How Peaceful Is Peaceful?
And then there is the question of characterizing Islam as "peaceful" and doing so under duress. That is, when you are being pursued and hounded by people who brand you as totally irrational and uncontrollably violent.
So, you have a knee-jerk reaction, purely defensive and purely self-protective and blurt out that you are a "peaceful religion."
And you are absolutely and one hundred percent right in saying that. For, Islam is all about peace and truth and justice and kindness and compassion.
But that is not what your accusers and tormenters are saying. They are pointing to all the violence that is going on in different parts of the Muslim world, violence in which Muslims are involved in one way or another, and saying that it is all Islam's fault.
But what some of these people conveniently forget is that there are all kinds of background factors and conditions that lead to violence in individuals, groups, nations and societies.
They forget that peace is one state of human life and reality. Another is strife and conflict. A third reality of human life is force.
Peace is the ideal state to which we all aspire and toward which we all work. Strife is the sad and gloomy reality in which human life is all too often mired.
Legitimate, lawful and societaly sanctioned force is the instrument that human beings have devised for minimizing and controlling strife and for maximizing peace.
The foundation of true and lasting peace on earth and in any society is justice, love, compassion, integrity, truth, reasonableness and sound morality.
Where this foundation is absent or weak, and where people's most basic needs and legitimate rights and aspirations are not met, and are persistently and blatantly denied, chances of stable and lasting peace are minimized or jeopardized.
All too often, then, those who have been systematically denied their basic and legitimate rights, and who are not allowed by nations, societies and governments any rightful recourse to the redress of their lawful grievances, begin to resort to force and violence as an instrument of resistance to their domination, subjugation and exploitation by others and for the amelioration of their situation.
There are all kinds of university books, full of all kinds of theories, that explain why and how people develop violent tendencies and behavior.
For example, extreme poverty, deprivation, hopelessness, oppression, marginalization, cruelty and systematic discrimination and abuse may potentially move people toward violence. So also may serious perceptions of injustice, usurpation of property, abuse of power, violation of basic rights and deeply held values such as honor, personal dignity and the life, honor and dignity of family members.
Colonization, mass enslavement, social and political tyranny, occupation of lands, exploitation and stealing of resources will all make nations and societies rise up in revolt.
This has been the history of the world. And everyone knows that.
Right to Self-Defense Guaranteed by Civilized World
That is why the constitutions of practically every civilized country in the world, as well as the United Nations Charter Article 51, guarantee people individually and collectively the inherent right to self-defense and the defense of their family and property.
What Islam does is it takes this universal and fundamental human right of individuals, families, societies and nations to self-defense and canonizes it - to use a Christian religious expression. That means Islam makes that right a sacred and not just a mundane or secular one.
So, self-defense in Islam is not just a legal right but also a sacred one, blessed by God.
So, some of those who assert that "Islam is a peaceful religion" seem to want to cover up this fact.
They have been thoroughly intimidated and demoralized by the relentless and ruthless propaganda that brands Islam and Muslims as inherently violent and irrational.
So, is Islam "peaceful" then? Of course, it is. In fact, Islam is peace, period.
But Islam is also about truth - quite possibly much more than any other system in the world.
And Islam is also against all forms of injustice, inequity, cruelty, oppression, exploitation, domination, tyranny and abuse.
But does Islam permit self-defense? Of course, it does. How can it not?
Which constitution of the world, and the law of which civilized country, does not permit self-defense?
Turning the Other Cheek
Is Islam about "turning the other cheek"?
No more than Christianity is and no more than the 1000-year practice and politics of the Christian nations is. No more than any other system of law or government in the world is. No more than international law is. And no more than the UN Charter is.
But Islam does offer you the higher option of turning the other cheek, and forgiving those who sin against you, should you choose to exercise that option.
But Islam does not mandate it. How can it?
How can any sane or sensible system of thought or laws or government in the world mandate that every thief, murderer, rapist, arsonist, bank-robber, child-molester and traitor be ab initio forgiven and coddled as a long-lost brother or sister?
With all this, are there some Muslims in this world who go overboard, lose control of their emotions and better judgment, and resort to violence? Of course there are.
Is that acceptable behavior on their part? No, it is not.
Does Islam condone or sanction behavior like that? No, it does not.
Should we criticize and condemn senseless and irrational violence when it is perpetrated by Muslims? Of course we should. In the same way as we and all Muslims and non-Muslims should criticize and condemn senseless and irrational violence when it is perpetrated by non-Muslims.
Does Islam condone or sanction violence against civilians, women, children, the aged, the infirm and the priests, pundits and the clergy? Of course it does not.
Does international law? Do any of the other religions and legal systems of the world? Of course none of them do.
Does Islam condone or sanction torture? Of course it does not.
Does international law? Do any of the other religions and legal systems of the world? Of course they do not.
In the end, is Islam then a "peaceful religion"?
First of all, Islam is not a "religion."
Second, Islam is totally, absolutely and completely all about peace - and truth - and justice.
Third, at the same time, Islam is behind no other system of laws and government in the world, including the Charter of the United Nations, in protecting and guaranteeing the inherent right of individuals, societies and nations to self-defense. And to justice. And to equality and fair and equitable treatment. And to self-determination and freedom from tyranny.
Why should it be?
As for Aggression, It Is an Absolute No, No in Islam
But what about using force as a means of committing aggression? That in Islam is an absolute no, no.
I have not come across, nor am I aware of, anything as clear or forceful - I don't mean the pun in that expression - in any culture, language, constitution or religion, against using force as a means of aggression, as in Islam.
"Allah does not like those who commit aggression or use excessive force," says the Qur'an.
Innallaha laa yuhibbul mu'tadeen.
The Qur'an asks people to "cooperate with one another in every kind of good thing. But when it comes to committing an act of aggression and excess," the Qur'an clearly says, "no, don't cooperate with anyone on that basis and for that purpose" (Qur'an 5:2).
Wa laa ta'aawanoo 'alal ithmi wal 'udwaan.
Even as the Qur'an allows the right of self-defense and retaliation, it clearly warns against aggression and excess, even in that context and even against that background.
The Qur'an says:
"If you were to retaliate or visit retribution on someone for any wrong done to you, then do so in strict proportion to what was done to you. But if you were to show restraint and patience then it may be even better (Qur'an 6:126)."
Wa in 'aaqabtum fa-'aaqiboo bi-mithli maa 'ooqibtum bihi.
Wa la-in sabartum, lahuwa khairul lis-saabireen.
Here is another one in a similar context:
"When you are faced with aggression against you, then resist that aggression with similar force, but fear God Almighty, and clearly understand that God is with those who fear him (Quran 2:194)."
And yet another one:
"Let not your anger and displeasure at those who kept you away by force from the protected mosque cause you to commit aggression or use excessive force against them (Quran 5:2)."
So, which part of any of these luminous and self-evident passages of the Qur'an the Muslims or the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim propagandists don't understand?
I don't know about you folks. But there is nothing like this anywhere in the world.
Nothing with this much clarity and with this much emphasis and forcefulness.
What Should Muslims Say Then?
What should Muslims say then, when they are hounded by people who want to brand them as violent and irrational and blood thirsty? People who have filled the air and God's world with so much vicious falsehood and propaganda against Islam and Muslims that a rational and sane person cannot even take a normal breath any more?
Muslims should simply tell the truth. For Islam is all about truth. Muslims should simply say that Islam is about peace, which is what Islam is all about.
At the same time, Muslims should also point out that Muslims have as much right to self-defense as any Christian, Jew, Hindu, Atheist or anyone else in this world.
That is the truth and it is only the truth that will set the Muslims free. Even as truth is what will set the whole world and everyone else in the world free.
Muslims of the Qur'an: A Thinking, Reasoning, Smart Kind of People
I wish Muslims were a smart, reasoning, intelligent and thinking kind of people - the kind of people the Qur'an talks about. Not the kind of dull, senseless, clueless automatons most of us have ended up becoming.
How I wish Muslims were really the smart, thinking kind. How I wish they were the kind of Muslims the Qur'an so methodically and meticulously describes.
Then they would be able to see who they really are. What their real mission on earth is. And how they should go about accomplishing that mission.
They will then understand what their Deen - their way of life and their culture - really is, and how they should live it in practice.
They would then know who their Rabb or master really is, and what he wants from them.
Then they would also know and understand who their Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, really was. And what his life - what his Sunnat - was really all about.
They would then know what that book - Dhaalikal kitaab - the Qur'an, is really all about. The book that he brought from God as a guide and blessing for all of humanity.
And they would know and understand what their own role in this world really is. In this place on earth where God Almighty sent them - with the rest of humanity - as his own personal representatives and managers, with a clearly stated mission.
Muslim Mission on Earth
A mission that specified in the most clear terms that the job of the Muslims - and their responsibility - on earth was:
- To encourage, foster, facilitate and promote all that is good, nice, decent, kind, compassionate, caring and noble.
- To discourage and curb all that may be bad, evil, inhuman, cruel, dangerous, unjust, unfair, unkind, abusive, exploitative and harmful.
- To work ceaselessly and tirelessly to end all forms of tyranny, as Thomas Jefferson once put it, over the mind and body of all men, women and children.
- To treat everyone, without any distinction of race, color, gender or nationality, with respect, justice, equality and fairness.
- To protect the earth and all that it contains from all harm and waste.
- To serve all of God's creation in all forms and shapes in every possible way.
- To spread the message of love, kindness, compassion, niceness, equality, justice, fairness and decency everywhere.
- To guarantee the most basic and fundamental rights to everyone, especially the weak, the oppressed, the powerless, the disadvantaged, the dispossessed and the voiceless.
- To be compassionate, caring, generous and charitable toward all, regardless of color, caste, status, race, religion, gender, language, nationality or some other marker of difference.
- To place God Almighty, their maker and master, and the maker and master of everyone and everything else in this world, first, second and last in their life - and invite everyone else in this world to do so.
And to be, at all times, devoted to and mindful of God Almighty more than to and of anyone or anything else in this world - and to preach that message to everyone else in this world.
Islam Is About Tomorrow
So, in reality, some of what I said earlier is some of what or who the Muslims are supposed to be. The kind the Qur'an talks about. That is their true profile - in the Qur'an.
That is their true identity and their true mission in life.
That is why I wish Muslims of today were Muslims of the Qur'an.
Not necessarily Muslims of yesterday, because that they can never be. For Islam is not about yesterday, but rather about today and tomorrow.
No one does or can live yesterday. We can only live today and tomorrow.
So, whether it is for Muslims or for the rest of the world, there is no such thing as returning to life the way it was yesterday. That can never happen. That is contrary to the law of Allah.
Life on earth does not run backwards. It runs forwards. It runs from God in the beginning to God in the end, if you can figure that one out.
A Future that Is a Throwback to the Past
All we can do, and all we must try to do as Muslims, is to build a most glorious tomorrow for ourselves, and for the rest of the world, keeping before our eyes the immortal teachings of the Qur'an and the everlasting example of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
That is why I wish Muslims of today were Muslims of the Qur'an. For, they are the ones who can build a bright new future for themselves, and for all of humanity, that is as perfect a replication of the past as it is possible for any future to be.
No, it is not a contradiction in terms. It is a miracle. A divine miracle, directly from God Almighty.
For, the more truly successful and glorious the future that human beings build for themselves, the more that future is going to be a throwback in its most central parameters to the life, times and example of the Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam - 1400 years ago.
For, that was the very pinnacle of human glory and achievement on earth. It was as close to being the prime of perfection for human life on earth as this earth is ever capable of producing or witnessing.
Muslims of the Qur'an: Muslims of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
And that is what will make the Muslims of today also the Muslims of tomorrow - contemporary in every age and comfortable in every place, because they will be the Muslims of the Qur'an.
As someone once said: Har mulk mulk-i-maast, ki mulk-i-khudaa-i-maast!
Paraphrase: We are at home everywhere, for all land is our land, as it is our God's land.
Thus, Muslims of the Qur'an are above space and beyond time. They are the Muslims of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Muslims of the Qur'an: True Globalists
And they are Muslims that straddle the globe. They are truly Global Muslims. I mean the Muslims of the Qur'an.
They are people who would have conquered both space and time and freed themselves from the twin tyrannies of history and geography. Neither of the East nor of the West, nor of the South nor of the North, Muslims of the Qur'an are truly the Citizens of the Universe in its full range and glory.
Every inch of the Universe is their home. Every occupant of the Universe their neighbor, relative and colleague.
Muslims of the Qur'an are, thus, the true inventors and exemplars of the concept of Globalization - in the noblest, most humane, most civilized, most inclusive and most benign and charitable meaning of that expression - before some people in the world started to use it as a euphemism and a tool to justify, rationalize and solidify the advantages and gains of the rich and the powerful over the poor and the powerless.
That is why I wish Muslims of today were the Muslims of the Qur'an. And they were the kind of Muslims, Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, built.
For, he built them one by one, and left them behind in this world to carry out his mission of love and mercy to the world.
And he left the world of Allah in their care and custody.
A world in which, starting from scratch, he had ushered in a New World Order of love, charity, compassion, justice, equality, freedom and human rights, freedoms and dignity for the whole world, for all human beings and for all times to come.
Dr. Syed Husain Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at] AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.
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