By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
The Quran (4:128) describes a particular natural law in the following words: ‘[R]econciliation is best’ (as-Sulh Khair). In the event of a conflict between two parties, they can engage in confrontation and violence. But there is another option they can choose: to immediately come to an agreement and end their conflict. This is what reconciliation is.
It is very rare, however, for this sort of reconciliation to completely meet the needs or expectations of both parties. In most cases, it is done on a unilateral basis. That is to say, one of the two parties sets aside its demands or desires and agrees to settle their dispute according to the wishes of the other party.
Why is this sort of unilateral reconciliation termed as best? The reason for this is to be found in the fact that a conflict situation puts a halt to constructive activity. By agreeing to reconcile with the other party, one is spared the need to waste one’s time, strength and resources on useless confrontation. Instead of this, one can focus on making constructive efforts. A policy that is opposed to reconciliation inevitably leads to destruction, while the path of reconciliation is always, in every case, a beneficial one.
History is witness to the fact that whenever any people have attained any sort of success, it is only after walking on the path of reconciliation. Not a single person in history has ever achieved any real and meaningful success through violence and confrontation. The importance of reconciliation lies in the fact that it provides an opportunity to exercise one’s right to fully use available opportunities. On the other hand, the path of confrontation leads one to waste whatever one already has in destructive activity, thus leaving one no time, resources, energy and strength to engage in constructive work. The secret of success lies in positive constructive work, and definitely not in the destruction of one’s imaginary enemies.
No to ‘Corruption in the Land’
The Quran (2:11) describes a certain pattern of human behavior in the following words:
When they are told, ‘Do not cause corruption in the land,’ they say, ‘We are only promoters of peace,’
This Quranic verse deals with people who, on the face of it, are engaged in some reformist effort, but their method is improper. Their method is such that it causes Fasad, that is to say strife or corruption. By Fasad is here meant conflict among people. Their methods lead to stirring hatred between people and to an erosion of their moral sensibilities. They instigate negative thinking and destructive emotions. All these come under the Fasad fil Ardh or ‘corruption in the land’ that this Quranic verse talks about. They cause the disruption of peace, leading to violence and confrontation.
This Quranic teaching tells us that for an action to be considered proper, it is not enough that, on the face of it, it is pursued for a seemingly good cause. In addition to this, it is necessary to keep in mind what the results of activities in the name of reform are. If these activities give birth to hatred, tension, violence and so forth among people, then, despite claiming to be reformist activities, they are definitely not so. Rather, they are destructive activities, leading to ‘corruption in the land’. Those who engage in such activities are criminals, enemies of humanity, certainly not reformers or servants of humanity.
For any activity to be considered to be a noble reformist effort according to Islam, it must be carried out within the limits of peace and humaneness. All activities undertaken in the name of reform that destroy social peace and cause loss of life and property are wrong. Efforts in the name of reform must also necessarily truly bring about reform in terms of their results. If, instead, they produce what the Quran refers to as ‘corruption in the land’, then they are in themselves a form of strife, irrespective of the seemingly beautiful words those who engage in them may seek to disguise them with.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan heads the New Delhi-based Centre for Peace and Spirituality.