Islam is a tradition of love and submission to God that ultimately strives for peace. The ancient religion emerged in the seventh century and was able to appeal to the public through its deeply entrenched attitudes to peace. Islam’s constant endeavour for peace can be presented through its ancient traditions and sacred texts, history and historical events and current practices and contemporary events of the religion. The sacred texts of Islam are the Quran, which contains the revelations from Allah and the Hadith, which outlines the way of the prophet Muhammad.
These sacred texts are fundamental to Islam and it is through these texts that Muslims formulate an understanding of peace. This is reflected through the Quranic statement: “O ye who believe! Come, all of you, into complete peace and follow not the footsteps of evil. Surely he is your open enemy. ” (2:208) Despite the world of violence and belligerence that Muhammad was born into, his approach to the ethics of war and peace differed from the prevailing tribal culture of the time. Muhammad’s attitude with regards to the concept of peace was one of active non-violent resistance and open defiance of persecution by non-believers.
The essence of this is represented in the Quranic verse: “The recompense of evil is punishment like it, but whoever forgives and amends, he shall have his reward from Allah; surely he does not love the unjust. ” (Sural al-Shura 42:40-43 ‘The counsel’) The history of the religion emerged in Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad, and later in Medina. Medina was situated on one of the Middle East’s principal trade routes and is home to a large religious shrine and sacred site known as the Kaaba. It was here that that the news of the new prophet was carried from distant lands.
One of the most historical events within the history of Islam was the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632 CE. After Muhammad’s death, Abu Baker; Muhammad’s successor and father in law, along with three other ‘rightly guided’ caliphs led the early Muslim community to further success and rapid growth. There is some dispute, however, between the Shi’i and the Sunni branches of Islam as to who is the rightful successor of Muhammad. Shi’is believe that Ali, Muhammad’s closest relative and fourth caliph is indeed the true leader or imam of the Muslim community.
The Muslim objective of worshipful submission to God is practiced through the five pillars of Islam. These five duties are a unifying force for Muslims all over the world. The ‘pillars of faith’ are described as the declaration of faith, daily prayer, obligatory almsgiving, fasting in Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca. These everyday practices demonstrate how the individual, through their current, personal devotion, strives for peace. Within Islam, the concept of peace is twofold. Firstly one must achieve peace with God and therefore with oneself; in order to secondly, be at peace with the rest of the world.
Islam teaches the importance of strengthening one’s individual relationship with god. Sufism, an ancient mystical movement that marks the spiritual dimension of Islam stresses the importance of the Muslim transcending their base desires and worldly attachments in order to fully allow God’s light to enter their heart. This further reinforces that there can be no universal peace until inner peace and submission to the will of God is achieved. Islam notes that those who strive for peace will experience positive consequences from god.
These positive actions can only be experienced by people if there is peace in the world, as written in the Quran. “Enter it [al-janna] in peace and justice. ” (15:46) the place referred to in this verse is the Islamic concept of the ultimate paradise, or essentially heaven. This shows that the qualities for al-janna or the ultimate paradise for which all Muslims aspire are peace and justice. Muslims acknowledge that humans can have a tendency towards aggression, violence and greed. Jihad is the internal struggle against evil temptations in order to fulfil Allah’s desire for peace throughout humankind.
It is the Muslim’s duty in the world to do good and prevent harm and evil in every way, therefore jihad essentially runs through all aspects of a muslim’s life. Contemporary Islam unfortunately faces a great amount of criticism and suspicion from the western world. This is due to misunderstandings of the religion, as well as extremist groups that believe that they must fight and act in violence in order to achieve peace for Islam. This contradicts the majority of Muslims, who constantly try to portray peace and kindness to the world, as the Quran informs them to do. And those who believe and do good are made to enter gardens, beneath which rivers flow, to abide in them by their lord’s permission; their greeting therein is, peace! ” This reflects the positive consequences that are promised to Muslims who act peacefully throughout their life. It also further reinforces that acting in a way of peace, justice and goodwill will eventually have positive advantages for all Muslims. Because of such contradictions, Australian Muslims in particular join in initiatives established to increase non-Muslim Australian’s knowledge of the religion.
Through these initiatives and through increasing the dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews; contemporary Islam attempts to inform the world of their peaceful intentions. It is in the interest of many Muslims to conduct peaceful campaigns such as marches and protests that publically condemn war as well as showing that they do not condone the behaviour of confused, violent and extreme Islamic behaviour. There are a myriad of Muslim organisations for peace activism that contribute to educating people-as well as getting people together to speak up for peace and non-violence.
Some of these organisations are: The Coalition of Women for Peace, Muslim Peace Fellowship, Muslim World Initiative, and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. These organisations clearly show that the majority of the contemporary Muslim community are striving for both peace in Australia, and peace in the world. It can therefore be said that Islam, rich in its ancient history and contemporary practices, is a religion that constantly strives for peace in the world and peace in the minds of all followers.