"ISLAM AND WORLD PEACE"
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 firstname.lastname@example.org web page www.islam-usa.
Shahid Athar, MD
Clinical Associate Professor
Indiana University School of Medicine
8424 Naab Road
Indianapolis, IN 46260