By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, word for peace
Terrorism is today a global menace, and much of this terrorism is by Muslims. Terrorism must be condemned and opposed by all peace-loving people.
Today, the world is crying for peace. And one question vast numbers of people are asking is: how can we establish peace in the world?
If we want peace, there is no way other than to change our way of thinking. We have to become positive thinkers. Peace and positive thinking are closely inter-related. They are intertwined. Positive thinking is the inner content of peace, and peace is the external expression of positive thinking. Where there is positive thinking there is peace. So, first of all we have to inculcate positive thinking among people. This will provide the basis for a peace culture, a culture of peace, and then only would it be possible to establish a peaceful society. This is my experience. A peaceful society cannot be established on its own, just like that. It requires a basis—and that basis is positive thinking. Without positive thinking, there is no peace, there is no progress.
Now, coming to the question of violence—the fact is that violence begins from the mind. So, if it has to be uprooted, it has to be uprooted from the mind—from the minds of individuals. Hence, there is need for transforming the mindsets of individuals. That can only happen if negative thinking is replaced with positive thinking.
At the individual level, positive thinking translates into spirituality. At the collective level, it expresses itself as peace. Without peace you can’t do anything positive in this world. Peace opens the doors to many opportunities, availing which great achievements are possible.
Much of the ‘Muslim world’ today is sunk in violence. Many Muslims have made it a habit to hate the West and to blame it for their woes. But this is totally wrong. The West is not an enemy of Islam, unlike what many Muslims allege. Actually, the West is one of their best friends. All this scientific development and technological progress that Muslims, like others, today benefit from—who made it possible? The West! These are some of the great contributions of the West to the whole of humankind, including Muslims. So, Muslims should actually be very thankful to the West, instead of cursing and hating it.
Today, as before, we need to follow the method of Jesus Christ. Love your enemies, Jesus teaches. I would say that this is not a specifically or exclusively Christian formula. It is actually a universal formula. When Jesus says that we should love our enemy, it means that one should love all, including one’s enemy—and, in other words, it means that one should have no enemy at all. Actually, there is no enemy—everyone is either a friend or a potential friend. Here, what we have to do is to turn our potential friend into an actual friend. If you truly love God, you have to love all God’s creatures—and that includes all human beings, no matter what their religion is.
We are living in the age of the mass media. Many people adopt their views and attitudes from the media. This is a problem, because the media isn’t a mission, of course. It simply provides selective news for its own purposes. So, if you rely on the media, you cannot understand Islam correctly. For that, you should go directly to the Islamic texts—the Quran and the Hadith. I have studied Islam from its direct sources—the Quran and the Hadith. I have studied the life of the Prophet and his Companions. And I can say that Islam is a religion of peace. The word Islam itself has a connotation of peace.
Now, why does Islam give so much emphasis on peace? It is because the purpose of Islam is to develop the human personality, to purify the personality, or what is called in Arabic tazkiyah. You could say that the only purpose of Islam is to purify the personality, to purify every human being.
So, Islam tries to build a purified personality, a God-oriented person. Only a purified personality, a God-oriented person, will be admitted to Paradise. According to Islam, Paradise is an ideal place, a perfect place, a peaceful society. There’s a verse in the Quran that says “God calls man to the Home of Peace” (10:25). In this verse, the phrase Dar as-Salam, the Home of Peace, means Paradise. So, according to Islam, Paradise is a peaceful place, an ideal place, a perfect place. And only those people will gain entry into Paradise who had developed themselves, while on earth, into truly peaceful personalities. So, you can see that this is the main purpose of Islam.
Violence and war are quite alien to Islam, because it is not the target of Islam to establish some kind of political system. People who want to establish a certain sort of political system often go to war for this purpose because when they start out they discover that there are already some other people who are occupying the seats of power and so they try to unseat them, often going to the extent of using violence, including terrorism and war, for this.
But the capture of political power and establishing a certain sort of political system is not the target of Islam. The target of Islam is only to purify a person—that’s all. This is because the main purpose of Islam is to show people the way to Paradise. It isn’t the Islamic target to establish some sort of political system in this world. If you read the Quran, you will not find a single verse that says, ‘O Muslims! You have to establish a political system’, or ‘O Muslims! You have to form a government’. This is not the target of Islam.
In this regard, I recognize there were some wars in the early period of Islam, at the time of the Prophet, but these were only skirmishes. The Prophet began his mission in 610 CE, and at that time in Arabia it was a tribal age. It was characterized by violence, by war. Because of this tribal age, this tribal system, some wars did take place. The other party attacked the Muslims, and the Muslims responded. The other party wanted to wage war, and so the Muslims were forced to defend themselves. But there was no full-fledged war.
Today, however, there is no basis for war at all from the Islamic point of view, because we are living in the age of the United Nations, an age of democracy, an age of religious freedom. We aren’t in the tribal age anymore. So, today there’s no need at all to go to war. Given this, the wars that some Muslims are engaged in are completely wrong. They are fighting for their own purposes and interests, and not for Islam, no matter what they might claim. These people are not serving the purpose or cause of Islam.
Here I’d like to add that I am an optimist. Terrorist attacks are a terrible evil, but I think good will emerge even from the situation because these attacks are bound to lead to rethinking among Muslims. Muslims have been in the habit of denying the reality of terrorism by claiming it is all what they term ‘Islam phobic’ propaganda. But these attacks are bound to lead growing numbers of Muslims to realize the role of Muslims themselves in this violence. It will lead them to speak out against this violence and to work for peace and a peaceful understanding of Islam.
Before he was elected President of the USA, Mr. Donald Trump made a shocking remark—to the effect that the American Muslims, or Muslims living in the West generally or something like that, are an enemy within. Now, that’s certainly a shocking remark. But the law of Nature works here too, and so there’s a positive aspect of this shock. It’s a blessing in disguise actually. I spoke to some American Muslims after Mr. Trump made this statement, and I said to them that American Muslims are bound to rethink their attitudes and behavior after this remark—they are bound to realize that seeking to ignore or deny the reality of Muslim involvement in terrorism by accusing others of ‘Islam phobia’ just cannot work. In the face of terrorism by Muslims no longer can they continue to blame others. If they want to continue living in the West, they will have to stop claiming that the West is an enemy of Islam. That claim just won’t work. They will have to confront reality.
No Muslim will leave America. No Muslim will leave the West. They’ll stay on there. And so they will have to think: “If our fellow countrymen think of us as an internal enemy, we just have to change our position. We have to present a correct image of Islam, of Muslims, through our words and our deeds. We have to be peace-loving. We have to oppose terrorism in the name of Islam.”
There is no formula for them other than this. No other formula will work.
The terrorists have an ideology, on the basis of which they are terrorizing people. You cannot eliminate terrorism simply with the gun. You can overcome it by providing a counter-ideology. Eliminating terrorism in the name of Islam requires a counter-ideology, an Islamic ideology of peace. And promoting that Islamic ideology of peace is one of the main things that our Centre for Peace has been focusing on.
Muslims in the West will be bound to realize the need to become givers, rather than be takers. They are bound to realize that they have to become an asset for their fellow countrymen, and not be a liability. Others will accept you only if you are a giver. If you are a taker, who will respect you? So, Muslims in the Western world will be bound to rethink on these lines as a result of terrorism by some Muslims and the revulsion against Islam and Muslims that it has generated. They are bound to realize the need to change their image. At present, their image is that they are a ‘problem community’. Through changing their thinking, their behavior, they can present an image of being a ‘giver community’. They will have to prove that they are an asset for others, not a liability, that Islam is a religion of peace, and that Muslims are peaceful people.
This process will help promote the true image of Islam—as a religion of peace, a religion that has nothing to do with terrorism. Western Muslims are bound to rethink their understanding of Islam, to re-study the Quran, to discover the peaceful message of Islam. There is simply no other option for them. They will be compelled to do so if they wish to continue living in the West.
The great events in history were all due to compulsion. For instance, before World War II, many nations believed in the dictum of ‘Might is right’. But when, towards the end of that war, the USA dropped two atom bombs on Japan, everything changed. People began realizing, under compulsion, that war was no longer an option, that peace was now the only option. In this situation, the League of Nations was revived in the form of the United Nations, and now the United Nations is a powerful institution, unlike the League of Nations. After World War II, we are living in the age of the United Nations and people are thinking more in terms of peace.
Consider another case, that of Japan. Japan was a warring nation before World War II, but after the USA dropped two atom bombs on it, the Japan’s emperor Hirohito addressed the country, saying that they had to bear the unbearable so that they could create a new future for the country. The Japanese then began diverting their energies to scientific education, to industry, to constructive development, and after 30 years of planning, Japan emerged as an economic superpower. This happened not through violence but through peaceful efforts.
This same history is bound to find a response in Muslim countries and communities, too. Now, this is happening, under compulsion. It is now a compulsion for Western Muslims to accept peace in place of a culture of violence and war. I strongly believe that very soon we will find that the age of suicide-bombing is over. The remark by Mr. Trump that I referred to earlier came as a shock for Muslims. And that shock is forcing many Muslims—not just in the West but elsewhere, too—to rethink their attitudes, their behavior, and their image. They are fast recognizing the urgent need to change themselves, to change the image of Islam that they project. They are increasingly recognizing that they just cannot continue with the Jihadi mindset, with the violence-driven mindset. So, I think that Mr. Trump’s remark was apparently harsh but it will serve as a wake-up call for Muslims, and very soon we will find that Muslims have changed their mentality and that they are disseminating the peaceful teachings of Islam and are thinking and behaving accordingly. Very soon, they will admit that the age of terrorism, the age of violence in the name of jihad, is over.
So, we need to revive the true spirit of Islam, the idea that God is Peace and that God wants people to live in peace. I am very optimistic. Some people may not agree with me, but I firmly believe that very soon, thinking people will accept what I say here and that Muslims will emerge as a peaceful people.