Reviewed by Moin Qazi | New Age Islam | October 08 2015
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan Saheb is an intellectual colossus who remains one of recent history’s highly accomplished ambassadors of peace. He is the most authentic face of pacifist Islam and has rendered great service in countering the negative stereotyping of Islam and its projection as a radical faith. Through his flagship journal, Al –Risala and his recent venture, Spirit of Peace, he has been championing the cause of peace. The book under review is another addition to the series he is writing to focus the world’s attention on various dimensions of peace. The book commences with a distinction between suicide and martyrdom which has been blurred by Islamic racialists by putting a gloss of martyrdom on acts of suicide. Suicide is an act or instance of killing oneself intentionally out of despair, and finding no outlet except putting an end to one's life. On the other hand, martyrdom is a heroic act of choosing to suffer death in the cause of God, and that's why it's considered by most Muslim scholars as one of the greatest forms of jihad.
Maulana Saheb quotes a well known Hadith that clarifies Prophet’s position on suicide. This report is found in various books of Hadith—for instance, in Sahih Bukhari (Hadith no. 3062), Sahih Muslim (Hadith no. 112), Musnad Imam Ahmad (Hadith no. 8090), etc. The narrative in these different texts is worded roughly identically. According to this narrative, a companion of the Prophet reports:
“We were accompanying the Prophet in a war (Ghazwa). Along with us was a person named Quzman who had already embraced the faith. During the war he suffered a serious injury. People began to praise him before the Prophet for the bravery he had exhibited in the war. But the Prophet said: Innahu Min Ahl An-Naar. That is, ‘He is surely one of the people of Hell. ‘The companions were taken aback by the Prophet’s words, so he asked them to go and investigate the matter. It was then that they learnt that Quzman had been severely injured during the and when he could not bear the pain any more; he killed himself with his own weapon. When the Prophet was told about this, he uttered these words: “God is great, and I bear witness that I am His messenger.”
Through an analysis of world history Maulana Saheb demonstrates how the policy of confrontation has led several Muslim nations to lose their hegemony. He highlights how China used peaceful methods to retrieve Hong Kong after a 99 year old lease. In contrast, Maulana Saheb points out, President Nasser adopted a confrontational approach and nationalized the Suez Canal during the lease period and imposed on himself a war that truncated Egypt’s territorial boundaries and opened the floodgates of permanent conflict. Maulana Saheb argues that the reason behind the failure of efforts in establishing peace is that almost all the scholars have bracketed peace with irrelevant factors. This flawed concept, he argues, rests on the premise that a peaceful society is one in which there is no injustice, no violation of human rights and no violence of any kind.
According to Maulana Saheb peace can be attained only on a unilateral basis .This implies that we must abandon the confrontational methods such a political activism, protest-based activism and human rights activism. Maulana Saheb quotes with approval the Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO which declares that "since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”. He feels armed methods like bombardment and chemical weaponry have failed tour terrorism and the battle has to be fought through literature that can cleanse the hearts of the terrorists of the dross of violence.
He argues that in Islam, peace has the status of the highest good or the Summum Bonum. Many people in the West think that freedom is the Summum Bonum. It is peace that is the Summum Bonum, the highest good, he emphasizes. That said, it is very unfortunate that Muslims don't know the importance of peace. They know only the work of jihad—in the sense of confrontation with others. Some of them are actively engaged in fighting others, while some are engaged in the same thing but passively. Yet, according to Maulana Saheb, peace is Islam's greatest concern, as it should be of every person, no matter what her or his religion is
Maulana Saheb argues that since we all want peace, we need to be clear as to the right way or method through which peace can be established. He believes that there is a widespread belief that peace cannot be established without justice. People who advocate this approach argue that, first of all justice must be established and then only can you have peace. And so, they talk of a ‘just peace'. They say, “Give us justice, and only then will there be peace. Only then will we agree to lay down arms and enter into a peace agreement.”This type of thinking, Maulana Saheb avers, is completely wrong. According to his understanding, justice is not part of peace. Peace should not be bracketed with justice, or with anything else. If you try to do so, it will only prolong conflict and war, and then peace will become impossible. It is putting the cart before the horse.
Maulana Saheb believes that it is a fundamental truism that ideal justice is simply impossible in this world. Only workable justice is possible here. To be at peace, you need to recognize this truth and accept it as a fact of life, as a reality. But if you don't, and if you keep chasing the elusive dream of establishing ideal justice, you will harm yourself and others also. You will destroy your peace of mind, and that of other people, too.
He further elaborates that in every country, one can enjoy workable justice. And if you cheerfully accept this as a fact of life and live peacefully, you can discover and avail of the many opportunities that exist for progress—in both the religious and secular spheres. This will help promote justice, too—but this happens gradually and indirectly, and not by demanding and insisting on justice along with peace.
The proper approach, Maulana Saheb advocates, is to accept peace for its own sake, and not to link it with anything—with human rights or justice. Once there is peace in society, justice will be gradually established. He identifies peace as the core constituent of all kinds of positive and constructive activities—educational, economic, social, cultural, religious, and so on. He feels that the only way to establish peace is to adopt the formula of ‘Peace for the sake of peace'
Maulana Saheb reminds us of the treaty of Hudaibiya which he feels is the best emblem of Islam’s pacifist ideals. Prophet Muhammad and many of his companions were proceeding towards Makkah in order to perform the ‘minor pilgrimage', when they were stopped by their Makkan opponents at a place called Hudaibiya. The Makkans did not let the Muslims proceed to Makkah. At this time, the Prophet entered into a peace treaty with them, which included conditions that were clearly weighed heavily in favour of the Makkans. Yet, the Prophet accepted this peace treaty.
Some of the Prophet's companions wanted to first solve the problems that existed at that time between the Makkans and the Muslims, instead of first accepting peace. The Prophet did not agree with this approach. Instead, he unilaterally accepted the conditions of the Makkans. The Hudaibiya peace treaty thus became possible only because the Prophet accepted all the conditions of the other party and did not insist on justice. This shows the importance of peace for its own sake in Islam, not linking it to, or predicating it on, justice or human rights. This is expressed in a phrase that appears in the Quran (4:128): As-sulh Khair, which means ‘reconciliation is best'.
There is a great common ground in Jesus Christ's commandment to love one's enemies. The Quran (41:34) gives the same teaching, in these words:
Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend […]
This Quranic verse indicates that your enemy is your potential friend.
This book needs to be widely circulated. It has a rich documentation of events of history which buttress the Maulana Saheb’s logic and assumptions. Apart from being a well reasoned manifesto for peace, the book serves as a beacon of hope and guidance for a humanity that is torn with strife and conflict .It can truly serve as an anodyne to soothe the festering rage of the hate mongers and naysayers of peace.