Islam and Peacemaking

Peace PosterOn Saturday, November 29, I was invited to participate alongside other faith representatives in a panel discussion on how our faith views War and Peace.

Unfortunately, the event was not recorded. However, I am sharing below an excerpt from my lecture notes.

 

I begin first in the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

And I begin, too, with a personal confession:

I cannot help but consider the topic of this day–war and peacemaking within our sacred traditions–except that my mind and heart turn to the atrocities committed in the name of the faith I love by those who appear to neglect the very essence of faith: mercy and compassion.

The word Islam is often times said to mean peace. However, from a linguistic point of view, that is not technically correct. It actually means “entering into peace,” or “submission”. And if that submission is to God then it results in our hearts finding rest and inner peace.

As the Generous Qur’an says: Verily in the remembrance of God do hearts find peace (13:28).

However, if this submission is to one’s own caprice and ego (i.e., their nafs) it is as if one has submitted to his or her whim as their true lord (25:43).

Too often wars are the result of submitting to one’s own nafs and not to God, though people may seek to explain their reason for war as righteous and pious or in any other way they like.

However, I do not believe that war is something at all beloved by God.

God actually mentions in the Generous Qur’an that He does not love the aggressor (2:191).

Rather, God loves mercy and compassion in his servants and promises mercy for those who show it.

In the words of one contemporary scholar:

“In imitation of the Prophet, Muslims are expected to be merciful, to bring good, and to seek the benefit of othersall othersnot wish them harm or rejoice in the evil that befalls them… the mercy Muslims are commanded to show is not exclusively for themselves or the righteous amongst them. It extends to all human beings: Jews, Christians, the believing and unbelieving, the upright and the immoral, and it goes beyond the human family to include both the animate and inanimate: birds and animals, even plants and trees.” [Umar F. Abd-Allah, Mercy: The Stamp of Creation]

 However, when war occurs, it jeopardizes the lives of all of these.


For more on this subject, see this post by Imam Zaid Shakir: The Menace of So-Called “Jihad”

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