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
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.