June 2012


Doctrine divides, Action unites

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Islam Means Peace

Jahan Ara Begum

According to the Islamic code of ethnics, the basic principle that governs interpersonal and interfaith relations in ordinary situations and contexts should be peace. The word Islam also means “peace” and to be a Muslim also means to be “at peace or peaceful.”

The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) stated, “A believer is he from whose hands and tongue people are safe (al-muslimu man saleman-nasu min lisanihi wa yadehi).” He (s.a.w.) also said, “A believer is he from whom people’s life and wealth are protected (al-mominu man aminahu an-nasu ala dimaihim wa amwalihim).” This sentiment is also expressed in the Islamic greeting “Asalamu Alaikum,” a supplication that the person one is greeting should be at peace.

War in Islam is something imposed from outside rather than being intrinsic to its spirit. It is an exception rather than the rule. Peacemaking is considered to be a noble action in the Qur’anic scheme of things. The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) said that a person is not a true believer whose neighbors suffer his persecution and torment. He said that the Angel Gabriel so stressed to him the importance of neighbors that he felt that they might even be included in the list of one’s inheritors. And neighbors include both Muslims and non-Muslims.

One of the many good practices taught by Islam is that its followers should begin all their activities in the name of God. This principle, if consciously and earnestly followed, will necessarily yield three beneficial results.

First, one will be able to restrain oneself from many a misdeed since the habit of pronouncing the name of God is bound to make one wonder when about to commit some offense how such an act can be reconciled with the saying of God’s holy name.

Second, if a person pronounces the name of God before starting good and legitimate tasks, this act will ensure that both her starting point and her mental orientation are sound.

Third—and this is the most important benefit—when a person begins something by pronouncing God’s name, he will enjoy God’s support and succor; God will bless his efforts and protect him from the machinations and temptations of Satan. For whenever a person turns to God, God turns to her as well.

* Jahan Ara Begum, a member of the regional network Center for JustPeace in Asia (CJPA), is the coordinator of the community development team at the Henry Martyn Institute (HMI) in Hyderabad, India, a city which has experienced communal violence between Hindus and Muslims over the years. As a response to these communal tensions, HMI’s community development program involves operating schools, training centers and health clinics in areas located between predominantly Hindu and predominantly Muslim neighborhoods of the city. Because of the location of these community centers, people of both faith communities participate in the programs that HMI provides.