In Islam, Peace Is the Rule and War Is Only a Rare Exception
By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
There are two basic teachings of Islam: monotheism and peace. Tawhid (monotheism) is Islam’s basic ideology. It is the source of all direct or indirect acts of Islam. Peace is its practical aspect, being at the basis of a normal environment in which Islam’s ideological and practical teachings may come into play.
When we study the Quran, we find that the Quran’s greatest concern is the world Hereafter and not the present world, because the former is eternal while the latter is only a transient phase. According to the Quranic concept, preparing for this world is a necessity, while preparing for the Hereafter is a goal. As such, the focus of those who come under the influence of Islamic ideology shifts wholly to the Hereafter and Paradise.
Consequently, it is but natural that all those things which ultimately result in war lose in importance, for instance, greed, hatred, rivalries, violence, and so on. In this way, wherever Islamic culture prevails these reasons for war will no longer exist. In their own interest, people will live in society as peaceful citizens.
It is greed for political power which has always been the cause of war throughout history. However, Islam laid down the principle that the system of government would be based on mutual consultation. This command is expressed in these words in the Quran: Amruhumshurabaynahum. That is,
‘Their affairs are settled by mutual consultation.’ (42:38)
This means that in Islam, governance is not imposed from outside. Rather, it emerges from within society. It is not a matter of imposition by anyone. This has been expressed in a Hadith in these words:
‘As you are, so will be your rulers.’
The reason for wars in the name of political power has always been a person’s or group’s desire to establish their rule in society by removing their rivals from power. This leads to wars between the two parties. But when the principle adopted is that political rule is not a matter of imposition, but is rather something which emerges from within society, the reasons for war are automatically eliminated.
If anyone has any ideas about the course politics should take, he or she has only one option, and that is, to peacefully disseminate his or her ideas. Instead of attempting to impose one’s ideas upon others, one has to wait until society willingly accepts them. The enforcement of political ideas is not an option for anyone.
There are a number of such traditions as enjoin people to totally refrain from confrontation with their rulers. If they have any complaints against their rulers, they should change their field of action. Instead of politics, they should devote their energies to other fields. There are a number of traditions under the heading Kitab al-Fitan recorded in books of Hadith. On this subject al-Imam al-Nawawi has thus described the opinion of the ulama:
‘Only peaceful advice can be given to the ruler of the time. So far as revolt (khuruj) and war (qital) against them are concerned, it is unlawful (haram) by the consensus of the ulama, even if someone thinks that the ruler is corrupt (fasiq) and oppressive (zalim).’
This principle does not mean abandoning politics. Rather, it has great wisdom in it. It shows that Islam has enjoined a division of the spheres of activity. If you study the Quran, especially verse 41 of Chapter al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage) and other verses on this subject, you will find that the Quran differentiates between two domains of life: the political and the non-political. The Quran suggests maintaining a division of labour between the two. According to the Quran, the duty of the ruling party is to maintain peace and stability in society, while the duty of reformers is to confine themselves to non-political activities, such as education—both formal and informal, dawah work (conveying the message of God to people), inculcating right thinking in people and so on. Thus the two groups can play their roles in building a better society. In this way all kinds of work will be carried on smoothly and there will be no occasion for confrontation. The principle of the division of work obviates the need for confrontation and clash in society. As a result, society is blessed with an ambience of peace, not war.
This and other such teachings which are set forth in the Quran and the Hadith are aimed at putting an end to the prevalence of war and violence in society. In this way a normal and propitious environment is established, in which all kinds of healthy and constructive activities become possible.
The truth is that Islam in the full sense is a religion of peace. In no way is it a religion of war. In Islam, peace is the rule and war is only a rare exception. Moreover, this exception was applicable in previous ages when tribal culture prevailed in the world. Now this is a totally different age. Today we are living in the age of democracy and the United Nations. Therefore, the word ‘war’ has become an obsolete term in the international dictionary. If any war takes place in the present, it goes against the universal norm.