Peaceful Beginning

When the Qur’an began to be revealed, the first verse of the revelation conveyed the injunction: ‘Read!’ (Iqra) (96:1). By perusing this verse we learn about the initiation of Islamic action. It begins from the point where there is hope of continuing the movement along peaceful lines, and not from that point where there are chances of its being marred by violence. When the command of ‘Iqra’ was revealed, there were many options available in Mecca as starting points for a movement. For instance, one possible starting point was to launch a movement to purify the Kabah of the 360 idols installed in it. But, by pursuing such a course, in such a case the Islamic movement would certainly have had to face a violent reaction from the Quraysh. An alternative starting point could have been an attempt to secure a seat in the Dar-al-Nadwa (Mecca’s parliament). At that time almost the whole of Arabia was under the direct or indirect influence of the Roman and Sassanid empires. If the freeing of Arabia from this influence had been made the starting point, this would also have been met with an immediate violent reaction on the part of the Quraysh. Leaving aside these options, the path followed was that of reading the Qur’an, an activity that could be with certainty continued along peaceful lines: no violent reaction would ensue from engaging in such an activity. The Prophet of Islam followed this principle throughout his life. His policy was that of adopting non-¬violent methods in preference to violent methods. It is this policy, which was referred to by Aishah, the Prophet’s wife, in these words: Whenever the Prophet had to opt for one of two ways, he almost always opted for the easier one. (Fathul Bari 6/654) What are the advantages of non-violent activism over violent activism? They are briefly stated as under: 1. According to the Qur’an there are two faculties in every human being, which are mutually antipathetic. One is the ego, and the other is the conscience called respectively nafs ammara and nafs lawwama. (The Qur’an, 12:53; 75:26) What the violent method invariably does is to awaken the ego, which necessarily results in a breakdown of social equilibrium. On the other hand, non-violent activism awakens the conscience. From this results an awakening in people of introspection and self-appraisal. And according to the Qur’an, the miraculous outcome of this is that “he who is your enemy will become your dearest friend.” (41:34) 2. A great advantage of the non-violent method is that, by following it, no part of one’s time is wasted. The opportunities available in any given situation may then be exploited to the fullest extent – as happened after the no-war pact of Hudaybiya. This peace treaty enabled the energies of the believers to be utilized in peaceful constructive activities instead of being dissipated in a futile armed encounter. One great harm done by violent activism is the breaking of social traditions in the launching of militant movements. Conversely, the great benefit that accrues from non-violent activism is that it can be initiated and prolonged with no damage to tradition. Generally speaking, attempts to improve or replace existing systems by violent activism are counter-¬productive. One coup d’etat is often the signal for a series of coups and counter-coups, none of which benefit the common man. The truly desirable revolution is that which permits gradual and beneficial changes. And this can be achieved only on the basis of non¬-violence.