Be Like Adam's Son: Muslims and Making Peace

From Jawdat Said

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It is evident that in the present trends of the Muslim world it is quite loathsome that one talks of being the first to offer peace. This is extreme madness for them. Can we decide to make peace with other Muslims; to do that we must realize that the making of peace is to be done on earth, and not in heaven; God will not make peace until we have adopted the concepts of peace. We cannot repeat that too often. We need to remember in order to understand how it happens that we are more wary of each other than of our bitterest enemies. And we have shown that we can appeal to our enemies to save us from our brethren. If the two World Wars were examples of wars among the arrogant and haughty, the two Gulf wars were examples of Muslim-Muslim and Arab-Arab wars. That germ is a greater source of risk than America, and than Israel. It is a germ that can distract us, and divert us from our real enemies, exactly as the matador can wave the red cloth to divert the bull from its real enemy.

And, as extreme ignorance reigns, Muslims often do not distinguish between a war (like Badr, Uhud, or Hunain) that is yes violent, but is not unlike the surgeon's effort when he operates and cuts off the infected appendix or any such operation, and the stupid wars that often rage in the modern world, like the Gulf wars.

What I am trying to unearth are certain historical laws that we keep stored away under lock and key; to reveal how we have concepts of the world, created by our imagination, but we view them as the perfect revelations of God and His Prophet. It is up to us to make a mature approach to things; it is our responsibility to make it detestable to follow the way of misguidance. But for that to happen we need a lot of guides who are able to show the way; we need some young men and young women who will dedicate themselves to revealing this, who will cure the hearts of other Muslims. But where does one find this science? How does one point out the way? We need both to find the way, and to master the language that will appeal to most people. The talented artist counts a lot in that respect. For it happens that the thinker is not always the poet, and the poet is not always the thinker.

One of the first tasks would be to determine at what time Muslims started to follow the way of maturity and good guidance, and at what time they started to lose that.

Let us first remember the soul of a human, how a human was endowed with the ability to follow either the way of virtue or vice. The Qur'an says about that, "By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it, and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it." (91:7-10).

We may not assert the existence of the drive to virtue and good guidance alone in the human spirit; nor the drive towards vice and misguidance. To admit one side and deny the other would be a heresy about God, and would blur the distinction between belief and disbelief, virtue and vice, Pharaoh and Moses, good deeds and bad deeds.

That both sides are there within the human character is the creation of God; but to choose either way is the responsibility of a human; it is also the responsibility of the society where the individual is raised. Do you see how often we need to cite the two readings of the Qur'an, and how we seem to come across them at every turn? We need it here when both laymen and scholars inquire: "Is guidance to the right way granted by God, or is it the doing of a human being?"

Let us remember what we have just quoted: "By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it, and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it." (91:7-10) As you see, the first two verses here refer to the act of God, and the last two to a human's. Let these verses be so commonly used that their sense sinks deep into the hearts of everybody. Let it be as clear as possible that it is we that, consciously or unconsciously, do the purifying or corruption of the spirit.

It is not just a single act in our experience, like the foolhardy adventure of the Gulf wars; nor is it a single act that distinguishes a sane life from a life ruled by the jungle law. But God will never give up; His law is there, for all those who can see, and it is there to punish those who fail to see. And I feel it incumbent on me to keep drawing attention to all the relevant facts, feeling sure that guidance will be distinguished from misguidance.

You may test where Muslims stand by asking any random Muslim who among fighters is performing jihad, and who fights in the way the khawarij fought; whose fighting is legal, and whose is not; and what the conditions of warranted fighting are. Do Muslims recall the Prophet's, peace be upon him, saying: "Whoever fights under a blind banner, then he may die the same way as the pre-Islam Arabs died in their fighting." (Reported by Muslim).

Is it not time we put this serious issue under investigation? Is it not time we sorted out when killing is a crime, and when the human soul is sacred, and under what conditions it would be legal to slay a human? Did not the Messenger, peace be upon him, warn us during his Farewell Pilgrimage, against reverting into disbelief by killing each other?

The many layers of malice and anger against each other disable our minds from thinking with some vividness. I feel my kind of work to be like the archeologist's, since I have to remove so much earth that buries these subjects. Some take such attempts to resurrect these topics as trying the impossible, while others wait for the enlightenment to descend from beyond the clouds to save us. Both parties do not try to act on the model of the prophets.

My endeavor is to see the verse, "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256) work in our life; for when it does, love will take the place of ill-will and hatred. But we have gone a long time in the way of compulsion, in religion and politics, that we find it so hard to imagine an alternative to this way. It is unthinkable to the Muslim mind to respond to blind aggression but with blind aggression. Sane and mature responses seem mad, and, ironically, we imagine that we can attain a life of peace and uprightness through violent means. It is so because people take their own misguidance to be justified, while they take others' misguidance to be unjustified. That is why when the above verse says, in the next clause, "Truth stands out clear from Error" we do not find that to be true in our life, for good guidance has not come clear from misguidance. Such things we need to stop a long time and reflect on, to see where every one of us stands in connection to them.

When I review the method I am advocating to some listeners, I tell them that I have a way in which we may all be winners; none will have to lose his/her position or wealth or land, and none will have to risk his/her life or any other's life; I remind them that there is no problem but may not be solved in a peaceful way. But so far I have not succeeded in getting the idea over to my audience. Is it then so hard to comprehend? Or is it that the resistance to good guidance is so deep in our consciousness? This latter seems to be the case.