Peacebuilding in Islam


by Ayi Yunus Rusyana

Abu Nimer in “Islamic Principles of Nonviolence and Peace Building” describes the principles and assumptions which characterize conflict resolution and nonviolent beliefs and practice in Islam, such as the pursuit of justice, social empowerment by doing good (khayr and ihsan), the universality and human dignity, equality, the sacredness of human life, a quest for peace, peacemaking, forgiveness, deeds, actions, and individual responsibility and choice, patience, ummah, collaborative actions, and solidarity, inclusivity and participatory processes, pluralism and diversity. These values and principles, some of them will be explained below, are strongly supported by Islamic text and tradition (Qur’an and Hadith).

In Islam, acting for the cause of God is synonymous with pursuing justice. Islam calls for action to do justice whether one is strong or weak. There are Qur’anic verses that carry a strong message concerning the social justice and responsibility reflected in Islam. For example, Sura al-Nahl (bee): 90 states: “Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deed, and injustice and rebellion.” This verse clearly describes the Muslim’s duty to work for justice and reject oppression and injustice on interpersonal and structural levels.

Islam also asserts that the protection of human life and respect for human dignity as a sacred thing. In addition, God stress the honor on human He bestowed. “We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them tith transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred in them special favors, above a great part of Our creation.” (17:70) Thus, the work, worship, and life of a person should be aimed at preserving, protecting, and achieving human pride and dignity as main principles and values in Islam.

Peace in Islam is reflected in the meaning of the word itself in Arabic. The word “Islam” means the “making of peace;” thus, the idea of “peace” is the dominant one in Islam. A Muslim, according to the Qur’an, is a person who has made peace with God and others. Peace with God implies complete sub mission to His will, which is the source of all purity and goodness, and peace with others implies the doing of good to fellow humans: “Nay, whoever submits himself entirely to God, and is the doer of good to others, he has his reward from His Lord…” (2:112)

In Islam, as in many religions, it is a higher virtue to forgive than to maintain hatred. Justice ought to be pursued and evil should be fought. Nevertheless, forgiveness remains a higher virtue (42:40 and 24:43). Forgiveness is the way people (Muslim and non-Muslim) ought to deal with each other. “Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad) and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” (7:199) The Prophet himself, when he entered Mecca with his Muslim followers set an example of a great forgiving attitude towards Meccans who fought him by declaring it as a sanctuary. The Prophet always prayed when he was persecuted, saying: “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.”

The set values and principles identified in this paper, according to Abu Nimer, constitutes a framework for Islamic peacebuilding that confirms Satha-Anand’s eight thesis which reveals the connectedness between nonviolence and peacemaking in Islam: “Islam itself fertile soil for nonviolence because of its potential for disobedience, strong discipline, sharing and social responsibility, perseverance and self-sacrifice, and the belief in the unity of the Muslim community and the oneness of mankind”.

These non violent values are concretely done by Prophet Muhammad on the Meccan periode (610-622 C.E). He showed no inclination toward the use of force in any form, even for self defense. He lived a life of nonviolent resistance, which was reflected in all his instruction and teaching during that period. The Prophet’s teachings were focused on values of patience and steadfastness in facing oppression. Wahidudin Khan, quoted by Abu Nimer, states “Of the 23-year period of prophethood, the initial 13 years were spent by Prophet in Mecca. The Prophet fully adopted the way of pacifism or nonviolence during this time. There were many such issues in Mecca at the time which could have been the subject of clash and confrontation. But, by avoiding all such issues, the Prophet of Islam strictly limited his sphere to peaceful propagation of the word of God”.

Unfortunately, some both Muslim scholars and Western scholars seem to forget Meccan period of Prophet’s life containing Islamic principles of non violence and peace building. They do not consider this period as the important period of nonviolent teaching in Prophet’s life. Conversely, some scholars overemphasized, and some seem to have been “obsessed” with, the principle of Jihad (self exertion) in Islam. Violent Jihad has been described as an ultimate method that Muslim employ to settle their internal and external differences. Furthermore, there are some Muslim scholars who have an erroneous opinion that some non violence verses in Qur’an are revised by Jihad verses. They always view the behaviors and expressions of Muslims solely through a “Jihad lens”, equating the rise of interest in Islamic religion with Islamic fundamentalism, the emergence of radical Islamic movements and the perception that Islam unequivocally legitimizes the use of force by government and religious movements as well.

2 thoughts on “Peacebuilding in Islam

  1. salamu’alaikum,

    what do you think about nonstop violence against moslem all over the world?
    as we know once Al Mu’tashim sent his troops to defend the dignity of a moslem women.
    what have you done for your moslem’s society around you or ummah? are you well knowledge enough about quran? are you one of scholars that received dollar in your live and study and you proud of it?
    all my questions can revealed your lens about jihad……

    ma’assalamah
    salamu’alaikum

  2. Wa ‘alaikum salam warahmatullahi wa barakaatuh…

    Thank you for your great comment akhi Al-Mufy
    First, I condemn all of violences against Moslems all over the world. But I can not give a comment about what Al-Mu’tasim did, because I did not know much about it, would you like to give further information? In my opinion, the actor of violence must be punished in justice…
    Second, I do involve both in Muhammadiyah, one of the largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia, and in Peace Generation. I try to diseminate Islamic values within theese organisations and empower society or ummah.
    Third, I have been studying Islam since 20 years ago, from Islamic Boarding School (Pesantren) until State Islamic University. Al-hamdulillah, I have some knowledges about Qur’an, Sunnah, Fiqh, Ushul Fiqh, etc. I also teach fiqh and dirasah Islamiyah in State Islamic University, Bandung-Indonesia.
    Forth, I did not obtain some dollars for my studies, I fund my study with myself and obtain some rupiahs from my government, especially from the Ministry of Religion-Republic of Indonesia.
    Wassalaamu ‘alaikum warahmatullahi wa barakaatuh…

    Warm regard,
    Ayi Yunus Rusyana

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