The very word ‘Islam’ (from the Arabic silm) connotes peace. According to a tradition of the Prophet, ‘Peace is Islam’ (Al-Bukhari). This means that peace is one of the prerequisites of Islam. Similarly, a Hadith states: A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hands people are safe.
One of the attributes of God described in the Quran is ‘As-Salam’, which means peace and security.’ That is to say that God’s Being itself is a manifestation of peace. Indeed, God is Peace (Al-Bukhari). In the Quran divine guidance is likened to the paths of peace. (5:16) Similarly, God's desired religion is called 'paths of peace' (5:16). Paradise, the ultimate destination of God's true devotees, is called the 'home of peace' (6:127). It is also said that, the people of Paradise will wish peace to one another, indicating that the social culture of the people of Paradise will be based on peace.
The Quran, avers that, ‘reconciliation is best’ (4:128), and judging by the consequences, the way of peace is far better than that of confrontation. By the law of Nature, God has decreed that success will be met with only on a reconciliatory path, and not on a confrontational or a violent course of action.
Whenever the Prophet had an option between two courses of action, he always chose the easier (non-confrontational) one. (Bukhari)
This means that, violent activism should not be indulged in if peaceful activism is an option. For, non-violent activism is the easier course as compared to violence. Peaceful activism or Non-violent activism, which should not be confused with passivity, is the perfect solution to problems in all spheres.
Whenever any problem arises between two groups, be it individual or social, one way to deal with it is to opt for the way of violence and confrontation. Another method is to make every attempt, by scrupulously avoiding the path of clash and confrontation, to solve the problem by peaceful means. There are many forms which peaceful means may take; it is, in fact, the exact nature of the problem which tells us which of the peaceful means is to be employed on which occasion.
Islam teaches us non-violence. The Qur'an tells us that God does not love disorder (2:205). This verse also clearly states what is meant by disorder. According to the Qur'an, disorder is that course of action, which results in disturbance in the social system incurring loss in terms of life and property (2:205).
We may put it differently and say that certainly God loves non-violence. He does not want people to indulge in such violence in human society as would result in death and destruction.
The entire spirit of the Qur'an is in tune with this concept. For instance, the Qur'an attaches the greatest of importance to patience. Patience is the only Islamic act, which is promised reward beyond measure (39:10). Patience, in fact, is another name for peaceful activism, while impatience is another name for violent activism. Patience, in essence, is exactly what is called non-violence in modern times. Patient activism means non-violent activism.
This point has been clearly made in the Traditions. According to one Tradition, the Prophet of Islam observed: God grants to non-violence what he does not grant to violence. (Sunan abi Dawood 4/255)
In this tradition the word 'rifq' (gentleness) has been used as compared to 'unf' (violence). These words denote exactly what is called violence (unf) and non-violence (la unf) in modern times. It bespeaks the eternal superiority of non-violence over violence.
God grants to non-violence what he does not grant to violence. This is no simple statement. It tells us of a very profound reality. It tells us of an eternal law of nature. By the very law of nature itself, all bad things are connected with violence, while all good things are connected with non-violence. Violent activities breed hatred in society, while peaceful activities breed love in society. Violence is a source of destruction, while non-violence is a source of construction. Hostility flourishes in an atmosphere of violence, while amity flourishes in an atmosphere of non-violence. The way of violence gives rise to negative values, while the way of non-violence gives rise to positive values. The way of violence embroils people in problems, while the way of non-violence shows people the way to exploit opportunities. To put it briefly, if violence is death, non-violence, as compared to violence, is life.
Both the Qur'an and Hadith speak of jihad as a very superior act. What is jihad? Jihad means 'struggle.' This word is used for non-violent activism as compared to violent activism. One clear proof of this is provided by the verse of the Qur'an which says:
"Do not yield to the unbelievers, but struggle with them by means of it (the Qur'an) most strenuously." (25:52).
The Qur'an is no gun or weapon of war. It is a book of ideology. In such a situation asking people to struggle by means of the Qur'an signifies to strive by means of ideology. That is to say, to work hard to conquer people's hearts and minds by the superior ideology of Islam.
In the light of this Qur'anic explanation, it would be true to say that jihad, in fact, is another name for peaceful activism or non-violent activism, that is to say, if qital is violent activism, jihad is non-violent activism.
The greatest problem facing Islam in present times, to my way of thinking, is that Muslims have consigned the sunnah of non-violence to oblivion. In more recent times, when Muslims faced such problems as that of Palestine, the fall of the Mughal empire, and the Turkish caliphate, they fell prey to negative reaction on such a large scale that they completely forgot that the policy of Islam was that of non-¬violence and not of violence. It is as a result of this deviation from the teachings of Islam that even after a I00-year long bloody war, there has been no positive outcome. The outcome has, in fact, been the reverse. They have lost to an indescribable and unimaginable extent what still remained to them after losing their empires.
According to Imam Malik, this ummah will be reformed in its last phase just as was done in its first phase. That is to say, that just as the issues of the first phase of Muslims were settled by the non-violent method, so will the issues of latter day Muslims be settled likewise. If a violent course of action did not yield any benefit in the past, neither will it do so in future. The circumstances of present day Muslims resemble those that prevailed at the time of Hudaybiya. Today once again the unbelievers are guilty of bigotry (48:26).
The solution to this problem in the first phase lay in the Muslims' refusal to display bigotry by not falling prey to the psychology of reaction but rather adhering strictly to the path of taqwa (righteousness) since that would entitle them to divine succour and a clear victory (48:26).
The Quraysh, who enjoyed the position of leadership in Arabia, were bent on waging war at the time of the Hudaybiya treaty. The Kabah was in their possession. They had expelled the Prophet and his companions from their own homeland. They had taken possession of Muslims' homes and properties. They ceaselessly engaged in antagonistic activities against Islam.
Given this state of affairs, the Muslims had two options before them. One, to wage war with their opponents in the name of putting an end to persecution and securing their rights. This option would certainly have resulted in further loss in terms of lives and resources. The second option was to exercise patience on the question of political and material loss for the time being and to exploit the opportunities that still existed. The Prophet of Islam and his companions chose the second option. The result was splendid: within just a few years the history of the whole country underwent a revolution and the whole of Arabia was Islamized, what the Quran calls a ‘clear victory’. (48:1)
There is great guidance for us in this sunnah of the Prophet. Careful study shows that in present times we are faced with the same state of affairs as prevailed at the time of Hudaybiya in the first phase of the Islamic revolution. Here the Prophet’s sunnah shows us the way to follow this prophetic policy in today’s circumstances and be held deserving by God of a ‘clear victory’ once again.
The incident of Hudaybiya is not simply a chapter of past history. It is a living historical example. It tells believers in every age as to which course in controversial situations is a sure guarantee of success. This involves refraining from making a controversial matter into one of prestige, rather trying to seek a solution in the spirit of taqwa (God¬-fearing spirit). The Hudaybiya principle is not jut a sunnah in the simple sense of the word. Rather it is an eternal law of nature. If this law were to be put into practice not only by Muslims but also by non-Muslim nations, they would reap the same benefits in their respective fields.
One example of this is provided by modern Japan. By the time of the Second World War Japan was of the view that it could fulfill its national goals by means of military action. But it suffered a severe defeat in this war. Its economy was destroyed. After the war, a new thinking surfaced amongst the Japanese. Removing themselves from the field of war and confrontation they centered all their efforts on the fields of education, commerce and industry. The result of this change was that an annihilated Japan could stand up once again and become an international economic power.
Peaceful activism is the sunnah of the Prophet of Islam. He practiced it throughout his life.