By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age
22 July 2017
is a Latin term, which means ‘the highest good’. Many people today, especially
in the West, consider freedom to be the Summum Bonum. But I don’t agree
with this. Freedom is, of course, important and necessary, but not unlimited or
total freedom. This is because after a point, freedom can become harmful for
others. Hence, freedom cannot be the Summum Bonum.
If freedom is not the Summum Bonum,
then what could be? I regard peace as the Summum Bonum. It is the
greatest good. Unlike unlimited freedom, unlimited peace is beneficial for one
and all. That is why the Quran says as-Sulh Khayr or “reconciliation is
best” (4:128), which, in other words, means peace is the best, it is the Summum
Bonum, the greatest good.
Now, why is peace the Summum Bonum?
To understand this, you need to reflect on God’s Creation Plan. In line with
this Plan, God has given freedom or free will to every human being. People are
free to use this freedom in a right way as well as to misuse it. Now, it simply
cannot happen that no one will misuse his or her God-given freedom. Because of
this, there are bound to be differences between people, which, if not skilfully
handled, could easily lead to conflict. In such situations, one must
unilaterally adopt a peaceful approach and method. This is the only way to
remain at peace, to live peacefully, and to peacefully resolve one’s differences
with others. This principle applies as much to individuals as it does to entire
What does peace mean? It means that even if
someone appears to be giving you some trouble, you should seek to maintain
peace to the maximum extent possible, being clear in your mind that peace is
the greatest good.
One reason why peace is the greatest good
is because without peace you simply cannot do anything constructive. You can’t
engage in business properly, in education, in sharing your faith with others or
any other such activity. You need peace for all these things.
Now, in this world, it is but natural that
sometimes people will do or say something that you might not like. The only way
if you want to maintain peace so that you can continue your life’s mission
peacefully is by refusing to get provoked by other people’s behaviour.
This principle is taught in Islam, too. It
was exemplified in the life of the Prophet Muhammad. For instance, in the case
of the Hudaibiya Treaty, the Prophet agreed to the conditions set by his
opponents, and in this way secured peace. The Quran refers this treaty as Itmam-e
Naymat (48:2). This means that the treaty signed at Hudaibiya was a sign of
completion of God’s favour to the Prophet.
Why does God call the treaty Itmam-e
Naymat? This is because now that peace had been established because of
the treaty, it provided the opportunity to do other, constructive things, using
Some people—and these include many
present-day Muslims—have a wrong concept of peace. They talk of a ‘just peace’
or ‘peace with justice’. They say, “We’ll agree to peace, we’ll agree to be
peaceful, but only if we get justice”. Now, this is unnatural and also totally
impossible. To bracket justice with peace is completely wrong. Those who link
peace with justice like this only make peace impossible.
According to Nature’s law, peace and
justice are two separate things. If you demand justice first, you can never
have peace. And there’s another thing to note here. In this world, ideal
justice is impossible. What is possible is ‘working justice’ or ‘practical
justice’. So, accept ‘working justice’ and don’t hanker after an impossible
ideal justice. Accepting the fact that in this world it is only ‘working
justice’ that is possible, put every effort first into establishing peace—peace
at any cost.
Now, peace in itself will not give you
justice. But what it will give you are ample opportunities to engage in
different sorts of positive work, using entirely peaceful means. And if you
avail of these opportunities, you can secure working justice, too.
There’s another issue to consider here. If
you engage in positive work, using entirely peaceful means, people will
appreciate and support your efforts. Let me cite my own example. Organizations
of members of other faiths often invite me to speak at their gatherings. At
such meetings, volunteers of our Centre for Peace and Spirituality (CPS) are
able to freely distribute our literature, including translations of the Quran
and books on Islamic spirituality. At these meetings, people of other faiths
very happily and willingly accept this literature from our volunteers. Our
volunteers are able to do this work with no obstruction at all from them. How
is this so? It is because we never complain about or protest against others.
But if you see Muslims across the world, they only complain. They protest
against others, make demands on them and wrongly blame them for their ills.
That is how their mind has become. But I tell our CPS volunteers, “We don’t
have the right to make demands on others. We must have concern for their
well-being in our hearts.” That is why Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and others all
respect us and treat us very well. They invite us to their meetings and gladly
listen to us when we share about Islam with them. How is this so? It is because
for us, peace is a way of life. If you are really peaceful—without and
within—and if you are really have the well-being of others in mind, no one will
become your enemy. Everyone will be your friend.
So, from all this you can see what a great
blessing peace is and how it leads to positivity. That is why the Quran regards
the peace treaty signed at Hudaybiyahas Itmam-e Naymat. That is to say,
all blessings are linked to peace. If peace is absent, hate, conflict, war and
terrorism will take its place. If peace is absent, you cannot do any
constructive work. Hence, we must be fully aware that the greatest issue is
Present-day Muslims have completely
forgotten this truth. Consider the Palestine issue, which has led to terrible
violence that shows no sign of ending. In 1948, Palestine was partitioned.
Roughly half the land was given to Jewish people and half to Arabs. Soon after
this, the Arabs began to fight. They wanted to rule over the whole of
Palestine. And then what happened? They lost almost everything! They were left
with almost nothing! If the Arabs had adopted the peaceful method, they could
have worked to develop the territory under their control, which also included
Jerusalem. Living at peace with Jewish people, they could have shared their
faith with them. At the same time, they could have learnt many good and useful
things from the Jewish people.
In this world, there is a great secret of
progress. And that is, interaction, meeting others. Distancing yourself from
others is ghettoism, which actually harms oneself. So, if Jews had come to
Israel, the Palestinian Arabs should have reached out to them, instead of
fighting them. They could have interacted with them and learnt many good things
from them. But they didn’t do that. They did just the opposite, and everyone
knows what the result of that course has been and continues to be—enormous
destruction and devastation.
According to Islam, fighting is no option
at all. There is only one option—and that is, peace. If the Arabs knew this
truth, they would have established peaceful relations with the Jewish people.
In this way, they could have done great things in the portion of Palestine that
they had been assigned by benefitting from Israel’s advancement in many fields,
such as education and economics. And in that way, they could also have saved
themselves from the devastation that they have suffered over so many decades.
But because they didn’t know or recognize the importance of peace, this did not
If you adopt the peace formula, if you live
according to the peace culture, you can avail of many opportunities. But if you
adopt the war formula, if you live in a culture of hate, you will lose
everything. Loss of peace is the greatest evil. So, that is why individuals and
communities must strive to establish and maintain peace at any cost.
Once, a Muslim asked me, “Why are so many
Muslims so violent?” I said to him, “They don’t know the importance of peace.
But from the Quran and the Hadith it can be proven that peace is the biggest
thing. Therefore, we must tell Muslims about this fact. We need to explain this
to them, with the help of references in the Quran and Hadith, from the lessons
of history and from our own personal experience. There is simply no short-cut
to peace.”I also informed this man that through our literature and other
efforts, many Muslims have changed their way of thinking and have become
advocates of peace. Instead of hating others, they want to build bridges with
them. Instead of antagonizing others, they are seeking to reach out to them to
call them to God, using entirely peaceful methods and inspired by a genuine
concern for their well-being.
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