Islamic Perspective of War and Peace
The relationship between Islam, war, and peace, continues to gain immense popularity in the world media today. This case has been aggravated by the current events in the Islamic countries, including the “Arab Spring” and the America’s 9/11 incident. However, the right judgement cannot be passed on such events without a full understanding of the Islamic worldviews, especially on the subject of war and peace. In order to understand the Islamic perspectives of war, special analysis and attention has to be directed to Islam’s main principles and ethics, including the major theories of classical and contemporary ethicists of Muslim.
Muslims believe that the state and church must be conjoined, therefore, offering no room for secularism. Ideally, the Islamic political theory employed by all Muslim nations starts with the practice of the Islamic Shariah in daily living of Muslim individuals. Muslims believe that their creator laid down rules and laws to govern both the humans and the natural universe. However, because humans were given a free will, they are capable of breaking the laid down rules, although this is considered unbelief. In Islam, humans should work collectively to ensure peace, harmony, justice, dignity, and acceptance of diverse people. Therefore, Islam does not condone the breaking of rules (Mirbagheri 43).
Islam, like other religions, highly upholds the sanctity of life, as life is considered sacred. The Qur’an clearly states that murdering one individual is same as murdering all human race (Qur’an 5:32, 6:151, 17:33). It is also upheld that the first right of all human beings is provided by their creator, and that is the right to life, security, and to peace. Therefore, Muslims ought to embrace this, except in a few cases. For instance, the elimination of major criminals by the state is allowed, because this ensures the security, justice, and peace of other citizens. However, Islam does not condone extra-judicial killings (Shirazi 54).
The practice of suicide bombing is highly associated with Islam today, seeming an acceptable aspect in Islam. However, a keen analysis of Islamic principles and ethics reveals that any suicidal act is forbidden in Islam. In Islam, suicide is likened to an abuse of God’s great divine gift of life; this is unpardonable, and the main sanction is the destruction of offenders in hell fire. Suicide bombing is therefore forbidden in Islam, not even euthanasia is allowed (Qur’an 4:29). Now, it is clear that the Qur’an has no provision for suicide bombers, neither does it promise them heaven nor ten virgins in their afterlife. Contemporary Muslim scholars have sharply criticized the practice of suicide bombing, hijacking of planes, terrorism of innocent people, and shedding of innocent blood, and its linkage with Islam. Therefore, acts of terrorism in Islam are highly condemned as these are called crimes of hirabah, similar to fighting and destruction of a person’s own society (Mirbagheri 43).
Muslims consider Islam a religion of peace. The name Islam itself means submission and surrender to the higher law, for the protection of freedom and dignity of all humans. The Islam greeting is “Assalamu ‘Alaykum,” meaning, “peace be unto you.” Therefore, peace is the root of the Islamic religion (Shirazi 54). However, Islam permits its believers to participate in armed struggle (Qital), for defending their religion, fighting oppression and injustice, and counteracting aggression. An important aspect of Islam is that peace does not necessarily mean that war is absent. Peace according to Islam is when the society is just, and devoid of any form of corruption, tyranny, and oppression. Therefore, wars against tyrannical systems are justified in Islam. However, war on innocent non-Muslims is not acceptable. According to the Qur’an, Muslims ought to maintain good relations with other countries despite their religious differences, or whether they are enemies (Qur’an: 60:8).
Islam, like Christianity, justifies war based on self-defence, quest for justice, or in defence of religion. However, Muslim prohibits the killing of civilians during war, as well as destruction of plants and animals. The Qur’an encourages Muslims to engage in war for a “worthy” cause. “Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.” (Qur’an 2:190) “And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for God. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrongdoers.” (Qur’an 2:193) “If they seek peace, then you seek peace. And trust in God for He is the One that hears and knows all things.” (Qur’an 8:61)
The Islamic concept of “Jihad” raises many controversies today, as most people lack a clear understanding of this concept, and largely confuse it for the Islamic holy war. Nonetheless, Jihad in Islam is the total struggle that allows Muslim individuals to exercise their intellectual, emotional, and physical powers when faced with earthly hardships. This therefore does not wholly rely on fighting and war; instead, Muslims proclaim war on the visible enemy, evil, and the self, as these are the major enemies of harmony in society (Mirbagheri 67).
It is quite surprising how Islam perceives war and peace. Theirs is a comprehensive and impeccable outlook on war and peace. However, what is even more surprising is how the Islamic faithful continue to massacre their system of war and peace. Judgment from some major events that have happened in Islam countries, it is quite clear that these Islamic standards of war and peace are downplayed.
The Qur’an (Oxford World’s Classics). Trans. M. A. S. Abdel Haleem. USA: Oxford University
Mirbagheri, Farid “War and Peace in Islam: A Critique of Islamic/ist Political Discourses.” New
Jersey: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
Shirazi, Muhammad “War, Peace, and Non-Violence: An Islamic Perspective.” London: Tahrike
Tarsile Qurản, 2003.
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