By Mohammad Hashim Kamali
17 August 2016
Peace Through non-Violence
In a conflict-ridden world, those who wish to see a radically different culture embodying the values of justice, love and mercy ought to take the way of peaceful resistance since radical and lasting change can only spring from the transformed hearts of human beings. Mahatma Gandhi, who was no armchair theorist, but a militant political leader facing the might of British imperial power, said that non- violence comes from strength, and the strength is from God, not man. Seeking peace through non-violence always comes from within.24
A survey of the Qur’an reveals not only passages that grant legitimacy to armed resistance to oppression, but also ones that reject wanton bloodshed and the use of force for aggressive purposes. Like the Torah and the Bible, the Qur’an identifies Cain’s offence against Abel as the first instance of violence in human history, clearly marking it as a great wrong through which Cain became responsible, not only for his own sins, but also for those of his brother. Abel confronts Cain before the latter’s fateful action, and tells him: “Even if you stretch out your hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand against you to kill you. I fear God the Lord of the worlds” (Q al-Ma’idah, 5:28) From this vantage point, the Qur’an asserts in a passage reminiscent of one in the Jewish Talmud a moral imperative to protect life: “On that account, We decreed for the children of Israel that if anyone slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief upon earth – it would be as if he slew all humanity.” The passage then continues: “and whoever saves a life, it would be as if he saves the life of the whole of humanity” (Q al-Ma’idah, 5:32). Other Qur’anic passages exemplifying peace through non-violence include:
Whenever they [mischief-makers] kindle the fire of war, God extinguishes it. They strive to create disorder on earth and God loves not those who create disorder. (Q al-Ma’idah, 5:64)
God commands you to treat [everyone] justly and kindly. (QAn-Nahl, 16:90)
Good and evil can never be equal. Repel evil [not with evil but] with good, then you will see that even one with whom you had enmity will become as though he were an intimate friend. (Q Fussilat, 41:34)
Fear God, and know that God is with those who restrain themselves. (Q al-Baqarah, 2:194)
The Prophet Muhammad added his voice to this in several Hadiths:
Gentleness fails not to create beauty whenever it enters into something, and it is not taken away from anything without causing ugliness.
A Muslim is one from whose hands and tongue other Muslims [read human beings] are safe.
People are God’s children; the most beloved of them to God is one who is of greatest benefit to his children.
Muslims are enjoined never to give up hope that peace will prevail. “It may be that God will bring love (and friendship) between you and some of those whom you (now) hold as enemies. For God has power over all things. He is most forgiving, most merciful” (Q al-Mumtahanah, 60:7) Muslims are enjoined to be just and kind to all their fellow humans regardless of their colour and creed – if they have not been aggressive toward them [Muslims] nor invaded their homes (Q 60:8).
The scriptural sources of Islam are emphatic about the merits of patience (Sabr), which is widely seen as a manifestation of quietist yet activist resistance to the wrongdoings and excessive behaviour of others. The Qur’an (Q al-Zumar, 39:10) promises that “Those who are patient will be given their reward without measure.” This is endorsed in another verse which says “They will be awarded in the high place [in heaven] for what they bore in patience.” (al-Furqan, 25:75). And again: “As for those who after persecution fled their homes and strove actively and were patient to the last, your Lord will be forgiving and merciful to them” (16:110). The Prophet began his ministry in Mecca with non-violent resistance to persecution and persistent provocations by the Quraysh of Mecca. He remained steadfast in this for 13 years until his migration to Madinah, which marked the momentous event of the Hijrah, itself a vivid manifestation of non- violent and patient (yet activist) resistance to aggression.25 In a long Hadith, the Prophet is reported to have said: “Patience is of three kinds: patience during tribulations,patienceinobediencetoGod,andpatienceinavoidingsin.Whoever remains patient during a tribulation until he averts it, God will ordain for him three hundred levels [of recompense]…”26
Ibn Abi al-Dunya’s (d.894 CE) treatise on the virtues of patience (Fada’il al-Sabr) underscores patience as a hallmark of piety. According to a Hadith report by one Abu Imran al-Juni, “After faith, the believer has not been given anything more meritorious (Afzal) than patience with the exception of gratitude, but it [patience] is more meritorious of the two and the fastest of the two to reap recompense for the believer.”27 A similar report by the ninth century scholar, Sufyan b ʿUyaynah (d.813 CE), says: “The believers (al-abad) have not been given anything better or more meritorious than patience, by means of which they enter heaven.”28
Religion must be taught in a civil, non-violent, and courteous manner – as the Qur’an enjoins the Prophet, “You are not one to overawe them by force (bi- jabbaar)” (Qaaf, 50:45).A Muslim’s attitude towards the ‘other ‘should be: “To you is your religion and to me my religion.” (al-Kafirun, 109:6). These verses merely endorse the basic Qur’anic position that “There shall be no compulsion in religion” (2:256).
Due to the sacredness of human life, non-violence becomes of primary importance for Muslims when resolving conflicts. Several Muslim leaders have spearheaded the peace-through-nonviolence initiative, including Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1876-1960), Abdul Ghafar Khan (also known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’ 1890-1988), LalaAziza, Ghazal al-Magdashiyyah, and Fethullah Gulen. Other significant advocates of non-violence include Mubarak Awad, Chiawat Sata- Anand, Hakim Mohammad Said, Sakina Yakoobi, and Jawdat Sa’id.29 The Qur’an inspired most of these in their advocacy for non-violence, each quoting passages from the Qur’an in support of their views.
For example, in his magnum opus, the 6,000-page Risalae-i Nur, Nursi developed the principles of the non-violent actions of love, tolerance, and good reason. There is a profound focus in Nursi’s work on responding to evil with understanding and kindness, to working for peace regardless of the obstacles and unfavourable conditions. He firmly believed that responding to evil with evil would create a vicious cycle and only increase the spread of evil.30. On the subject of jihad, Nursi wrote that “spiritual jihad is the jihad of this century.” His understanding of jihad involved preventive action through communication and dialogue. This was because violence in society would contravene the rights of innocent people. Acting in an ethical and positive way – taming anger and revenge – would protect the lives of others.31
Nursi wrote that “Hatred should only be directed to ignorance, poverty and hypocrisy,” and that “our relations with non-Muslims will be in the way of persuasion. It is our duty to present Islam to them as a religion of love.” For Nursi, non-violence was an integral part of Islam, and he argued that the future of civilisation depends on peaceful co-existence.32
Nursi lamented the atrocities of the two World Wars and wrote that when the human heart is shorn of respect and compassion, rationality cannot tame mankind’s animal self. Equally, when driven by greed and selfishness, human beings can turn into “cruel and horrible monsters.” Nursi frequently quoted the Qur’anic directive for Muslims to “make peace among your brethren” (al- Hujurat, 49:10) and its guidance that one should respond with “what is most beautiful,” so that “the one with whom you had enmity could become an intimate friend” (Fussilat, 41: 34).33
Today, Nursi’s message is most notably carried forward by Fethullah Gulen, whohas,likeNursi,inspiredmillionstoworkforpeacethroughservice,including the establishment of schools, charities, media outlets, and youth groups around the world, whether for Muslims or non-Muslims. Through these efforts, Gulen has been contributing extensively to global peace efforts in many countries.34
Turning to Abdul Khafar Khan, he founded the Afghan-Pashtun Khuda’i Khidmatgars peace movement. By doing so, he established the world’s first non- violent army using the Islamic principles of patience, kindness and love, as well as the Pashtun traditions of honour, bravery and commitment to one’s word.
He mobilised the frontier province of the Indian subcontinent during British colonialism to protest oppression and occupation.35. Using the Islamic values of service through action (‘Amal), faith (Yaqeen) and love (Muhabbat), Khan argued that the connection between Islam and peace building is more obvious and stronger than the stereotypical link to violence. He maintained that Islam emphasises social justice, brotherhood and equality of mankind.36
Ghazal Ahmad ‘Alwan al-Magdashiyyah, of late 19th century Yemen, was a powerful and persuasive dispute mediator who successfully resolved a number of conflicts through non-violent means. In due recognition of her role, her name was given to the main lecture hall at the Empirical Research and Women’s Studies Centre at the University of Sanaa.37
In the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Mubarak Awad has striven to promote religious values and ethical considerations in order to persuade the warring groups to explore non-violent coexistence. Although these efforts have yet to bear fruit, in several places their presence is considerable.38
Moroccans have long recited the narrative of Lala Aziza, a courageous and deeply spiritual Muslim woman of the fourteenth century C.E, who reconciled conflicting tribal groups and, on one occasion, persuaded the governor of Marrakesh to desist from acts of military aggression against the people of her region. According to traditional lore, she approached the general and his army when they reached the region of Seksewa, where she lived. Her face-to-face debate with the general was entirely couched in Islamic discourse. Unsettled by the woman’s courage and personal charisma, the general gave up his ambition to subjugate her people.39
In addition to these specific examples, the Sufi tradition has also traditionally embodied a spirit of non-violent protest. During the Abbasid and Ottoman periods, for example, numerous Sunni and Shia Sufi leaders refused to sanction calls to military jihad by rulers whom they deemed to be unjust.40
What of jihad?
References to jihad in the Qur’an occur in twenty-four verses, most of which advance a spiritual and non-violent understanding thereof concerned mainly with: being steadfast in faith and being prepared to make sacrifices in its cause; with the migration of the nascent Muslim community from Mecca to Madinah; with the peaceful propagation of Islam, and with personal and financial sacrifice.41
Jihad in the sense of self-discipline, or jihad al-Nafs, for example, is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an:
And whoever strives (Jahada), he only strives for his own self, for God is independent of his creatures (Q al-‘Ankabut, 29:6).
As for those who strive for Us (Jahadu Fina), We surely guide them to Our paths (Q al-‘Ankabut, 29:69).
Obey not the unbelievers, but strive against them with it (Jahidhum Bihi) with utmost striving (Jihadan Kabiraa) (Q al-Furqan, 25:59).
The renowned Companion, Ibn ‘Abbas, commented that the phrase ‘strive with the utmost striving’ in the last verse denotes preaching and exhortation as the greatest forms of jihad, and that ‘with it’ refers to the Qur’an itself.42 It should be noted that none of these references to jihad have a military connotation; they are references to the jihad of enlightenment and education, as guided by the Qur’an itself.
According to a Hadith: “The Mujahid is he who wages a struggle against himself.”43
And then again that “The best form of jihad is to tell a word of truth (Kalimatu Haqqin) to a tyrannical ruler.”44 ‘Jihad against the self’ is the foundation of all jihads, for fighting an external enemy would not be possible without a successful engagement in this inner jihad. In this respect, the Sufis have taken this Hadith as the main authority for their doctrines.45
In a Hadith record by al-Bukhari (d.870CE)and Muslim(d.875CE),a young man asked the Prophet: “Should I join the jihad?” In response, the Prophet asked him a question “Do you have parents?” and when the man said “Yes”, the Prophet told him “then strive by serving them.”46 Likewise, al-Bukhari and Muslim both record another Hadith, stating that “One who helps widows and the poor are like fighters in the path of God.”47 According to another Hadith, recorded by Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.855 CE) and al-Tirmidhi (d.892 CE), “One who strives against oneself is a Mujahid who carries out jihad.”48 The Prophet has also said:
“Whoever goes out in the world seeking licit work to support his family is in the path of God; whoever goes out in the world seeking licit work to support himself, is in the path of God.”49 Al-Tirmidhi has recorded the following Hadith: “Whoever departs in pursuit of knowledge is in the path of God (Fi Sabil Allah) until he returns.”50 This clearly rebuts the assertion by some that the phrase “Fi Sabilillah” refers to military combat only.
The Andalusian jurist and theologian Ibn Hazm (d.1064 CE) held that defending Islam through non-militant, verbal and scholarly efforts qualified as a meritorious struggle in the path of God. Jihad is best carried out, he affirmed, through inviting people to God by means of the tongue and through defending Islam by sound opinion. By contrast, armed combat was marginal as, Ibn Hazm added, the majority of the Prophet’s activities fell into non- violent categories.51
Given the above, the common usage of jihad appears to be peaceful. This is especially so in the Qur’an’s early Meccan revelations. During the initial thirteen years of the Prophet’s ministry in Mecca, he conducted his mission entirely through non-violent means, even to the extent of not allowing his followers to defend themselves against aggression. When, for example, the Meccans persecuted the Muslims and forced a number of them to migrate, initially to Abyssinia and then later to Madinah, some of them urged the Prophet to allow a reciprocal response. He repeatedly refused, however, due to Qur’anic injunctions like:
So wait patiently (O Muhammad) for thy Lord’s decree, surely thou art in Our sight (al-Tur, 52:48);
Then bear with them and say: peace. They will (eventually) come to know (al-Zukhruf, 43:89).
So overlook (any human faults), with gracious forgiveness (al-Hijr, 15:85);
Repel (evil) with what is better, and when you do that, the one with whom you had enmity will become your dearest friend (Fussilat, 41:34).
Even when the pagans of Mecca planned an attack on the Prophet’s life, he chose to migrate to Madinah rather than retaliate. Only a year later, when the Meccans set out to attack the Muslim community in Madinah, was the first Qur’anic verse permitting fighting revealed:
Permission is granted to those who fight because they have been wronged, and God is indeed able to give them victory; those who were driven from their homes unjustly because they said: our Lord is God (al-Naba’, 78:39).
So, whereas in Mecca Qur’anic references to jihad were all to its peaceful manifestations, in Madinah references to jihad began to include military jihad (cf., Q 2:215; 9:41; 49:15). But these passages validated jihad in the sense of a ‘just war’ fought to repel:
And fight in the way of God those who wage war on you, but do not transgress, for God loves not the transgressors (2:190).
Thus it is clear that military jihad is waged in self-defence and against aggression. By contrast, jihad as an offensive war does not have any scriptural mandate. Rather, it is a latent development that features in the work of those jurists and commentators who sought to legitimise the policies of territorial expansion.52 When planning to mobilise the military for purposes of annexation or conquest, especially at times when no organised armies existed, Muslim rulers would encourage religious leaders to declare jihad to legitimise attack. This was the case, for example, when Amir Abur Rahman of Afghanistan waged a jihad against Nuristan in 1895; before the attack, he convened a large number of religious figures to issue a collective fatwa in support of it.53
The peaceful objectives of jihad and a respect for freedom of religion can be seen in the renowned Constitution of Madinah, dating back to the first year of the Hijra/622 CE. This document guaranteed freedom of religion for non-Muslims, Jews and Christians
The same sentiment is noted in a renowned letter by the first Caliph Abu Bakr, dated 12 AH/635 CE, that exhorted the Muslim troops leaving for a Syrian campaign to protect civilian life and property and avoid torture and undignified treatment of prisoners of war. Written at such an early point of Islamic history, it is remarkable to note how closely Abu Bakr’s letter resonates with the spirit of contemporary international law. Respect for freedom of religion is also manifested in the second Caliph, Umar al-Khattab’s, example following the defeat of the Romans at the Battle of Yarmouk in 648 CE. The caliph made a pledge on behalf of all Muslims to protect the places of worship of Jews and Christians and allow them unhindered freedom of access to their churches and synagogues.54
Muhammad Abu Zahrah (d.1974 CE) has quoted Taqi al-Din ibn Taymiyyah (d.1328 CE) in support of his own conclusion that war in Islam is permitted for only one purpose: defence against aggression. This is why the permission to fight granted by the Qur’an to Muslims is immediately qualified by the phrase “and do not transgress”.55 The ultimate goal of war in Islam is to prevent Fitnah (sedition, tumult), as in the verse:“And fight them until Fitnah is exterminated”(Qal-Anfal, 8:39).
Influenced by the prevailing pattern of hostile relations with non-Muslims, some Muslim jurists took an extreme position on the subject of abrogation (Naskh) in the Qur’an. The so-called verse of the sword (ayat al-sayf, 9:5) was thus taken to abrogate no less than 114 (and according to some, 140) verses on peaceful relations with non-Muslims spread across 54 Suras of the Qur’an. The verse in question was revealed when the Prophet negotiated the truce of Hudaybiyah with the pagan Quraysh. A year later, the Quraysh violated the terms of that treaty, and it was on this occasion that the verse in question was revealed, addressing Muslims to “Slay those who ascribe divinity to others than God wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them.” The text then states that, if the enemy repents and mend its ways, violence must be brought to an end (Q al-Tawbah, 9:5). I shall not engage with the details of abrogation, which I have treated elsewhere,56 but suffice to say that it is a controversial subject and that to use it in order to establish such a drastic position as abrogating a whole chunk of the Qur’an on peaceful relations, justice and tolerance, patience and perseverance, treating others with fairness and dignity, is far too excessive. The verse is also taken out of its particular context and exceedingly generalised.
In course of time, juristic writings on jihad became so preoccupied with the military aspects of the term that it began to be used only in that sense, to the near-total exclusion of its wider connotations. Western militarism and violence during and after colonialism exacerbated the situation; against the background of the West’s anti-Islamic policies and onslaught, the Muslims began to strike back and became more inclined to embrace the militaristic interpretations of jihad.
The persistent Western media depictions of Muslims as prone to terrorism and violence, however, call for a corrective. The fact is, and as Mazrui notes, that “in the last 100 years Western civilisation has killed millions more people than any other way of life in the annals of man in a comparable unit of time…. It has also been the West in the preceding 100 years which had made warfare less and less respectful of civilians.”57 The Christian ethic of the minimisation of violence has been observed more by non-Christians in Asia and Africa and elsewhere than by ostensible followers of the Cross.58
Peace through Equity
In contrast to ‘peace through subjugation,’ wherein peace is understood in conceptually minimalist terms as the absence of war, ‘peace through equity’ conceives of peace as the presence of justice, communal self-determination and solidarity. Certainly, peace cannot be truly said to exist in the face of persistent injustice. Efforts to promote equity and justice thus qualify as a form of jihad. Islam itself may be described as an uprising for justice providing guidelines for establishing a just and humane society. The Muslim Ummah can also play a significantroleinpeace-makingbyactingontheQur’anicprincipleof“enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.”59
In its affirmative sense, Islam’s version of peace through equity is concerned with social justice, necessitating the elimination of extreme disparities in society. Social justice envisages a fair distribution of wealth and opportunity, of the prevention of large gaps between rich and poor. The existence of large disparities, however, has become a stark feature of the twenty-first century and is a source of tension, both within Muslim societies and in the larger context of global relations. Islamic teachings regard the existence of economic deprivation as a social wrong caused by the failure of society and state to protect the weak. The imbalances are often caused by hoarding, protectionist trading policies and unfair exploitation. Insofar as poverty and economic exploitation lead to social turmoil, the objectives of security and economic justice are naturally threatened and compromised. Islam is emphatic on care for the poor and the deprived, and sees economic justice as a means toward a state of equilibrium and social peace.60
Islamic explanations of disequilibrium and injustice in human societies emphasise an indictment of greed, moral blindness and egotism, be it individual or collective. The worst forms of human oppression are derived from tyranny of the human ego, referred to in the Qur’an as Taghut, a well-spring of moral transgression that ultimately partakes in idolatry (shirk). For many Islamic ethicists, idolatry manifests not only in the theologically erroneous attribution of partners to God, but also in humanity’s existential attitudes of egotism and greed.
The contemporary Islamic call for justice critiques exploitative capitalism, assertive nationalisms that override consideration of equity and fair treatment of others, racism and fanatical tribalism. Whereas power politics utilise double standards that sow seeds of oppression and discontent, Islam’s peace through equity perspective evokes a common ethical standard of universal appeal. The purpose of politics should be to advance the cause of justice, rather than merely preserve the status quo or pursue the benefits of only one particular state, nation, or sub national group.61
Islam subscribes to an essentially optimistic view of human nature (Fitrah) and potential, which is in turn the basis of humankind’s vicegerency (Khilafah) in the earth, or the divine trust to build the earth up with peace and justice. The ‘peace through equity’ approach also recognises that coercion and violence cannot persuade people to act justly, and that achieving positive ends for world peace requires skilful persuasion and advocacy of shared moral standards. Only approaches that are deeply rooted in moral and humanitarian values can provide a basis for sustainable peace.
Peace through Conciliation
The Qur’an repeatedly enjoins Muslims to, whenever possible; respond to provocations with patience and affirmative action capable of facilitating conciliation. Fighting should be avoided until it becomes necessary – that is, after all attempts have failed to achieve a peaceful resolution. This approach is not vastly different from the Western notion of a Just War, which also considers war to be the last resort. Peace through conciliation and the restoration of harmony remains God’s preference and a higher objective of Islamic theology and law.62
From an Islamic viewpoint, the prevalence in Western though to find individualistic rationality and self-interest is lop-sided and problematic. Contemporary Western thinkers place a high premium on the skilful management of competition and conflict through an international system based on exploitative capitalism and a balance of power. Islamic thought argues in normative terms for a world order that cannot be constructed without commitment to justice, security and peace.63
That said, neither the West nor Islam is monolithic nor both face noticeable tensions between professed and actualised commitments. The age of globalisation dictates that both must aspire to an enlightened global citizenship. Listening to different cultural voices – and those of the Muslims in particular – is all the more important for the West, both so that it can know itself better and coexist with others in an ever-shrinking world.
At the level of linkages between precept and practice, Islam provides multiple approaches to the peaceful resolution of conflicts, many of which have parallels in other traditions and cultures. Yet partly due to media bias, but also radicalism and militancy in the name of religion, inquiry into the precepts and practices of peaceinIslamisstillarelativelynewtopicformodernscholarship.Nonetheless, interest in the alternative methods of dispute resolution in Islamic law has grown wider in recent decades, beyond its traditional and relatively narrow focus of Islamic banking and finance. The following paragraphs look at Islamic approaches to conflict resolution through negotiated settlement (Sulh), arbitration (Tahkim), grant of amnesty and forgiveness (‘afwa), counselling (Nasihah), and truce (al-hudnah) to allow time for settlement. These are in addition, of course, to adjudication (qada), which is of concern mainly to courtroom proceedings that, although well-regulated, are also protracted and restrictive, often lacking the flexibility offered by the non-courtroom alternative methods. We shall therefore precludeadjudicationfromourcoverageandsufficebysayingthatitisavailable in most cases of concern here, as a last resort. The disputing party or parties may thus opt for adjudication if the alternative conflict resolution methods have failed to deliver the desired results.