The teachings of the Prophet of Islam and his exemplary way of living show that he not only projected the ‘concept of peace’, but that he was also able to develop a complete methodology of ‘Peaceful Activism’. The revolution he brought about was a practical one based on his ‘ideology of peace’. In view of the contribution made to human history by the Prophet of Islam, he can be most appropriately called the Prophet of peace. In the Qur’an the Prophet of Islam is called the Prophet of Mercy (Qur’an;21:107). The Prophet of Peace is only another name for the Prophet of Mercy. Both express the same reality in different words. But this aspect of the Prophet was overshadowed by the political history of Islam. Now, if there is to be a rediscovery of the Prophet of Islam as he actually was, this veil of politics needs to be removed, writes the renowned subcontinent scholar Maulan Waheed-uddin Khan, in his most enlightening article; ‘The Prophet of Peace’ [published in the Monthly ‘Tazkeer’, Lahore English Edition, December 2008, www.dar-ut-tazkeer.com]. With the courtesy, it is being reproduced here with minor adjustments and as short note on Jihad.
Historians have generally acknowledged that the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Muttalib, was supremely successful during his lifetime. For instance, the British historian Edward Gibbon (1735-94) pays tribute to the Prophet of Islam in his book:-“The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” when he observes that “the rise and expansion of Islam was one of the most memorable revolutions, which has impressed a new and lasting character on the nations of the globe.” M.N. Roy, an Indian leader (1887-1954) “writes in his book, “The Historical Role of Islam” (Delhi,1939) that Muhammad must be recognized as by far the greatest of all the prophets and that the expansion of Islam was ” the most miraculous of all miracles”. In his book titled “The I00″(New York, 1978) Dr. Michael Hart has made a list — choosing from the entire span of human history — of the one hundred individuals whose achievements are the most outstanding. At the head of this list of these high achievers, lie puts the name of the Prophet of Islam. He writes: “He is the only man in history)’, who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.” The question arises as to what the secret was of this great success achieved by the Prophet. The secret lies in one word PEACE. It would not be overstating the case to say that the Prophet of Islam was the greatest pacifist in history. He exploited peace as an unconquerable force. The Qur’an says in this connection: “Reconciliation is the best.” (4:128). That is, in controversial matters, a peaceful course of action is far more effective than having recourse to violence. The Prophet of Islam once said, “God grants to peace, what he does not grant to violence.” (Sahih Muslim).
Peace- A Complete Ideology & Methodology:
A study of the life of the Prophet of Islam tells us that the Prophet discovered peace both as a complete ideology and as a methodology, which were productive of the most effective strategy in all matters. An eminent thinker once wrote: “All the revolutions in history were nothing but a change of the rulers. They were not revolutions in the real sense.” In this case, if this is true, the name of the Prophet of Islam will be regarded as a remarkable exception. For, it is a historical fact that the changes he brought about ushered in all kinds of individual, social and political improvements, the combination of which adds up to revolution. For students of history, there is always the possibility of different conclusions being arrived at. However, the writer feels that this is mostly the result of inadequate study, and that when research is undertaken on a vaster and more comprehensive scale, any diversity of opinion automatically narrows down.
Here is an example to illustrate this point. Some defensive battles took place, during the lifetime of the Prophet, one of which was fought at Badr. The traditions tell us that when this battle was taking place, the Prophet of Islam was seated some distance from the battlefield in a makeshift camp; and he was seen drawing some lines in the sand by hand or with some twig. An orientalist, making the assumption that his actions must relate to the current battle, recorded the following opinion: ‘The leader of Islam was making his next war plan.” This orientalist wrote only on the basis of conjecture, without making any reference to the facts. But when we look at other traditions, it becomes clear what the Prophet was doing at that time. He was, in fact, making a plan to establish peace in the future.
As we find in another tradition, exactly at the time when this defensive war was taking place, God’s angel came to him and said: “God has sent you a message of peace.” On hearing this, the Prophet of Islam said: “God is peace, peace is from Him and peace returns to Him.” (Al-Bidayah wan Nihayah, vol. 3, page 267). According to this second tradition, we can rightly say that on the occasion of the Battle of Badr, the leader of Islam was making his next peace plan. The mission of the Prophet of Islam was not of a political nature. More correctly, it was a spiritual mission. The Qur’an calls it the purification of the soul (2:129); that is, making man a perfect human being. The same reality has been expressed elsewhere in the Qur’an as the making of a complex-free soul. Such an aim can be achieved only through counseling and persuasion. It is an aim which demands re-engineering of the mind. This can be done only by awakening man’s ability to think. The means of achieving it is not a political revolution, but rather an intellectual revolution. That is why all the teachings of the Prophet are entirely based on the concept of peace. The Qur’an, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, has about 6500 verses. There are hardly 40 verses in it, which are about qital or war that is, less than one percent, whereas ninety nine percent of the verses are such as are designed to awaken man’s intellectual faculties. We can say, moreover, that the Qur’an is a book on the ‘art of thinking.’ It is in no way a treatise on the art of fighting.
Prevalent Environments of 7th Century Arabia:
Early circumstances Arabia, a peninsula situated in the south western part of Asia, is a desert country which has been inhabited since ancient times. Various tribes lived here in different regions, ruled by their respective chiefs. It was in this country, at Makkah, that four thousand years ago, the Prophet Abraham settled his family. His decedents settled there believed in and worshiped the one God. But gradually, with the passage of time and the effect of external influences, they began worshiping idols. In the 6th century A.D. the whole of Arabia had become an idolatrous country. This was the environment into which the Prophet of Islam was born.
Early Life & Prophethood:
The Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abdul Muttalib was born in Makkah in Arabia in 570 C.E. He declared his prophethood in 610 C.E in Makkah. In 622 C.E, he went to another Arabian city, Medina. He died there in 632 C.E at the age of 63. His prophetic period spanned 23 years. When he was born, his father Abdullah had already diet And when he was six years old, his mother Amina, the daughter of Wahb, also passed away. Afterwards, he lived under the guardianship of his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, and his uncle, Abu Talib. The Qur’an tells us about his early life : “Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter? Did He not find you wandering and guide you?” (Qur’an;93:6-7) In this verse, the Qur’an refers to the reality that when the Prophet of Islam experienced orphanhood in his early life, he suffered from the feeling that something was lost to him. This feeling of loss finally took the form of the search for truth. He so wandered in search of the truth that he often went outside Makkah and would engross himself in thinking about the Truth; and continued to pray to God in solitude in the cave of Hera in a nearby mountain. God, finding him thus in quest of the truth, sent him an angel one night in the year 610 C.E. The angel told him that he had been selected by God as His messenger. Later, the Qur’an began to be revealed to him at intervals. It took a period of 23 years for the revelations to be completed.
The mission the Prophet was given by God was to convey to people the message of monotheism (Tawheed). The message, explaining God’s oneness, exhorted man to lead a life which was in every respect God-oriented. This, for man, was the way to salvation. The Prophet of Islam, in his early years, was a trader. The image formed of his personality as a trader was one that earned him the title, “The Truthful One, The Honest One.” He was thus regarded as an honourable person in Makkah, so that when he climbed up on Mount Safa and called upon his people, they all gathered there to listen to him.
This was his first address as a prophet to his people. In this sermon, he told his hearers that after death everyone would be sent either to heaven as a reward, or to hell as a punishment. Therefore, the life before death should be utilized for preparation for the life after death. At that time, idolatry, to which people had become conditioned, was prevalent in Makkah. For that reason his speech did not impress them. People simply left without trying to understand his message. The Prophet’s uncle, Abdul Uzza (Abu Lahab), reacted negatively, saying in disgust: “Woe to you, did you call us to say only this?”! Makkah was the most important town in Arabia. And the existence of the Kabah within its confines gave it the status 1 of the great religious centre of the whole of Arabia. The Quraysh tribe, who had settled there, were the custodians of ft the Kabah and thus enjoyed the position of leadership in the in entire country.
The Tribal Parliament (Darul Nadwa):
In Makkah, the Quraysh had established Darul Nadwa. i.e. the tribal parliament, of which the senior most tribesmen of the Quraysh were members. Here, after consultation, all important decisions were taken. The Prophet’s grandfather, Abdul Muttalib was one of the distinguished members of Darul Nadwa, As was the order of the day, an ambitious leader’s first objective was to try to become a member of Darul Nadwa, which ranked as the centre of power in Arabia at that time . Apparently, without its bidding, no great task could be achieved in Makkah, or for that matter, in Arabia. But the Prophet of Islam did not make any attempt to become a member of Darul Nadwa. He did not even demand that the vacant seat of his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, should be given to him. On the question of Darul Nadwa, the Prophet of Islam adopted a peaceful course of action, for which I should like to coin the expression “status quoism”. That is, avoiding a confrontation with the status quo and rather accepting things as they are. This way the Prophet had of dealing with things, was not status quoism in the passive sense, but rather a positive line of conduct. Adopting such a course — positive status quoism — means not coming into conflict with the system of the time; but rather discovering the opportunities already existing in it, and then turning them to full advantage. The slogan: “Ignore the problems, avail of the opportunities” expresses the spirit of this approach — an extremely wise way of proceeding. The Prophet of Islam was guided to the adoption of this method in the very early verses of the Qur’an: “Every problem is followed by ease. Every problem is followed by ease.” (Qur’an;94:5-6). In-this way, the Prophet of Islam was counseled that no problem is such in the complete sense, but rather every problem is accompanied by opportunities. Therefore, man should opt for the wisdom of avoiding problems and availing of opportunities. This method followed by the ‘Prophet was a very sound course. It follows that in any; course of action we choose to adopt, we should begin with what is possible today.
The mission of the Prophet of Islam was to establish he oneness of God (tawhid). The greatest problem of the time was that Makkah’s most sacred religious centre housed 360 idols, all belonging to different Arab tribes. These idols had been placed in the Kabah by the Makkan leaders so as to make Makkah the hub of the entire Arabian Peninsula. The Kabah, having 360 idols within its precincts was a problem; but there was an opportunity hidden in this. Because of these idols, not only the Makkans, but people from different parts of Arabia all used to gather there. The Kabah had become a natural meeting ground for people. The Prophet of Islam, choosing to ignore the presence of he idols in the Kabah, exploited this coming together of he people as an opportunity. The course he adopted was to visit the Kabah daily, meet people and recite to them verses from the Qur’an. In this way, he continued to call upon people to accept the concept of monotheism. He would address people en masse as well as convey the message at an individual level. Gradually, one by one, people began to enter the fold of Islam — for instance, Khadija, Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman, etc.
Experience shows that people are very sensitive as regards their religious beliefs. That is why the Prophet had to face stiff opposition in Makkah. The Quraysh in particular employed all kinds of strategies to put an end to this mission of tawhid. The reason for their opposition was not political, to any degree, but was only because of ideological sensitivity. That is to say, the reason for this opposition was their differing ideology and was not in reality a response to any perceived political danger. In this initial stage, the Prophet’s wife Khadija and his uncle Abu Talib gave him staunch support. Unfortunately, they both died after ten years of his prophethood. Now the Prophet found himself in the unenviable position of having to find someone to give him refuge, according to the ancient tribal tradition, so that he might continue to carry out his mission.
Journey to Taif:
First, he tried to find refuge in Makkah. Then the Prophet met those tribal chiefs who had come to Makkah on a visit to the Kabah. None of them was ready to help him. Finally, he decided to go to Taif, a town situated at a distance of 75 kilometers from Makkah and seek refuge from the chiefs of the town. According to Arab custom, this was nothing new. But the leaders, who themselves were idol- worshippers were not ready to give refuge to a prophet who believed in the One God. Instead of giving him refuge, they incited the urchins to chase him away from the town by pelting stones at him. The Prophet took refuge in an orchard on the outskirts of Taif where he spent the night. According to the tradition, on that occasion God sent the angel of the Mount to him. The Angel said to him: “God has seen the treatment meted out to you by ‘the people of Taif. Now, if you give me permission, I can join the two mounts in order that all these people should be crushed to death.” The Prophet replied: “No, although the present generation of Taif has refused to listen to me, I still hope that the next generation of Taif will listen to me and will follow the path of God.”
Persecution and Conspiracy to Kill:
When the Prophet returned to Makkah from Taif, the Quraysh intensified their persecution. They gathered at Darul Nadwa and jointly arrived at a decision to kill him. At that time, there were about 200 people in Makkah who had believed in the Prophet and become his supporters. But this number was inadequate to give him support against the onslaught of the Quraysh. So the Prophet decided to leave Makkah and migrate to Medina, another city in Arabia about 300 miles away from Makkah, thus putting an end to the possibility of any violent confrontation between him and the Quraysh. The Entry of Islam into Medina Before his migration to Medina, the Prophet of Islam sent two of his companions to the city to convey his message to the Madinan people. Their language being Arabic, like that of the Makkans, the Prophet’s messengers began to recite portions of the Qur’an to them. That is why they came to be known as muqris, meaning ‘the reciters1. Events show that, unlike the Makkan situation, the message of Islam started spreading rapidly in Medina. In almost every home in Medina, one or more members abandoned idolatry in favour of the religion brought by the Prophet of Islam.
Makkah- A Tourist City & Business Hub:
Why had there been these two opposite responses in Makkah and Medina? There was a reason for this; Makkah was situated in the desert, where agriculture was -impossible. Their economy was therefore largely dependant on the cult of idolatry and, at that time,, the Kabah having become the centre of idolatry in Arabia, people belonging to all tribes used to come there. In this way, commercial value was attached to the idolatry of the Makkans. We might say, in modern jargon, that the Makkah of those f times had acquired the status of a tourist city. Owing to this the Makkans feared that if idolatry were to be wiped out from, Arabia, the ‘tourist’ industry would die a natural death. The issue for the Madinans was different, for Medina, being situated in an area where there was no dearth of water, agriculture and horticulture flourished. The Madinans had no fear that with the wiping out of idolatry, their source of income would dry up, for none of their income derived from idol worship. Owing to this difference in the respective situations of the Makkans and Madinans, the Makkans were unable to find the religion of monotheism acceptable in the first phase. But, the Madinans were free from this constraint. To them, the end of idolatry meant only the disappearance of a religious culture, rather than their being deprived of their source of income. That is why the message of the Prophet of Islam spread rapidly in Medina.
Migration to Medina:
The migration of the Prophet of Islam from Makkah to Medina was a judicious move; it was to adopt the way of peace rather than the way confrontation. This principle followed by the Prophet of Islam, was later explained by the mother of believers Hazrat Aysha: “Whenever the Prophet had to opt for one of two ways, he would always opt for the easier one.” One clear example of this is his 13-year stay in Makkah, in his final days he had the option of either engaging in armed resistance against the Quraysh, or peacefully leaving Makkah for Medina. That being so, the first course was the harder one, and the other the easier of the two, i.e. leaving Makkah quietly. That is why the Prophet of Islam, according to this principle, abandoned the harder option in favour of the easier one. Madinah was 300 miles away from Makkah. The journey was undertaken on camelback, but since the Prophet knew that the Makkans were pursuing him, he took various measures to save himself from his enemies. For instance, leaving Makkah quietly at midnight and, instead of going straight on to Medina, hiding himself in a cave on the way for 3 days. Then, instead of taking the usual route, he took an unfamiliar path. During this journey of emigration, many such incidents took place which are indicative of the Prophet’s thinking. For instance, he met on his way two persons, who were brothers. The Prophet asked them their names. They told him that their tribe had given them both the same name Muhanaan meaning, two disgraceful or dishonourable persons. The Prophet replied that they were two honourable (Mukremaan) persons, rather than two dishonourable ones.
This showed the kind of principle on which his training methods were based. He wanted to build the human personality on positive lines. In changing the names of these two men, he gave them the necessary psychological encouragement to develop themselves according to the lofty ideals of humanity. In a similar way, when in later times, during his stay in Medina, a son was born to his daughter, Fatima, who was married to Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet asked Ali what name he had given the child, Ali told him that Harb was the name given to the baby. (Harb in Arabic means war). The Prophet said this was not an appropriate name. He suggested instead the name of Hasan, meaning beautiful. These incidents tell us that the Prophet was a totally peace-loving person, rather than a war-monger.
Period at Medina, 622-632 C.E:
The Prophet’s life at Medina begins in 622 A.D. His emigration to Medina was a matter of extreme gravity. Prior to this, in his 13 year prophetic life in Makkah, he had to undergo extremely bitter experiences. He was continuously persecuted, his companions were beaten up and he and his family were boycotted. When this persecution intensified to the point of becoming unbearable, the Prophet and his companions, more than 100 in number, left their hometown and their properties and went to Medina. Here, they had to build their lives anew away from their homes, relatives and friends. In such a situation, the Prophet’s heart should have been filled with lamentation and he might have been expected to protest loud and long against the Makkans and immediately on reaching Medina, if he had started negative campaigns against his persecutors, it would have been no great surprise. But he did quite the opposite, as is borne out by the text of the first speech – still preserved in the books of Seerah (Prophet’s biography) ~ which he made on reaching Medina. The gist of “The First Sermon of the Prophet”, as recorded in Seerah ibn Hisham, is as follows: “O people, save yourselves from the fire of hell, even if it be with a piece of date.” This was no simple matter. In the then circumstances, it was indeed a difficult task to convert one’s negative feelings into positive ones. Yet, this is the price that had to be paid if the principle of peaceful activism had to be adhered to.
The study of human psychology shows that both peace and violence are expressions of internal feelings. If man’s mind is filled with hatred, it will find expression in a violent form of action. But if his mind is filled with love, it will always find expression in a peaceful form of action. Embarking upon a course of peaceful activism is not a simple matter, but rather entails making sacrifices. That is, man refrains from hating his opponents, despite having good cause for hatred; and he contrives to direct his mind away from such activities as would engender hatred. This means that anyone who wants to follow the peaceful method shall first of all have to keep his mind in a state of equilibrium. He shall have to refrain from allowing himself to be provoked, in spite of all kinds of provocation from the other party. It is by paying this price that the principle of the peaceful method can be adopted. For the first time in human history, the Prophet of Islam provided a perfect and complete model of ‘peaceful activism’. This was possible only because he paid the price of unilateral moderation and adjustment. All kinds of injustice were done to him by his opponents, but he was able to rise above them. By ignoring them, he was able to plan the course of his actions along positive lines. This speech of the Prophet of Islam shows that he was a peace-loving person in the complete sense of the word. No event, however unpleasant, could disturb his peace of mind. With this sublime mentality, he had found something of such supreme value that all other things were of no consequence in comparison. He engaged in positive thinking in the perfect sense. His mind was a workshop which could convert even negative trains of thought into positive ones. Any negative experience could be defused, by his mind, there and then, to produce positive thinking. As a result, by the time any experience reached the storehouse of his memory, it had already been converted into positive ideas. His personality was a positive one in the full sense. He had a great capacity for converting experiences of violence into experiences of peace. On the contrary, some people (inclined to violence & terrorism due to ignorance) have manifested their propensity for converting positive experience into all that is negative.
Medina City State – Model of Peaceful Coexistence:
In 622 C.E, the Prophet reached Medina. At that time in Medina, idolaters and Jews existed side by side with the Muslims. The Medina of that time thus had the status of a multi-religious society. In such a situation, how were people to lead their lives peacefully? The Prophets discovered a successful formula. This formula was based on; the principle: Follow one and respect all. In Medina in those days, Muslims were in the majority. Hence the newly formed state was presided over by the Prophet of Islam. In his capacity as head of state, he issued a declaration, known in history as the declaration of Medina. It was mentioned in this declaration that Muslims, idolaters and Jews would all enjoy the right to settle their personal matters according to their own religion and culture. So far as social controversies were concerned, those would be settled in a accordance with the Shari’a as laid down by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This is the only practical principle on the basis of which peace may be established in a multi-religious or multi-cultural society. This principle allows people the freedom to follow the traditions of their own culture and religion, but so far as social matters are concerned, where opinions differ from one another, the dictates of the central administration should be followed. That is, individuals should have total freedom within the framework of the social system. In other words, this method may be called ‘peaceful difference management’. It is a fact that in every society differences do exist, whether the society be uni-religious or multi-religious. These differences can be accepted, but they cannot be obliterated. In such a situation, in a society, establishing peace can be done only on the principle existence.
On reaching Median the first task Prophet (peace be upon him) performed was to build a mosque and establish the system of saying prayers five times a day. One important aspect of the obligatory prayers was the organized manner in which God had to be worshipped, and another was the development of the desired character in human beings, by which they might lead their lives peacefully in society. The method laid down for the prayer concluded with words to this effect: At the end of the prayer those saying prayers have to turn their heads both to the left side and the right side, uttering these words: Assalam-o-Alaykum wa rahmatullah, Assahm-o-Alaikum wa rahmatullah. This is the equivalent of addressing all those inhabiting the earth and saying to them: “0 people, peace be upon you.” In this way, the congregational prayer served as a source of training to enable people to live in their society as peaceful citizens. They had to have positive feelings in their hearts for their fellow men. In that way, they would never create problems for others. Their attitude would always be humanitarian and amicable towards others. When the Prophet of Islam came to Makkah after emigration, this did not put an end to conflict (with Makkan): it proved rather to be the; beginning of an era of confrontation (with Makkan). This came about in spite of the fact that the Prophet of Islam himself had made the sacrifice of abandoning his homeland Makkah for Medina in order to avoid war, Nevertheless, Medina did turn out to be a very fertile area for his mission. Here, people rapidly entered the fold of his religion, until the majority of the Madinans became his followers.
Hostilities of Polytheists & Battles for Survival:
After the emigration of the Prophet of Islam, the Muslims of Makkah and the surrounding area also came to Medina and started settling there. Medina thus became a very strong centre for the mission of the Prophet of Islam. This was a kind of warning to the Makkans. It was but natural for them to imagine that the Prophet of Islam was gathering a big force in Medina with the intention of attacking Makkah to recover the city. The Makkans, therefore, planned to put an end to the power of the Prophet of Islam in Medina forever.
Planning a full-scale attack on Medina, the Makkans collected 50,000 Dinars by public donation and started preparations for war. They finally set off for Medina with a one thousand strong fully equipped army, in order to wipe out the newborn Muslim state. In consequence, a number of battles took place in the Madinan period. In the books of Seerah, 85 battles have been listed. But all of the battles were planned by the Makkans, the opponents of Islam, while the Prophet of Islam merely took steps to avoid engaging in combat.
There are many misconceptions about Jihad, which needs to be clarified [hence this brief on Jihad has been added in the original article]. Briefly, Jihad does not necessarily mean warfare. Since Islam provides a complete code of life, it addresses the possibility of war and provides the code of conduct of warfare; which is more civilized than any in the whole history of humanity. Once all peaceful efforts fail, the Muslims have to defend themselves and warfare becomes inevitable. The word ‘Jihad’, is wrongly translated as ‘Holy War’, Jihad is striving against various forms of resistance, internal (against selfish desires and evil temptations) or external, for the cause of God. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: The best fighting (Jihad) in the path of God is (to speak) a word of justice to an oppressive ruler. The first and foremost form of Jihad is to; ‘Strive against selfish desires’ (Nafs ammarah), to purify the heart, so that the faith (Eman) of Islam is deeply rooted in the heart, to become fully subservient to the commands of God and His Messenger. Secondly, making strenuous efforts (Jihad) by peacefully conveying the message of God (Islam) to the humanity (Dawah), i.e. ‘Jihad Kabira’; the peaceful struggle with the Qur’an (Qur’an;25:52). Thirdly to fight in self defence or against oppression for the cause and pleasure of God.
Warfare in Self Defence Permitted after Establishment of State at Medina:
It was only after the first two stages which lasted for over thirteen years that after migration to Median and establishment of government there that, the third stage to defend Muslims against oppression was permitted. God says: “Permission to fight back is hereby granted to the believers against whom war is waged and because they are oppressed; certainly God has power to grant them victory.”(Qur’an;22:39); “Fight for the cause of God those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression. God does not love aggressors” (Qur’an;2:190); “And what reason do you (Muslims) have not to fight in the cause of God, to rescue the helpless oppressed old men, women, and children who are crying: “Our Lord! Deliver us from this town whose people are oppressors; send us a protector by Your Grace and send us a helper from Your presence?”(Qur’an;4:75). However the Muslims are urged to accept peace offer (Qur’an;4:90) by the opponents. Islam laid down ethics and strict rules for conduct of warfare once peace efforts fail. Narrated Thabit bin Ad Dahhak, the Prophet said; “whoever commits suicide with something, will be punished with the same thing in the (Hell) fire”.(Sahih Al Bukhari Hadith Numbr:8.126). Narrated Jabir ibn Samurah: (The dead body) of a person who had killed himself with a broad-headed arrow was brought before the Messenger of God (peace be upon him), but he did not offer prayers for him.(Sahih Muslim Hadith. Number.486). Messenger of God (peace be upon him) prohibited to mutilate the dead bodies. (Sahih Muslim Hadith.804). Killing by burning is not allowed, it is none but God Who punishes with fire (Sahih Al Bukhari, Hadith, Number.4.259). Conversion by force and killing of innocent people whether Muslim or non Muslim is strictly forbidden in Islam.
Jihad for Political Power:
The concept of Jihad was nevertheless used by some medieval Muslim rulers to justify wars motivated by purely political ambitions, keeping in line with the practice in vogue in the world by other powers of the time. Gradually, however, Jihad came to be interpreted more in defensive than in offensive terms. In the 20th century the concept of jihad inspired Muslims in their struggle against Western colonialism. Recently in eighties USA exploited Jihad in Afghanistan to defeat USSR, now reaping the aftermath itself. Presently there are oppressed Muslims groups who are retaliating against injustice and tyranny. There is a need to remove the root causes and make peaceful efforts through dialogue to end the armed resistance. The killing of innocent people, through suicide bombing (burning) and other means of terror by stateless elements on the name of jihad is totally against the spirit of Islam which reflect their total ignorance in understanding of Islam and its values.
Jihad Against All Socio-Economic & Cultural Evils:
Jihad is a life-long mission for the Muslim as a community to struggle against all evils, socio-economic, cultural, educational and political dogmas; superstitious and mythological concepts; and directing the Muslims towards obedience to God, enlightenment, refinement, scientific progress, dignified character and honest actions. Its top and most noble form is to fight the enemies of Islam in battle in order to foil their attempts to suppress the Muslims and the invitation to Islam. Although retaliation is permissible but to remit the retaliation by way of charity is appreciated as an act of atonement (Qur’an;5:45), the best reward indeed is for those who endure with patience. (Qur’an;16:126).]
STRATEGY FOR PEACE:
The policy of Prophet (peace be upon him) was always to counter enemy war initiatives with peaceful measures. For this peaceful strategy to be effective, a trained team of peace-loving people was required. The companions of the Prophet proved to be competent for this task and the strategy of countering violence with peace proved so successful that, within a short period of 20 years, the whole of Arabia had entered the fold of Islam. This peaceful strategy owed its success largely to the Prophet having been able to establish peace treaties with all the tribes of Arabia. Thus it was made binding upon all the tribes to follow the peaceful method of their own accord. This was a new method — in effect, treaty diplomacy. It was as a result of these strategies that a country populated by such militant people could be revolutionized within such a short period of time. The miracle was that it was a (almost) bloodless revolution.
The Philosophy of Patience:
Patience, as a virtue, was given the utmost importance in the teachings of the Prophet of Islam. In the Qur’an, there are about 110 verses which contain the word sabr (patience). The Qur’an, in fact, goes to the extent of saying that success depends upon patience alone. The Qur’an states, “O people, be patient and steadfast, so that you may prosper (Qur’an;3:200). At another place, the Qur’an states that even the leadership of nations is given to those who persevere with patience (Qur’an;32:24). It is this truth which is thus expressed in the text of a long Hadith: “Learn that success goes with patience.” (Musnad Ahmad, vol. I, p. 307) That is to say that success is linked with patience. No patience, no success. The tree of success always grows on the land of patience. History tells us that the majority of the world’s pacifists, or peaceful activists, have failed to achieve their aims the commonest reason being that while they recognized the value of peace, they ignored the value of patience. Without exercising patience, it is impossible to launch a peace movement with any hope of success.
Principle of Peace Activism:
Generally, what happens is that first they hold someone or some group to be their enemy, and then launch a movement against that enemy. For instance, Nelson Mandela’s course of action in South Africa was first to spread hatred for the white settlers there, and then declare that he was going to launch a peaceful movement to oust them from political power. The atmosphere of hostility thus created was the reason for Nelson Mandela’s movement taking so long to achieve the desired result. According to the ‘principle of peace activism’, when directed against some group, it is vital that there be no negative feelings against its members. It is essential to have a positive mind set when dealing with them. This must be the sole basis for launching any action, based on ‘Peaceful Activism’. For if we do not have positive feelings for the other party, we can never succeed in our peaceful mission. Practically, what happens is that one group launches a peaceful movement against another group, on the basis of the peaceful method, yet harbours feelings of injustice, supposed or otherwise, against their opponents. This feeling engenders hatred for the other party. This hatred gradually takes the form of violence, and if the desired success is not achieved through violence, this storm of hatred, boiling within their hearts, leads them to engage in all kinds of destructive activities. Ultimately, to wipe out the enemy, they may even take such extreme measures as suicide bombing.
Did Not use Hate Language against Atrocities:
As regards ‘Peaceful Activism’, we find that the Prophet, like other reformers down the ages, also had to face all kinds of atrocities from his opponents, yet he never used the language of hatred against them. He even did his best to save his companions from this feeling of hatred. We find abundant examples of this nature throughout his life. For instance, in Makkah the family of Yasir, a companion of the Prophet, were poor and weak, so the powerful opponents of the Prophet started beating them to compel them to leave the Prophet. On seeing this persecution, the Prophet of Islam did not utter anything against the opponents. He only exhorted Yasir and his family to exercise patience, because for doing so, they were promised paradise.
Telling them that the reward for patience was paradise, he tried to bring this point home to them that, of their own free will, they ought to refuse to allow themselves to be provoked, irrespective of the kind of provocation. In no circumstances were they to harbour negative feelings against their opponents. This was an extremely important aspect of the policy of the Prophet of Islam, which he himself followed, with God’s guidance; that is, remaining patient in the face of all acts of injustice committed by his opponents. The Qur’an gives clear guidelines on this subject. It records the words of the Prophet Abraham: “We shall certainly bear steadfastly whatever harm you do to us.”(Qur’an;14:12) By expressing its approval of Abraham’s attitude, it endorses the virtue of patience.
Patience Against Negative Thoughts:
Such patience is not a simple matter. It means adhering to positive thinking, despite acts of oppression by the other party; and saving oneself from allowing negative thoughts of the other party to enter one’s mind. For if a negative picture is formed of one’s opponents, and then the oppressed person can never adhere to the principle of the peaceful method while dealing with the oppressor. If the principle of patience is adhered to, it maintains a certain normalcy between the former and the latter and saves the relationship from becoming totally warped. Peaceful activism in fact reflects peaceful minds. Abnormal or negative minds can never successfully proceed with the peaceful method. The principle of patience is in fact a certain guarantee of the perpetuation of normal, positive thinking, whereas hatred and negativity disturbs our mental balance.
Quiet, Peaceful Propagation:
The study of the life of the Prophet shows that he continued to face injustices from the addressee group, but the Prophet always adhered strictly to the principle of patience and exhorted his companions to do likewise. Never in his meetings were the oppressive acts of the enemy discussed or even mentioned. Never did he heap verbal abuse on his oppressors. On the contrary, he had only good words for them. Never did he call his oppressors Kafirs or enemies. Rather, he always used the word insaan (human being) for them. One extreme example worth noting is that once when his opponents had seriously injured him by stoning him, he simply uttered these words: “O God, guide my people for they do not know.” The way of unilateral patience and well-wishing adopted by the Prophet in Arabia was only intended to prevent feelings of hatred and grievance finding a place in his and his companion’s hearts. For a mind harbouring hatred and grievance is not competent to carry out the task of reform. The study of the life of the Prophet of Islam shows that for several years after starting his mission in 610 C.E, he would communicate his message quietly through private individual meetings. At that time, idols were worshipped in Makkah as well as in the whole of Arabia. The culture of idolatry dominated everywhere. Idolatrous practices had taken root in the lives of the Arabs, right from the moment of their birth till the day they died. In such a situation, introducing the message of monotheism into the environment of idolatry was simply to invite clash and confrontation. Given this situation, the Prophet of Islam had either of two options. One, to invite people publicly to respond to the call of monotheism and openly condemn polytheism (shirk). The second option was to start his mission quietly through individual meetings and take further steps only after gauging the circumstances.
If he adopted the first method, there would be chances of violent confrontation. That is why he gave up that idea. Instead, he adopted another method, clearly a peaceful method, by which it was possible to continue his mission without it leading to conflict. This was the first example of ‘peaceful activism’ in the life of the Prophet. In like manner, he launched his entire movement on the principle of peace. This reality has been expressed thus in a Hadith: “If you face an enemy, do not allow yourselves to be influenced by the psychology of reaction and start retaliating; instead, solve the problem of enmity by following the peaceful method.” In this way, he continued to work peacefully until a time came when 83 people had joined his mission. At that time, one of his senior companions, Abu Bakr, said to him that thenceforward, they should work publicly. The Prophet of Islam said; No, Abu Bakr, we are still only a very few. (Seerah ibn Kathir, vol., p. 441). But Abu Bakr in his zeal went to the Kabah and announced in public that he had become Muhammad’s follower. On hearing these words, a group of the Prophet’s opponents started beating him up so severely that he fell down seriously injured. His assailants desisted only when they thought he had succumbed to his injuries. Umar ibn Khattab was one of the most powerful followers of the Prophet. He too asked the Prophet why they should keep quiet when they were on the right path, and insisted that they should work openly and publicly. On hearing this, the Prophet again said, “Umar we are but a few. You have seen what treatment was meted out to Abu Bakr.” (Seerah ibn Kathir, Vol.l, p.439)
Gradually, the mission of the Prophet of Islam started spreading and the number of his followers increased. Then the time came when 73 people came from Medina to meet him and confide in him that they had joined his mission. They said to him that he should no longer tolerate the oppression of the Makkans. And that they should be allowed to engage in jihad against the Makkans. The Prophet of Islam had this to say to them: “Go back to your city, for I have not been commanded to wage war.” This course of action on the part of the Prophet shows that he always behaved with a view to what the consequences would be. He believed that our initiatives should always be aimed at yielding positive results the initiative which proves counterproductive is no initiative at all. He supported result-oriented action.
No Place for Suicide Bombing:
The life of the Prophet of Islam shows that in his scheme of things there war no room for what is now called ‘suicide bombing’. What is suicide bombing? In reality, it signals the final stage of frustration. That is, when the extremist feels that his opponents are invincible, he goes to the extent of killing himself, in the hopes that that will at least inflict some harm upon the enemy. He seeks justification for taking this step by saying that he had opted for that path so that he might receive martyrdom. Resorting to suicide bombing to deal with the enemy is an indication that although the option of peaceful action is open to one, intense feelings of hatred and revenge act as a blinder; and in this veil of darkness, the bomber ultimately kills himself. In any such situation where a man opts for suicide bombing, the peaceful method is certainly open to him, but he fails to see this. The truth is that to make a reasoned choice of the peaceful method, it is vital that man’s mind should be free of feelings of hatred and revenge: he should be able to analyze events dispassionately. In the words of the Prophet of Islam, he should be able to see things as they are. Peaceful action is positive act on, and its importance can be understood only by a positive mind which plans its course of action in consonance with peaceful objectives.
Peaceful activism is ostensibly an external action, but it is the result, in the full sense, of an internal awareness. It is peaceful minds alone that can appreciate the benefits of peaceful activism and can properly bring it into play. The Prophet of Islam realized this truth. That is why, first and foremost, he worked towards building peace-loving minds. Only after such a mentality had been developed were he and his followers able to launch their movements, abiding by the principle of peaceful activism. The same reality has been expressed in religious terms. When man’s heart is rectified, then all his actions are rectified.
The Qur’an calls this action of mind-building ‘purification’ (Tazkia). It states that one important task of the Prophet was to work for the purification of the people, or in other words, purification of the soul (Qur’an;2:129). What was the method of this purification? We learn this from a tradition of the Prophet of Islam. According to one tradition, the Prophet said that when a believer committed some sin his heart came to have a black spot, but that when he repented and sought forgiveness from God, his heart was purified of it. But if he did not refrain from committing sins, then the spots went on increasing, until they enveloped the whole heart. (Musnad Ahmad, vol. 2, p, 297). In this Hadith, the Prophet of Islam tells us of a very important reality which is borne out by the study of psychology: this study tells us that when some thought comes to the human mind, it becomes a part and parcel of the memory’s storehouse, and is never expunged from it. The study further shows that the human mind has two big departments, one the conscious mind, the other he unconscious mind. When any thought enters the human mind, it first goes to the conscious mind, and then gradually it shifts to the unconscious mind. This shifting process takes place mostly at night during sleep. In this way, although something active in the memory today apparently becomes forgotten, having moved to the back of the mind, in reality, it is not lost, but becomes an integral part of the human personality. The truth is that the human personality is directly dependent upon human thinking. It is one’s thoughts that make the personality. If we study the above saying of the Prophet Islam, in the light of modern psychological research; we find that it conveys the actual secret of peaceful thinking and peaceful activism. Only that person can be a peaceful activist, in the real sense, who follows this saying of the Prophet to the letter and spirit. In the jargon of today, this process may be described as ‘de-conditioning’.
All human beings and all human groups live in society. Within its framework, one can be faced with all kinds of unpleasant events, which may produce negative feelings towards others. In this way, everyone’s mind is likely to entertain thoughts and feelings of a negative nature. If man at the outset fails to convert such thoughts and feelings into positive ones, they will become entrenched in his unconscious mind as negative ideas. If this process continues unhampered, his unconscious mind or memory will ultimately be filled with negativity. Consequently, his entire personality will be vitiated. It is the possessors of such negative personalities who become involved in war and violence against others. Violence, in fact, is simply an external manifestation of this negative personality. When any negative thought enters one’s mind, one should immediately convert it into a positive feeling. One who acts promptly to set in motion this process of mental conversion will build up a veritable storehouse of positive ideas in the unconscious mind. The benefit accruing to him will be the freeing of his personality of all kinds of negative feelings. Such a person will be the possessor of a positive personality, in the fullest sense. Such are the people who live in positivity, who are truly capable of launching a movement in accordance with the principle of peaceful activism. The Prophet of Islam understood this psychological reality, and through purification, or in other words, by setting in motion the process of de-conditioning in each individual, formed a team of followers numbering more than 100,000, who were staunchly committed to the principle of peaceful activism. Apart from some conflicts due to misunderstanding and conspiracies by the enemies of Islam, they were ultimately able to achieve peace, by dominating the negativities through positive way of thinking, to usher in a far-reaching and beneficent revolution.
[Main Article by Maulan Waheed-uddin Khan, courtesy the Monthly ‘Tazkeer’, Lahore English Edition, December 2008. *A note on Jihad has been added in the original article]
The Last Messenger for Humanity
محمد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم