What is Islam’s Stance on Peacebuilding?

17 September, 2020
Q What is Islam's stance on Peacebuilding?

Answer

Short Answer:

  • The authoritative texts of the Islamic jurisprudence and the practices of Prophet Muhammad provide a plethora of teachings to construct a comprehensive approach to conflict amelioration and building just and lasting peace.
  • The origin of international relations in Islam is peace, except in cases of necessity, such as the attack on the country, the sanctity of Islam or Muslims. If this is the case, then combative jihad is only allowed for self-defense. 

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Peacebuilding: An Islamic Jurisprudential Perspective

Humanity lives nowadays in a global village, where no people can afford to live in isolation from what goes on elsewhere. Our globe is so interconnected and so interdependent that peaceful coexistence has become the only way forward.

In the 21st century, faith still plays a pivotal role in shaping people’s attitudes and influencing their stances. Despite flagrant occurrences of abuse of various faith traditions by some of their self-proclaimed followers to instigate or justify violence, there are positive common themes in these faiths traditions.

Hence, civilized dialogue and law-abiding inter-cultural practices are essential tools in accomplishing a much needed global peacebuilding.

This article is a humble contribution to that dialogue from a jurisprudential perspective within a major world faith that is the professed faith of nearly one-fifth of the human family. One that is largely misunderstood more than any other faith, sometimes, even, by some of its adherents. 

The role of Islam in peacebuilding

Regarding faith-based peacebuilding, numerous faith leaders and political savants across the globe, on numerous occasions, have spoken about the role of Islam in peacebuilding.

For instance, Prince Charles spoke about Islam at a lecture at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies on 27 October 1993. In his lecture, the Prince stated:

“Islam is part of our past and our present, in all fields of human endeavour. It has helped to create modern Europe. It is a part of our own inheritance, not a thing apart. More than this, Islam can teach us today a way of understanding and living in the world .”

Peace is the Principle in Muslim – non-Muslim relations

As far as the issue of the governing principle ‘al-Asl’ in the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslim sovereigns and communities is concerned, the stance that is given prevalence is that it is peace and nothing but peace.

Expressly, peace is the basis and the norm of Muslim – non-Muslim relations. Many contemporary Muslim Jurists support this understanding, among them; Muhammad ‘Abduh, Mahmud Shaltut, Muhammad Abu Zahra and Wahbah al-Zuhaylib.

Accordingly, the origin of international relations in Islam is peace, except in cases of necessity, such as the attack on the country, the sanctity of Islam or Muslims. If this is the case, then combative jihad is only allowed for self-defense. 

In this regard, the Noble Quran states:

“As for non-Muslims who do not fight you on account of your faith, or drive you forth from your homelands, Allah does not forbid you to show them birr (kindness, love, and respect) and to deal with them with equity, for Allah loves those who act equitably.”[Quran 60:8]

Notably, the term ‘birr’ and its derivatives are the same expressions used in the Quran and Hadith to refer to how one’s relationship with their parents must be.

“There shall be no compulsion where the deen is concerned.” [Quran 2:256]  

“In the path of Allah, fight only those who wage a war against you. But do not transgress. Surely Allah does not love the transgressors.”  [Quran 2:190]

The Noble Quran on Peacebuilding

 The reality of Islam and its Prophet’s message is encapsulated in the following Quranic verse: 

“O Muhammad, We have not sent you, except as a mercy to all the worlds.”[Quran 21:107].

To remove any limitation regarding this mercy, Prophet Muhammad explained,

“The merciful are shown mercy by Allah the Most Merciful. If you show mercy to those who are on the earth, He Who is in the heaven will show mercy to you.” (At-Tirmidhi)    

Since Muslims are not the only inhabitants of the globe, the command for the believer to be merciful applies to all beings.

“O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may ˹get to˺ know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you. Allah is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.” [Quran 49:13]

The sanctity of human life is stressed in the Quran:

“Do not take life, which Allah has made inviolable, except for just cause.” [Quran 17:33].

“Indeed, We have honoured the children of Adam, carried them on land and sea, granted them good and lawful provisions, and privileged them far above many of Our creatures.” [Quran 17:70]

The Quran confirms God’s revelation to previous prophets that:

“If anyone slays a human being, unless it be punishment for murder, or for spreading mischief on earth, it shall be as though he had slain all humankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all humankind.” [Quran 5:32].

“There is no benefit in most of what they desire, except whoever orders a charity or justice or reconciliation between the people. And whoever does this out of seeking Allah’s pleasure, We will give them a great reward.” [Quran 4:114]

Meaning, there is no good in much of their secret conferences. Most meetings that take place behind closed doors are detrimental to humanity. However, whoever arranges meetings that discuss matters of social welfare, economic equity, human resource development, just legislation and reconciliation of conflicts seeking Allah’s Approval, We shall bestow upon him / her a great Reward

“If the enemy is inclined towards peace, make peace with them. And put your trust in Allah. Indeed, He ˹alone˺ is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” [Quran 8:61]

“So if they refrain from fighting you and offer you peace, then Allah does not permit you to harm them.” [Quran 4:90]

Noteworthy, the term ‘peace’ in the context of the above-mention verses is a comprehensive term that encompasses all the necessary approaches and procedures to accomplish peace including; mediation, reconciliation, conflict management, conflict resolution, conflict transformation as well as peacebuilding.  

The Noble Sunnah on Peacebuilding

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“You shall not enter Paradise until you believe, and you have not believed until you love one another. Shall I tell you of something you can do to make you love one another? Spread peace amongst yourselves.” (Muslim)

‘Abdullah bin Salam (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) saying, “O people, promote peace, feed the poor and needy, maintain the ties of kinship, and perform Salat, so that you will enter paradise in peace.” (At- Tirmidhi)

Conclusion

Clearly, the authoritative texts of the Islamic jurisprudence and the practices of Prophet Muhammad provide a plethora of teachings to construct a comprehensive approach to conflict amelioration and building just and lasting peace.

And Allah knows best.

I hope this helps.

Salam and please keep in touch.

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About Hossam Ed-Deen Allam
Hosam Ed-Deen Allam holds an MA of Diplomacy and Religion with Distinction from the Department of Politics, Philosophy, and Religion at Lancaster University in the UK. His main research area concerns Faith-based Diplomacy, Conflict Transformation, De-sectarianisation, and Peacebuilding. In parallel, Allam works as a member of Al-Azhar Fatwa Global Centre in addition to serving as a lecturer of the sources of Islamic jurisprudence at the Faculty of Sharia and Law at Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Hossam Ed-Deen is a Graduate of Al-Azhar University in Cairo from the Faculty of Shari’ah and Law in English. He has served as a lecturer of Islamic jurisprudence and its principles at the renowned Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo and has served as a religious leader in a number of communities in North America including NYC. Through his years of community work, he has provided training and guidance to government departments along with developing educational projects and community centers.