By Amaar Ahmad
As conflicts rage around the world and innocents suffer in the Gaza crisis, Ukraine-Russia tension continues, and sectarianism boils over in Iraq and Syria, one wonders if history is repeating itself. Just as in 1914, now a hundred years after World War I, small conflicts have the potential to boil over into something bigger. Slogans of national interest, democracy or religious utopia are being raised by different sides to mask the age old desire for domination of resources.
As a Muslim, I am particularly troubled with the rise of ISIS in the Middle East and Taliban in Afghanistan-Pakistan region. In their quest for political control, such extremists have destroyed countless fundamentals of Islamic teachings regarding the sanctity of life, establishment of peace and religious freedom. To resolve their contemporary problems, Muslims will need to shun the distorted caricature of faith that is portrayed in the media today. At 1.6 billion strong, Muslims have their share of responsibility to play a positive role towards establishing world peace.
The Quran has laid three basic principles to resolve political conflicts in the following verses: "let not a people's enmity incite you to act other than with justice. Be always just" (5:9), "there is no compulsion in religion" (2:257) and "obey Allah and His Messenger and those who are in authority among you" (4:60). The verses mandate (i) obedience to those in power (regardless of whether those in authority are Muslim or otherwise), (ii) justice and fairness even when dealing with enemy and (iii) complete freedom from religious oppression. Needless to say, every contemporary conflict stems from when, one way or another, these principles are broken.
Such verses are not mere hyperbole, as Islam's founder, Prophet Muhammad, repeatedly demonstrated with great success that these ideals could be put into practice. For instance, in the city state of Medina, he created a constitution that proclaimed that "Muslims and Jews are one people" and that both groups should defend the city together against external aggression.
Just a few years later, a Muslim contingent under the Prophet was engaged in conflict with a signatory tribe that had been inciting other Arab tribes to attack Medina in contravention of their obligation. During the hostilities, some members of that tribe broke rank to join the Muslim army. Despite the ongoing conflict, the Prophet instructed the new converts to return the tribe's property that they had been entrusted with. This, and numerous other instances of Prophet Muhammad's fairness, won over a hostile tribal society and united Arabia for the first time in history.
Today, nations are beset with narrow-mindedness and selfish interests, no less than Arab tribalism. Prophet Muhammad's pact, for example, could serve as a light to resolving the present Palestinian-Israeli conflict; it lays the guiding principle that resources must be shared equitably between nations and that attacking innocent civilians is unacceptable.
In this day and age, fortunately we also hear voices of reason that invite all nations towards peace. His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has been inviting world leaders to resolve conflicts through dialogue. Since 2012, he has written letters to a diverse set of leaders, ranging from President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia pointing out that without fairness, the world cannot avoid impending turbulence. What adds credibility to this message is that despite the fact that the Ahmadiyya community has endured immense persecution in Pakistan, under his guidance, it has remained peaceful and law-abiding.
The message that "let not the enmity of a people incite you to act other than with justice" is the only true means of uniting nations. Without this spirit, mere political pressures, strong-arm tactics or imposition of sanctions will only bring the nations of the world a full circle to 1914 - a hundred years later.
Amaar Ahmad is a Ph.D Electrical Engineering, Virgina Tech