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Defining Peace: Modern versus Islamic Definition of Peace

(Excerpted from “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough”)
 Dr. Javed Jamil
             A concerted campaign is being run all over the world, denigrating Islam as the religion that promotes violence and Muslims as the people that resort to violence. Clever remarks like “Not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims” are still being circulated to put Muslims on the defensive. The impact on Muslim masses has been profound, even though there is no way it can be measured. Unfortunately, most Muslim clerics and thinkers have become victims of this propaganda, and have adopted an evidently apologetic stand in their defence of a beleaguered Islam. Commoners however have responded by either becoming despondent at the condition of their fellow religionists or indignant at the treatment being meted out to them
            It will be in the fitness of things if the meaning of Grand Peace that Islam espouses is introduced at the very outset. It will then be easier for readers to comprehend the developments in the past few centuries and their impact on human life.
Political Definition of Peace
            There are numerous definitions of peace, including those given by the world forums of eminence, individual thinkers and institutions. We will however concentrate mainly on the definitions given by the United Nations, which is unquestionably the biggest and the most powerful body of the community of nations that inhabit the earth. Let me reproduce here the definitions and programmes given by the UNESCO Culture of Peace:
“• Peace is dynamic. Peace is a just and non-violent solution of conflicts. It generates equilibrium in social interactions, so that all of the members of society can live in harmonious relations with each other. Peace is good for society. Where there is violence there is no peace. Where there is injustice and absence of liberty, there is no peace. In order for there to be an equilibrium in the dynamic of social interactions, peace must be founded on justice and liberty.
• Preventative diplomacy is action to prevent disputes from arising between parties, to prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur.
• Peace-making is action to bring hostile parties to agreement, essentially through such peaceful means as those foreseen in Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations.
• Peace-keeping is the deployment of a United Nations presence in the field, hitherto with the consent of all the parties concerned, normally involving United Nations military and/or police personnel and frequently civilians as well. Peace-keeping is a technique that expands the possibilities for both the prevention of conflict and the making of peace.
• Peace-building is action to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict. Only sustained, co-operative work to deal with underlying economic, social, cultural and humanitarian problems can place an achieved peace on a durable foundation.”
It can be noted that the above set of rules defining peace is primarily an agenda ”to prevent disputes from arising between parties, to prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur”  “so that all of the members of society can live in harmonious relations with each other.” This is obviously a political definition of peace. This definition is not only incomplete but is highly deficient in many ways and will have dangerous implications because its very foundation is erroneous. Though it speaks of peace as “dynamic”, the peace it promotes has hardly any dynamism about it: it is not only static rather than dynamic but also negative rather than positive. Peace is regarded as essentially not a positive quality but mere absence of conflicts. In negative terms too, this indicates only an absence of armed conflicts. This definition of peace is neither all-encompassing, including all that is positive nor all-abandoning excluding all that is negative. This “peace” is primarily the brainchild of those who seek to promote a certain type of ideology and accompanied culture for their own selfish interests. What an irony! Peace based on selfishness! The consequences of such a strategy are what they should be: total all-enveloping chaos at every level. The same approach is adopted in various other documents. See for example the following: Appeal to the International Community from a Round Table of Institutions Who Have Won the Nobel Prize for Peace (excerpts)
“Peace is not only the absence of armed conflict, it is also a dynamic set of relationships of coexistence and co-operation among and within peoples, characterised by the respect for the human values set forth particularly in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the concern to provide the greatest possible well-being for all….Peace is increasingly threatened each day by the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction, by the great economic and social inequalities, which divide mankind, and by contempt for basic human rights and the dignity of the individual….Peace requires ever greater efforts to overcome these threats. It is only possible in a world in which the observance of international law replaces violence, fear and injustice, in which states voluntarily agree to limit their national sovereignty in the general interest, and in which states employ existing procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes between nations….   Finally, the round table asks the mass media to employ to a greater extent their skills and immense resources towards building and maintaining peace, to foster a spirit of equity and solidarity among peoples and to draw attention to the personal and collective sacrifice inherent in the pursuit of those ideals.” (Source: Issued by representatives of the following: Institute of International Law, International Peace Bureau)
Spiritual and Social Definitions
            The above-quoted documents fail to mention peace at individual and family levels, and only concentrate on national and international violence. There are others, mainly the spiritual masters belonging to different religions including mystics, who stress on individualistic notion of peace. (Spiritual definition) For them, tranquility of mind and soul represent true peace, which is attained through belief in God or gods, through meditation, devotion, self sacrifice and other spiritual exercises ranging from self-appeasing to self-sacrificing. They tend to ignore family and social dimensions of peace, their argument resting on the premise that if individuals are peaceful society will be peaceful as well. They tend to bury in the cemetery of their ideology the fact that hundred per cent of the members of society can never be truly peaceful, and that a very minuscule percentage is enough to cause disastrous consequences on society. There is another definition, the social one, of peace promoted by sociologists for whom the equality of the distribution of wealth is the chief motive. They argue that if the distribution of wealth and opportunities in society are not equitable there is no way peace can be ensured.
Comprehensive Islamic Definition of Peace
            The truth however is that no definition of peace can be complete unless it takes into account the following:
            First, human existence has three essential constituents: individual, family and society. For peace to carry any real meaning, it has to be at all these three levels. Peace at individual level means physical, mental, social and spiritual health, to which must be added what we understand as Satisfaction. Peace at family level means a cordial relationship between spouses, between parents and children and among children themselves, and absence of all irritants in a peaceful family life.   Peace at social level means peaceful co-existence of all human beings inhabit the earth anywhere, individually or as communities and nations, and absence of all forms of exploitation, oppression and conflicts. In short, individual heath, family peace and social order may be regarded as the three essential constituents of Grand Peace.
            Second, peace must involve all stages of life: foetal, paediatric, adult, geriatric, and post-death life. This alone can lead to eternal peace. 
            Islam literally means Peace, and is defined as submission to God, which means that peace cannot be obtained without total submission to the Lord of the universe. Similarly Iman means total satisfaction, which again can be obtained only through unadulterated commitment to God. When Quran calls, “Enter Islam wholeheartedly”, it does not merely invite its adherents to follow the institutionalised system of Islam; it also tells them that the real, comprehensive and long lasting peace can be achieved only through total acceptance of the System of God.
Quran states: “The System for you is the (system of) Peace” and “Call them to the House of Peace.” In Islam, peace is not just a state of absence of war or chaos in society; it has the broadest and the most comprehensive meaning, in terms of extent, depth and longevity, including all the components of peace described above. It has to be not just personal, not just family and not just social; it has to be at all the three levels and in the widest discernible sense. At individual level, it does not merely mean peace of mind; it encompasses physical, mental, spiritual and social health. At family level, it comprises peaceful relationship between husband and wife, between parents and children, and among children themselves. At social level, it does not only indicate absence of war or chaos, it also means absence of all forms of crimes and social tensions, and prevalence of mutual brotherhood and justice. Peace is also not something bound by time or space; it is as much for this world as for Hereafter; peace is eternal.
Peace the Essence of Civilisation
            In the perfect sense of the word “Civilisation”, no world is civilized. Thanks to the false, atheistic ideologies that have dominated the world during last two centuries, the world is becoming more and more barbaric with the passing of the time, despite its progress on scientific and technological front. The Muslim World, on the other hand, has not yet fully recovered from two centuries of Western onslaught on their nations, their systems and their colonization, and is still in the process of developing a world view of their own. If they are relatively more civilized, it is largely because of their belief system. But they have a long way to go to make the world realize what are the real parameters of civilization, and to be in a position to make their position recognized by the world at large.
            In a relative sense of the term, Muslim countries are most civilized countries of the world today. But it is only in relative and not in absolute terms. The truth remains that despite being “the most civilized”, they are not civilized enough. Their positives emanate from their belief system and the positive effects of the partial ways in which they follow their religion. But as they follow Islam only partially the results are also partial. In Islam, peace is the real essence of civilization. Islam does not merely promote Peace; Islam is peace itself. One who has entered Islam wholeheartedly has entered peace in its entirety. One who has accepted any part of its moral, social and legal principles is on the way to enjoy at least some of the fruits of peace. One who has left some parts of it has lost at least some dimensions of peace. Finally, one, who has disproved everything that Islam preaches, has put oneself away from the path of peace and on the course of chaos. 
Islam does not rule the current world with the result that chaos prevails, as is evident from the figures cited in the preceding chapters. Muslims of the current world have adopted Islam partially. This partial application has deprived them of the peace in its entirety. Still they are in a much better state of peace than the people living in the so-called developed world are. This is evident from the fact that they have
• One of the lowest rates of murders;
• Almost negligible incidence of suicides;
• Very low rates of rapes;
• Negligible consumption of alcohol and alcohol-related deaths and other problems;
• Very low rate of gambling related problems;
• Extremely low level of family break-ups;
• Extremely low number of prostitutes and pornographic actors among them;
• Negligible level of sexual abuse of children;
• Very low incidence of sex-related, alcohol related and gambling related diseases;
• Relatively low incidence of drug addiction;
• Relatively low incidence of psychiatric illnesses;
• Relatively very low level of the consumption of sedatives and tranquillizers;
• Very low incidence of single parents, negligible number of children born out of wedlock;
• Relatively much lower level of promiscuity and other sexual perversions;
• Very low level of abortions including teenage pregnancies, etc;
• Relatively low incidence of several diseases including Cancers of Penis and Cervix (due to circumcision), sex transmitted diseases, Urinary Tract Infections, other cancers due to alcohol, etc;
            The world must know that if Islamic principles are allowed to function properly, every year more than 80 million lives can be saved. These include
• 2 million murders
• 2.2 million suicides
• 5 million deaths from AIDS
• 5 million deaths from smoking
• 3.3 million deaths associated with alcohol
• 2 million deaths associated with smoking, gambling and drugs
• 70 million cases of feticide                 
            Even if feticide is excluded, more than 10 million people would have been saved every year from falling prey to the unwanted kinds of death had Islamic legal and socio-economic system been in force. These are no ordinary figures. These are staggering statistics from all accounts. And adding the figures of feticide, more than 80 million lives are lost just because the laws of God are not followed.
In the US alone,
• More than 200,000 people are assaulted with murderous intents every year (more than 18,000 are killed);
• More than 30, 000 die of AIDS;
• More than 100, 000 die of alcohol, smoking and drugs;
• Half a million of foetuses are aborted.
            For a few thousands dead in terrorist attacks, the world is made hostage, billions of dollars are put to the fire, cities devastated and millions of innocents killed. For millions of deaths as the result of the pursuance of socio-economic policies dictated by the forces of globalisation, virtually nothing is done except a few cosmetic measures.
Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map” and  “Qur’anic Paradigms of Sciences & Society” (First Vol: Health), “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and Other works include “The Devil of Economic Fundamentalism”, “The Essence of the Divine Verses”, “The Killer Sex”, “Islam means Peace” and “Rediscovering the Universe”. Read more about him at Facebook page:; also He can be contacted at [email protected].