Incline to peace: Opportunity for Iran and USA

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Barack Obama, Iran Views: 3035

If Iranian leaders do not come to grips with reality soon, they will have missed a historic opportunity to make a deal for peace with the United States. It takes courage and considerable moral integrity to reach out to an entrenched adversary; both attributes were amply displayed by President Barack Obama in his recent overture to the Iranians, which incurred the censure of right-wing U.S. hawks.

Regrettably, the Iranian response has been unreflective, pugnacious - and most important - un-Islamic.

A verse in the Quran states: "If they [the unbelievers] incline to peace, you should also incline to peace." Because believing Muslims revere the Quran as sacred scripture containing the very words of God, it is not unreasonable to expect that professed Muslims should take these words to heart.

Inclining to peace should manifest itself in a willingness to negotiate through diplomacy, especially when an adversary indicates a preference for it. When the pagan Meccans sought arbitration with the Prophet Muhammad and his followers in 628, he concluded the Treaty of Hudaybiyya with them. The treaty included provisions not entirely favorable to the Muslims, but the Prophet did not waver in his resolve to sign this agreement. Some of his companions grumbled about the unequal treatment of Muslims in this accord, and a few were even opposed to the whole idea of peacemaking.

The arguments were familiar - the Meccans had driven the Muslims out of their homes, looted their belongings, and persecuted them for their beliefs. As far as one could tell, the Meccans remained committed to destroying the nascent faith and its adherents. How could one sit down with such trenchant enemies, whose intentions were suspect? The Quran answers those objections in the very next verse: "And if they intend to deceive you - then surely God is sufficient for you." Scripture had made it clear that Muslims should take a risk for peace, and if the opposing side should desist from hostilities, Muslims should reciprocate in kind.

The treaty was signed and was meant to guarantee 10 years of peace. As it turned out, the worst fears of Muhammad's followers proved to be true. The Meccans soon violated the agreement and fighting loomed. Further negotiations, however, brought about the peaceful surrender of Mecca and a general amnesty for the previous enemies of the Muslims.

Muhammad and his immediate successors implemented a principle known as "the joining of hearts," according to which the erstwhile enemies of Islam were to become reconciled with Muslims through charity and inclusion within the new community. The fact that Muslims throughout time have not always implemented these principles in no way makes them less normative for contemporary Muslims.

Both Sunnis and Shiites read the same Quran, and both agree that its ideals were perfectly realized by their Prophet. Thus Iran, a predominantly Shiite nation, is just as obligated to follow Quranic teaching as any other Muslim-majority country with a commitment to Islamic principles.

After eight years of relentlessly hawkish U.S. policies toward the Middle East (and some would argue toward the Muslim world in general) under President George W. Bush, Mr. Obama has clearly set a new course. He has expressed resolute good will toward the majority of Muslims in the world who also desperately - and audaciously - hope for change for the better, as global surveys and polls have repeatedly shown.

Why, then, has Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a religious man by all accounts, spurned Mr. Obama's outreach and rejected negotiations? He certainly cannot claim a scriptural imperative for his behavior.

From a realpolitik perspective, risking political capital for peace may appear to be a foolhardy venture, and Mr. Khamenei will certainly be criticized by Iran's hawks for talking to "the Great Satan."

But morally speaking, he and other Iranian leaders owe it to their people and to the world to sit down at the negotiating table in view of the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been a principal actor in some of the major conflicts of our time.

It is not enough for Muslims to repeatedly affirm that Islam stands for peace; they need to demonstrate that Islam means peace. When valuable opportunities for peacemaking occur and it is Muslim leaders who fritter them away, they should expect scorn to be directed at them and at their hollow rhetoric.

In the popular American imagination, Muslims after 9/11 have become tarred by the brush of violence. Now we can add to this image an unholy lack of moral courage and intransigence in the face of a singular opportunity to put an end to a nuclear standoff that could engulf the whole world.

If Iranian leaders adhere to the faith for which they claim to have launched a revolution 30 years ago, they will put aside bellicose rhetoric and take up the work of peace.

Asma Afsaruddin is a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame and is the author of "The First Muslims: History and Memory."

Source: The Baltimore Sun

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Barack Obama, Iran
Views: 3035

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
Let us not be harsh on Asma or Islamicity. It is actually good to listen and respond in the best possible manner, for that is what Quran tells us.

It is best to listen to what is being said and follow the most equitable way. Do what we can for humanity's peace and leave the rest to The Almighty. He indeed has the upper Hand.

Shame on Asma Afsaruddin.

Writing a "Propaganda 101" piece that would make Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw-Haw proud.

And shame on Islamicity for allowing such propaganda to be displayed online.

Inclining to Peace!

What type of Peace are we talking about in 2009?

Where you sit on my head and I simply cannot move at all?

Is Asma Afsaruddin so naive she fails to see the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran? And the mud slinging and the rhetoric being directed towards the Iranians?


Assalamou Alaykoum. I would suggest to Islamicity to trash this kind of article, they only add to the division of the Muslims. This woman is either confused or an arrogant hypocrite, as she dares to use the noble Qur'an and the noble history of Islam to serve the enemies of the great Islamic Republic of Iran.
The USA is never sincere nor honest, and perhaps will never be, regardless who is governing it.

From the bottom of my heart I want to say Jazzak Allah Khair to Brother Shuja Syed, Abdul J and Ahmed Bahraini for expressing what I needed to say.

First: Iranian didn't do 911. Second: Prophet Mohammad pbuh didn't sign peace deals whilst foreign troops were surrounding his homeland, seizing his assets and attacking his caravans (in the case of Iran US attacked the civilian airplane killing hundreds civilian passengers for which US has yet to front up to).

These and many other issues were outlined by Iranian leaders, as a way for Obama to 'put his money where his mouth is".

Action must follow words and the party who has the power to roll back must be the first to take action. America has interfered in Middle East for over 60 years (I know from experience). They are the ones who can demonstrate their intent which Obama put in words.

Quran also says deeds are governed by intent. Obama spoke of his intent. He now has to display that with his deeds and that is exactly what any party expects, Muslim or otherwise.

As for me I come from a place where peace is a certainty inside of me regardless of any other condition. I wish that for all humanity.

Very True the Quran Clearly States that, Lets forget about the past for the sake of god, lets not hold any grudges. Iran should come to the table in good faith and be transparent, atleast do it for your people, the majority who want peace, Nobody is perfect except god. There is no price for peace, I hope the iranians make peace with USA, Its an opportunity under Mr Obama/Clinton. God bless the whole world! Peace

Ridiculous article. This is one of the most stupindest material I have read. The article has no foundations at all. Iran does not wants war. Iran wants security, euality and repect. America has not done that. Obama has renewed the sanctions and then giving lectures to Iran. Not a single day pass by when an Israeli or American leaders threats Iran. The words like carrot and stick is not acceptable to a respected nation like Iran. Such words are suitable to the donkeys like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Iran has seen the pain the past 30 years that no other nation has gone through. Who is Dennis Ross, a staunch Zionist who is incharge of dealing with Iran. They have a real plan of attacking Iran with nuclear weapons. The first step towards friendship will be to remove nukes from Israel, and if that does not happens, Sorry. Also, they need Iran's help to attack Afghanistan and Pakistan. These writers who wanted to contribute should analyze the situation thoroughly. Even many western writers do not agree with her. What a disgrace man.

Bismillah. As to the person that wrote this article she is far out of touch with reality. If this country is inclined toward peace then why haven't they remove their soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan? Why are the attacking innocent people in Pakistan and are talking about stepping up operations in Afghanistan? Why hasn't the new president condoned what the previous administration did concerning torture or what the zionist-israelis have done to the Palestinians. Why didn't America attend the Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa? Are they inclined towards peace. If they are I hear it but I don't see it. It looks like more of the same to me. Iran is right to say that America needs to make moves first and call a spade a spade. Then if she is truly about peace then stop the wars and stop aiding and abiding known criminals. Clean up your own house before you try to clean out others. As muslims we need to stop listening to what people say and see what they do.