Consider how, eradicating their evil and savage customs and immoral qualities to which they were so fanatically attached, he equipped and adorned the desperate, wild and unyielding peoples of the seventh-century Arabian Peninsula with all the praiseworthy virtues, and made them teachers of all the world and masters to, especially the civilized nations. – Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, speaking of Prophet Mohamed (SAW)
A Tidal Wave of Peace
The message the prophet (SAW) received tells us to live as brothers and sisters in the ummah (the body of all Muslims from all times) 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 a 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 their innocent brothers, and even women and children, 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, with all its inherent corruption, is necessary to maintaining 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, which outside forces are only too willing to aggravate, we often can be heard whining to each 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 (Islam-based lifestyle) 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
Karen Horney, the eminent German psychoanalyst, once said of neurotic conflicts that they “cannot be resolved by rational decision. But these conflicts can be resolved by changing the conditions within the personality that brought them into being.” The same can be said of larger political conflicts, which, it can be argued, are every bit as unhealthy and futile as psychological conflicts.
So 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, which play a starring role on the world stage during times of political instability. 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 marginalise 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, cute even, 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 and that only in being good slaves of Allah I could they escape the cycles of violence that have plagued humanity since its beginnings.
Now that we realise 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, awaiting the justice of Allah I or do you incite 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. Insha Allah we may see another Islamic renaissance, a peaceful era in which we can all thrive, blossom and participate in marvellous achievements, to the glory of our Creator. Ameen.
Warda Krimi is a Canadian journalist who reverted to Islam in 2010. She is now living in Tunisia with her husband.
• 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