Q. Do you claim that Islam is a religion of PEACE?
A. Of course. The very name “Islam” means PEACE.
Q. Then how is it that there have been so many wars in Islamic history?
A. Islam seeks global peace. But vested interests place hurdles in this way. So Islam has to fight to remove these hurdles. It is a sort of defensive offensive, not a war in the usual sense.
“They (infidels) wish to extinguish Allah’s Light with blowing their breath. And Allah shall (in any case) bring His Light to perfection, even if the unbelievers dislike it (61:8)”. This has to be done through people. So Allah enjoins Muslims to fight those people who create hurdles in the path of creating a peaceful and just society. But “Only till opposition ceases and the word of Allah prevails. Then if they stop fighting there is no aggression except against the oppressors (Verse 2:193)
Q. Is it true to say that Islam spread by the sword?
A. Not at all. This notion was spread by some Westerners. Quran says, “There is no compulsion (or force) in matter or religion” (2:256). It urges use of wisdom and politeness. “Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious” (16.125).
Q. It is commonly believed that Islam teaches hatred towards non-Muslim. How far is it true?
A. Islam is very tolerant religion. It forbids even suspecting all foreigners to be Unbeliever. “O ye who believe! when ye go abroad in the cause of Allah investigate carefully and say not to anyone who offers you a salutation: "Thou art none of a believer!" (4.94). “With regard to those who do not fight you for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes Allah does not prohibit you from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.”(60.8)
Q. Does Islam believe in Tit for Tat (retaliation)?
A. Of course. Islam prefers forgiveness at individual level but ’Tit for tat’ at national level. “In retaliation lies your survival, O people of wisdom”. But any access in retaliation is to be avoided. “Oppress them to the extent they oppress you, and fear Allah (against exceeding limit) (2:194). In war Islam allows ‘Tit for Tat’ -- “But if the enemy incline towards peace then you (also) incline towards peace” (8:61).
Q. What is Islam’s stand on infighting?
A. Peace at any cost. “If two parties among the Believers fall into a quarrel make ye peace between them: but if one of them transgresses beyond bounds against the other then fight ye (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of Allah; but if it complies then make peace between them with justice and be fair: for Allah loves those who are fair (and just)” (49:9)
Q. Once started should fighting be continued to its logical end?
A. In Islam fighting is not for revenge but for peace. “So, if they withdraw from you and fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace then Allah hath opened no way for you (to continue war).(4:90). Once the goal of Peace is achieved there is no sense in continuing warfare.
Q. What is the concept of Jehad in Islam?
A. The word Jehad originally means “struggle”. Technically “war or fighting” aggressive infidels is also called “Jehad” because it is also a struggle against those who place hurdles in the way of establishing global peace. For ‘fighting’ (battle) the word ‘qital’ is used. Jehad is made obligatory on Muslims (when necessary) for self defense. “Permission (for Jehad) is granted to the Believers who are forced to fight, because they have been oppressed…those who have been turned out of homes simply because they say “Our Lord is Allah” (22:39). War for any worldly goal (expansion of political or economic power) is not Jehad. In Jehad the motive must be to promote Allah’s cause (peace and justice).
Q. What does Islam say about Fundamentalism?
A. Basically, Fundamentalism means ‘sticking to ‘fundamentals of any religion. In this sense the Jews, the Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims can be fundamentalists. But sadly, the term ‘Fundamentalists’ has been linked to militant Muslim extremists who indulge in disruptive activities in the name of Jehad. That’s not true. Islam does not allow disruptive activities.
Q. It is maintained that Islam promotes Terrorism. How far is this true?
A. Let me remove this misunderstanding. But please ask questions about particular activities that constitute Terrorism, so that I may answer them in detail.
Q. Okay, what about killing innocent persons. It is said that Islam does not attach much importance to human life. How’s it?
A. Islam condemns all unlawful killings. Referring to the first murder of Abel by his brother Cain Quran says, “For this We enjoined upon the Children of Israel (and this includes Jews, Christians and Muslims) that whosoever kills one person (unlawfully, or without his causing disruption in the land) it is like killing the whole of mankind, and whosoever protects life to one person it is like giving life to whole mankind“.(5:39). As regards value of Life Islam even prohibits unnecessary killing of animals much less humans. Islam places highest value on human Life, allowing even eating of Pork when inevitable for survival. Even during war Islam prohibits killing of women, children, old persons, non-militants and even destroying crops and property.
Q. What about suicide bombing?
A. Suicide for any purpose is prohibited in Islam. Quran says, “Do not put yourself to destruction with your own hands” (2:195). A Tradition of the Prophet Muhammad says, “And if somebody commits suicide with anything in this world, he will be tortured with that very thing on the Day of Resurrection.” Suicide bombing involves killing oneself as well as others. So it is doubly condemned.
Q. What about setting fire to property?
A. Quran condemns those ‘terrorists’ who destroy crops and annihilate species. “And when he (a terrorist) goes away from you he tries to create disruption in the land and to destroy crops and species. And Allah does not like disruption” (2:205). As regards burning down living things a Tradition of the Prophet condemns killing living things by fire.
Q. And what about firing or bombing at mosques, marketplaces, buses etc. ?
A. Quran condemns such cowardly acts. “And who is more unjust than he who forbids (or prevents) that in places for the worship of Allah Allah's name should be celebrated? Their zeal is (in fact) to ruin them? (2.114)
Killing innocent persons in market places or buses is open murder and stands condemned.
Q. What if enemy provokes you to fight?
A. I would again say that at individual level patience and forgiveness is advised, But at the national level the provocative challenge must be accepted. No weakness is to be shown.
Q. Anything else you would like to say?
A. I would like to add that in condemning evil Islam goes farther than the concept of Terrorism. It uses the term “fasaad” (disruption) for all kinds of evil deeds that disrupt individual, social or national peace. It includes disruption of peace by invading powers, it includes conspiracies and plots against powers of Peace and Justice. It includes destruction. It includes exploitative abuse of power. It includes placing hurdles in the way of Peace and Justice. It includes anything that hampers establishing Peace and Justice in the land. It includes law-breaking. True Muslims are far away from “disruptive” acts. “Shall we make those who Believe and do good deeds like those who create disturbance in the land”(38:28). Unfortunately Islam’s high ideal of Peace and Justice is hampered by prejudices and biases. And the clash of values gives rise to all disturbances. “There has arisen a tumult in land and in sea because of what people do.” (30:41). These disruptive tendencies have to be checked (through peaceful or militant struggle) because “If that’s not done there would result greater disturbance and tumult in the land” (8:72).
Q. What message would you like to give to the West?
A. I would like to repeat that Islam is a religion of Peace. Westerners should not be carried away by false propaganda against Islam or Muslims. True that there is an element of terrorism among the Muslim community. But so it is in any other religion. If some followers of a religion violate its teachings the blame lies on the followers not on the religion. How many Christians practice the peaceful edict of Bible: ’if someone slaps you on one cheek turn the other cheek also towards him’? And still no one will deny that Christianity teaches LOVE and PEACE. The same approach should be adopted when forming an opinion about Islam.
by Dr. Irshad Arshed