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Islam Calls for Individual Idealism, On The One Hand, And Social Pragmatism, On the Other

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam

23 August 2017

Interaction with Students of Fresno Pacific University, California

Islam is a religion of peace. Violence and hate have nothing to do with Islam. The basic principle of Islam is the oneness of God. This principle covers all the beliefs and practices of Islam.

Islam differentiates between individual behaviour and the social system. It calls for individual idealism, on the one hand, and social pragmatism, on the other. That is to say, idealism at the level of the individual, and pragmatism at the level of society. This concept is a totally peaceful one. There is no room for violence and war in it. Now, it is true that some Muslims are indeed engaging in violence and war, but this is a case of deviation from Islam teachings, not of following Islamic teachings. Those Muslims who are engaged in militancy are not following the principles of Islam.

Terrorism is completely unlawful in Islam. According to Islam, no non-governmental group or private individual is allowed to take up arms. That is the prerogative only of the state. Further, according to Islam, only in case of aggression, of external attack, can a state go to war, otherwise not. In Islam, there is the possibility only of defensive war, not offensive war. Also, there is no room for other kinds of war, such as guerrilla war and proxy war.

Some Muslims claim it is the duty of Muslims to establish what they call ‘Islamic rule’ all over the world. But this is completely wrong. Those who claim that it is the Muslims’ duty to establish what they call ‘Islamic rule’ all over the world are completely wrong. This kind of concept is totally alien in Islam. Islam only guides Muslims to develop peaceful personalities. This is what is called tazkiyah or purification, or becoming a spiritual personality. It is only such a person, someone whose personality is based on spirituality, on peace, on tolerance, on the fear of God, who will be allowed entry into Paradise. So, the goal of Islam is Paradise and not the establishment of a political system.

From this it should be clear that all the violence that one witnesses among Muslims today is sheer deviation from Islam.

These days, people get much of their information from the mass media. But the media is an industry of selective reporting. It always reports what is called ‘hot news’ or ‘sensational news’. To report what is actually in the Quran isn’t the media’s concern. Much of the media would rather focus on the negative things that people (including Muslims) are doing. That is why violence and war are widely reported in the media. And so, people are unaware of what Islam really is. Those who try to understand Islam through the media are unaware of the real picture of Islam. The real picture of Islam is found in the Quran, and not in Muslim practices.

The present picture that many people have of Islam is highly incorrect. They see or read reports that appear in the media and form a picture of Islam accordingly. But the media generally reports only sensational events. It doesn’t report the teachings of Islam as contained in the Quran. So, if you really want to know what Islam is, you need to directly study the Quran and the Hadith, which are authentic sources of Islam. Don’t rely on media reports. Also, don’t form your opinion by seeing Muslim practices. Muslims are a community who claim that they are followers of Islam. But such a claim is not enough. You need to judge Muslims according to the standards of the Quran.

Muslims are a community. They have what they regard as their communal interests. So, the things Muslims are doing are a reflection of their politics, of what they consider as their communal issues. This isn’t Islam, though. One needs to distinguish between Islam and Muslims. One must judge Muslims in the light of Islamic teachings, and not vice versa.

The Quran is a modestly-sized book. It is not very lengthy. It’s very easy to read it. If you study it, you will find that all its verses are based on peace, either directly or indirectly. Why? Because without peace in society you cannot adopt Islamic ideology, you cannot develop your personality and you cannot run your institutions. So, after the Oneness of God the most important teaching in Islam is peace. Islam tries to establish peace at any cost.

In the early period of Islam, at the time of the Prophet, there was some violence, but this was due to the then prevailing tribal culture—that is to say, to the particular conditions of that age. The Prophet always managed the situations of war initiated by his opponents by either avoiding getting embroiled in fighting or by reducing confrontation to a mere skirmish. You cannot find a case of a single full-fledged war in the Prophet’s time. There were some so-called wars, but these were actually skirmishes. You can’t really call them ‘wars’ in the true sense of the term. Why? This is because Islam believes in management of confrontation rather than going to war. If there is some problem from the other side, first of all you should try to manage the problem through negotiations, through various peaceful methods.

Islam teaches us to try to manage problems peacefully, rather than through violence. Peace should be had at any cost. Why? Because according to Islam, peace is the Summum Bonum, the greatest good. Where there is peace, there is normalcy and opportunities flourish. Without peace, you can’t do anything. You can’t run your institutions or your businesses. You can’t even practice your religion properly or share your faith with others. All these activities require peace. So, Islam believes in peace and tries to establish it at any cost, because without peace there is no progress.

The majority of the present Muslims have deviated from Islam. They have adopted a political goal, and a political goal always leads to violence and war. I can say that political rule is not the goal or target of Islam. But many present-day Muslims have adopted political rule as their target and they claim that this is an ‘Islamic’ mission and that their activities in this regard are a ‘jihad’. But I say that this is completely wrong. This claim of theirs has no sanction in the Quran and Hadith. It is an innovation—or what is called Biddah. All these activities in the name of jihad, in the name of ‘Islamic rule’, are wrongful innovations. They do not present the true picture of Islam. So, don’t take the actions of these Muslims as synonymous with Islam. The majority of present-day Muslims have deviated from the path of Islam. If you study the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet you will find that what I am saying is correct.

There is not a single verse in the Quran that says that Muslims must establish political rule. There are many verses that lay stress on adl or justice. Now, the Quran says that you have to follow justice (4:135), but nowhere does it say that you have to implement justice. Nowhere does it say that Muslims have to establish a just government. Islam gives social values, moral values, spiritual values, but does not call for implementing a particular socio-political system.

There is a crucial difference between following justice and implementing justice. When you follow justice, there is peace, but when you try to establish a system or implement your ideas, there can be confrontation. Islam does not say you have to establish a system of justice, because that would lead to violence. What Islam says is that you need to follow justice—and that is a peaceful thing. In this sense, I can say that Islam is a religion of peace, not a religion of politics.

(This is a transcript of the lecture delivered by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan on October 27, 2014 to students from Fresno Pacific University, USA. It can be accessed here


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