The Islamic Call

The Egyptian Society for Spiritual and Cultural Research

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Spreading Peace
is the core of the Islamic Call

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There is a common stereotype that dominates the minds of some Muslims and Non-Muslims alike where they think that Islam calls for wars with those who do not hold the Islamic beliefs. Reading the base principles of Islam with relation to the struggle that Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers had to go through in order to spread peace, reveals the fallacy of that notion.



óHow to Realize Peace

 


"S.l.m" is the root out of which the words Islam and salam (peace) are derived. Salam is the word that is used for everyday greeting for the followers of Muhammad (PBUH) . Al-Salam is one of Allah's names as mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. Salam or peace is the status of a person who becomes worthy of being a Servant of Allah ‘Abdlullah:

Servants of Allah the most Compassionate are those who walk on earth in modesty and if ignorant people address them, they say," Peace
(HQ: 25:63).

Peace has a very special meaning in the Call that The Prophet (PBUH) carried. Without discerning that meaning, we are not able to catch up with the changing events in his life that seem contradictory sometimes, and therefore, they are misinterpreted.

Peace has not merely a political dimension where people just live together without fighting for mutual interests. It is not an enforced state to make the weak unable to fight the stronger. Peace overwhelms human relations when inner peace spreads in the hearts of humans collectively, and freedom is guarded.

Peace is a spiritual state, which reflects the inner freedom. Once the person has nothing to fear in the world and nothing to give an absolute value to, peace and serenity overwhelm her/his soul, and his/her own existence will spread energy of love.

Peace on the social level cannot be realized fully and truly without an inner one. We are spreading wars because we create our enemy to release the conflicts that overwhelm our souls. We invent reasons that may appear logical and acceptable in order to justify our attacks, aggression and violence. Differences in beliefs, ideas, traditions, and thoughts can never be legitimate reasons for wars and aggression. Life, according to teachings of Islam, is a very precious gift and should be cherished with great respect. Therefore, wars should be avoided, and violence should not be practiced against any person.

.. if anyone kills a person who did not kill, and did not mischief on earth, it would be as if he killed all human beings. And if any one saved a life of one person, it would be as if he saved the life of all human beings. (HQ: 5: 32) (Our translation)

The Islamic Call came to educate human beings to know themselves; their true selves, so they could be in control of their low selves with all its desires and egoistic endeavors. To tame this animal like ego is the real challenge, which is called the great struggle al-Jihad al-Akbr. The smaller struggle Al-jihad al- asghar is known through entering into a physical battle, when there are no other alternatives. One does this for an ultimate goal, not just defending his own life as an individual, but also facing courageously any power that aims to conquer the Truth. In the middle of the battle, the motive of the martyr is not to revenge but to defend a higher cause. Unless her/his heart is full of peace, s/he would not be considered a Muslim, and martyrdom would not be achieved. The lower self should not take the lead in defending the cause of Allah. That is only possible if the fight is done for the sake of peace.

What makes the worrier in control of the lower self, is her/his remembrance of Allah. In the Holy Qur’an, the phrase "Fear Allah" is repeated enormously with the aim to bring to the consciousness the awareness of the Divine Presence. Bringing that awareness supports the state of peace within one's soul and overcomes the tempting aggression of the self.



The Prophet (PBUH)
Meets Quraish’s Enmity with Peace

 


All through The Prophet's life, his call for the oneness of Allah was linked to the spread of peace. In Macca, The community that prophet Muhammad (PBUH) aimed at establishing was a community of peace. Because the Islamic Call was based on peace, he did not want to get involved in fights with them over their beliefs:

Say Oh unblievers, (ungrateful to Allah), I worship not that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your Way, and to me mine
(HQ: 109:1-6).

The enmity that took place in the hearts of people of Quraish was due to the fact that they feared the emerging power of Muhammad (PBUH) , thought that he would weaken their stand. The Prophet (PBUH) stood for the Call regardless of the danger that he was facing. It was not out of enmity that he refused to compromise with masters of Quraish, it was because he wanted his stand to be clear and the call to be pure. The Masters of Quraish offered him to rule them, or if he wanted they would make him rich as they are if, and only if, he left them alone without spreading his beliefs as against theirs. Obviously, The Prophet (PBUH) refused their offer and said his famous statement to his uncle who was pursuing him to accept.

"I swear that if even they brought the Sun and the Moon (from the sky) and put them on my right and left hands in order to give up this Call, I would not abandon my way until God makes it rise, or I am led to my end while working for it”.glossary

More aggression was practiced against Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers. In response to the Quraish aggression, his followers were asked to keep steadfast. Those followers could just bear the unbearable because they reached that inner freedom which brought peace to their hearts. They did not fear death, nor felt that any person could have harmed them. Their goal was not to be saved or killed; their only goal was to fulfill the purpose of their existence and to prepare themselves for Allah. To him they surrendered. That is the way that brought peace into their hearts and strengthened their will:

Forgive and tolerate, till Allah accomplisheth His purpose: for Allah hath power over all things (HQ: 2: 109) (Our translation).

Quraish's tribes excreted more pressure on The Prophet (PBUH) when they decided to boycott any trade activities with Muhammad and his followers. Never did he exchange hatred-by-hatred, fight-by-fight. He had to leave Macca when he realized that his life was in danger. Migration was not a choice, it was the only alternative left to him after the masters of the tribes had decided to kill him as one single man. When he left to Yathrib he had no idea if he would ever come back to his place of birth or not. Migration, then, was not a strategic plan, as much as it was the reasonable choice to continue the Call.

The attitude of The Prophet (PBUH) and his followers was not a strategy of a weak group that could not face the contra powerful majority. Actually he fought later with small groups against great troops, and that was for different reasons. The same peaceful approach towards his opponents remained the same in Madina.



The Prophet (PBUH)
Struggles for Peace in Madina

 


Naturally, The Prophet (PBUH) would expect to spread peace and to live in peace. When he migrated to Madina, he brought peace to conflicting tribes there.glossary It was clear that Peace was the goal to be realized among people from different faiths, and/ or from different races. Muslims had the responsibility to spread peace and to absorb the enmity of others. A Muslim can diminish hatred by spreading love; dark by shedding light, and aggressiveness by dispersing peacefulness.

Nor can Goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it was thy friend and intimate! (HQ: 41:34).

From that core principle, The Prophet (PBUH) set the rules of the necessity to live in peace with citizens from the same community and to conform to its legal system whether Muslims form the majority or the minority of that community.

During this period, the Muslims' power was getting greater, not because they intended to be more powerful, but because they were attacked, and they unexpectedly were winning almost every battle that they had to enter. All the battles they fought were for defense. In other words they had no choice but to enter those battles.

The other reason that he (PBUH) fought for was when people with whom he made a covenant or a treaty, broke them. Muslims were asked to be alert and ready to fight with those people.

But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith, fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained (HQ: 9:12).

What happened in Madina's time made this period appear somehow as different from Macca's period. The Prophet of Allah (PBUH) became a ruler of a community, which put different kinds of responsibilities on his shoulders.glossary He had to settle different conflicts among the tribes of Madina and looked to establish a homogeneous community. He was supported by the Revelation and succeeded to found a just society where people from different ethnic origins, and different religious affiliations were treated equally and given the right to use their Holy Books as their legal frame of reference for their disputes:

Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein
(HQ: 5: 14).

But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) Law before them? Therein is the (plain) command of Allah
(HQ: 5: 43)

Because The Prophet (PBUH) became a ruler, many historians (Muslim and non-Muslims) confuse between the religious call and the political status of The Prophet (PBUH) , thinking that establishing an Islamic society was the major goal of the call, and as such turning Religion into politics. From this perspective, they mistakenly think that The Prophet's battles were for power and authority.



Peace for the Whole World

 


While it is true that The Prophet (PBUH) played a political role as a head of a community, the religious Call he carried remained clear and distinct. By being a ruler he conveyed a message that is part of the Islamic Call. He meant to give an example of how the mundane and the sacred are not separated. Being a prophet did not necessitate that he would leave a task he was chosen to carry. It was absolutely true that he used his place as a ruler to establish a community overwhelmed by Islamic principles, and he had to defend those principles by strengthening his position. Still, no force was used to convert people to Islam. His ambitions (PBUH) were not political, but religious, because his call targeted the whole world.

Sending messengers to the great empires of the time was an extension of the prime principle of the Call that one should love for one's brother what one loves for oneself. The most appropriate means at that time to convey what had been revealed to The Prophet (PBUH) , actually the only available means, was to send envoys to heads of different tribes in Arabia and to kings and emperors in the surrounding areas. In case of great nations such as Rome, Persia and Abyssinia (Ethiopia), it would have been impossible to reach people in those places without the permission of their rulers. If the ruler opened to the Call, that would be a great achievement for the message; it would reach people. While if the ruler did not accept the Call, then there would be no chance for people to hear or know about it. As a messenger from Allah, The Prophet (PBUH) had no choice but to try the only available way.

When the rulers of great empires at that time refused The Prophet's invitation, they also wanted to protect themselves from the spread of the call, which may cause disturbances in their countries. The Prophet (PBUH) knew well that their refusal meant also that they would try to conquer this newly emerging Call. And they did try. He was not militarily ready to face the world, but he took the risk, fulfilling the responsibility that he was given.

As for the messages that The Prophet (PBUH) sent to emperors, kings and rulers, there are some common traits that are characteristics for those messages. In order to read them correctly, we have to take into consideration the connotation of the very thoroughly selected phrases, as well as to relate them to the Holy Qur’an's language on one hand, and to the core of the Islamic teachings on the other hand. Because they were misinterpreted, they leave the impression that The Prophet (PBUH) was threatening the power of those old Empires.

Generally speaking, we can see that all the messages started with the same phrase "Peace is to whoever is well guided" . That is the phrase, which the Holy Qur’an mentioned as was used by Moses (PBUH) when he went to ask the Pharaoh of Egypt to stop enslaving the children of Israel and get them their freedom. Moses (PBUH) did not mean that if the Pharaoh did not listen to his advice he would fight him. He was doing double mission. On one hand, he was calling the Pharaoh to believe in Allah who is Supreme Transcendent and cannot be materialized in any shape or idea. On the other hand, he was asking him to be just and fair. When the Pharaoh did not listen to Moses (PBUH) , the latter took the children of Israel out of Egypt and crossed with them the Red Sea in order to go to the land of their fathers. This phrase of "Peace is to whoever is well guided" should not be taken as a threat.

The other sentence that is also common in the messages is "I invite you to what Islam calls for. Accept Islam and you will be saved" . This sentence sounds again like a threat, that is like saying, "if you don't listen to the call, then you will end up to be crashed by the Muslim forces, and in order to save yourself from that destiny, you should convert to Islam". To interpret that sentence as such is to consider Muhammad as a crazy man who dared to challenge great powers by such naďve words. That could never be the case for The Prophet (PBUH) who led and ruled the community with wisdom and high moral. He assumed that if those emperors were wise enough, they might have allowed Islam's teachings to spread among their people and they would remain good and just leaders. The following sentence explained it. "If you do not, you will be responsible for leading your whole nation astray". The goal of the messages is well defined. It should be remembered that the word "Islam" meant in The Prophet's use all the Revelations that preceded Muhammad (PBUH) .

The argument that The Prophet (PBUH) did not mean to threat or to wage war against those empires is supported by the fact that he was not as powerful as they were. He had extremely less supplies of money, weapons, and number of people. Yet, he found himself in a place where he had to enter into a battle against those strong troops of great empires. At the same time, it was The Prophet's task as a prophet to reach human beings who were ready and waiting for the guidance regardless of how far they were, as it is clear from The Prophet's guidance to Imam Ali Ibn Abi Taleb,

“Tell them what Islam is, if God made of you a tool for guiding one single human being to the Path of Truth, that is better for you than having the whole world under your thumb”(PH).

Narrated by Al Bukhari and Moslem

"Never be the starters of war. Even if they started, wait until they kill one of you, then tell them: cannot we have any other option than that (killing)? If even one of them was guided to the righteous path, that will be one of the best things in the world "(PH) .

Quoted in Abu Zahra’s “The Call to Islam”, p. 48



Struggle to Reinforce Peace

 


In new lands, the call for joining Islam's teachings was smooth and peaceful. The Prophet (PBUH) provided his followers with the instructions how to deal with people.

"Tell them first about the content of the Message of Islam and give them the choice to join Muslims… If they don't, tell them that the second option is that they can, instead pay jizya and we live together in peace."(PH)

Narrated by Moslem, Abu Dawoud and Al Tirmidhi

Peace within this context meant that they should accept that Muslims, who became responsible for arranging things in those areas after the defeat of their rulers, would be their protectors and pay the assigned amount of money that is devoted to that task, which was called Jizya. Not paying the Jizya meant that they were violating the Islamic rules, and indicating their enmity.

Along this line, we can also understand the saying of The Prophet (PBUH) :

"I was commanded to fight people until they say: We witness that there is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God; turn their faces in the direction we do, offer Sacrifices the way we do, and perform prayers the way we do. Only then they can save their lives and money from me”(PH)

Narrated by Abu Dawoud, Al Tirmidhi and Al Nisa’i

The literal meaning of that saying contradicts with many others and with verses in the Holy Qur’an:

No compulsion in religion.

Say, "The Truth is from your Lord": Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it): (HQ: 18: 29)

If it had been thy Lord's Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!(HQ: 10: 99)

This Hadith should not be taken literally, simply because it would contradict with the basic principles in Islam. Certainly, The Prophet (PBUH) did not intend to fight people in order to enforce them to be Muslims. We may deal with the Hadith metaphorically. It represented The Prophet's will of spreading the word of truth. He might meant to say that spreading the word of truth was not an easy task, it was a struggle against the dark side in people, and it was his mission as the messenger of God, the light and mercy of God, to send away that darkness, and people, then, were supported to be qualified for witnessing the oneness of God.

At that time, international laws did not exist, safe borders were not secured, and sovereignty of a state was not respected. There was only one language, that is, of power. The Prophet’s mission was not to impose but to free people from illusions. The free person guards freedom for all. All the way through he was forced to fight for survival.

To clarify the situation briefly, the argument is demonstrated along the following points:

First, to be a ruler was not The Prophet's goal or choice. He (PBUH) was chosen by people of Madina to carry on that responsibility. He used his position to spread the Call that Allah charged him with, not through violence or power, but by creating an atmosphere of peace and love.

Second, the battles that he (PBUH) had to enter were not a choice either. There were no other options. The Holy Qur’an addresses Muslims saying,

"Fighting is prescribed upon you, and ye dislike it.." (HQ: 2:216).

The term “prescribed upon you” as read in its context suggests that fighting was a solution for a problem and hence it was a temporal situation. The verse also points to the fact that fighting was disliked by Muslims because they were trained during the Call to live in peace. If there was another alternative, The Prophet (PBUH) was asked to incline to stop fight.

But if they incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah (HQ: 8: 61).

The first verse that was revealed to allow Muslims to confront those who fought them explains the reason of that permission.

To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to confront the aggressor), because they are wronged; and verily, Allah is Most Powerful for their aid. (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, (for no cause) except that they say, "Our Lord is Allah (HQ: 22: 39-40).

Third, fighting that was prescribed by the Holy Qur’an was not against peace. It was not done out of hatred or lust for domination. A fighter was not to fight to earn any special status, or to take any material gains. He fought only for the sake of Allah and by His name.

Fourth, Fighting as a phase in Muhammad's life was a struggle jihad. To take the step towards that jihad required great faith in Allah and a degree of inner freedom and inner peace. Unlike the psychology of soldiers in normal situations of wars, the Muslim fighter did not defend his life; rather he defended the Call, wishing to be killed as a martyr. The power of faith that he carried made one fighter equal to many.

"Never aspire for confronting your enemies (in a fight). Pray to God to be among those who seek living peacefully with others. But if ever you confront them (in a fight) be patient and know that Heaven is as close to you as the shades of the swords"(PH)

Narrated by Al Bukhari, Moslem and Abu Dawoud

To fight was a struggle jihad, because victory was not granted, and the Muslim troops were almost always less in number. Fighting was also jihad because it was a result of offence and aggression from some groups with an intention of oppressing or exploiting others, violating legitimate rights or working for preventing the word of Truth from reaching others.

Fifth, we can safely say that whenever there was an urge to fight in the Holy Qur’an, the reason was also mentioned with an advice to be just, not to exceed the limits, and not to transgress.

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors (HQ: 2:190).

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do (HQ: 5: 8).

And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevails justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do (HQ: 8: 39).

The Holy Qur’an also guides Muslims to refrain from fighting haphazardly and direct their attacks to innocent people:

let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression.
(HQ: 2: 193)

It can be safely said as well that Muslim fighters were guided to be alert to restore peace at the first sign that transgressors show serious inclination to stop their aggression:

But if they cease, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."
(HQ: 2: 192).

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