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
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
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
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 email@example.com
web page www.islam-usa.com