The gist of the message of Islam is two things:
Surrendering to the Divine Will which means giving due regard and reverence to the commandments of Allāh i.e., acting upon them with utmost sincerity,
Showing utmost compassion, love and affection towards Allāh’s creation.
The above two aspects can be summed up into one — LOVE — of God, for He is our Creator and of the creation, for all things belong to the same God.
Hence a Muslim is not a true believer unless he loves rest of the creation. This love is expressed when a Muslim meets others and greets them with peace (salam), wishing good to them all. This explains that peace can prevail when people love each other.
It is very unfortunate to see that the wishful campaign of misinterpreting and misrepresenting Islam in the world media, to indoctrinate general public against Islam, is disastrous not only for the image of a section of people in particular, but for the whole humanity in general. The demonizing and maligning campaign against Islam has reached such proportions that what is said about the Muslims, their mindset, religion or culture cannot be said in mainstream discussion about even the most wretched barbarians. This trend is having very dangerous consequences.
For a few decades the international scenario has undergone tremendous change. Especially after 9/11 there has been an intense focus on the Muslims and Islam. The problems of misunderstanding, misinterpreting and misrepresenting the Muslims, and their religion and culture, have attained new dimensions in the age of social media. As Edward Said (Covering Islam, New York, 1997) puts it, there seems a strange revival of canonical thought, though previously discredited, the orientalist ideas about the Muslims which have attained a startling prominence at a time when radical or religious misrepresentations of every other culture group are no longer circulated with such impunity.
Let us see what the texts of Islam have to say.
Meaning of peace in Islam
The meaning of peace in Islam is denoted by the four Qur’ānic terms of Amn, Silm, Salām and Sulh. While the first three terms hold the same meaning of peace, the fourth referrers to the means through which peace can be achieved.
Amn refers to a situation wherein everybody lives a peaceful life having no fear of being attacked, robbed, exploited, persecuted, oppressed, victimized, discriminated against or subjected to any other kind of injustice.
From the very beginning, Islām bore the stamp of peace and justice. Its utmost concern for peace can be gauged by considering the very words the holy Qur’ān uses to describe those things that seemingly would not warrant a mention of peace:
The first city of Islām is called the city of amn (2:126)
Hence, whoever enters Makkah (the City of Islām) attains amn (3:97)
Paradise, the place of Allāh’s blessings and bounties, is termed as the place of peace and security (44:51)
Their Lord will welcome them with the words of peace and security (15:46)
“O you who believe! Enter perfectly in Islām (by obeying all the rules and regulations of the Islamic religion) and follow not the footsteps of Shaitan (Satan).” (2:208)
“And if they incline to peace, you also incline to it.” (8:61)
In (2:208) silm denotes complete surrender and submission to the rules and regulations of Islam while in (8:61) salm stands for peace. Literally, silm and salm (as derived from the same root) stand for two meanings: Sulh (reconciliation) and Islām. In (2:208) silm means Islām. When a person submits and surrenders his will before the Will of Allāh, he attains peace of body and mind, reconciliation, concord, safety, security and becomes well without any blemish.
To elaborate, Allāh, has ordained for the whole universe the law of submission (the law of nature) which all the objects of this universe, the sun, the moon, the planets, the oceans, the trees and all things have to follow willingly or unwillingly: and this law of nature which is governing all phenomena of the universe has been termed “Islām” (3:83)
Whatever exists in the universe bows before Allāh and rests with peace (55:5-6)
Man follows the same natural law in his involuntary capacity. But in his voluntary capacity, unlike the rest of the creation, man has been given free will. It is upto him to either surrender this free will before the Will of Allāh or transgress (76:3)
It is also in a hadīth narrated by Abū Hurayrah that Allāh’s Messenger said:
“Every child is born on Al-Fitrah [true faith of Islāmic Monotheism (i.e. to worship none but Allāh Alone)], but his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism, as an animal gives birth to a perfect baby animal. Do you find it mutilated?”
Salām is one of the Al-Asmā’ al-Husnā’ (divine Names) which means ‘Source of Peace’. Allāh being Himself the Source of Peace guides His bondsmen to the ways of peace and safety:
“O Allāh You are Peace and from You we get Peace.” (5:16)
The Muslims are directed when they intend to enter houses other than their own to seek permission and convey to them the message of peace (24:27)
The paradise being Dār al-Salām (6:27) (abode of peace), the righteous dwelling therein will greet one another with Salam—peace (10:10)
“No Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk) will they hear therein, nor any sinful speech (like backbiting). But only the saying of: Salām! Salām! (Greetings with peace).” 56:25-26)
Peace is the result of patience and patience is one of the distinguishing qualities of righteous Muslims. Thus when, after death, they enter the Paradise, their patience will pay to them and in return they will get salām from the angels that will enter their gardens from every gate (13:23-24)
The true Muslims are humble and peaceful and when they happen to meet those foolish people who merely dispute, they, in order to avoid wrangling, and also for the sake of peace, say to them Salām (25:63)
A true Muslim is one from who’s hand other Muslims (in particular and all the beings in general) are safe and secure. Islām does not waste even least chance to avoid confrontation. Even in the battle field if an enemy offers salām to the Muslims the Muslim are in no way allowed to fight him suspecting his his good intentions and for the sake of worldly gains. (4:94)
The Muslims are directed to be ever ready to fight the enemies of truth (who don’t want peace to be established on earth for their own selfish interests). But even in the midst of the fight, they must be equally ready for peace if the enemy from the other side shows least inclination towards peace. (8:61)
But while showing interest for peace, the enemy may actually intend to deceive the Muslims. Even in that case the Muslims are advised to trust in Allāh and work forward for the sake of peace in spite of taking risk for it (8:62)
The message of Islām is the message of Salām. Laylah al-Qadr (the Night of Power or Honour) in which the first revelation came to Allāh’s Messenger, Muhammad (SAW) while he was in Hirā’ cave is declared to be full of Peace and Security. The angels come down therein with the message of Salām (97:4-5)
For every human being who accepts Allāh’s Message (Islām), the reward will be Salām (20:47)
All Messengers have been given respect by Allāh by conferring on them Salām (37:181)
Mentioning the Messengers like Nūh (Noah), Ibrāhīm (Abraham), Musā (Moses), Harūn (Aaron) and Ilyāsīn (Elias) in the holy Qur’ān, Allāh offers Salām to all of them individually.
Īsā (Jesus) is honored through the same word Salām (19:15)
He glorifies himself by saying Salām on himself (19:33)
When the Muslims mention any Prophet of Allāh, they say: Peach be on him.
In the Salāh (prayer) the high esteem and veneration paid to Allāh’s Messenger in Tashahhud (testimony of faith) and blessings for the worshipper himself and for the righteous slaves of Allāh are expressed by using the word Salām.
To complete the Salāh the Musallī (the worshipper) completes it with Salām (taslīm) i.e; he turns his face to the right and then to the left saying Assalāmu ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullāh (Peace and Mercy of Allāh be on you). Thus from the above discussion, “Salām, translated “Peace” has a much wide signification. It includes (1) a sense of security and permanence, which is known in this life; (2) soundness, freedom from defects, perfection as in the word Salām; (3) preservation, salvation, deliverance, as in the word Sallama; (4) salvation, accord with those around us; (5) resignation, in the sense that we are satisfied and not discontented; besides (6) the ordinary meaning of Peace, i.e; freedom from any jarring element. All these shades of meaning are implied in the word Islām”
But if conflict takes place, peace-making becomes the foremost duty of the Islāmic people. This aspect of the mission of peace is covered by the efforts for Sulh. Sulh means end of war and it is particularly used in the sense to end hatred between people. Importance of Sulh in Islām has been exhaustively described in the holy Qur’ān and the hadith: Allāh says:
“(You should not make Allāh’s Name an excuse against) making peace among mankind.” (2:224)
The following Qur’anic Āyah throws more light on the concept of Sulh:
“If a wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband’s part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best; even though men’s souls are swayed by greed. But if ye do good and practice self-restraint, Allāh is well acquainted with all that ye do.” (4:128)
Two important things have been mentioned here: (1) Reconciliation (Sulh) is always best (wa al-Sulh Khayr) (2) to reach an amicable solution good actions (which may keep the atmosphere of mutual understanding and hope alive) and self-restraint (which may not allow unhealthy situation prevail or extend further) are among best ways.
The opposite of Sulh is Fasād (mischief) which is highly condemned by the holy Qur’ān in the following Āyah wherein both the words have been used with opposite meanings:
“And follow not the command of Al-Musrifūn (i.e. their chiefs: leaders who were polytheists, criminals and sinners), “who make mischief in the land, and reform not.” (26:151, 52)
Killing of innocent people is highly condemnable. Taking life of one innocent being is as if whole mankind has been killed. But one who kills others loses his own security; everybody has a right to live but not for making mischief on the earth (5:32)