Among the definitions of peace at Dictionary.com we find, the normal, non-warring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world. Or more specifically peace is defined as a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations.
Thus, we find that in the western world peace is more often thought of as a state of mind, or even the feeling that comes when the stress of daily life is lifted.
As in, “I just want a little bit of peace,” we often think that peace is what we need to make the world stop; peace is what will stop our lives from moving faster and faster in metaphorically ever shrinking circles.
Peace in Islam
In Islam, when we define peace we shift the focus a little bit. Peace is not what we find in the beginning, it is how everything ends. The search however begins and ends with Islam.
The words Islam, Muslim and salaam (peace) all come from the Arabic root word “Sa – la – ma”. It denotes peace, security, and safety.
When a person submits to the will of God he or she experiences an innate sense of security and peacefulness. Not because life gets easier all of a sudden, and not because our circumstances abruptly change but because our sense of focus changes.
Although it would be wonderful to say that if you convert to Islam, your worries will melt away, it wouldn’t be true.
Yes, frequently after a person converts to Islam, they experience a feeling of euphoria. This is because a religion conversion of this sort is a quantum change. It is usually a sudden and dramatic mind altering transformation.
This is the right thing! You have found it!
And it is heart thumpingly real. Even those who have searched and researched for a long time, experience the leap of faith converting to Islam entails.
However, that period of bliss comes to an end. Sooner or later the convert comes crashing down.
Of course it wasn’t a mistake, how can accepting the truth be a mistake? However life does not go from black and white to full technicolor. And now the convert has to face a lot of seriously stressful situations. They include, telling your family; to wear or not to wear hijab, in the case of woman, although men have their own dress standards to explore.
Do you plan on telling your colleagues? Have you actually put yourself in danger? This is a very real situation for people of certain faiths including Hinduism and Coptic Christianity.
Where is Peace?
So where is the peace in all this? And the list gets longer. Are you going to go to mosque? Which mosque? How will the people there respond to you?
Truthfully, with open arms, your conversion will be celebrated and you will be feted, but being a Muslim isn’t all about celebration. It is often the time when the hard work begins and those of us who disguise the difficulties or unknowingly add to the difficulties faced by new Muslims probably need to rethink the convert experience.
Women particularly talk about the fact that after the initial celebration life gets lonely. Dr. Annie (Amina) Coxon, a consultant physician and neurologist, aged 72, from England, made the following statement.
I tried to join various Islamic communities: Turkish, Pakistani and Moroccan. I went to the Moroccan mosque for three years without one person greeting me or wishing me “Eid Mubarak”. And I had cancer and not one Muslim friend (except a very holy old man) came to pray with me in nine months of treatment.
This was a very sad comment and in some ways describes very well the feeling of isolation that converts to Islam feel.
So where is the peace? Dr. Annie sums it up very succinctly in her next comment.
But these are small annoyances compared with what I’ve gained: serenity, wisdom and peace.
Now let us return to that quantum change. The initial euphoria dissipates but we have changed. This is how twenty first century science explains it.
‘The vividness of the experience includes profound emotion combined with the certainty that something happened. That something is unexpected, often uninvited, and almost always considered very positive. Its effects are enduring, and the aftermath includes profound shifts in values, relationships, emotions, and behavior.’
The Real Peace
To embrace the inner peace that Islam offers, we must accept that this world is a very imperfect place peopled with very imperfect human beings. This is not to say that this Creation is not truly miraculous, filled with breathtaking beauty and wonder. However, insects bite, people treat you badly and sometimes the grey clouds just pile up.
Every so often we are afflicted with pain and hardship and we feel very lost and abandoned. Prophet Muhammad said that the world, this very temporary world, was a prison for the believer and a paradise for the unbeliever.
To find the peace we need to know our Creator. Peace is not going to be thrust upon us.
This life is hard but knowing God and knowing our purpose makes it bearable and easier. We can find God through His Names and His Attributes. We can seek knowledge in all our endeavors. God is there waiting, to ease our pain and to share in our joy. And seeking beneficial knowledge can bring us a feeling of contentment.
Our righteous predecessors understood the inherent peace and joy to be found in striving to be close to God. Their stories are filled with examples of serenity and a longing for Paradise.
Perfect inner peace will only be ours if we realize the transient nature of this world and truly understand that peace, the feeling we are searching for, is not here, it is in Paradise. Only there will we find total peace, tranquility and security. Only there we will be free of the fear, anxiety and ache that are part of the human condition.
However the guidelines provided by the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad allow us, imperfect humans that we are, to seek peace and happiness in this world, and God willing, find a certain contentment that we can perhaps think of as a sample or tiny taste of our life to come.
Verily, in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest. (Quran 13:28)
 Converting to Islam: British women on prayer, peace and prejudice, by Veronique Mistiaen.
 Miller, William R. & C’de Baca, Janet. (2001). Quantum change: When epiphanies and sudden insights transform ordinary lives. NY: Guilford Press.
 Saheeh Muslim.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive)