TRUE ISLAM AND THE MISUSE OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF
The Qur'an teaches that, contrary to the divine purpose, Satan, the hidden enemy of humankind, created divisions among human beings and provokes them to war and to relationships of domination. God warns humankind in general, and believers in particular against this satanic plan to divide the human family: Beware, he is your open enemy! Satan endeavours to make us blind to this simple fact; but we must not let our enemy succeed in these divisive intentions. It may well be, for example, quite unwise to expect that something good may come out of our waging a war. The Qur'an warns believers against such satanic instigations.
Let me illustrate this with an example. Satan may incite disbelievers to approach believers in a hostile spirit. Then he will attempt to provoke the believers to retaliation. The purpose is to create tension. Satan cannot tolerate a respectful discussion between these two opposing groups. He is interested in heated arguments and may even provoke a violent clash. The Qur'an suggests that if heated discussion is created or if people do not have the right intentions, the believers should simply withdraw from the discussion. It is recommended that they say "peace be upon you" and depart.
Tranquillity and peace of mind or sakinah is regarded as a great blessing from God. Those who have sakinah act rationally and with sobriety. Unlike ignorant people who act fanatically, (true) believers are capable of making decisions with a cool mind. Early in the history of the commentary, believers avoided a war situation through wise judgement and restraint, in spite of the fact that they had the upper hand over their adversaries. As Muhammad Asad says: "It was a moral victory achieved by the Tyreaty of Hudaybiyyah" that led to the peaceful conquest of Makkah. The generous terms of the treat might suggest to an ignorant person that the believers were the losers. However, in time it became clear to the Prophet's community that the gesture of mercy had led to the success of the prophetic mission that Muhammad and his faithful companions were striving to revive.
Irfan Ahmad Khan
Dr Irfan Ahmad Khan is president of the World Council of Muslims for Interreligious Relations. He is also the Chair of the Interreligious Engagement Project and a trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions.
Republished with the permission of Interreligious Insight magazine.
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