Islam aims to build a peaceful society at all cost. It is because higher human objectives cannot be achieved in the absence of peaceful circumstances. The spiritual as well as moral progress of the individual is possible only in peaceful atmosphere. Hence the atmosphere of peace is essential for the building of good society. Academic research too is possible only in peaceful circumstances. The task of the propagation of truth too can be performed only in peaceful atmosphere.
That is why one of the teachings of Islam is ‘reconciliation is the best’ (4:128). In this regard Islam enjoins us to establish peace even at the cost of unilateral sacrifice and patience. An event of the first phase of Islamic history provides us with an example of this unilateralism. This is known as Sulh Hudaybiya (Hudaybiya Treaty). This was in actual fact a no-war pact, which was secured by accepting all the demands of the rival group.
To bring about an atmosphere of peace within the society Islam has given a number of commandments. For instance, the Prophet of Islam observed ‘A believer is one from whom people feel secure as regards their lives and property (At-Tirmizi). Another Hadith has this to say: By God, he is not a believer from whose nuisance his neighbour is not safe. (Al-Bukhari)
Islam aims at making all individuals peace-loving to the ultimate extent. That is why we are enjoined to greet one another by saying ‘Assalam-o-Alaikum’ that is, peace be upon you. According to another saying of the Prophet, the best Islam is to greet everyone you come across, whether or not you are acquainted with the person. (Fathul-Bari 1/103).
The frequent reiteration of this phrase ‘peace be upon you’ is in actual fact an external manifestation of the desire for peace within. Islam wishes to inculcate this feeling within every individual that he should become a true lover of peace, to the point that this feeling starts welling up in his heart, finding expression whenever he meets a person.
Islam is a peace-loving religion from beginning to end. And it is but natural that it should be so, as all the best results it aims to achieve, can be achieved only when an atmosphere of peace is maintained at both national and international level.
This path of peace is followed by the entire universe. It is known in science as the law of nature, which is imposed upon it by God. Whereas man has to adopt this path of peace of his own free will. This has been expressed in the Qur’an in these words: “Are they seeking a religion other than God’s, when every soul in heaven and earth has submitted to Him, willingly or by compulsion? To Him they shall all return” (3:83).
When peace is the religion of the entire universe, it should, therefore, be the religion of man too, so that, in the words of Jesus Christ, the will of the Lord may be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
In a similar vein, the Qur’an tells us that: “The sun is not allowed to overtake the moon, nor does the night outpace the day. Each in its own orbit runs.” (36:40)
When God created the heavens and the earth, He so ordered things that each part might perform its function peacefully without clashing with any other part. For billions of years, therefore, the entire universe has been fulfilling its function in total harmony with His divine plan.
Peace is no external commodity to be artificially imposed upon man. Peace is inherent in nature itself. The system of nature set up by God already rests on the basis of peace. If this system is not disrupted, it will continue to stay the course set for it by the Almighty. It is true that the only condition to maintain the human system on the path of peace is to keep it free from the elements of corruption. That is why the Qur’an states:
And do not corrupt the land after it has been set in order. (7:85)
In order to preserve the peace, established by nature, from disruption, two important injunctions have been laid down by Islam. One at the individual level, stresses the exercise of patience, and the other, at the social level, forbids taking the offensive.
1. Negative reaction on the part of the individual is the greatest factor responsible for disrupting peace in daily life. It repeatedly happens that in social life one experiences bitterness on account of others. On such occasions, if one reacts negatively, the matter would escalate to the point of a head-on collision. That is why Islam repeatedly enjoins us to tread the path of patience. The Qur’an says: Surely the patient will be paid their wages in full without measure. (39:10)
The reason for the rewards for patience being so great is that patience is the key factor in maintaining the desired system of God. In the words of the Qur’an the patient man is the helper of God. (61:14)
2. The other injunction, designed to maintain peace in human society is to forbid the waging of an offensive war. No one in Islam enjoys the right to wage war against another. There are no grounds on which this could be considered justifiable. (2:190)
There is only one kind of war permitted in Islam and that is a defensive war. If a nation by deviating from the principles of nature wages war against another nation, then, a defensive war, with certain conditions, may be waged by the country under attack.
To sum up, Islam is a religion of peace. The Arabic root of Islam is ‘silm’ which means peace. The Qur’an states: ‘…and Gods calls to the home of peace’ (10:25). It is thus God’s will that men and women should jointly establish a society of peace in His world.
Peace is basic to all religions. Let us all strive then to establish peace in the world, for that is the bedrock on which all human progress rests.