A Tidal Wave of Peace
The message the Prophet (SAW) tells us to live as brothers and sisters without regard for race or tribe, to fear Allah (SWT), and to reconcile with each other whenever possible. When this message was first made known, it launched a tidal wave of transformative peace among people who were, to put it mildly, a little rough around the edges.
So what happened? How did we get from a time of radical peace to an era in which Muslims oppress, torture, imprison and kill innocent people, justifying it all – may they repent and be forgiven – in the name of the very religion that forbids such practices? How have so many Muslims come to accept that tyranny is necessary to maintain social order? And why do so many Muslim business people insist that they have to cheat customers in order to make a living?
Now, in addition to the horrifying and seemingly unending internal conflicts within Muslim countries, we often can be heard whining to each other about our inferior status in the world today. ”We are the slaves of Allah (SWT)! Why are they achieving so much while all we do is struggle?”
To some extent, we must all each hold ourselves personally responsible for the current maelstrom in the Muslim world, at least to the extent that we’ve gotten into the habit of ignoring the warning – and the marvelous directive – handed down to us in Surat Al-Asr.
“By time, indeed, mankind is in loss, except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.” (Surat Al-Asr, The Declining Day)
Pursuing your deen without these words is like following a map that doesn’t tell you where the snake-pits and grizzly bears are. Before embarking on our life’s journey, we need these words to remind us that humanity’s natural state is one of forgetting. It’s our natural tendency to lose sight of truth and enter a state of loss.
The Pillars of Conflict
What are the conditions that keep cycles of unrest and violence alive? There are many interrelated factors working together to perpetuate and aggravate political conflict, but we can greatly simplify the picture by reducing the conditions of violence to two main pillars: lies and impatience.
Let’s start with lies. Lies create, maintain, and exacerbate conflict, and media and governments are only too willing to heap fuel on the fire by creating and spreading propaganda. It has become increasingly difficult for honest journalists to find the truth; people on both sides of each conflict have been lied to so much that they’re passionately certain their side is right. Muslims now are often willing to say anything to persuade the rest of us to join and support them. Add to this the lies of those who have a large political or financial stake in the outcome, and the web of lies becomes so thick you can barely see through it.
In a recent Tedtalks episode, Pamela Meyer exhorts us to marginalize lying in our lives – that is, to push it to the edges by remaining honest ourselves and by refusing to accept lies from others.
Now let’s look at the second pillar of political conflict: impatience. In our everyday lives, we think of impatience as a small vice, something we joke about. But the failure to restrain anger, grief, frustration, and desire has sent countless innocent people to their deaths. Not only that, when we jump the gun on our Creator, we sabotage the good things He has in store for us.
The early Muslim warriors weren’t like Rambo. They took no delight in killing, they didn’t boast, they didn’t kill out of rage. If they had to kill, they did so in obedience. There was no glamour attached to it and they were well aware that their religion called for peace, that only in being good slaves of Allah could they escape the cycles of violence.
Now that we realize how big a role lies and impatience play in creating these cycles of violence, is it enough simply to apply them to our personal lives? Apparently not, as Surat Al-Asr clearly spells out the importance of exhorting each other – that is, encouraging and reminding each other – to truth and sabr (patience).
When your friends in war-torn countries are suffering, you need to be supportive and sympathetic. But when they launch into racist diatribes against their enemies when they ignore their own sins and exaggerate those of others, do you gently remind them to be calm and honest, or do you invite them to seek revenge? In your political discussions, do you propose intellectual solutions or try to unravel the web of lies and suggest peaceful ways of coping with and resisting oppression?
Let’s start imagining an ummah with no lies and no sinful, rash reactions. Then let’s watch the world transform. InshaAllah, we may see another Islamic renaissance, a peaceful era in which we can all thrive, blossom, and participate in marvelous achievements, to the glory of our Creator. Ameen.
• Horney, Karen, (1945) Our Inner Conflicts: A Constructive Theory of Neurosis, (p.7) Norton, New York, NY
• Pamela Meyer, Tedtalks: “How to Spot a Liar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_6vDLq64gE
• Bediuzzaman Said Nursi: http://www.fountainmagazine.com/Issue/detail/No-Difference-Between-A-Governor-And-A-Subject
Written by Na’ima B. Robert, originally posted on SistersMagazine.com