By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
During a visit to the US in June 2011, I was invited to an American church in Philadelphia to deliver a lecture on the importance of peace. When I had completed my address, a Christian scholar asked: “There is a well-known teaching in the Bible, ‘Love your enemy.’ (Luke 6:35) Can you refer to any such verse from the Quran?” I said, “Yes, you can read verse 34 of Chapter 41 of the Quran. The translation of this verse is: ‘Good and evil deeds are not equal. Do good deeds in return for bad deeds; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend”’ (41:34). This Quranic verse is based on the law of nature. That is, there is neither a permanent friend nor a permanent enemy. People fall into two categories: Some who are actual friends, and others who are potential friends. One must discover this fact and by right planning, try to turn this potential into actuality.
According to the law of nature, all men and women are children of Adam and Eve. That is, all human beings have a common ancestor. This means that mankind is a global family. All men and women are blood sisters and blood brothers. In the present day, this biological phenomenon has become a scientifically established fact. The fact of common ancestry has forever done away with the equation of “we and they”. Now the only valid equation is one that is based on the concept of “we and we”. To initiate war, therefore, is like waging war against one’s own family members rather than against any outside group. War is now the act of a pre-civilised age and not of modern civilisation. This universal fact is set forth thus in the Quran: “… whoever killed a human being — except as a punishment for murder or for spreading corruption in the land — shall be regarded as having killed all mankind, and that whoever saved a human life shall be regarded as having saved all mankind” (5:32).
According to the Bible, Jesus Christ said: “Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either” (Luke 6:29). There are evidently far greater arenas for action than fighting for a “shirt”. In such a situation, if you prevent your mind from succumbing to negativity and try to reflect on the issue with positivity, then you will realise that the real problem is not to keep the “shirt” in your hand, but to avail of the opportunities around you.
The above saying of Jesus Christ is a maxim of universal application. For example, ancient Makkah was the home town of the Prophet Muhammad. At that time the leaders of Makkah forced him to leave the city and settle elsewhere. The Prophet duly left Makkah and migrated to Madinah. This was like giving away the “shirt” at the time of an unjust demand. But the Prophet accepted this with a positive mind. At the time of his migration, he said: “I am told to opt for a town that will swallow all other towns” (Sahih al-Bukhari). The implication of this saying was: “If I fight with the Makkan leaders on this issue, I will be wasting my time and energy. But if I leave Makkah and settle in some other town, there will be enough time for me to re-plan peacefully for my mission.”
The Prophet quietly migrated from Makkah without any protest and settled in Madinah. He adopted the peaceful method for spreading his mission. The result of his devoting himself entirely to this peaceful agenda was miraculous: Without fighting, he was able to conquer the hearts of people. It has been proved that when the heart is conquered, everything else is also conquered. The secret of success in life is not to make others suffer losses at your hands. The secret of success in life is to plan one’s time and energy wisely and to avail of the opportunities within one’s reach. All this should be done in a silent manner.
Building a peaceful society requires the re-engineering of the mind. This task can be carried out only through education — more through informal education than formal education. By informal education, I mean gaining knowledge through the media, literature, seminars and conferences, dialogue and discussion, and so on. The best way to bring about change in society is through education. In the pre-printing press age, books were not available. So it was not possible to educate people on a large scale — war is a remnant of that ancient age. In those times, people tried to bring about change through force, and this led to war. Now we are living in the age of printing press in which books exist in abundance. It is therefore possible to bring about a change in society through mass education.
If people are judged on this basis, they can be put into three categories: Anti-self activists, non-self activists, and pro-self activists. All persons fall into one or the other of these categories. Terrorists or violent activists fall into the category of anti-self activists, that is, they totally destroy themselves. If a person’s friend gifted him a very high quality mobile phone, he would never throw it down, or break it into pieces. No one would want to treat anyone’s gifts in this manner. A human being’s existence is also a gift from the Creator. However, people who are engaged in violent activism are mistreating the Creator’s gift to them — they are destroying it instead of using it for the right purpose.
The second category is that of non-self activists. Such people are gravely under-utilising the potential given to them by their Creator. What they are doing with the gift given to them by the Creator will certainly not be acceptable to Him. The third case is that of pro-self activists. These people are performing their roles in accordance with the creation plan of the Creator. These are the people who discover themselves and also the world in which they find themselves. Through study and contemplation, they understand the higher realities and then rightly prepare themselves for the purpose for which the Creator has created them.
The following is a verse in the Quran which is of relevance to the present situation of Muslims: “And God calls to the Home of Peace” (10:25). Here, “Home of Peace” means Paradise, Paradise being the place of ideal peace. God Almighty calls to all mankind: “If you are desirous of entry into eternal Paradise, you shall have to adopt the culture of peace. You shall have to develop your personality along peaceful lines.” In another verse, the Quran, referring to Paradise, describes its environment thus: “They will not hear therein any vain or sinful talk, only the words of peace and tranquillity” (56:25-26).
This is the best description of Paradise. It is an ideal place. It is a perfect society. There will be no nuisance or uncalled-for activities there. In Paradise, the culture of peace will prevail in every sense of the term. Implicit in this description of Paradise, there is a warning to all: “O people, if you want to find entry into Paradise, abandon all kinds of violent activities. Adopt the culture of peace. Paradise is a hate-free place. Those who live in hate in this world can never be settled there.”
Similarly, there is a prayer of the Prophet which says: “O God, You are peace. Peace comes from You and peace returns to You. O God, bless us to live in peace. O God, give us entry into the Home of Peace. O God, You are the greatest” (Ibn Kathir). According to God’s scheme of things, every person who is born on earth should develop his personality along spiritual lines. He should remove all negativity from within and make himself totally positive in mind. According to the Quran, every person should strive to develop a sublime character (68:4). In brief, God’s plan is that the process of character building should continue uninterruptedly in the life of every individual. This process can fructify only in an atmosphere of peace, and not of violence and fighting.
Illustration by CR Sasikumar