Al Huda


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By Dr. Shahid Athar

The basic question is , if Islam is peace or for peace then why is there so much unrest in the Muslim world?  The second question is if Islam can offer peace to a world which is not at peace in general or to man who is neither at peace with himself or with his surroundings? 

The word Islam is from the Arabic root word Salma which has two meanings - peace and surrender,  meaning to achieve peace within and without by surrendering our will to the will of God.  This is not easy in this world as there are forces within us and around us to disturb the peace.

Man's quest for peace is as old as his craving for disturbing the peace from time to time.  Peace is not an absence of war or having peace through means of war.  By peace we do not mean tranquility in the graveyard where the soldiers of war lie in peace but we mean peace in the flower garden filled with birds singing and children singing and peace in our hearts with ourselves, our Creator and fellow human beings. 

Everyone likes to pray for peace and Nations sign documents agreeing for peace but unless such prayers are answered by God and unless such documents have the blessing of God, it will not bring peace because such peace will not be for God's pleasure but for territorial rights. The next question one may ask is why do we need to bring God into this?  Why can't men have peace among themselves without God's involvement.  One of the attributes of God in Islam is As-salam and meaning the giver of peace.   Thus, when we Muslims say Assalamulaikum (peace be with you) to someone else, we are not only wishing peace but assuring him of peace as well.  By this we mean that words of peace alone are not enough.  It has to be followed by peaceful actions.  Anything which disturbs the peace by words of our tongue, through the actions of our hands or the weapons of war can not assure or ensure peace.  Man is neither at peace with himself nor with his surroundings.  This is manifested not only in the manifestations of war and its devastations in terms of human life and suffering but also the war at home in terms of drug addition, homicide, violence and abuse.  This unrest on an individual level affects the whole society whether it is Columbine the shooting in a high school in the USA or more recently in Germany.  On political scenes, injustices bring out more hostility.  Children and humans
living in sub-human conditions in refugee camps or the caves will not be at peace and therefore they look upon those who caused their present state as oppressive and will do anything to get back.  So, the only way to change their mentality is to become their benefactor and change their fate of plight.  Another attribute of God in Islam is Al-Adil, the force of justice.  Thus justice and peace is always combined.  Even the Jewish scripture Talmud says "more justice, more peace".  Dr. Martin Luther King said "peace is not merely the absence of tension but presence of injustice".  He also said "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".  Thus, unless we have peace with justice, we can not have peace.  Our compassion to others should include not only those who do good to us but also those who wrong us.  We must become as compassionate as trees.  When a tree extends its shade to a tired traveler, it does not ask the
question what is your religion, your color, your race, your language? When a tree allows a bird to sit on it, or to sing or make a nest, it does not ask where did she come from and where is she going?  But, we humans ask these questions of a fellow human being before we give him a place in our hearts.

 Forgiveness is a tool of justice and justice is a tool to promote peace.  We need to seek forgiveness and forgive others now rather than wait and do it after centuries and decades for the treatment of native Indians, Mayans, Slaves, and Jews in Holocaust or Japanese interned in World War II.  Love is a weapon to fight hate.  It is the best one we can have.  The Cardinal Suenens in 1963 at the United Nations said "peace requires strict justice as its rule, love as its driving force and liberty as its atmosphere".  Quran says "you were enemies but God put love in the heart of the believer and gave you the gift of brotherhood".  Thus, the forces of wrong insight us to do hatred but forces of God invite us to do love, peace and justice.  Islam does offer and will offer peace to fellow humans and to the world but wishes that the same is also offered
to Islam and Muslims in return.  Thus, the Islamic view of world peace is peace with justice, peace with honor, peace with self, peace with the Creator and peace with surrender.  I end this with a prayer of peace as taught to us by the prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).   " Our Lord, You are peace, from You comes peace.  Make us live in peace, make us enter into the abode of peace".  In peace I came and in peace I leave.  In love I came and in love I leave. 

Presented on May 25 , 2002 in Seattle, Washington during 9th  Annual convention of the International Association of Sufism ( IAS.ORG )  Dr Athar can be reached via e mail Sathar  web page




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