By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
War, it must be understood, is completely undesirable as far as Islam is concerned. Just as trade can prosper only in a climate of peace and balance, so is the case with Islam. In this regard, a Hadith report contained in the Sahih al-Bukhari advises believers not to desire confrontation with their enemies, but, rather, to seek peace from God.
War is often fought for the sake of acquiring political power. However, in Islam political power is not something for which war should be resorted to. The Quean indicates that political power is not the aim or objective of the believers. Rather, it is something that God has promised some people. Thus, it states:
God has promised to those among you who believe and do good works that He will surely grant them power in the land as He granted to those who were before them (24: 55)
According to the Quran, God is the Ultimate Power. It is He who gives political power to whoever He wills among human beings. Likewise, He it is who snatches it from whomever He wills. This is why the holders of power and political victory keep changing. Thus, the Quran says:
Say, Lord, sovereign of all sovereignty. You bestow sovereignty on whom you will and take it away from whom You please; You exalt whoever You will and abase whoever You will. All that is good lies in Your hands. You have the power to will anything. (3:26)
This Quranic truth can be expressed in a different way, as follows: acquiring and losing political power are both governed by the Law of Nature. It is not that a group gets political power because of its own efforts. Nor, too, can a group lose its political power because of the conspiracy of others.
Victory without War
In 628 C.E., the Prophet Muhammad entered into a treaty—called the Treaty of Hudaibiyah—with his opponents. At this time, the Prophet was based in Madinah, while Makkah was still under the control of the polytheists, who were at war with the Prophet and his followers. The Prophet wanted to visit Makkah in order to perform the Umrah. This visit would have been only for purposes of worship. However, the Makkans made this into a prestige issue for themselves. And so, they stopped the Prophet outside Makkah, at a place called Hudaibiyah, and asked him to return. Things came to such a head that war seemed imminent. At this time, the Prophet was accompanied by some 1400 Muslims. If these people had insisted on going to Makkah to perform the Umrah, it was certain that war would have broken out. The Prophet, however, accepted the conditions insisted on by the Makkan polytheists, and, singing a ten-year peace treaty with them, returned from Hudaibiyah to Madinah.
The Treaty of Hudaibiyah thus averted a war-like situation. The Quran (48:1) described it as a ‘clear victory’ in favour of the followers of Islam. Without engaging in war with their opponents, they had won a decisive victory over them. This meant that by avoiding war and, instead, entering into a peace pact, the followers of Islam were able to save their resources and to use them entirely on constructive work instead. And this is exactly what happened. History tells us that within two years of the peace pact of Hudaibiyah, the followers of Islam had so well established themselves that they were in a position to be victorious over Makkah without any sort of regular fighting and by using only peaceful means. This policy of ‘victory without war’ is undoubtedly a very important principle in Islam. This principle is based on the unshakeable system of Nature. This principle is as useful to, and relevant for, individuals, groups and governments. It can be expressed as ‘avoiding confrontation and availing opportunities’.