On the international peace day:
Islam, Religion of Love and Peace
The meaning of Islam
The root of the word Islam, silm, refers to "making peace, being in a mutually peaceful environment, greetings, rescue, safety, being secure, finding peace, submitting the self and obeying, respect, being far from wrong." The "submitting the self and obeying" here means "submitting to justice and righteousness in order to reach peace and safety and being in a peaceful environment by one's free will." Islam as either a noun or a verb with these meanings is mentioned in many verses in the Qur'an.1
From this perspective, Islam is "submission to God, accepting His authority as well as obeying His orders"; "one's total submission to God and serving only Him"; "embracing the messages of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and abiding by them." In this sense, a Muslim is one who is under the peaceful and safe shade of Islam. God wants a Muslim to live in a safe and peaceful environment and to make efforts for the spread and continuity of peace.
Since Islam means living in a peaceful environment that emerges as a result of submission to God, the Qur'an asks that all humanity should embrace silm, that is, peace, and reminds us to avoid following Satan. As stated in the verse, O you who believe! Come in full submission to God, all of you, (without allowing any discord among you due to worldly reasons), and do not follow in the footsteps of Satan, for indeed he is a manifest enemy to you (seeking to seduce you to rebel against God, with glittering promises) (Qur'an, 2:208), Satan is the enemy of peace.
The purpose of Islam
In order to be able portray a fair image of Islam, we have to consider its divinely inspired purposes, which yield, as a result, a just worldly order. By applying preventive measures to ensure security of wealth, life, mind, religion, and reproduction, Islam aims to build a society in peace, serenity, friendship, collaboration, altruism, justice, and virtue.
According to the Qur'an, all Muslims are brothers and sisters to each other and if a disagreement appears among them they make peace and correct it (Qur'an, 49:10).
As mentioned in the Qur'an, a true Muslim follows the straight path. That means that he or she is faithful, honest, and just, is calm, lives to perfectly observe his or her religion and in guidance of reason.2
Living on the straight path is the most significant desire for any Muslim. Upon the revelation of the verse, Pursue, then, what is exactly right (in every matter of the Religion), as you are commanded (by God), and those who, along with you, have turned (to God with faith, repenting their former ways, let them do likewise); and do not rebel against the bounds of the Straight Path (O believers)! He indeed sees well all that you do (Qur'an, 11:112), the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, "The chapter Hud has made me older."3 In this sense, the Companions commented on the verse, "There was no verse revealed to the Prophet Muhammad that is more powerful than this." Such a verse that so powerfully enjoins "what is right" should have the power to eradicate all kinds of violence and oppression, which are obviously not the right path to follow in social relations.
Mercy and forgiveness
In Islam, the individual is considered as a person that gains value within the society, as someone who is responsible to the community in a social context.
According to Islam, the life of a human being is a trust from God, irrespective of his or her ancestry, color, or language, and hence should be protected meticulously. The main idea in Islam is to praise God the Almighty (Qur'an, 1:1; 6:45), to show compassion to creation. Humankind is the best of all creations (Qur'an, 17:70) and is created of the best stature (Qur'an, 95:4). So, every human deserves respect by nature; approaching them with lenience, tolerance, and humility is certainly virtuous. Hence, staying away from hatred and having a tolerant attitude is essential for humanity.
God the Almighty asks from the Messenger of God (peace be upon him) in particular and from all Muslims in general to be forgiving (Qur'an, 42:37; 3:134). Thus, God loves good attitudes such as spending and serving for the sake of humankind at all times under all circumstances, forgiving people, and avoiding doing something wrong when we become angry.
Even if one has the right to retaliate in response to an evil action, forgiveness is more appropriate for those who are more pious. The Qur'an enlightens all humanity on this issue: The recompense of an evil deed can only be an evil equal to it; but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God. Surely He does not love the wrongdoers (Qur'an, 42:40; see also Qur'an, 42:43).
In Islam, the right to life is an absolute value: He who kills a soul unless it be (in legal punishment) for murder or for causing disorder and corruption on the earth will be as if he had killed all humankind; and he who saves a life will be as if he had saved the lives of all humankind (Qur'an 5:32).
The Prophet commanded us to maintain social solidarity and cooperation, to open our hearts to our fellows, and to help one another at all times. He said, "Do not cut relations between each other! Do not turn your backs on each other! Do not grow hatred between each other! O God's servants! Become brothers and sisters!"12
Peace, reform, and virtuous deeds
The Arabic terms islah (reform) and sulh (peace) are from the same root. Islah means one's reach of peace and serenity while leaving conflicts and deviations; in other words, it refers to leaving confusion by settling a dispute between two people or two sides.
Good deeds are actions that are beneficial for people and society, as well as actions that are taken to establish peace and serenity. This concept not only includes offering worship and spending in a good cause but also smiling, behaving warmly to others, establishing friendships, pleasing people by kind words, exchanging greetings, having warm conversation, and controlling bad feelings such as pride, arrogance, anger, envy, animosity, hypocrisy, rancor, and burning ambition. Thus, essentially, virtuous deeds are acts that purify humankind of aggression and bring them to peace.
In the Qur'an, it is recommended to cease disagreements by peace and not to commence further disputes, fights, confusion, and discord; in addition, people are asked to take a balanced approach and seek justice (Qur'an, 8:1; 49:9–10). It is forbidden to spoil peace and tranquility by corruption; there are penalties for those who do.13 It is possible to apply the verse, Peace is better (Qur'an, 4:128) which was specifically revealed to eradicate disagreements between couples, to all kinds of human relations. Islam recommends a united and mutually helpful society, and this vision does not only refer to the level of nation, but includes international relations, too. In this sense, from an Islamic perspective, international law should take the establishment of peace as a foundation.14
Conclusion The Qur'an emphasizes peace and reconciliation as basic to all social and even international relations. As mentioned in the Qur'an, Paradise, which is the reward for the pious, is a place of serenity. One of the ninety-nine names of God is Salaam, which means peace. Throughout history, Muslims have made every effort to establish peace and serenity everywhere in all divergent fields, only taking military measures when their enemies tried to hinder these efforts for humankind. Over the course of history, the general approach of Muslims has been supportive of maintaining peace, spreading an environment of serenity and trust, and constructing a civilization of love, compassion, and mercy to share with other people in peace.
By Huseyin ALGUL
(Professor Huseyin Algul is a Faculty member, specializing in Islamic History, in the Department of Theology at Uludag University, Bursa, Turkey.)
1. See Mustafa Sinanoglu, "Islâm-Giris", D?A, XXIII, 1-2; Hamdi Döndüren, "Islâm", ??A (?âmil Islâm Ansiklopedisi), III, 179-191.
2. See Qur'an, 1:6-7; 11:112.
3. Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 58.
4. See Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 73; Abu Dawud, Adab, 111; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, V, 411.
5. Karamani Hayrettin, et al (edited by). Kur'an Yolu, Türkçe Meal ve Tefsir, Ankara: Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi Yayinlari, 2006, V, 97–98.
6. See Qur'an, 7:68; 26:107, 125, 143, 178; 44:18.
7. Musnad, II, 349.
8. Muslim, Iman, 101,102.
9. Bukharî, Iman, 3, 5; Muslim, Iman, 64, 65; Nasaî, Iman, 8, 104, 105.
10. Tirmidhi, Fitan, 62; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, II, 368.
11. Bukharî, Manaqib, 25, Ikrah, 1; Abu Dawud, Jihad, 97; Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, V, 110-111.
12. Muslim, Birr, 23.
13. See Al Baqarah, 2/27, 205; Al Ma'idah 5/32-33; Al A'raf, 7/56, 85; Ar-Ra'd 13/25; Ash-Shu'ara' 26/183
14. For a scientific research and detailed information on this issue, see Ahmet Yaman, Islâm Devletler Hukukunda Savas, Beyan Yayinlari, Istanbul 1988.