Achieving Peace in the Light of Islam
by Bilgin Erdogan
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Peace is its own reward”. By definition the word “peace” means, “Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.” Indeed peace is an invaluable quality to possess. But how do we achieve peace? In Islam, peace is a very important word. In fact, the word ‘Islam’ comes from ‘Salaam’ which means peace. In other word, Islam is peace.
Islamic teaching is based on peace. In Islam, the only permissible aggression is the one against the oppressors. Allah says in the Qur’an:
(Al-Baqarah, 2:193) “… aggression is directed only against the oppressors”
The importance of peace
All religions promote peace. Islam is primarily a religion of peace. The name ISLAM is derived from the Arabic root "Salama": peace, purity, submission and obedience. Linguistically, “Salama” means to avoid things that are against the natural disposition of human being. Thus, As-Salaam means the source of peace, the source of cosmic peace, the ultimate source of eternal salvation.
Other derivations are “Silm” which means two things: one is “submitting to God” and the second is “peace”; “Saleem” meaning errorless. “Sulayman” means a governor where nobody is oppressed under his administration, and “Salam”, a type of tree that can protect itself from other creatures with its torns and also preserves itself from the hot weather of the Arab desert.
Whenever Muslims meet one another, they use the greeting of peace: “as-salamu ‘alaykum — peace be upon you”, and the other person responds by saying “‘alaykumus salam — upon you be peace.” Great importance is placed on peace; a) peace with yourself, b) peace with your God, c) peace with Muslims, d) peace with mankind, and e) peace with all existence.
One of the attributes of Allah (SWT) is As-Salaam, The Author of peace, safety, security and immunity - the One Who renders safe and free from evils or afflictions [59:23]. If peace was not important He would not have picked that name for Him. Allah is As-Salaam because eternity is impossible without Him.
And since As-Salaam is also one of the Beautiful Names of Allah, the greeting of salaam also means, "May the blessing of His Name descend upon you, may Allah be with you, may Allah guide and protect you."
The Fruit of Peace
If we observe the atom, we will see that there is peace between the neutrons and protons. If we observe the human anatomy, there is peace between the organs. And if we observe the universe there is peace amongst the planets. All these peaceful inter-relations and interactions are proof that peace is a great lesson of the universe to be learned. When Allah created heaven and the earth it was ordered so that each element may perform its function peacefully without clashing with any other part.
Tawheed is the result of peace. The declaration of there is nothing worthy to worship except one God is a peace contract between us and your Lord. It is a peace contract with truth.
Also the result of peace is Salat. If we are peaceful with your Lord then we can perform salat. If we are peaceful with ourselves we can perform salat. When we are peaceful with our community then we can perform salat, because then we will be able to come shoulder by shoulder in a jama’ah. If we are not peaceful we will not be able to do it.
If we are peaceful with Ibrahim (as) and his family, we will be able to perform salat. The same is true if we are peaceful with the Messenger and his family because we say salaam to them. The daily prayers begin with praising God as “Mercy and Beneficent” and ends with the greeting of peace for all. Even after completing the salat we say salaam (O Allah! You are Peace and peace is from You, You are the greatest source of blessing O Allah!)
Ramadan reflects the peace with Allah’s word. Allah sent message to mankind for His servants to give more peace to their hearts during this great month.
Charity is another result of peace. It shows that we have control over our possessions and not the other way round. It is peace between us and our community. Wealthy people and less fortunate ones can reach peach between them with charity. It is a kind of PEACE Bridge.
Knowledge is peace. ‘Ilm’ means ‘alamah’ where we can only have knowledge if we can see the sign of Allah in the existence.
Jihad is a peace operation. In Arabic language, the word jihad literally means striving and working hard for something. In Islamic terminology, it has literal meanings in two different dimensions, which are expressed by “major jihad” and “minor jihad”.
The major jihad is the spiritual struggle within us; between the soul and the body. The conscience is in conflict with the bodily desires. The fasting in the month of Ramadan is an example of the annual training for this major jihad.
The minor jihad is the armed struggle. However, that does not automatically mean unjustified use of violence. Aggression against any people is not permitted in Islam; however, defense is an absolute right of every individual and nation. According to Islam, peace is the rule and war is only an exception.
Reported by Abu `Abdullah Tariq bin Shihab (ra): A person asked the Prophet (saw): "What is the highest form of Jihad?'' He (peace be upon him) said, "Speaking the truth in the presence of a tyrant ruler". [Nasa'i]
Meanwhile Hajj is peace of all communities. It is an annual celebration that gathers millions of people, men and women, from different ages, languages, races, cultural backgrounds, colors, and nationalities in a wonderful unique peaceful scene. Islam, the religion of peace and wellbeing for all peoples, makes the months fixed for Hajj—namely Dhul Qi`dah, Dhul Hijjah, and Muharram—as sacred months in which launching wars and fighting is prohibited. This is to maintain and promote peace in the world. Hajj rituals, moreover, convey messages of peace: peace with oneself, peace among Muslims, peace with non-Muslims, and peace with the environment and with nature.
Hajj rituals fill a Muslim’s heart with inner peace and tranquilly. Inner peace is one of the significant blessings and fruits of hajj. Various rituals of hajj purify one’s body and soul. Hajj is all about the remembrance of Allah (dhikr), repentance, du`aa’, seeking Allah’s forgiveness, devotion, and acquiring refined morals and values, which all lead to inner peace.
Attaining peace according to Qur’an and Sunnah
There are several means for Muslims to adopt in order to achieve inner peace.
- Faith and Good Deeds
In order to establish peace within ourselves we need to have faith and righteousness. Allah says in the Qur’an:
"مَن عَمِلَ صَالِحًـا مِّن ذَكَرٍ اَو اُنثٰى وَهُوَ مُؤمِنٌ فَلَـنُحيِيَنَّه حَيٰوةً طَيِّبَةً ..."
(An-Nahl, 16:97) “Whosoever acts righteously – whether a man or a woman – and embraces belief, We will surely grant him a good life;…”
This verse specifies that the righteous attitude not only leads to a happy life in the Hereafter, but it also guarantees, by Allah’s grace, a pure and happy life even in this world.
(Fussilat, 41:33) And who is more excellent in speech than one who calls towards Allah and does good, and says: “Surely I am of the Muslims?”
In order for Allah (SWT) to forgive the sinners and reward the doers of good, this verse reminds people to invite others into the religion through active preaching (da’wah). Such da’wah activity must be done through excellent speech, which requires maintaining proper decorum for a healthy civil discourse.
اللَّهَ إِنَّ ۗاللَّهِ مْرِأَ مِنْ يَحْفَظُونَهُ خَلْفِهِ وَمِنْ يَدَيْهِ بَيْنِ مِنْ مُعَقِّبَاتٌ لَهُ” “…بِأَنْفُسِهِم مَا يُغَيِّرُوا حَتَّىٰ بِقَوْمٍ مَا يُغَيِّرُ لَا
(Ar-Ra`d, 13:11) “There are guardians over everyone, both before him and behind him, who guard him by Allah's command. Verily Allah does not change a people's condition unless they change their inner selves…”
The key for any good deed in Islam is having a pure intention, and being sincere for the sake of Allah (SWT). Righteous deeds increase faith (iman). Evil deeds lower Iman. Simple formula. So the more righteous deeds we are able to do, the greater our Iman will be, the greater our taqwa will be. When we achieve that then we can elevate our level of faith and our feeling of peace. Have strong faith and remember Allah as much as we can. Remembering Allah (SWT) brings comfort and peace in our heart.
Qur’an is the book of peace and the main source of eternal happiness. It starts with “Iqra’” in the first verse of Surah Alaq:
Read! In the name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)
Has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood).
Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous,
Who has taught (the writing) by the pen [the first person to write was Prophet Idris (Yunus)].
Has taught man that which he knew not.
According to Ibnu Rushd, “Knowledge is to know the reason of things”; ignorance is darkness whereas knowledge is the light. Allah refers ‘ilm’ in the beginning. Thus, if you do not know you will lose. This is “dalal” in Islamic terminology.
For many, the journey to Islam began with a thirst for knowledge and a quest to understand the purpose of human existence. Many people turn to Islam for salvation from the chaos and uncertainty that often exists in the other world religions. Falsehood does not promote tranquility or peace.
On the other hand, adherence to Islamic principles brings a great sense of peace and satisfaction that result in peace of mind and body. Achieving inner peace, in the light of Al-Qur’an and As-Sunnah, can have tremendous influence on our faith and our quality of life.
Knowledge of Islam increases our faith and understanding, it helps us avoid the traps of Satan and remain on the Straight Path. This brings us closer to God, and increases the inner peace which comes from being close to God.
- Perception and Perspectives
“Bismillah” teaches us to see everything with the name of Allah (SWT). The formula is: A person who sees the good in things has good thoughts. And he who has good thoughts receives pleasure from life. “Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers. Or you can grow weeds.”
Ibnu Taymiya once said, “What can my enemies do to me? If they put me in a dungeon I am thankful for I have the solitude (khalwah) to be close to Allah. If they exile me, I am also thankful because it is a hijrah (holy migration) for me. If they execute me, it is shahadah (matyrdom) for me, thus I am most thankful too.”
Amir bin Fuhayra on his last breath, after a man called Jabbar stabbed him at the back and through his chest with a sword, said, “Alhamdulillah I am the successful one and I am the winner.” Why did he say that? This is because he held the Islamic perception that good can come in any circumstances even the difficult one. If we see things in this perspective then we will reap better outcomes in our matters.
Let’s look at a good and righteous businessman; who follows the laws of the Qur’an and Sunnah diligently whilst running his business effectively. He does business with high integrity and honesty. However, his business fails eventually. Now compare this to a non-practicing Muslim; indulging in some corruptions of the heart. He had the same business and run it effectively as well but with cheating and dishonest practices, and his business is a success. Who is successful, really? So as those in the stories; Adam or Satan? Noah or Canan? Abraham or Namrud? Musa or Pharoah?
Allah says in the Qur’an:
(Al-Baqarah, 2:216) “Fighting is ordained upon you and it is disliked by you; it may well be that you dislike a thing even though it is good for you, and it may well be that you like a thing even though it is bad for you. Allah knows and you do not know.”
Allah also says in the Qur’an:
(Al-A’la, 87:14) “Indeed whosoever purifies himself shall achieve success.”
Success does not imply worldly prosperity, but true and real success whether worldly prosperity accompanies it or not.
The search for inner peace involves recognizing the problems that we have in our lives, recognizing our obstacles; there are obstacles which we can remove and otherwise, recognizing that inner peace will only come when we identify those obstacles and understand which of them we can change and that we focus on those obstacles we can change. When understanding the types of obstacles that remain as permanent fixtures of our lives, they are best viewed as trials and tribulations that are tests from Allah Almighty. The best way to cope with them is to have patience and trust in the Divine Decree.
If we change ourselves then Allah (SWT) will change the world around us and give us the means to deal with the world around us. That is why having a positive perception and perspective in all matters changes the way we react to our problems and obstacles. No matter if the situation is good or not, looking at and handling it in a positive matter will definitely give us great results. Even though the world is in turmoil Allah gives us inner peace with it.
Mercy shall be the center of your life. All chapters in the Quran, except one (Repentance Chapter), begin with the following words:
“Bismillahi ar-Rahman ar-Rahim” or in the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Allah SWT could have used other attributes in its place, but he chose these two which show their significance. God's Mercy precedes his other attributes. Each worshipper repeats the attribute of mercy at least 60 times a day during his five daily prayers. This phrase is a continuous reminder for the reader of Allah’s endless mercy and great bounties.
Prophet Muhammad (saw) was deemed “the mercy of the universe”. Mercy is the main character of the Messenger.
Allah Himself has said about him:
(Al-Anbiya’ 21:107) “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.”
This assures that Islam is founded on mercy, and that Allah (SWT) sent Prophet Muhammad (saw) as mercy to all creatures with no exception. The Messenger of Allah said, “You will have no mercy unless you will be merciful to mankind.”
According to a hadith, the daily prayer of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) was centered on peace "O Allah, you are the original source of peace; from you is all peace, and to you returns all peace, So, make us live with Peace; and let us enter paradise; The House of Peace. Blessed be you, our Lord, to Whom belongs all Majesty and Honor!"
The act of mercy and forgiveness is more to the benefit of the giver than the receiver. It cleanses the heart and creates a calm sense of being. Not only it generates peace in relationships, most importantly it creates inner peace for our soul. By opening our hearts to other beings with mercy, we feel calmer and more supported.
- Focusing on the Positives
In life we will experience "wonderful" events; new love, true friendships, new babies, promotions, and holidays. At the other end of the spectrum though, is also equally full of "terrible" occasions; divorce, getting fired, having serious illness, death, loss, financial strain, accidents, etc. Normally it is very hard to be calm and serene when faced with such challenges.
However, peace of mind is largely a matter of attention. If we keep concentrating our attention on our negative circumstances, we will surely be overcome by stress. On the other hand, if we focus on the positive sides of things, we will be grateful. Peace of mind is not the absence of conflict from life, but the ability to cope with it.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
(Al-Baqarah, 2:152) “So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.”
Starting the day with gratitude sets the tone, or vibration of your mind, lifts your spirit, and better your attitude. If you become truly grateful, you will magnetize all you need, wherever you go, and in everything you do, and subsequently find inner peace.
- Consider the Power of Now
Happiness is often confused for inner peace. The two are not the same. One can be having a miserable experience and still be at the core "at peace." Happiness depends on conditions being perceived as positive; inner peace does not.
To be “at peace” with ourselves, we should focus more on the present, rather than the past or the future. Most of the time people missed out because lots of their times is spent planning and thinking about the future. Or, that many opportunities are missed due to dwelling on the past. The true fact is we have no control over our future, for it has yet to happen, or our past, for it already happened and there is nothing we do and change to make it better. The past and future are illusions, they don’t exist.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
(Yunus, 10:62) “Unquestionably, [for] the allies of Allah there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.”
In this verse, ‘khavf’ refers to the future and ‘huzn’ refers to the past. For the people who are close to Allah, they do not worry about the future or the past.
The only time we have control of is the present. What does it mean to live fully in the present moment? It means that your awareness is completely centered on the here and now. We need to accept this moment fully. Then we will feel at ease in the here and now and at ease with ourselves.
- Remembering Allah
One of the main ways of finding peace of heart is through the remembrance of Allah, and this should continue under all circumstances, whether through reading the Qur'an on a daily basis, performing extra optional prayers, doing good deeds to serve the community, etc.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
(Ar-Ra’d, 13:28) “Those who have believed and whose hearts are assured by the remembrance of Allah. Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured."
Thus by the remembrance of Allah our hearts find rest. This is the inner peace. Islam is living a life remembering Allah, and Allah says:
(Taha, 20:14) “Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.”
Everything needs satisfaction from something. We get inner satisfaction by ‘Dzikrullah’ or remembrance of Allah. Everything that we do involves the remembrance of Allah as Muslims. Al- Qur’an is Dhikr. So here is the way to achieve inner peace, to remember Allah (SWT) in all aspects of our lives.
- Staying Away from Contradiction
Contradiction in our beliefs and practices breaks the peace in our heart. If we believe in Musa (as) we will not live life like Pharaoh. We cannot be ungrateful and grateful at the same time. In fact, it is hard, or maybe impossible, for anyone to feel gratitude and any 'negative' emotion or thought at the same time.
Therefore, in this life, the unhappiest people are the hypocrites. Allah says in the Qur’an:
(Al-Baqarah, 2:10) “In their hearts is disease, so Allah has increased their disease; and for them is a painful punishment because they (habitually) used to like.”
This is not only true for hypocrites but also for everybody else. Contradiction always makes people unhappy. It creates conflict in our hearts and conscious minds. Our worship should be in harmony with the way we treat others. Our worship should give direction to our affairs and make us uphold justice and honor the rights that other people have. We should not lead a double life, one persona for the mosque and a different one for the outside world.
If we believe Prophet Muhammad (saw), we cannot be like the people who were against him in his time. If we believe in the Qur’an we should implement it, not disregard it. Otherwise, it will make us restless and unhappy in this life and will give us trouble and punishment in the hereafter.
- Being Trustful to Our Creator
In Islamic terminology we call this “tawakkul”. So what does it mean to rely on Allah; to have tawakkul in Him? It means to be firm in your heart. We make our plans and do our part in this world and then trust Allah’s undertaking on our behalf. We are certain that Allah is “Al-Wakeel” to us. This means that it is He who controls His worshipers’ affairs and takes care of them.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
(At-Talaq, 65:3) “…And whoever trust Allah - then He is sufficient for him…”
Iman results in tawheed and tawheed brings about tawakkul, and subsequently tawakkul produces real peace. If we trust Allah (SWT) we will have no worries as everything will be under His control. Even if things do not go according to plan, we know that Allah will give us something that is better.
So be pro-active, be positive, be dynamic.... and after that be content with what God provides for us and what He decides, as He is the All-Wise. This is when we will find in our heart true peace. Our trust in Allah will raise hope in our hearts because we are certain that nothing is impossible for Allah.
- Being Selective in Making Friends
As humans are social creatures by nature; we are always in need of friends and companions. Most of our lives depend on interaction with others. There are friends who remain true and trustful under all circumstances and there are friends who remain with you only desiring the good. Islam urges to have cordial relations with others and to avoid corruption and the harmful effects of the company of the wicked and the mischievous, strictly forbidding every kind of contact and intimacy with them.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
(Hud, 11:113) “And do not incline toward those who do wrong, lest you be touched by the Fire, and you would not have other than Allah any protectors; then you would not be helped.”
According to Imam Ibn Al Qayyim, there are four types of people:
- People that are like food; those that are necessary, like nourishment and you cannot live without them. These friends believe in and abide by our religion (Islam). They feed our soul positively and give great comfort and peace to our heart.
We should keep close contact with this type of friends because they can help increase our iman and always remind us of Allah. These are the people with knowledge of Allah-of His commands, of the scheming of His enemies, and of the diseases of the heart and their remedies- who wish well for Allah (SWT), His Prophet(s) and His servants. Associating with this type of person is an achievement in itself.
- People that are like medicine; they are beneficial, so we need them occasionally. They are only required when a disease sets in. When we are healthy, we do not need them. However, mixing with them is sometimes necessary for our livelihood, businesses, consultation and the like. Once what we need from them has been fulfilled, mixing with them should be avoided.
- People that are like disease; those people whose company is harmful. We will never profit either in this life or the next if we have them for company, and we will surely lose either one or both of our religion and our livelihood because of them. Amongst such people are those who neither speak any good that might benefit us, nor listen closely to us so that they might benefit from us. They cause distress to those in their company.
We can only associate with this type of people when there is no choice. In such a relationship, we should cling to good behavior, only presenting ourselves with our outward appearance, while disguising our inner soul, until Allah offers us a way out of our affliction and the means of escape from this situation.
- People that are like poison; this category are those people whose company is doom itself. It is like taking poison. If we keep them close we will either find an antidote or perish. Many people belong to this category. They are the people of religious innovation and misguidance, those who abandon the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and advocate other beliefs. They call what is the Sunnah a bid'a and vice-versa. We should not sit in their assemblies nor mix with them. The result of doing so will either be the death of our heart or, at the very best, falling seriously ill.
Friends affect our spirituality. That is why it is so important to be careful in choosing our close friends, so that they help us increase in faith and peace.
Achieving inner peace brings a sense of harmony and purpose to life. It helps to alleviate disorders and brings a sense of structure to life so that you can focus on what is really important. By achieving your own inner peace, you can become a better Muslim and really contribute to the benefit of your community.
Real happiness and peace can only be found in submitting to the commands of Allah, the Creator and the Sustainer of this world. We should never stop trying to achieve peace in our lives. We should be steadfast to remain in the Right Path. Inner peace is a gift from God and can only be achieved in the light of Islam. "The keys to the life of the heart lie in reflecting upon the Qur'an, being humble before Allah in secret, and leaving sins.” (Ibn Al Qayyim)