Maulana Wahiduddin Khan I Times of India I 12th December 2008
The big question on everyone's mind is how to solve the problem of terrorism. On the one hand, the authorities are trying to crush the terror menace through legal action; and on the other hand, reformers are trying to curb it by engaging in condemnation. However, both of these methods are, apparently, proving to be ineffective. Then what is the solution?
The present problem of terrorism is based on an ideology and that cannot be countered or killed through legal action or by mere condemnation. We have to develop a counter-ideology to overcome it. Violence begins from the mind. It must, therefore, be uprooted from the mind itself. This goes directly to the root cause of terrorism. Therefore, in order to eliminate this root cause we need to initiate our efforts by beginning from the right starting point. And this is the re-engineering of minds of individuals by taking them away from the culture of violence and bringing them closer to the culture of peace.
Let's look at two parallel examples from history. One pertains to the American campaign against communist Russia and the other refers to the American campaign against Saddam-led Iraq. Both communist Russia and Iraq were declared enemies of the US, but while America was successful in curbing the menace of communist Russia, it failed to cope with Iraq. The reason was that America met the Russian challenge at an ideological level, while it opted for military action against Iraq.
Terrorism will persist in one form or another until the ideology of violence is countered with another ideology based on peace. But let us first understand the ideology of violence that is resulting in terrorism. This ideology is that Islam is a political system and that it is the duty of all Muslims to establish the political rule of Islam in the world. This kind of thinking was not prevalent during the time of Prophet Muhammad or his early companions. It is a later invention. This was developed over the last few centuries by a handful of people and has become widespread in the Muslim world today. This has led to the present-day violence.
A large number of Muslims, especially many among the youth, have become obsessed with this ideology and are trying to establish the political rule of Islam, thinking it to be their ticket to paradise. Having failed to achieve this objective of establishing Islamic rule by peaceful methods, they have started resorting to suicide bombing. The idea being that if we cannot eliminate non-Islamic rule, then let us at least destabilise it and pave the way for Islamic rule.
After studying Islam by making reference to its original sources the Quran and Hadith one can say with certainty that the political interpretation of Islam is an innovation and the real Islam, as followed by Prophet Muhammad and his early followers, is based upon peace, compassion and tolerance.
People consider peace as the greatest good in the world. However, peace does not prevail in the world today. This is because people the world over are acting intolerantly and indulging in acts of violence, saying, "Give us justice and peace will ensue". But when people, ostensibly seeking justice, stoop to violence, peace can never prevail. Peace is always desirable for its own sake, and every other desirable state comes after peace, not along with it. So, the maxim to follow, when peace is the desired state, is: "Ignore the problems, and avail of the opportunities."
Once people become tolerant and obtain peace for its own sake, what that actually does is open up opportunities. It creates favourable conditions which enable people to strive for their ideals, eventually attaining justice and other constructive ends. This happens due to the law of nature. When the individual refrains from making a controversial matter into one of prestige, this gives rise to serious thinking. This non-emotional thinking helps him to understand that if he were to walk out of the point of controversy he would find all other paths open to him.
This ideology of peace can counter the ideology of violence and it is based on the original sources of Islam. Prophet Muhammad provides a very clear historical example of this in his method of negotiating the Hudaybiyya peace treaty. On this occasion he brought matters to a successful conclusion by unilaterally accepting all the conditions of his opponents. In this peace treaty, the Prophet had not apparently received justice or his rights. But what was in effect a 10-year no-war pact gave the Prophet an opportunity to work uninterruptedly on a constructive programme which would otherwise have been impossible. By means of this peaceful non-political programme, the Prophet and his companions were able to consolidate themselves so thoroughly that they had no need to wage war; they were able to take control of Mecca peacefully.
From this example of the Prophet, we can understand that there is no room for violence in Islam. The ideology of Islam banishes the notion that there can be anything acceptable about terrorism. Islam is a completely peaceful religion and the Islamic method is a peaceful method. By following the ideology of peace, each individual's mind can be re-engineered away from the culture of violence and closer to the culture of peace.