I shall deal with the topic of “The Qur’an and World Peace” at three different levels, viz., the peace and tranquility of an individual person, the socio-political peace of a group, and finally, world peace.
An Individual Person’s Peace and Tranquility
One may be surprised that I am embarking upon a discussion of world peace by first mentioning an individual’s personal peace and inner state of harmony. But a moment’s reflection will be sufficient to bring home to the reader the all-important truth that the most effective factor in establishing world peace is personal peace and mental satisfaction of an individual. This is so because of the following four reasons:
Firstly, an individual human being is the basic unit of humanity. A wall, however high and long it may be, is after all a complex of bricks. Its strength and stability depends on the strength and good quality of individual bricks. Similarly world peace is unthinkable without the spiritual and psychological peace of a large majority of its inhabitants.
Secondly, man in himself is a “miniature universe” and as such his consciousness reflects the entire cosmos. This important truth has been fully realized by the Sufis of Islam — the greatest researchers into human psychology. That is the reason why I have chosen their term — “miniature universe” or microcosm — to express my meaning.
Just as external and environmental happenings influence the inner state of man, it is equally true that man also influences the macro-cosmic physical universe around him. His inner state affects and brings about changes in the vast expanses of the material cosmos. Therefore, the peace and tranquility enjoyed by human individuals necessarily makes its impression on the outer world. In other words, the subjective peace experienced within makes harmony possible in the world outside the individual.
Thirdly, even a cursory glance at world history is enough to show that often the personal disquietude of a few individuals led to disastrous wars resulting in widespread bloodshed and destruction. If we study closely the life-history and personalities of leaders like Hulagu Khan, Genghis Khan, Hitler and Mussolini, we come to know that it was due to their mental disquietude and perversity that the world peace was shattered and innumerable innocent human beings were savagely killed.
Fourthly, even now if we consider for a moment the few persons in whom tremendous powers are vested (such as those who preside in the White House and the Kremlin), we will be assured that world peace largely depends upon the inner peace and tranquility of these very few individuals. Not to speak of mental disruption, even the nervous tension or anxiety of a single one of these men might spark off an extremely devastating nuclear war.
Iman — Doctrinal Belief
Viewed from this angle, Islam seems to occupy a unique position in the community of world religions. Iman is the collective term for all those beliefs on which the Islamic faith is based. The root of the word Iman is a-m-n, which points to the peace and tranquility that the believer enjoys in his heart as a result of entertaining and upholding these beliefs.
The quintessence of Iman is belief in Almighty God, or Iman billah, which is constituted by intuitive knowledge of Allah (SWT) and a relationship to Him of hope and total dependence and submission. Only this type of personal and subjective relationship with Allah (SWT) can engender true and lasting peace in the heart of a man, providing a positive and durable ground for the stability of his inner being. Tauheed — oneness of God, which we translate as “unity” or “unityism” — is the characteristic term for this pure spiritual relation of a man to his Creator, which ultimately leads him to a state described by the Qur’an in these words: “Allah became pleased with them and they became pleased with Him” (Al-Bayyinah 97:8). This is a state in which the Creator and the worshipper are in total consonance with each other. A believer who has obtained this spiritual height is completely free from all anxiety and fear, and his mind and heart experience a bliss which can be felt but cannot be described in words.
In Surah Al-An‘am, Allah (SWT) first poses a question in this manner:
…Which of the two parties has more right to security and peace, (tell me) if you know. (Al-An‘am 6:81)
and then the answer is supplied thus:
It is those who believed and did not pollute their faith with zulm that are truly in security and are rightly guided. (Al-An‘am 6:82)
In short, true belief in Allah (SWT) is the sole positive and real ground for a man’s inner peace and happiness. This devotional relationship with Allah (SWT) accompanied with pure and resolute submission to His commands can be achieved and enhanced by remembrance of Allah (or zikr). The Qur’an speaks of peace, love, and harmony for the interim period as well. Islam provides us with two cardinal principles, on the basis of which the peoples of the world can be united in global harmony. Thus, the ayah 13 of Surah Al-Hujurat reads:
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair of a) male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (one who is) the most righteous of you… (Al-Hujurat 49:13)
Here the Holy Qur’an mentions two points which can create a deep sense of unity among the diverse races and religio-cultural groups of the world, viz., the unity of the Creator which leads us to the essential equality of humankind, and the common origin of the entire human race in the primordial pair of Adam and Eve, which leads us to the idea of universal brotherhood.
This ayah addresses all of humanity and not just the Muslim community. All humankind has descended from the first couple, Adam and Eve. Their tribes, races, and nations are conventional labels by which we may know their differing characteristics. Before Allah (SWT) they are all one, and the most righteous is the most honorable. Allah (SWT) is the Creator of all human beings and as such they are all equal before Him.
These two principles of unity of the human race and oneness of Creator may appear rather theoretical, but history tells us that the Prophet of Islam (SAW) established a society based on these very principles which was free of internal strife and conflict. Even H. G. Wells, who otherwise is a critic of the personal life of the Holy Prophet (SAW), acclaims that it was a great feat of Muhammad (SAW) that he, in fact, established a human society based on the lofty moral ideals of Islam.
Everybody knows that modern science and technology has brought about fantastic changes in contemporary life. Our globe has shrunk tremendously; we can travel from one corner of the earth to another in a matter of hours. The world has been reduced to a village, various countries being like localities of a single town. But this elimination of distance is entirely a physical and outer phenomenon. Mentally and psychologically, the various nations of the world are still far apart from each other. Even though at the political level men aspire to develop a universal brotherhood and a single world-State, yet in reality they cannot find a basis or value through which to overcome the barriers of color, creed, and race.
The desire for world peace and cordial relations among the nations of the world led to the formation of “League of Nations” in the early part of this century. But it failed miserably and ceased to exist after a few years because of the utterly selfish and inhuman attitude of some of the member countries. The yearning for peace and amicability in international relations persisted and it again resulted in the formation of a world body known as the “United Nations Organization.” It is an open secret, however, that it too has failed to achieve its purpose. Most resolutions passed by the UNO are not implemented in clear defiance of its Charter. Even though it has a prestigious paraphernalia of offices and divisions, its efficacy as a custodian of peace has never been up to the mark.
If we look at the matter from the right perspective, we realize that only Islam can meet the challenge of the time. The failure of peace-making world bodies like the UNO lies in the fact that these cannot possibly offer a ground for treating various national and ethnic groups as equal partners in the community of nations. Islam, on the other hand, gives us two such fundamental concepts which alone can bind the human race in one single totality. It tells us that all human beings living on the surface of this earth come from one primordial pair — Adam and Eve — and as such they are like members of one family. Again, the Creator of all is Allah (SWT) and as such they are all equal in His eyes. White people have no superiority over colored nations, nor have Western nations any ground to boast against the Eastern ones. Islam totally negates all baseless values and attitudes which treat some people as inferior to others in any respect whatsoever.
The contents of the above mentioned ayah of Surah Al-Hujurat have appeared in reverse order in the first ayah of Surah Al-Nisa thus:
O mankind! Be mindful of your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person. Created, of like nature, his mate and from them twain scattered countless men and women. Be mindful of Allah through Whom you demand (your mutual rights), and (be mindful of violating relations based on) the wombs; for Allah ever watches over you. (Al-Nisa 4:1)
All our mutual rights and duties, according to Islam, are referred to Allah (SWT). We are His creatures; His will is the standard and measure of good, and our duties are measured by our conformity to His Will. The Prophet of Islam (SAW) has not only shown a way to salvation in a future life, but has also brought practical answers to the problems of this – worldly life. And surely we do need concrete facts. In today’s situation of crisis the call for renewal, change, and progress is heard everywhere. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the prime example of a personality who understood how to bring about revolutionary progress and build a community of true brotherhood. For example, his address on the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage epitomizes the climax of his mission, in which he said: “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor has a non-Arab over an Arab. You are all born of Adam, and Adam was made out of clay.” This universality is also depicted subtly in the above cited Qur’anic ayaat; both address all humanity and thus make explicit the fundamental facts shared by all human beings.
The role of an important pillar of Islam, Hajj, is also very significant in this context. The spirit of Hajj is the spirit of sacrifice of vanities, dress and personal appearance, pride relating to birth, national origin, accomplishments, work or social status. It signifies the brotherhood of all Muslims, demonstrated in the greatest of all international assemblies. The privileged cast away their arrogance and pride because they know it is a sin to be harsh or scornful to one’s bother. In bridging the gap between man and man, forgiveness (which is closely related with taqwa) plays an essential part. Magnanimity is a sign of strength.
Obviously, Qur’anic teachings can give lead to the rest of the world on the question of race relations. Islam has the best record of racial tolerance. Its mosque and pilgrimage gatherings have known no racial discrimination. The message of Islam has completely rejected racial prejudice or superiority of one race over the other. Even the western non-Muslim scholars admit this, the historian Arnold Toynbee among them. He writes:
The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding moral achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue. The forces of racial toleration, which at present seem to be fighting a losing battle in a spiritual struggle of immense importance to mankind, might still regain the upper hand if any strong influence militating against racial consciousness were now to be thrown into the scales. It is conceivable that the spirit of Islam might be the timely reinforcement which would decide this issue in favor of tolerance and peace. (A. J. Toynbee, Civilization an Trial, Oxford university Press, 1948, pp. 205-6)
The disregard of color and race in the Muslim world is expressed by Malcolm X in a moving account of his experiences in Makkah. He wrote:
For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed at around me by people of all colors You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held, and to toss aside some of my previous conclusions…. Perhaps if White Americans could accept in reality the Oneness of mankind — and cease to measure and hinder and harm others in terms of their “differences” in color…. Each hour here in the Holy Land enables me to have greater spiritual insight into what is happening in America between black and white.
It is most unfortunate that, to the total neglect of such magnificent teachings of universal brotherhood, Muslims themselves are taking to various secular slogans for uniting cross-sections of the world population on the basis of racial and national loyalties. It is height of insanity that people who produced the finest examples of human equality and brotherhood in their past on the basis of their faith alone are now adopting racial and ethnic nationalism as a panacea for their social and political ills. To give a historical example, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab (RAA) who belonged to the respectable Arab tribe of Quryaish and was the head of the then largest Muslim State of his time, used to address Bilal (RAA) — a black Muslim and a former slave of humble means — as Sayyidina (our master).
The upshot of my discussion is that the truth which is essential for the happiness and peace (of both individual as well as social at the widest level) is all there and complete in the Qur’an and the Sunnah (i.e., the tradition and practice of the Prophet). Whoever amongst Muslims studies the Holy Qur’an and the life of Prophet of Islam (SAW) in earnest must face the question: “Are you ready to follow the heights that Allah (SWT) shows you and be a witness to this unto the world?” I believe that the need of the hour is to explain and spread the teachings and wisdom of the Holy Qur’an, first among the Muslims themselves and then among the entire humankind. This can be achieved only through sincere and tireless efforts of those young men who decide to dedicate their lives to the learning and teaching of the Book of Allah (SWT).