Islam the “Peaceful Religion”
How Peaceful Is Peaceful?
And then there is the question of characterizing Islam as “peaceful” and doing so under duress. That is, when you are being pursued and hounded by people who brand you as totally irrational and uncontrollably violent.
So, you have a knee-jerk reaction, purely defensive and purely self-protective and blurt out that you are a “peaceful religion.”
And you are absolutely and one hundred percent right in saying that. For, Islam is all about peace and truth and justice and kindness and compassion.
But that is not what your accusers and tormenters are saying. They are pointing to all the violence that is going on in different parts of the Muslim world, violence in which Muslims are involved in one way or another, and saying that it is all Islam’s fault.
But what some of these people conveniently forget is that there are all kinds of background factors and conditions that lead to violence in individuals, groups, nations and societies.
They forget that peace is one state of human life and reality. Another is strife and conflict. A third reality of human life is force.
Peace is the ideal state to which we all aspire and toward which we all work. Strife is the sad and gloomy reality in which human life is all too often mired.
Legitimate, lawful and societally sanctioned force is the instrument that human beings have devised for minimizing and controlling strife and for maximizing peace.
The foundation of true and lasting peace on earth and in any society is justice, love, compassion, integrity, truth, reasonableness and sound morality.
Where this foundation is absent or weak, and where people’s most basic needs and legitimate rights and aspirations are not met, and are persistently and blatantly denied, chances of stable and lasting peace are minimized or jeopardized.
All too often, then, those who have been systematically denied their basic and legitimate rights, and who are not allowed by nations, societies and governments any rightful recourse to the redress of their lawful grievances, begin to resort to force and violence as an instrument of resistance to their domination, subjugation and exploitation by others and for the amelioration of their situation.
There are all kinds of university books, full of all kinds of theories, that explain why and how people develop violent tendencies and behavior.
For example, extreme poverty, deprivation, hopelessness, oppression, marginalization, cruelty and systematic discrimination and abuse may potentially move people toward violence. So also may serious perceptions of injustice, usurpation of property, abuse of power, violation of basic rights and deeply held values such as honor, personal dignity and the life, honor and dignity of family members.
Colonization, mass enslavement, social and political tyranny, occupation of lands, exploitation and stealing of resources will all make nations and societies rise up in revolt.
This has been the history of the world. And everyone knows that.
Right to Self-Defense Guaranteed by Civilized World
That is why the constitutions of practically every civilized country in the world, as well as the United Nations Charter Article 51, guarantee people individually and collectively the inherent right to self-defense and the defense of their family and property.
What Islam does is it takes this universal and fundamental human right of individuals, families, societies and nations to self-defense and canonizes it – to use a Christian religious expression. That means Islam makes that right a sacred and not just a mundane or secular one.
So, self-defense in Islam is not just a legal right but also a sacred one, blessed by God.
So, some of those who assert that “Islam is a peaceful religion” seem to want to cover up this fact.
They have been thoroughly intimidated and demoralized by the relentless and ruthless propaganda that brands Islam and Muslims as inherently violent and irrational.
So, is Islam “peaceful” then? Of course, it is. In fact, Islam is peace, period.
But Islam is also about truth – quite possibly much more than any other system in the world.
And Islam is also against all forms of injustice, inequity, cruelty, oppression, exploitation, domination, tyranny and abuse.
But does Islam permit self-defense? Of course, it does. How can it not?
Which constitution of the world, and the law of which civilized country, does not permit self-defense?
Turning the Other Cheek
Is Islam about “turning the other cheek“?
No more than Christianity is and no more than the 1000-year practice and politics of the Christian nations is. No more than any other system of law or government in the world is. No more than international law is. And no more than the UN Charter is.
But Islam does offer you the higher option of turning the other cheek, and forgiving those who sin against you, should you choose to exercise that option.
But Islam does not mandate it. How can it?
How can any sane or sensible system of thought or laws or government in the world mandate that every thief, murderer, rapist, arsonist, bank-robber, child-molester and traitor be ab initio forgiven and coddled as a long-lost brother or sister?
With all this, are there some Muslims in this world who go overboard, lose control of their emotions and better judgment, and resort to violence? Of course there are.
Is that acceptable behavior on their part? No, it is not.
Does Islam condone or sanction behavior like that? No, it does not.
Should we criticize and condemn senseless and irrational violence when it is perpetrated by Muslims? Of course we should. In the same way as we and all Muslims and non-Muslims should criticize and condemn senseless and irrational violence when it is perpetrated by non-Muslims.
Does Islam condone or sanction violence against civilians, women, children, the aged, the infirm and the priests, pundits and the clergy? Of course it does not.
Does international law? Do any of the other religions and legal systems of the world? Of course none of them do.
Does Islam condone or sanction torture? Of course it does not.
Does international law? Do any of the other religions and legal systems of the world? Of course they do not.
In the end, is Islam then a “peaceful religion“?
First of all, Islam is not a “religion.”
Second, Islam is totally, absolutely and completely all about peace – and truth – and justice.
Third, at the same time, Islam is behind no other system of laws and government in the world, including the Charter of the United Nations, in protecting and guaranteeing the inherent right of individuals, societies and nations to self-defense. And to justice. And to equality and fair and equitable treatment. And to self-determination and freedom from tyranny.
Why should it be?
As for Aggression, It Is an Absolute No, No in Islam
But what about using force as a means of committing aggression? That in Islam is an absolute no, no.
I have not come across, nor am I aware of, anything as clear or forceful – I don’t mean the pun in that expression – in any culture, language, constitution or religion, against using force as a means of aggression, as in Islam.
“Allah does not like those who commit aggression or use excessive force,” says the Qur’an.
Innallaha laa yuhibbul mu’tadeen.
The Qur’an asks people to “cooperate with one another in every kind of good thing. But when it comes to committing an act of aggression and excess,” the Qur’an clearly says, “no, don’t cooperate with anyone on that basis and for that purpose” (5:2).
Wa laa ta’aawanoo ‘alal ithmi wal ‘udwaan.
Even as the Qur’an allows the right of self-defense and retaliation, it clearly warns against aggression and excess, even in that context and even against that background.
The Qur’an says:
“If you were to retaliate or visit retribution on someone for any wrong done to you, then do so in strict proportion to what was done to you. But if you were to show restraint and patience then it may be even better (16:126).”
Wa in ‘aaqabtum fa-’aaqiboo bi-mithli maa ‘ooqibtum bihi.
Wa la-in sabartum, lahuwa khairul lis-saabireen.
Here is another one in a similar context:
“When you are faced with aggression against you, then resist that aggression with similar force, but fear God Almighty, and clearly understand that God is with those who fear him (2:194).”
And yet another one:
“Let not your anger and displeasure at those who kept you away by force from the protected mosque cause you to commit aggression or use excessive force against them (5:2).”
So, which part of any of these luminous and self-evident passages of the Qur’an the Muslims or the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim propagandists don’t understand?
I don’t know about you folks. But there is nothing like this anywhere in the world.
Nothing with this much clarity and with this much emphasis and forcefulness.
What Should Muslims Say Then?
What should Muslims say then, when they are hounded by people who want to brand them as violent and irrational and blood thirsty? People who have filled the air and God’s world with so much vicious falsehood and propaganda against Islam and Muslims that a rational and sane person cannot even take a normal breath any more?
Muslims should simply tell the truth. For Islam is all about truth. Muslims should simply say that Islam is about peace, which is what Islam is all about.
At the same time, Muslims should also point out that Muslims have as much right to self-defense as any Christian, Jew, Hindu, Atheist or anyone else in this world.
That is the truth and it is only the truth that will set the Muslims free. Even as truth is what will set the whole world and everyone else in the world free.