Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Peace is a must for the survival of our civilization. Peace is a must for all kinds of constructive work. As such, it is of the greatest concern to everyone. Everyone wants a peaceful society, a peaceful world. Yet, for the greater part of humanity, peace remains a distant dream. Why so? Why this sad state of affairs? Why this contradiction between ideal and practice? It is high time to go deeper into the matter. It is the duty of all sincere people to inquire into the real cause of this contradiction so that a viable peace formula may be evolved.

An in-depth study of this problem from the historical as well as the Islamic perspective reveals two viewpoints in this matter: the concept of peace as defined by social scientists and the concept of peace as defined by the ideologists. The scientists’ concept of peace is based on realities while the idealists’ concept of peace is based on utopianism. In other words, on mere wishful thinking.

It is mainly the ideologists’ concept of peace which has created the present crisis of peace throughout the world. The scientists’ formula for peace is the only practicable one, for the idealists’ formula is merely a formulation of people’s own wishes.

Academicians define peace as an absence of war. But the idealists differ with this notion saying that the mere absence of war is nothing. They hold that peace and justice should go hand in hand. To them the only acceptable formula is that which restores justice in its ideal sense. But the building of such a utopian world is simply impossible.

This concept of peace is seemingly beautiful. Because of this apparent beauty, it has gained general popularity. The masses everywhere are obsessed with the idealistic concept of peace. But one has to differentiate between what is possible and what is impossible. There is no other alternative. One has to be practical rather than idealistic if one wants to achieve a positive result. The object of peace is only to normalize the situation between two warring sides.

Peace is not aimed at satisfying the concerned parties in terms of rights and justice. Rights and justice are totally different issues. Linking them with peace is unnatural as well as impractical. These are goals to be worked for separately and independently. Furthermore, in this world of competition, no one can receive peace and justice in terms of his own personal criteria. It is situations and circumstances which will dictate to what extent we can achieve these goals.

In fact, in this world of competition, it is not possible for anyone to receive perfect justice. So one has to be content with practical justice (pragmatic solutions). In depth studies have found that those people who seek peace with justice fail to achieve anything positive. Moreover, during this futile exercise they lose what they already had in their hand. Conversely, those who delink justice from peace are always successful in life. The study leads to the conclusion that the scientific concept of peace is the only correct and practicable concept. Thus peace is not meant to establish justice. The purpose of peace is only to normalise the situation so that one may uninterruptedly avail of the opportunities present at that time.

Peace is not aimed at satisfying the concerned parties in terms of rights and justice. Rights and justice are totally different issues. Linking them with peace is unnatural as well as impractical. These are goals to be worked for separately and independently.

To illustrate the point, there are two examples from history, one from the early period of Islam and one from the modern history of Japan. It is a well known fact that the Prophet of Islam was repeatedly challenged by his opponents in ancient Arabia. There were several instances of wars and violence. Then the Prophet managed to finalize a peace treaty between the Muslims and their opponents. It is known as Hudaybiya Peace Treaty in Islamic history. Now how was this peace treaty finalized? If you examine historical records, you will find that, in terms of justice being done, several problems arose. The treaty could be concluded because the Prophet was able to delink the question of justice from the question of peace. This delinking of the two issues gave him the success which is described in the Quran as a clear victory. (48:1)

Now, why does the Quran describe this as a victory, when in fact, it was the acceptance of all the conditions imposed by the Prophet's opponents? The Quran called this a victory because, although the peace treaty itself was devoid of justice, it instantly normalized the situation, thus enabling the Prophet to avail of the opportunities present at the time. What the Prophet lost in Hudaybiya, he gained on a far larger scale throughout the whole of Arabia.

Take a look at the example of Japan. In World War II, Japan was defeated by the United States of America Okinawa Island was occupied by the American army after the conclusion of a peace treaty. Its terms were dictated by America. Japan, willingly or unwillingly, accepted a treaty in which justice was delinked from peace. But what was the result? Within a period of forty years the entire scenario had changed. Japan did lose the Okinawa Island, but it gained the entire USA (North American continent) as its industrial market. And now it enjoys the status of a world economic superpower.

Why is it that reason and religion both advocate the acceptance of reality or unilateral adjustment in times of conflict? It is because in every adverse situation a status quo exists between the two sides. If any party opts for a change in the status quo the result will be breakdown. Instead, by accepting the status quo it will find room for advancement towards its goal.

The Quran says that of all courses, reconciliation is the best (4:128). That is, in matters of controversy, the best policy is peaceful settlement rather than confrontation. This is because conciliation or peaceful settlement gives one scope to make progress, whereas confrontation arrests the onward journey to success.

Peace is a must not only for our advancement, but for our very survival. But peace can be attained only by accepting two simple precepts. Make all efforts to change what we can, and learn to live with the things which we cannot change. In matters which we can change we should be dedicated activists. In matters which we cannot change we should become status quoists. Otherwise, peace for us will forever remain a distant dream.

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