The Qur’an and World Peace
by Dr. Israr Ahmad
I shall deal with the topic of "The Qur’an and World Peace" at three different levels, viz., the peace and tranquillity of an individual person, the socio-political peace of a group, and finally, world peace.
An Individual Person’s Peace and Tranquillity
One may be surprised that I am embarking upon a discussion of world peace by first mentioning an individual’s personal peace and inner state of harmony. But a moment’s reflection will be sufficient to bring home to the reader the all-important truth that the most effective factor in establishing world peace is personal peace and mental satisfaction of an individual. This is so because of the following four reasons:
Firstly, an individual human being is the basic unit of humanity. A wall, however high and long it may be, is after all a complex of bricks. Its strength and stability depends on the strength and good quality of individual bricks. Similarly world peace is unthinkable without the spiritual and psychological peace of a large majority of its inhabitants.
Secondly, man in himself is a "miniature universe" and as such his consciousness reflects the entire cosmos. This important truth has been fully realized by the Sufis of Islam — the greatest researchers into human psychology. That is the reason why I have chosen their term — "miniature universe" or microcosm — to express my meaning.
Just as external and environmental happenings influence the inner state of man, it is equally true that man also influences the macro-cosmic physical universe around him. His inner state affects and brings about changes in the vast expanses of the material cosmos. Therefore, the peace and tranquillity enjoyed by human individuals necessarily makes its impression on the outer world. In other words, the subjective peace experienced within makes harmony possible in the world outside the individual.
Thirdly, even a cursory glance at world history is enough to show that often the personal disquietude of a few individuals led to disastrous wars resulting in widespread bloodshed and destruction. If we study closely the life-history and personalities of leaders like Hulagu Khan, Genghis Khan, Hitler and Mussolini, we come to know that it was due to their mental disquietude and perversity that the world peace was shattered and innumerable innocent human beings were savagely killed.
Fourthly, even now if we consider for a moment the few persons in whom tremendous powers are vested (such as those who preside in the White House and the Kremlin), we will be assured that world peace largely depends upon the inner peace and tranquillity of these very few individuals. Not to speak of mental disruption, even the nervous tension or anxiety of a single one of these men might spark off an extremely devastating nuclear war.
Iman — Doctrinal Belief
Viewed from this angle, Islam seems to occupy a unique position in the community of world religions. Iman is the collective term for all those beliefs on which the Islamic faith is based. The root of the word Iman is a-m-n, which points to the peace and tranquillity that the believer enjoys in his heart as a result of entertaining and upholding these beliefs.
The quintessence of Iman is belief in Almighty God, or Iman billah, which is constituted by intuitive knowledge of Allah (SWT) and a relationship to Him of hope and total dependence and submission. Only this type of personal and subjective relationship with Allah (SWT) can engender true and lasting peace in the heart of a man, providing a positive and durable ground for the stability of his inner being. Tauheed — oneness of God, which we translate as "unity" or "unityism" — is the characteristic term for this pure spiritual relation of a man to his Creator, which ultimately leads him to a state described by the Qur’an in these words: "Allah became pleased with them and they became pleased with Him" (Al-Bayyinah 97:8). This is a state in which the Creator and the worshipper are in total consonance with each other. A believer who has obtained this spiritual height is completely free from all anxiety and fear, and his mind and heart experience a bliss which can be felt but cannot be described in words.
In Surah Al-An‘am, Allah (SWT) first poses a question in this manner
…Which of the two parties has more right to security and peace, (tell me) if you know. (Al-An‘am 6:82)
and then the answer is supplied thus
It is those who believed and did not pollute their faith with zulm that are truly in security and are rightly guided. (Al-An‘am 6:83)
In short, true belief in Allah (SWT) is the sole positive and real ground for a man’s inner peace and happiness. This devotional relationship with Allah (SWT) accompanied with pure and resolute submission to His commands can be achieved and enhanced by remembrance of Allah (or zikr). The Qur’an says:
…Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace and satisfaction. (Ra‘d 13:28)
A person who is deprived of belief in Almighty Allah (SWT) can never enjoy even the semblance of mental peace. As a result of this lack of belief, he is always obsessed by ever-growing worldly ambitions. He is ever entangled in the blinding cobweb of his limitless desires. Most men die before seeing their desires and ambitions materialized, no better than travelers in the desert pursuing a mirage, whereas the more intelligent of these fall prey to assorted mental aberrations. Their minds become arenas of strife and conflicts. Their desires lead them to intense internal conflicts and frustrations and consequently they are transformed into infernos — their hearts set ablaze. These inner disruptions manifest themselves outwardly, giving rise not only to a ruthless and savage struggle for existence but also to vile competition, the use of unfair means in business and trade, greed, caprice, and false ostentation. As a result of all this, God’s earth becomes rampant with immorality, crime, corruption, and lawlessness.
At this stage, only belief in the Hereafter, which is a corollary of belief in Allah (SWT), comes to rescue a man from the abysmal depths of darkness. It provides an effective check against corruption and immoral conduct. The eschatological beliefs in bodily resurrection, the Day of Judgment, and reward and punishment in a future life, provide a powerful incentive to a believer not to omit his duties, to be content with his lawful rights, and to abide by the rules laid down in the Divine Law (Shari‘ah) regulating the conduct of his terrestrial existence. The Qur’an asserts unequivocally that there is only one psychological factor which can effectively keep man from transgression and immorality, and that is the belief in the Hereafter and in accountability on the Day of Reckoning.
Indeed not! Man behaves rebelliously for he deems himself to be independent. (But) towards your Lord indeed is the return. (Al-Alaq 96: 6-8)
It should be crystal clear from the above that it is impossible to have serenity of heart if we do not have a staunch belief in religious truths. Any scheme or plan of action geared towards bringing about world peace and harmony, if not based on the belief in Almighty Allah (SWT) and in the Day of Reckoning, is bound to fail. It can succeed only if it is based upon the tenets of Islamic faith.
As stated above, Iman or religious belief is essentially related with the inner realm and mental state of a person, and the internal peace and calm enjoyed by him is its greatest fruit. The external manifestation of this inner peace takes the form of an attitude towards life known as Islam, which in turn guarantees outer peace and harmony. Iman and Islam are indeed like the two sides of a single picture. Whereas one provides guarantee for inner peace and happiness, the other does so for external peace and harmony. The Holy Prophet’s (SAW) prayer which he used to say at the sight of a new moon every month contains a significant allusion to this very truth. The prayer, couched in simple but beautiful phrases, reads:
O Lord! Make this new moon full of glad tidings for us: of peace, Iman, well-being, and Islam
These truths were expressed more fully and explicitly in other traditions of the Prophet (SAW). For example, in one tradition he negated Iman (and swore thrice to emphasize it) in a person whose neighbor is not safe from his misbehavior. Secondly, morally wholesome behavior was regarded as the zenith of both Iman and Islam. Thirdly, the Prophet (SAW) defined a Muslim as one from whose hands and tongue other Muslims are safe. Fourthly, he preached in a very wide and general way to "take pity on the inhabitants of earth, if you wish that the Lord of the heavens takes pity on you."