Peace, An Islamic Perspective
Contrary to current perspectives Islam is a peaceful religion. The word Islam means peace and surrendering one’s will to God. War in Islam is also something that is looked down upon, and is not favoured by God. The prophet Muhammad, who was the last prophet in Islam, was also against war and discouraged his followers against it.
War in Islam:
War is perhaps the most horrendous of human situations and for Islam it is not a normal sense of being. Islam preaches peacefulness and considers peace the norm. Islam views war to be an extraordinary and exceptional emergency entered only through desperation and as a last resort. Islam promotes equality and the basic freedom of all peoples. It puts an emphasis on mutual help and the respect for others, it directs its followers to extend friendship and good will to all, regardless of religious, ethnic, racial, gender, cultural or linguistic background.
In Islam war should only eventuate in the presence of oppression, corruption, injustice and tyranny. Islam sees that peace can be attained through justice. Therefore Islam justifies wars on the condition that a regime is preventing Muslims from choosing and practicing their ideals and beliefs. Islam does not justify wars against goodwill non-Muslims. It does not permit Muslims to fight with others simply because they do not embrace their faith, nor does it allow Muslims to fight against people who disagree with them on any religious issue. War should be a last resort when peaceful negotiations have failed and the oppression of the Islamic community is to eventuate.
As can be seen, the aim of war in Islam is very similar to that of any peoples on this planet. History has shown that war is usually the last resort; which means that attempts to negotiate and come to a truce is unattainable and the parties concerned are not willing to give up their stance.
The Prophet, Other Leaders and War:
The prophet Mohammed, the last messenger of God, peace be upon him, was also against wars. The prophet did fight many battles; however they were all causes of dire consequences. He was always a reluctant fighter and always tried to settle matters non-violently.
Sultan Saladin was also a well known Islamic leader who retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187. He was known for his kind-heartedness. When he took over Jerusalem he allowed Christians to stay and keep practising their religion and he also allowed the Jews to return.
As with any other religion Islam too has had its share of unfair leaders, however as far as the teachings of Islam goes and following the word of God and the prophet, there should not be any unfairness.
Peace and War in the Qur’an
The Islamic holy book, the Qur’an illustrates that the aim of war is not to gain territory or to dominate, politically, militarily or personally non-Islamic regions. But the aim of war is to establish and assure justice, and to eliminate oppression and tyranny. Muslims are to propagate their religion and it is their right within the religion, however one also has the obligation to protect the right of Muslims and of any other religious community to practice their beliefs and values in a peaceful and friendly manner.
Muslims are commanded to invite mankind to Islam, like the Christian missionaries, through peaceful and friendly means, and to use peaceful methods of education moral ideologies in bringing about political and social change. Only when peaceful efforts of Muslims are frustrated and met with violence, is there a justification for war. Propagation is not meant to be an easy task; it is to be done with sincere, calm and just ways. One cannot force anyone to accept Islam and nor should one be forced to accept any other belief. Islam is to come from the heart and it is this belief from the heart that can bring one to Islam.
In conclusion, Islam is a misunderstood religion it is often associated with violence and hatred. However it is rather a religion of peace, understanding and acceptance. Islam does not tolerate violence and only coordinates war in dire consequences.
1) Sajid, Abdul Jalil, (2002) Preparing for Peace: Islam and Ethics of War and Peace
2) Shirazi, Muhammad, (2001) War, Peace and Non-Violence: An Islamic Perspective Foundation Books, Canada.