By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age Islam
The Vatican City is a walled enclave within the city of Rome. With an area of approximately 110 acres, and a population of little more than 800, it is the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world in terms of both area and population. The independent city-state came into existence in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty between the Holy See and the government of Italy.
For centuries, each succeeding Pope was the uncrowned king of Christian Europe. Today, a palace for the Pope still exists in the city of Rome. But, in later times, great differences arose between the Church and secular people. The Pope ultimately saw that he could not return to the previous position, so he agreed to confine his jurisdiction to the Vatican City, which is recognized by the government of Italy. Eventually, even from this territorially small domain, the Pope continued to hold great religious sway not only over Italy, but also over many other parts of the world.
This history of the Vatican gives us an important principle—if you cannot keep your control over the whole, then agree to restrict yourself to a small part. Muslims who are engaged in infructuous fighting in different countries should take the opportunity to succeed in the same way in other fields—that is, they should be ready to accept a “Vatican”.
Now, let us take the case of Saddam Hussein (1937 – 2006). He was the ruler of Iraq for almost twenty-one years. Towards the end of this period, circumstances went against his rule and it became clear that he would not be able to retain his former position. However, he continued to fight unnecessarily until on December 20, 2006 he was executed. Saddam Hussein was an educated person. Had he drawn lessons from history, it would have been possible for him to live in Iraq as in a “Vatican”.
At that time, Saddam Hussein owned eight palaces in Iraq. U.N. documents list eight main Saddam Hussein palace compounds containing more than 1,000 buildings – luxury mansions, smaller guest villas, office complexes, warehouses and garages – and covering some 32 square kilometres (7,900 acres) in total.
The area of the Vatican is a mere 110 acres, while the cumulative area of Saddam Hussein’s eight palaces was 7,900 acres. This story shows that it could have been possible for Saddam Hussein to establish a peaceful kingdom for himself. He could have given up political power and, with his eight palaces, he could have built the largest university of the world. Stanford University, the second largest university in the world at present, has an area of 8,000 acres. Had Saddam Hussein changed his thinking from the political to the peaceful, he could have made a university compound of 7,900 acres. It would have been regarded as one of the biggest educational centres in the world.
Saddam Hussein was obsessed with political power and so he could not understand the importance of the non-political option available to him. This is the case of all Muslim leaders of the present age—they have remained unrealistically obsessed with political power. But political power has limitations, so it has not been possible for them to achieve their goals through it. When they have not been able to achieve their goals, they have become seriously frustrated, as inevitably happens when human beings go against the law of nature.
Barack Obama entered the White House on January 20, 2009 as the President of the United States of America. He was also elected to serve a second term in November 2012, and was sworn in as president for the second time on January 20, 2013. In the beginning, he was very hopeful of bringing about a change in America under his presidency. But even after serving for two terms, he has not been able to bring about the desired change in his country. He himself admitted this fact on June 18, 2015:
‘I am frustrated, and you have every right to be frustrated, because Congress doesn’t work the way it should. Issues are left untended. Folks are more interested in scoring political points than getting things done – not because any individual member of Congress is a bad person – there are a lot of good, well-meaning, hardworking people out there – but because the incentives that have been built into the system reward short term, reward a polarized politics, reward being simplistic instead of being true, reward division. And as mightily as I have struggled against that […] It still is broken.’
This statement has a great lesson for those Muslim activists who are fighting for the same unrealistic goal, that is, to bring about change through political power. Almost all political leaders have been obsessed with political authority. They wanted to acquire political position so that they would be able to bring about change. But history tells us that this is a case of having exaggerated expectations of political power, because when these leaders acquired political authority, they were still unable to bring about any real change.
History shows that no one has been able to bring about change through political activism. According to the law of nature, real change always comes through peaceful struggle in non-political fields.
For his 1991 Gulf war, Saddam Hussein used the word Umm al-Ma’arik (Mother of All Battles). But this proved to be a complete failure. Had Saddam Hussein, on the contrary, converted his eight palaces into an educational complex, his peaceful institution would have been alive even today.
History tells us that war is like a rootless tree. A storm can completely uproot it. But a peaceful plan is like a tree which stands upright on its own strong roots and remains unaffected by storms.
A war plan has never been crowned by success in history. However, peaceful plans have always been successful. Those who do not take heed from this experience of history are not choosing a course which has been successful in the past nor will it ever be so in the future. A war plan is doomed to failure, while a peace plan will certainly bring success.
In the present age the story of all Muslim leaders is like that of Saddam Hussein. Each had the possibility to make a big or small peaceful empire by utilizing whatever resources were available. However, all of them took to violence. In this way they destroyed both themselves and also others.
The time has come to put an end to any violent course of action in the twenty-first century and make new plans to tread the path of peace. The failure of those who choose to take to violence will clearly be attributable to their unwillingness to learn from the past.