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aaiil.org > Articles & Magazines > A Collection of Various Articles > Religion and Peace by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui

Religion and Peace:

by Naseer Ahmad Faruqui

The Light (June 24, 1983)


(The paper below was written by the author sometime ago for delivery at an international conference on "Religion and Peace" in Tokyo (Japan). — Ed. [June 24, 1983])

The world today stands faced with two grave problems: Peace (1) within, and (2) without, man. Peace outside, without which the world cannot survive the nuclear arsenal, is in constant peril. In fact, it is being broken all the time, even after the horrors of the World Wars, and in spite of the deadly nuclear peril in the background. The word (Peace) is on everybody's lips. But it has eluded even those who genuinely seek to achieve it. Quite a large number of people have lost the hope to achieve it ever. Why?

Human Effort for Peace:

There has been no lack of individual and collective human effort to achieve peace. Most of the world leaders in the present century, and most of the ordinary human beings, have honestly desired to secure peace, not only for them, but also for the whole world. Collectively, first the League of Nations, and now the United Nations, were set up to maintain and even en force, international peace. Political and Military alliances were, and are being, made with the same object in view. But the United Nations has failed as the League of Nations did before it. The pacts and alliances endanger rather than secure peace. Mankind stands today perched precariously on the edge of the precipice of complete annihilation. Even if some survive the nuclear holocaust, they will live to suffer the untold suffering and mutilation of the nuclear fall-out.

Peace of Mind:

If peace is in peril outside man, inside him it is already lost. More than the struggle outside between Nations and between men, there is a war on in the hearts of men. It is this aspect of the present day world problem that has not received adequate notice. Man has to live at peace with him and with others. One hears and sees so much of the alienation of the young, the unrest and disturbances in the educational institutions, the revolt within the family against elders, the revolt against society as a whole, against the Government established by law, against the moral code of mankind. The rising generation is forcing the issue of the peace of the human mind, to which our generation had become indifferent. Then there is the class warfare (racial as well as social and economic) which has repercussions in the political, social and economic fields, and may lead to revolutions, civil wars and international intrigues resulting in international wars.

In order to diagnose the malaise which has felled humanity, one has to understand that man who runs the affairs of the world is himself run by his inner urges, desires and thoughts. Therefore the affairs of the world cannot set right unless the driving force within man is chastened.

If man thinks that he is independent and master of his self, he is mistaken. Man is the slave of the cravings of his flesh, of his self-seeking attitude on all matters, of the evil within him, unless it is subdued by the good within him. Science, particularly psychology and psychiatry, is groping in the dark. In fact, it has gone seriously wrong when it advised man to let himself go, i.e., not to inhibit his inner urges but, to give them a free rein. The present day chaos in human affairs is due partly to that.

Where Science Went Wrong:

Science also went wrong where it taught that man was essentially an animal, although at the top of the evolutionary processes. No wonders that the present generation, with this notion to guide it, began to behave like animals. It took it sometime to get rid of the centuries old concept of spiritual and moral values. That struggle within mankind's breast is still going on. But the free rein given to the animal within man is producing the present situation of the law of the jungle coming into force throughout the world, more and more as time passes. It is this wrong notion which has destroyed peace within man's heart.

Human Nature:

To any man able to look within his heart, it is clear that there are two elements in his nature. The animal lurking within his flesh. And the higher self which invites him to be good, to do good. What should be the relationship between these two selves in man? Should the animal be allowed to get headstrong and to drag man around until he is destroyed? Or should the higher self, otherwise called the human spirit, guide and control the animal within man? Any sensible person would agree that the latter is the right alternative. This is what religion, all religions in their pristine form, thought.

Man's inner desires, cravings and passions are of the nature of fire. If controlled, they provide the heat and motive power required for all action, all progress. If uncontrolled they flare up into fire, into hell, within man's bosom. Thus is the peace of the human mind destroyed — which is one of the two malaises afflicting mankind today. From within man's heart, these fires leap into the outside world leading to all the wrongs man does, which in turn lead to the open conflagrations of war.

Soul vs. Flesh:

All religions have taught man that he must subordinate the animal within him to the spirit within him. It is this balance between the two halves of man, which is important for peace in man's heart, for the peace of the world. Where the human weakness to go to the extremes misguided people was that it made them shun the animals within themselves, give up the world which human nature craves for, and take to the mountains or the cloisters. To kill the motive power for human progress in this world, provided by the animal within man, was as wrong as to give free rein to the animal and thus kill the spirit, and with it the spiritual and moral values, as being seen all round these days. All religions in their pristine form admonished man to hold the correct balance between the two opposite forces within him, to let the spirit prevail over the body but not so as to kill it, only to subjugate it. Thus alone can man ultimately find peace and bliss within himself, and yet live in this world a useful and productive life. In the absence of this guidance, mankind today is uneasy and unhappy. Man has conquered nature. But he has not conquered himself.

Role of Religion:

The free rein given to the animal within man has led to the law of the jungle being more and more in force in human relations. It is this, which has led to the present peril to peace. Unless man is corrected, unless he relearns moral and spiritual values, and places them above the animal urges within him, there can be no peace in the world. Religion alone can teach him to do that.

But even if a person were to take the above lesson to heart, even if a number of do it, it does not follow that others will do it too. Thus human relations will always be plagued with the mixed situation that some of the human beings are correct, but others are not. It is the latter who will always threaten the peace of the world. There has to be somebody over and above human beings to adjudicate between them, to take them to task if they go wrong. World bodies, like League of Nations and the United Nations, failed because they consisted of those very elements which they sought to control. Criminals cannot sit on the throne of judgement against themselves or against others.

Faith in God:

Religion comes to the rescue of mankind by telling it that there is a God Who created this marvellous universe, this marvellous earth, the marvel of man himself; that there is a purpose in all these wonderful creations. If that purpose is lost sight of, or sought to be nullified, by man he will have to answer his Creator on the Day of Judgement: that God takes people to task even in this world if they go seriously wrong. If man insists on behaving like an animal, he will have to be treated like an animal, and corrected through punishment, which alone the animal in revolt against its master understands.

Thus it is faith in God, and faith in the accountability of human actions, which alone can keep man on the right path. This faith instils self-discipline in man. It is the lack of faith in religion, leading to lack of self-discipline, which has corrupted human relations, led to wars and caused the failure of the League of Nations and the United Nations.

Religious Wars:

It is a common misconception that religion has in the past caused hatred and bloodshed. The original message of all religions was decency, sympathy for fellow human beings and kindness to all. It is the corruption of most religions, and the narrow- mindedness of those who spoke in the name of religion, that caused religious persecution, hatred and the so-called holy wars. If any corrupted form of religion teaches intolerance, bigotry and oppression, then it must be rejected. But, as I have said, all religions in their original purity taught nothing but love, kindness and mercy in human relations.

Islam:

The religion I have the honour to belong to is Islam. The word "Islam" has two meanings: It means to submit to the Divine Will; and it means "Peace." The connection between the two meanings is that it is only by submission to the Divine Will that man can find peace within himself and without. The well-known emphasis in Islam on the absolute Unity of God is relevant to the present discussion as there can be no peace if more than one Divine Will is to be submitted to. The second fundamental principle of Islam of the brotherhood of man is also relevant to the present discussion. The Holy Quran says: "Mankind is one nation" (2:213). It further says that men and women have all been "created of a single soul" (4:1). Again, we are told that we are all descended from the same parents (49:13). The Holy Quran goes on to say "O mankind, surely We have created you from a male and a female, and made you tribes (nations) and families that you may know each other. Surely the noblest of you with Allah is the most dutiful among you. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware" (49:13).

Tributes:

Islam did not merely teach the brotherhood and equality of all human beings. It brought about that order. Arabia at that was aflame with warring tribes constantly at one another's throat, much more so than the nations of today. And yet within a short period they were rid completely of mutual hatred, bickering and warfare. Let me quote the Christians author of "The Ins and Outs of Mesopotamia" (p.99): A more disunited people it would be hard to find till suddenly the miracle took place. A man arose who, by his claim to direct Divine Guidance, actually brought about the impossible — namely the union of all these warring factions."

Having united the warring tribes of Arabia, Islam was drawn to foreign lands, where also it not only put an end to national differences and fights, but cemented them into a common brotherhood of perfect equality. Let me quote again from another Christian author Mr. Gibbs in his book "Wither Islam": But Islam has yet a further service to the cause of humanity. No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity, and of endeavour so many and so various races of mankind. The great Muslim communities of Africa, India and Indonesia, perhaps also the small Muslim communities in China and the still smaller community in Japan show that Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If ever the opposition of the great societies of the East and West is to be replaced by co-operation, the mediation of Islam in an indispensable condition" (p.370).

Secret of Success:

The secret of Islam's success in establishing a world brotherhood, and in bringing about a unification of different nations, lies in its world-embracing teachings. I have already quoted elsewhere verses from the Holy Quran about the equality and brotherhood of mankind. Islam's concept of God also is not that of a national God but the Lord of the Universe, of the whole creation, of all nations and people (1:1). And God's treatment of all men was equal. According to the Holy Quran, Divine Revelation for the guidance of mankind was sent to all nations through prophets. I quote, "And every nation had an apostle" (10:47), "And every people had a guide" (13:7). "There is not a people but a warner has gone among them" (35:24). A Muslim is required to believe in all Divine Revelations and in all prophets. I quote from the Holy Quran: "And they (the Muslims) believe in that which has been revealed to thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee" (2:4). The Muslim creed is thus laid down in the Holy Quran: "We believe in Allah and in that which has been revealed to us, and in that which was given to the prophets from their Lord" (2:136). "We do not make any distinction between his messengers" (2:285).

Islam's Universality:

The universality of Islam's teachings further lies in the concept that Islam is not only the religion of nature (for whatever is in the heavens and the earth submits to the Divine will — which is Islam) but it was also the religion given to all prophets and all nations (Holy Quran, 42:13). That the original Divine Revelations given to the various nations were corrupted or lost is well known. It was therefore necessary to preserve the teachings of all prophets and all revealed books in the Holy Quran (98:3), which was to be preserved in its original purity and form (15:9). Even a critical writer like Muir has had to admit as follows: "There is probably in the world no other book which has remained twelve centuries with so pure a text."

For the unity of mankind, it was also necessary to bring it under the banner of one prophet. And that could only be the prophet who testified to the truthfulness of all prophets and the Divine origin of all sacred books. The Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was "That Prophet" of the Bible, as shown above. Islam thus lays the foundations of religious peace and goodwill and of the unity and brotherhood of men, without which there can be no peace in the world.

Islamic Prayer:

As I have said earlier, the animal urges within man can be controlled only through self-discipline. Faith in a Living and Ever-Present God, and in human accountability to Him, is the only force which can teach man to discipline him-self. The concept of God in Islam as the One and Only Master of the universe and all it contains, as One possessing all that is beautiful and good, as One Who has created with the lofty object of acquiring the Divine attributes, is easily acceptable to human nature. According to Islam, every child is born a Muslim, i.e., according to the religion of nature which submits completely to its Maker. Having created man, God has not cut Himself off from him to be seen on the Day of Judgement alone. God has constant relationship with man as his Nourisher, Guide and Protector (1:1-7). That relationship is established and nourished through prayer which is prescribed five times a day in Islam.

Although most men believe in God, they are apt to forget Him most the time. It is this which has led to human degradation. Prayer five times a day revives and re-invigorates faith in a living God Who is present every where (Islamic prayer can be said everywhere), Who is watching man (the acts of Muslim prayer make man aware of that), Who listens to all that man says (Muslim prayer consists partly of recitation aloud) and Who knows what is in man's heart (for nearly half of the prayer is silent). According to the Holy Quran (20:131-32), prayer also provides food for the human soul through the link established in prayer with the Divine Soul from Whom the human Soul has come. As the human body cannot survive without food, so cannot the human soul.

Divine Revelation:

Another factor, which has enabled faith in a Living God to become possible in Islam, is the fact that Divine Revelation, which has throughout human history instilled a living faith in God, continues to be received by those who submit themselves entirely to Him. Throughout the last nearly 1,400 years, there have been Muslims — known for their piety and complete submission to the Divine Will as contained in the Holy Quran — who have received Divine Revelation. And they have charged those around them with a living and vibrant faith in God, by proving their claim of having received Divine Revelation. Without such present day evidence of revelation, which is the basis of all religions, the concept of religion as mythology is bound to arise. If God spoke to prophets, saints and good men and women in the past, why doesn't He speak now, for Divine attributes do not lapse, is a question which can be answered in the affirmative only in Islam.

Living Faith:

Thus Divine revelation turns the concept of "God must be" "to God is". It is only a living faith in God created by constant touch with him through prayer, and through the evidence of Divine revelation, which can induce self-discipline in man, give him peace of mind and render him fit to run the affairs of the world justly, tolerantly and compassionately. It is only the accountability of man for his actions taught by religion which can bring peace to the world. That this accountability is a fact is proved by the present day discontent, disorder and the constant threat to and frequent breaches of the peace of the world, in spite of mankind's best efforts to secure peace. Man is being taken to task for his lack of faith and good deeds by a Power over and above him.

Hope for the Future:

There is no need to lose faith and hope. Mankind has gone through crises like the present one before and has been saved by Divine mercy. I quote from Mr. J. H. Denison’s book "Emotion as the Basis of Civilizations":

"In the fifth and sixth centuries, the civilized world stood on the verge of chaos. The old emotional cultures that had made civilization possible, since they had given to men a sense of unity and reverence for their rulers, had broken down, and nothing had been found adequate to take their place. It seemed then that the great civilization which it had taken four thousand years to construct was on the verge of disintegration, and that mankind was likely to return to that condition of barbarism where every tribe and sect was against the next, and law and order were unknown … civilization like a gigantic tree whose foliage had over-reached the world … stood tottering … rotted to the core … Was there any emotional culture that could be brought in to gather mankind once more into unity and to save civilization?" And then speaking of Arabia, "It was among these people that the man was born who was to unite the whole known world of the east and south."

We who believe in God and His wisdom have faith that mankind will yet be saved. Even those who do not believe in God can see in the present day world crises the harbinger of a mighty revolution. Whether it will be for better or worse will depend on what turn the mankind takes. It turned to material advancement before, believing it to be the source of increased happiness, but has found that materialism leads only to greed, hostility and wars. The search in the minds of the rising generation for something which is missing is really the search for spiritual satisfaction which can be found only in a religion acceptable to human nature which is Islam.

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