Monday, August 15, 2022

The fundamentals of Islamic peace, by Rukayya Ibrahim Iyayi

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Islam means peace in all its forms. Islam asks for justice in resolving all conflicts, so that the aggrieved party is satisfied with the result.

Islam literally means two basic concepts: first, Islam from the Arabic verb salima/yaslemu means to surrender or submit to God. And second, from its Arabic noun salam – from letters seen, lam, meem (or s, l, m) – it means peace or to acquire peace. A daily example of this is provided by Muslims in their greetings of Assalamu Alaykum, meaning peace be with you. Therefore, Islam advocates living in peace with God – the Creator and Lord of all that exists, as well as seeking peace within our own selves, and living in peace with other human beings, and in peace with our surroundings and environment in its entirety. All conflicts – whether they are interpersonal, or within the family and community, or national and international disturb this relationship of peace.

The Islamic principles of peace-building enunciated in the Qur’an also affirm that all of human beings have a common origin (“nafsin wahidatin”). Islam confers ‘dignity’ and respect on a human simply by virtue of being a human. This, as the Qur’an says “We have conferred dignity on the progeny of Adam” (Al Isra 17:70). This dignity is bestowed by God on all humans regardless of their ethnicity, religion, tribe, or nationality.

Islam also recognizes great diversity within human beings. We come from different backgrounds and traditions. This richness is a gift from the Creator. Such diversity means we should live in peace within our community and with our fellow citizens. And not to live in any harmful relationship with each other. The essential lesson from this plurality is to dialogue, collaborate and cooperate and develop a real healthy understanding of one another as an essential first step for living in peace and resolving any conflicts encountered.

There are great many similarities between Islamic and modern systems for settling disputes and building peace. Such as communicating with each other and engaging in dialogue – negotiating, compromising and resolving our differences peacefully, nationally and internationally.

There are Islamic precepts meant to maintain peaceful, healthy, meaningful relationships with God and with all of humanity. This relationship is disrupted by conflicts, whether interpersonal, communal, national or international. Its restoration is essential for the sake of fairness and justice. There are some relevant verses from the Qur’an addressed to the Islamic community: “O You who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear God. For God is well-acquainted with all you do” (Al Maidah 5:8). And: “O You who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or you kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: For God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do” (Al Nisa 4:135).

Islam enjoins one to exercise compassion and forgive others who have done him harm, and move away from greed, egocentricity, crass materialism, and harming others and work to live peacefully in cooperation with each other. The Qur’an constantly uses the word Sulha in resolving all types of conflicts. It means seeking peace, reconciliation, compromise and settlement.

There are several Islamic methodology for conflict resolution and building peace. During the early Islamic history, Muslim jurists developed a number of legal structures and institutions, using a variety of techniques to resolve conflicts amicably, and achieve peace. Among these are the following:
1) Appointment of a Justice of Peace (Qadi as Sulh) to oversee the processes of mediation, arbitration, and reconciliation to achieve settlement and peace. 2) Parties in conflict have the option of resolving their dispute through a Wasta or third-party mediator who would ensure that all parties were satisfied with the outcome. 3) Other practices could use tahkeem, or using intermediaries to represent the parties. These intermediaries should be able to represent the parties’ position as clearly as possible to negotiate on their behalf, and guarantee that the parties receive a fair settlement.
A settlement could include financial compensation, service to the family, service to the community, and specific gestures of sympathy, or public demonstration of reconciliation.

These procedures and relevant structures could be further developed utilizing all possible modern peace building techniques.

Eight Principle of Islam that applies to peace building

  1. Tawhid; Unity of divine being
  2. Fitra; Humans are born inherently good.
  3. Adal; Justice
  4. Afuw; Forgiveness
  5. Rahman and Raheem; Mercy and Compassion.
  6. Khilfah; Stewardship, both being services to human, animals and plants
  7. Sabir; Patience
  8. Habb; Love

These principles together are part of the inner practice of Islam that results in action and practices externally.

Jihad in Islam 

Jihad, (Arabic: “struggle” or “effort”) also spelled jehad, in Islam, a meritorious struggle or effort. The exact meaning of the term jihad depends on context; it has often been erroneously translated in the West as “holy war.” Jihad, particularly in the religious and ethical realm, primarily refers to the human struggle to promote what is right and to prevent what is wrong.

The Muslim concept of jihad is often confused with the idea of holy war. Jihad means ‘to struggle in the way of Allah’, and refers at least as much to an inner or personal spiritual struggle as it does to war and fighting.

Most Muslim scholars agree there are two levels of jihad, and that of these, greater jihad is the more important.

Greater jihad

This refers to the personal spiritual struggle of every Muslim to follow the teachings of Allah in their daily lives, and includes overcoming evils such as anger, greed, pride and hatred, forgiving people who hurt them, and working for social justice.

Lesser jihad

Most Muslims are not pacifists, and believe it is justifiable to struggle to defend Islam, for justice, or in self-defence, and to use force if necessary. If all peaceful means fail, a Muslim should be ready to fight to defend the ummah against aggression, to defend the oppressed, or to combat injustice. This is lesser jihad.

According to traditional teachings, war is acceptable as long as:

  • the war has a justified cause
  • the war is a last resort
  • the war is to protect Allah’s creation
  • the war aims to restore peace
  • the war is controlled by a religious leader
  • the war is not fought as an act of aggression
  • the war is not fought to gain territory

A war cannot be described as jihad if:

  • the war is for political reasons
  • the purpose of the war is to force people to convert to Islam
  • the war puts women and children at risk
  • the war involves destruction of homes or places of worship
  • the war is likely to destroy trees, crops and animals

Muslims must fight on behalf of Allah to defend themselves and obey the rules of war:

“Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors” Qur’an 2:190.

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