A brief caveat should be made before we begin with our topic. This world is one of positives and negatives: should one or the other cease to exist; this world of ours would be unbalanced. For those who wish to see perpetual peace instated on Earth: we are sad to inform you that this shall never happen. For if it were possible then, God (Allah: the One, Supreme God) would have never created Heaven (Jannah) or Hell. These “other worlds” are places for us as humans to strive for. This world is but a playground in which Allah tests us to see if we shall turn to Him: enjoin the right, forbid the wrong, and be worthy of Jannah.
Now, we begin by explaining what Islam means; what it is Islam exactly? It is a verb and a noun at the same time(1). Islam is derived from the Arabic root s-l-m (sin-lam-mim) or aslama: it is the same root for the words Salaam, which means peace, and the word Ism , which means submission or to submit(2). Verbs which are derived from this root are: to surrender; to submit; to obey; sincerity, and to be in peace(3). This root is also where we get the famous As-salaamu Alaykum (“may peace be upon you”), the common greeting of all Muslims. The second meaning, the noun, is Islam and when the prefix mu- is added, we have mu-Islam or rather Muslim(4). To expand this, Islam therefore means, in the religious sense peaceful submission, bowing to, and faithfully and sincerely, obeying to the will of Allah. A Muslim is one who bows peaceful submission, faithfully and sincerely obeying the will of Allah. If one submits him or her self completely to the will and laws of Allah, only then shall they achieve true (inner) peace (5).
There are slanderers and detractors who have opposed Islam since its very inception, much for the same reasons people seek to denigrate and speak ill about it. For these people they look at how the Qu’ran allows for war; in their view allows for violence. But they fail to read the proper ayats(6), which state that violence should only be used when one has been wronged, that is in lawful manners. And even then, in certain circumstances, Allah asks for us to restrain ourselves. Allah states in the Qur’an:
"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, and do not transgress; for Allah loveth not transgressors."(7)
Allah has warned us that to restrain oneself, i.e. controlled, justified violence, is preferred over unrestrained and excessive violence. There must be constant balance; we should fight only to match an injustice committed against oneself, anything else would be a transgression, an illegality. In the same Surat we read:
"The prohibited month, for the prohibited month, and so for all things prohibited, there is the law of equality. If then any one transgresses the prohibition against you, transgress ye likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves." (8)
Most likely there are some who are reading this and saying to themselves: “well Christianity is a real religion of peace for Jesus taught to “turn the other cheek”. To them I show this:
"But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is the One that Heareth and Knoweth (all things)." (9)
"O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (10)
Thus far we have exhibited how Muslims have been commanded by Allah to engage in violent activity in lawful and legal ways, we now turn to a more concise look into how peace exists in Islam. Peace is the ideal state of Islam; it is what all humans should strive for. Islam allows for war as was just mentioned, as a last resort, but if the opponents are asking for peace, whether in the middle of a battle or at the outcome, Muslims are obliged to accept the “olive branch”(11). Being a Muslim does not make you peaceful: it is what you strive for; it is what you are rewarded with when you freely surrender yourself to the Islamic way of life, with a sincere commitment and understanding(12).
Likewise, it must be clarified, and further stressed, that while Islam does allow for force, it must be within the confines of Sacred Law or al-Shari’a. Islam simply seeks to establish balance between the forces and tensions that are already present in nature and society, in man and the human soul(13). Force which is used in accordance with divine Law All force used under the guidance of the divine Law, intending to re-establish a just balance that has been destroyed is in fact necessary, for it means carrying out and establishing justice. Subsequently, not to use force with the aim of re-establishing equilibrium is to fall prey to other forces, which cannot but increase imbalance and disorder and result in greater injustice(14).
In Islam, every living thing must be in harmony, in order for peace to exist: it is a duty. How is this achieved? There are five ways. 1- By worshiping the Creator, Allah; 2- by fulfilling rights towards your family members; 3- through good deeds and services to your fellow citizen, neighbour, etc; by setting a good example through good behaviour;4- by pursuing justice and striving to eliminate inequality and oppression; and5- by preserving the harmony and sacredness of nature(15). Furthermore Islam underscores the fact that a world in which injustice is committed daily, and persecution and oppression is tolerated peace will not exist. The Qur'an actually views oppression worse and crueler than killing(16).
What about terrorism and extremism? We again turn to the Qur’an:
“They commit a gross sin, then say, "We found our parents doing this, and GOD
has commanded us to do it." Say, "GOD never advocates sin. Are you saying about GOD what you do not know"?” (17)
It has been oft repeated but oft forgotten that people of all religions, and all political inclinations have perpetrated violent, terrorist acts. Christians in Bosnia, England, Ireland, Germany, Spain, etc. and Jews in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon have all used the excuse of religion to legitimize their violent and terrorist acts(18). No religion has clean hands, and therefore none have the right to accuse.
We have just attempted to illustrate how Islam is a religion of peace only insofar as one should submit themselves completely and sincerely to God’s divine Laws. It disdains unrestrained violence and oppression, and furthermore, it prohibits the use violence or committing sins in the name of God (Allah). It must be noted that our survey has been rather cursory and may have benefited from a more in depth paper. We therefore suggest, that those who are reading this should seek out their own answers by reading the Qur’an; they are usually handed out free of charge or can be downloaded online. There are numerous books and articles that have been published on the subject, and there are also the registries of time; the history books. For knowledge is key, and only education will help dispel the myth that Islam is nothing but a religion of intolerance, hate and violence.
(1)“Islam: What is it?” Islamtommorow.com <
(2)Siddiqui, Shahina. “Peace has a broad meaning in Islam”. <
(3)Ibid. Islam: What is it?
(5)‘Abd al ‘Ati, Hammudah. “Islam in Focus”. Eds. Shaykh Salih al Husayin & Dr. Mustapha Abu Sway,. (Maryland: Amana Publications, 1998) p. 7
(6)The Qur’an is composed of Surahs, which could be translated as chapters and, ayats, which are within the Surat and, which could be translated as verses. But it is preferred to call them by their proper names.
(7)Al-Qur’an Al-Karim: Surah 2; Ayat 190
(8)Al-Qur’an Al-Karim: Surah 2; Ayat 194.
(9)Al-Qur’an Al-Karim: Surah 8; Ayat 61
(10)Al-Qur’an Al-Karim: Surah 4; Ayat 135
(13)Nasr , Seyyed Hossein. “Al-Serat Islam and the Question of Violence” Vol. XIII, No. 2. <
(17)Al-Qur’an Al-Karim: Surah 7; Ayat
(18)“Terrorism and Islam”. Submission.org <