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System of Peace in Islam: A Theoretical Sketch By: Sukree Langputeh Print

System of Peace in Islam: A Theoretical Sketch*

By: Sukree Langputeh**

1. Conceptual Prologue

Peace is a word that is uttered almost as frequently as truth, beauty, andlove. It may be just as elusive to define as these other virtues. Common synonyms for peace include amity, friendship, harmony, concord, tranquility, repose, quiescence, truce, pacification, and neutrality. ....

Islam, as the term itself reveals the meaning of peace in form of man’s total submission to Allah, aims to build a peaceful society at all cost. It is because higher human objectives cannot be achieved in the absence of peaceful circumstances. The spiritual as well as moral progress of the individual is possible only in peaceful atmosphere. Hence the atmosphere of peace is essential for the building of good society. Academic research too is possible only in peaceful circumstances. The task of the propagation of truth too can be performed only in peaceful atmosphere.           

The path of peace is followed by the entire universe. It is known in science as the law of nature, which is imposed upon it by God. Whereas man has to adopt this path of peace of his own free will. This has been expressed in the Qur’an in these words: ‘Are they seeking a religion other than God’s, when every soul in heaven and earth has submitted to Him, willingly or by compulsion? To Him they shall all return’[1].When peace is the religion of the entire universe, it should, therefore, be the religion of man too, so that, in the words of Jesus Christ, the will of the Lord may be done on earth as it is in heaven.[2]  In a similar vein, the Qur’an tells us that: ‘The sun is not allowed to overtake the moon, nor does the night outpace the day. Each in its own orbit runs.’[3]

This tiny paper, then, envisages to investigate, conceptual and theoretical discussion of system of peace in Islam in light of the Qur’anic wisdoms.  The paper designed to propose a frame of thought of the system of peace under the realm of the system theory.  The writer looks at the pre-existence world (Alam al-Ruh) of man as the conscious world of INPUT when man accepted Allah as God (Rabb) without any objection but mutual confirmation among the spirits (Ruh) of man. When man is born in this present world (Alam al-Dunya) the writer underlines this phenomena as the world of PROCESS.  It is the process of the good nature of INPUT from the last world.  Each and every man who is born alive to this temporal world is highlighted by Islam as ‘born free’ without any sin of the past but with total submission which is addressed by this paper as ‘peaceful submission’.  Man is free again in this ‘secular world’ of here and now to choose his desired path.  There is the Book for those who need guidance and reject the astray path of Satan.  The next and the last world which is sustainable one is call the Alam al-Akhirah (Hereafter) is discussed in this paper as the world of OUTPUT/OUTCOME.  This system is designed and created by Allah and monitored by Him from the first dot of journey of man to his sustainable destiny at every stop of life.  Therefore, this frame of thought may be different in any other conceptual framework of peace which only try to understand the ‘secular peace’ i.e. peace in this world without any concern of the world before (Alam al-Ruh) and the Hereafter (Alam al-Akhirah).  Hence, this paper may be a promising commencement to drag more attentions of peace-thinkers and peace-workers to understand total system of peace in Islam. 

2. Islam: Etymological Concern

For the Muslims, either the term Islam derived from the root word ‘al-salam’[4] which means peace or from the root word ‘al-silm’ which implies the meaning of ‘submission’ or surrender’, it is still, however, connotes the meaning of peaceful submission to Allah as Lord at all times, in times of peace, war, ease or difficulty.  Arabic word has roots and many different kinds of meanings and nuances.  Some of the grammarians and lexicologists (those who compile lexicons) say some words have up to two hundred different shades of meanings.  The word Salam is not merely the absence of violence and aggression but it also means total well being and happiness. It means literally ‘to be safe, secure, sound, wholesome, unharmed, unimpaired and intact’. From these meanings in the physical sense it has also acquired the metaphysical and moral meanings, namely, ‘to be blameless, faultless and perfect’.[5]

In the Qur’an, God is called Al-Salam i.e. the Perfect one.  Allah says:

Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god; the sovereign, the Holy One, the source of Peace.[6]  

The state of Salam is the state where every thing finds its fullness, glory and perfection. Hence the Qur’an calls Heaven as Dar al-Salam which is the abode of peace and perfection. Allah says: “Allah calls to the Home of Peace and He guides whom He pleases to a Way that is straight.”[7] 

The paths of righteousness and virtue that lead to God are also called Subul al-Salam.  Allah says:

Wherewith Allah guide all who seek His good pleasure to ways of peace and safety, and leads them out of darkness, by His Will, unto the light and guides them to a path that straight.[8] 

Moreover, the greeting of peace both in this world and in the Hereafter is Assalam ‘alaikum which is emphasized in Islam and is taught as a proper greeting for the believers. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, “The best Islam is to give Salam to every one, whether you know that person or not.”[9]

According to Al-Attas the word Islam itself connotes three meanings (1) Submission, a verbal noun (2) name of religion, a noun (3) definition of religion.  The Orientalists have been trying to influence Muslims to think as if Islam simply means submission, that’s all.  It is very strange, the word Islam was not in the language of Jahiliah before the advent of Islam.  It is a new word, it only occurred in the Qur’an to begin with.  The religion of the earlier prophet was not called Islam although they were all called Muslims.  In other words the activity of Aslama (submission) belonged also to the earlier prophets but the religion was not called Islam.  The religion of the Prophet Ibrahim was called millata ibrahima hanifan din al-qayim, therefore the word Islam cam only with the Qur’an i.e. the Holy Prophet.  That is the reason why the Holy Prophet, being the last, affirmed the truth of the earlier prophets and completed the assignment, as it were.  Because of this, one can deny the statement saying that the Prophet did not bring anything new as what he was preaching was the same thing as what was taught in the past.           

Islam already means peace, a kind of submission.  Either the word silm, salama etc. all of these have to do with peace, that means if one submits in the proper way he will attain peace.  Peace here, of course, refers to the soul, to the rational soul, and by peace is meant the freedom from fear, from doubt, and from inner tension about these matters. For Salam, it does not mean ‘peace’ in the sense of being inactive, motionless or quiet. People use the word ‘peaceful night’ when it does not have the activities and noise of the day. People say ‘peaceful ocean’ when it has no waves. Similarly they call the cemeteries ‘the gardens of peace’ because every one is dead there and there is no sign of life. The word ‘Salam’ does not mean ‘to be quiet’ or ‘to be motionless’ or ‘to become dead’. Salam is an active and dynamic involvement to keep and to restore the right order. Salam is both an individual quest for peace and harmony for one’s self and it includes the concern for the well being of all people regardless of their races, colors or genders.  This is one of the great problems of philosophy as well, of Western man as well as Muslims who reject God.  The one who reject God will face the problem of fear, on what is going to happen after that and what will happen later.  Interestingly, all these cannot be put aside because man is heading towards it.            

3. Man’s Peaceful Submission in the world of INPUT (Alam al-Ruh)

Already in the very idea of submission, Al-Attas emphasized, feeling, belief, and action are implied; but the fundamental element in man’s act of submission to God is his sense of indebtedness to God for His gift of existence, so that this sense of indebtedness – which involves recognition and acknowledgement of God as the giver of existence – is a prior condition to true submission (Islam).[10] 

The concept of being indebted can be explained that man is indebted to god, his Creator and Provider, for bringing him into existence and maintaining him in his existence.  Man once nothing and did not exist, and now he is.  Allah says:

Man We did create from a quintessence of clay; Then We placed him as drop of sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed; Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; Then of that clot We made a lump; Then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; Then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be God, the Best to create.[11]

In order to understand the verse above the explanation of Al-Attas is clearly clarified.  He interestingly states that:

The man who ponders seriously his origin will realize that a few decades ago he did not exist, and the whole of mankind now existing neither existed nor knew of their possible present existence.  The same truth applies to all ages of man from the beginning of his existence in time.  So naturally he who ponders thus sincerely knows intuitively that his sense of being indebted for his creation and existence cannot really be directed to his parents, for he knows equally well that his parents too are subject to the same process by the same Creator and Provider.[12] 

With regard to this fact the Qur’anic revelation of the covenant (al-mithaq) of man’s recognition and acknowledgement of God as his absolute Lord, which man’s pre-existence soul has sealed with God.  Allah says:

When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam- from their loins-their descendents, and made them testify concerning themselves (saying): “Am I your Lord?”-they said: “Yea! We do testify!”[13]

The rightly guided man realizes that this very self, his soul has already peacefully submitted the self to Allah.  And this highest level of submission is a kind of peaceful submission without any force from any power surrounded the man’s pre-existence soul.  

4. The Path of Peace (Subul al-salam) in the world of PROCESS (Alam al-Dunya)

It is, certainly, in this worldly affairs, peace with God could only attained through knowledge of Him, acknowledgment of His Oneness and relating to Him in awe, love, obedience, trust and hope in His bliss in this life and the joy of His countenance in the afterlife. Acts of worship are but means of achieving closeness to Him and enhancing one's awareness of His constant presence, love, grace, and care. Such care was manifest in history through sending prophets so as to guide humanity, reveal God's caring message to them, and exemplify it in the their lives.  This what we mean by submissive peace which is the worldly extension of expression of the peaceful submission which occurred when man did testify to Allah as He is his Lord.

Peace with God and inner peace should lead to a basic relationship of peace with God's creation, humans and others. The Qur’an teaches universal human brotherhood, universal justice, acceptance of plurality, including religious plurality and encourages the nurturing of common grounds in interfaith dialogue. Peaceful co-existence is the norm, with struggling in the battlefield as the exception if necessary for legitimate self-defense or to stop oppression and injustice when peaceful means did not succeed.

Interesting enough to note that one who still confirms his or her belief in Allah is call Muslim (One who submit to Allah).  This refers to his confirmation of truth which his spirit used to declare when Allah asked all spirit shown above.  Oppositely, one who refuses to confirm Allah as his or her Lord in this world is called by Allah as Kafir (One who refuse Allah/disbelief in Allah).  This refers to his or her act of refusal of his or her own agreement in the world of spirit.  So, even though Islam regards every child is born into this world in a free nature he or her has his or her own choice to chose their path of life.  The path of Peace (Subul al-Salam) guided by the Book of Wisdom i.e. the Qur’an and interpreted and modeled by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is for those who are conscious of their purpose of life for the permanent destiny of the next world. 

5. The Sustainable and Permanent Peace in the world of OUTPUT/OUTCOME (Alam al-Akhirah)           

As stated above that the concept of peace in Islam cannot understand through the umbrella of ‘secular peace’.  This is due to the fact that the ‘secular peace’ only emphasize on peace of each and every society, nation, region and the universe in this present world.  All concerns of all peace-lovers, peace-builders, peace-keepers, and peace-policymakers are still under the realm of this present world.  Rarely or even none of them pay attention to making policy, building, keeping, maintaining peace of the next world.  The Qur’an has shown us that one of the names of Allah’s Heaven is Dar al-Salam.  This is a vivid clarification for believers to believe that for those who still confirm his believe in Allah in the world of PROCES and follow the path of peace (Subul al-Salam) will be granted the Dar al-Salam, the Garden of peace sustainably.           

In the west, the concept of stable peace has been coined by scholars like Kenneth Boulding, Alexander George, and others. In 1978, Kenneth Boulding introduced the term ‘stable peace.’ It can serve to clarify the peace we are seeking in intractable conflict. He defines stable peace as ‘a situation in which the probability of war is so small that it does not really enter into the calculations of any of the people involved.’[14]

While most of Boulding's short treatise focuses on relations between and among nations, he includes in the definition all levels of social groups -- families, businesses, churches, and nations. He points out that while there are examples of what might be called ‘war’ among all types of social groups -- the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys being an example of interfamilial war – ‘war is much commoner between political organizations [bands, tribes, city-states, nations, and empires] than between any other kind of social organization.’[15]

Boulding identifies several factors as important in developing stable peace:

- Habit: ‘The longer peace persists the better chance it has of persisting’[16]

- Professional specializations which include mediators, conciliators, marriage counselors, and diplomats, including a web of ‘integrative relationships’ among leaders;

- Rise of travel and communication within the system;

- Web of economic interdependence;

- Mutually compatible self-images which do not include the use of force against one another; and

- Taboos against the use of violence within the stable peace system.

On an international level, Alexander George offers a slightly more specific definition: ‘Stable peace is a relationship between two states in which neither side considers employing force or even making a threat of force, in any dispute between them. Deterrence and compellence backed by threats of military force are simply excluded as instruments of policy.’[17]  George contrasts stable peace with his two other categories of peace. ‘recarious peace’ is a state of acute conflict which means ‘little more than a temporary absence of armed conflict.’[18]  ‘Conditional peace’ is a relationship in which general deterrence plays a key role, although the possibility of stronger threats or even actual violence is maintained for crisis situations.

6. Epilogue

This paper claims, finally, the term Islam as ‘peaceful submission’ to Allah as Lord during man’s pre-existence soul (World of INPUT) which will lead to ‘submissive peace’ in man’s worldly practices as Muslim (World of PROCESS) for the attainment of what the Qur’an calls Dar al-Salam for Heaven (World of OUTPUT/OUTCOME) can be peacefully understood only within the ‘Worldview of Islam’.  Firstly, specifically because of the richness of Arabic language which cannot be found in Latin or any of the Indo-European languages. Secondly, because of its continuous relation of the creations of the universe according to Islamic cosmology.  Finally, and more importantly, because of peaceful heart/soul attached to Allah as Rabb al-Alamin (Lord of the Universe).   

* Paper presented at International Seminar on ‘Southeast Asia: Peace and Soul-Searching’ organized by ISEAMS, Prince Songkla University, Pattani Campus and National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), held at CS Hotel, Pattani on 17th-18th August 2005

** Lecturer at the Department of Public Administration, and currently the Dean of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Yala Islamic College (The Project of International Islamic University Pattani (IIUP))

[1] The Qur’an  3:83

[2] Matthew 6:10

[3] The Qur’an 36:40

[4] Ismail Lutfi Japakiya, Islam: Religion of Peace, Pattani: Yala Islamic College, 2004, p.13.

[5] ‘Islam is Peace’ Online posting. 3 Aug. 2003 < http://www.pakistanlink.com/religion/2001/1102.html>. Arabic word has roots and many different kinds of meanings and nuances.  Some of the grammarians and lexicologists (those who compile lexicons) say some words have up to two hundred different shades of meanings.  This is why one cannot simply uses the methodology of understanding Latin or any of the Indo-European languages and because of that we have to be very precise as to the meaning of the word.

[6]  The Qur’an 59:23

[7]  The Qur’an 10:25

[8]  The Qur’an 5:16

[9] Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith no 11

[10] Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, The Meaning of Happiness in Islam. (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC.,1993) p.2.

[11] The Qur’an 23: 12-14

[12] Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas, Prolegomina to the Metaphysics of Islam: An Exposition of the Fundamental Elements of the Worldview of Islam. (Kuala Lumpur: ISTAC.,1995) p.45.

[13] The Qur’an  7:172

[14] Boulding, Kenneth E. Stable Peace. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978. (1978, p.13).

[15] Boulding, p.7.

[16] Boulding, p.62.

[17] George, Alexander. "Forward" to Stable Peace among Nations. Eds., Arie M. Kacowicz, Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, Ole Elgstrom and Magnus Jerneck. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000, pp. 11-18. (2000, p.13).

[18] George, p.12.


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