conflict leads to inequality, injustice and exclusion. Military power may be deployed to prevent or defend against an immediate threat, but it cannot resolve underlying political, social and economic problems and sustain peace. More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by violent conflict. Mediation and diplomacy, dialogue and participation are an essential part of the toolkit we need to meet Goal 16 of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, which is to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.’
Kennedy rightly pointed out that peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the heart and minds of all people. So, let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper. Let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace in the hearts and minds of all of our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.