War and Peace
The Review of Religions, May/June 1993
The sole purpose of this article is to explore possible foundations for international peace in the light of the teachings of the Holy Quran and to demonstrate a practical possibility of putting an end to the phenomenon of global hostilities and warfare on a well founded basis. In an essay like this it is not possible to claim either extensiveness or intensification. I can only hope to discuss a few of the problems involved in restoring and maintaining international peace. I shall, however, try to develop the argument logically to prove the superability and indispensability of the eternal and immutable principles of religion and morality in transforming conditions of enmity into conditions of amity and in achieving a lasting democracy of nations – the ideal of all men and women of conscience.
The history of mankind, starting from the murder of Abel, is replete with instances of organised warfare, torture and persecution. It is no exaggeration to say that the history of mankind is a history of bloodshed. At the very early stage of evolution, man started creating psychological barricades on the basis of geography, clan, religion, colour of the skin, socio-economic philosophies and other such grounds and until now has managed to maintain such artificial segregation, ironically, at the expense of his own existence. History tells us that blood was shed, in due course, on every possible ground, no matter how trivial, and it was shed always in vain. The point can be supported by scores of examples ancient and modern. The Assyrian’s atrocities, the Crucifixion, the Catacombes, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Spanish civil war, the Russian Revolution, Fascism, Nazism, Communism, the Concentration camps, the two Great wars, the Vietnam War, the Great Depression, Failure of the League of Nations etc; are the facts which stand out like gravestones and remind us of our failure to achieve the ideal of a peaceful international co-existence.
More recently events in Cambodia, Lebanon, Germany, Iran, Iraq, India, Afghanistan, Indonesia and numerous other places show just how desperately far away we are from peace. People are still persecuted for no other reason than the colour of their skin, their supposed racial origin and the shape of their belief. The Jewish-Muslim conflict in Middle East, the Hindu-Muslim conflict in India, the Iran-Iraq war, the Indo-Pak war, the Apartheid and other such events dominate the headlines which reflect the present day socio-economico-political climate. Moreover, the organised persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan, the Gulf War and the brutal treatment of the Bosnian Muslims are too well-known and too fresh to deserve any more comment and have left a deep scar on the face of humanity. The phenomenon is still going on.
Add to this recurrent famines in many parts of the world and near to destitution conditions in many others. Morality has sunk so far that even in this field, man has failed to do what is necessary to alleviate the situation. The phenomenon of occasional TV coverage of the plight of the famine-stricken areas intervalled by an advertisement for “Pedigree-chum” without causing the slightest stir in the minds of people, sufficiently indicates that men have become indifferent spectators of human affairs.
The plight of the famine-stricken areas of the world is not something, it must be emphasised here, which is beyond the control of man for this lies against the scheme of human creation.
The fact of the matter is that plight of famine stricken people lies within man’s reach, but the will and determination to do so is not there. Given the needed spirit of sacrifice, will and determination, holds Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the Supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Community in Islam:
If only a few states of the Gulf had joined hands to relieve the immense sufferings of humanity at large, they would have resolved the problem of hunger and drought in Africa without feeling a pinch.
What is, therefore, actually needed is dynamic positive spirit to eliminate the suffering of the deprived and the plight of the exploited and recover for them the freedom and dignity which the present social system has denied them. Without such a spirit, a large proportion of the human race cannot be prevented from perishing from hunger and as matters stand, the world without hunger and war seems to be a very distant ideal.
In complete contrast to the historical experience, the purpose of man s creation was that he should become the manifestation of God’s attributes. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has beautifully described the object of creation and his description contains a powerful message for practical implementation:
The ultimate purpose of creation was to create a conscious being of the highest order who would not only voluntarily submit to the most consummate beauty of God as reflected in His creation directly but would also lead fellow creation of the highest order (i.e. mankind) to this ultimate goal of creation or at least make it possible for those among them who desire to follow Him.
There is no gainsaying that war runs counter to the object of creation. The Holy Quran has, therefore, repeatedly condemned war, declaring it to be a destructive fire:
Whenever they kindle a fire of war Allah extinguishes it, and they strive to create disorder in the earth, and Allah loses not those who create disorder. (5:65)
Accordingly, the only form of war which is allowed in Islam is the war which is waged in order to extinguish war itself-a defensive war. Whenever war becomes inevitable, as it does at times, Islam urges Muslims to extinguish the conflagration at the expense of least possible damage to life and property:
And had it not been for Allah’s repelling men, some of them by the others, the earth would have become filled with disorder. But Allah is Munificent to all people. (2:252)
The keystone, therefore, of the Islamic philosophy of war, lies in adopting a lesser evil when there is a choice. Islam knows of no other war.
If we are going to meet the challenge of constant warfare, it is important that we should tackle the problem at its root and not disperse our efforts by dealing with its manifestations. Let us, therefore, look at certain economic and social consequences of war as well as at the philosophy underlying it. It is only after precisely knowing the causes working under the surface, that the problem of war can be rooted out.
War is the most obvious obstacle to economic growth. It is no exaggeration to say that unless war is brought under control, there can be no possibility of establishing stable prosperity or of abolishing poverty. The milieu of lasting peace is necessary for stable economic growth, for expanding trade throughout the world, for greater confidence in the future, for maximum investment and risk taking and for voiding unproductive investment in war-related industries as well as preventing the wasteful destruction of the existing capital. The truth is that economic advantages of peace and economic disadvantages of war can never be exaggerated.
Viewed from a different angle, the institution of war can easily be manipulated by the great powers in order to seek new markets and consequently, to enrich their own economies. The World War II, for example, greatly enriched the United States and converted it from a debtor to a creditor nation. At the end of the war, the Allies became totally dependent upon U. S. foreign investment just to keep circulating in the vicious circle. The beneficial effects of the Gulf War can, accordingly, be very well visualised. Thus viewed, war is treated like a commodity which can be exported at an asking price with the result that the warring countries are tied down to the exporting country for ever and ever.
In spite of the fact that economic forces are of great importance in interpreting the phenomenon of war, it is a political problem. It is true that economic interests are involved in wars, but to suppose the economic conflicts, or even economic difficulties, are the sole cause of wars is to shoot very wide of the mark. The truth is that, on the whole, war exists not because of the existence of conflicts but because of the existence of independent nations – war is the price we pay for independence or at least for irresponsible independence (extreme nationalism). The presence of economic conflicts between New York and Pennsylvania, or between England and Scotland coupled with the absence of war between them is a case in point. The reason for the absence of war between them is the fact that New York and Pennsylvania, on the one hand, and England and Scotland, on the other are not independent nations, but are parts of a larger political unit. As long as England and Scotland were separate nations there was constant war between them. The union of crowns in 1603 and the union of parliaments in 1707 abolished international wars between them.
It is important to realise that war is only one form of conflict, the form that conflict takes when it runs across the boundaries of independent nations. The abolition of war would not mean the abolition of conflict. It is not even desirable to abolish conflicts; conflict conducted in a decent and responsible manner is essential to any form progress, whether in knowledge, in ideas, or in material things. Competition, as is said, is the child of progress – no new idea can come into the world without knocking out an outworn notion and no new method can come into use without destroying the old. The case against war, be it noted, is not that it is a conflict, but that it is an indecent and irresponsible form of conflict which does not seem to result in progress, but rather in waste of lives and resources. Success in war comes not to the virtuous or the right but to the strong, and unfortunately virtue and strength go by no means always hand in hand.
The abolition of war, thus, means not the abolition of conflicts, but the diversion of conflicts into more fruitful channels. In domestic politics we have in great part accomplished this end. The law courts, the ballot box, the election campaign, the pamphlet, the magazine article, the newspaper – these are the most fruitful arenas of battle. The great task of the present is to extend the areas of peaceful conflict and to diminish the area where peaceful conflict breaks down. This can only be done by the widespread development of a sense of responsibility not only among governments but also among private citizens, not for a limited group but for all people, for it is when the sense of mutual responsibility breaks down that war ensues. This conclusion represents the central point around which this study revolves.
The truth of this proposition can be seen very clearly if we contrast the racial conflict in the United States with the conflict between Americans and Iraqis with reference to the Gulf War. In spite of the acute conflict between the races in America, the situation is still regarded as a problem rather than a fight. No matter what their colour, they are all Americans. One can still smell a sense of mutual responsibility operating to stop the conflict leading towards organised warfare. In the case of international war, on the other hand, it is not the intensity of the conflict that matters, but the fact that no sense of community or joint responsibility unites the contending parties. The truth seems to be that each nation fights wars, primarily, for its own independence. The ultimate motive blind the Gulf War, for example, was to secure, once and for all, the United States unquestionable independence.
Here we seem to be faced with a dilemma. We recognise, on the one hand, the odious nature of war, yet on the other hand we must recognise that war springs from the desire for national independence – a desire which is universally recognised to be good and admirable. The Holy Prophet of Islam SAW has declared the love of one’s country as part of one’s faith. The love of country and the desire for independence are perhaps the two strongest motivations in the world today. The love of one’s country is so much better than the love of self that it is regarded as the prince of virtues. Nevertheless, it is this very love of one’s country and of independence which is bringing our world down in ruins and which frustrates every attempt to build a better world-order. We have here one of the most important of our day illusions.
There is only one way out of this impasse. It is the separation of the love of one’s country from the desire for independence that leads to destruction. The desire for independence has over the past years given birth to the philosophies of impetuous nationalism under the guise of patriotism, aggressive anti-foreignism and offensive racialism – all of which have engulfed the entire world. The world is still ablaze with waves of such sentiments. The National Front in Britain and Neo-Nazi Organisations in Germany, for instance, point to the disturbing fact that the extreme nationalism is by no means a spent force. Indeed it is hard to imagine a world of greater tensions and frictions or of greater ill-will and mutual distrust among nations. Nevertheless, it would be a tragic error to draw pessimistic conclusions from these observations, however disturbing. To all these hesitations and limitations, however, there is an optimistic rejoinder to make. The solution to the problem is close at hand; the need is to solve the problem of unity in diversity. A completely homogeneous world is neither possible nor desireable. The real beauty lies, as will be seen, in variety. What is actually missing is a sincere search for that beauty and committed effort to create real nation states and to foster in them – by moral means, spirit of genuine community and fellowship. Granted the existence of larger international political unity and the condemnation of nationalism interpreted as exclusiveness, fanaticism or chauvinism, then the ideal would be many separately organised political units. Different cultures or different groups aspiring to a separate culture and living style, would be given a compatible form of political independence within a larger nation state and that nation itself would belong to a still larger grouping of nations sharing traditions and values as well as being united by common economic and political interests.
A perusal of the Holy Quran reveals that such an institutional arrangement has already been provided within the Islamic structure. The Holy Quran states:
O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you tribes and subtribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable among you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All Aware. (49:14)
The Islamic concept of uniformity amidst diversity can be assimilated to a rainbow, where different colours are miraculously blended together to generate an unexplained beauty and a heavenly splendour. The blending of different colours is so refined and so harmonious that the lines of demarcation between different colours totally disappear, yet at the same time one can see the independent existence of beautiful colours. The rainbow owes its beauty to its variety of colours. In the Islamic scheme of human society such a blending of variety is possible and the Holy Quran tells us that righteousness is the only blender. Righteousness is the seed from which the tree of love and compassion grows and in the course of time spreads out to encompass the entire world. The darkness of human passions and vested interests can only be dispelled by the light of righteousness, for it is something which transcends the artificial barriers of geography, race, colour and religion.
Righteousness enables man to get out of the narrow shell of artificial society in which he lives and get into the ocean of reality where unlimited opportunities of development await him. Righteousness has the power to bestow upon human society the beauty of a rainbow with the result that different individuals belonging to different classes, occupations, cast systems, religions and countries can be united together in harmony to fulfil the object of creation. The reader will, in this respect, benefit from the last sermon of the Holy Prophet of Islam, in which he ruled out all such lines of demarcation once and for all:
O men what I say to you, you must remember. All Muslims are brothers to one another. All of you are equal . All men, to whatever nation or tribe they may belong and whatever station in life they may hold, are equal. Even the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to another. No one has any right to claim superiority over another. You are as brothers. O men your God is One and your ancestor is one. An Arab possesses no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab. A white man is in no way superior to a black man, nor for that matter is a black man better than a white man, but only to the extent to which he discharges his duty to God and man. The most honoured among you in the sight of God is he who is most righteous among you. Even as this month is sacred, this land inviolate, and this day holy, so has God made the lives, property and honour of every man sacred. To take any man’s life or his property, or attack his honour, is as unjust and wrong as to violate the sacredness of this day, this month, and this territory. What I command you today is not meant only for today. It is meant for all time. You are expected to remember it and to act upon it until you leave this world and go to the next to meet your Maker.What I have said to you, you should communicate to the ends of the earth. Maybe those who have not heard me may benefit by it more than those who have heard.
The passage quoted is self-explanatory and needs no comment. One cannot however resist saying that the implications of this sermon are impressive and man is in need of no other charter of human liberty equity and peace. Should the contents of this great Sermon become the summum bonum of the constitutions of the world, the dream of paradise on earth would soon be fulfilled, conflict and tension would disappear and, on some not distant day, peace would become the rule of the day.
To get back to the problem of conflict between the love of one’s country and the desire for independence, we redefine, in the light of the above, the state, using the words of Muhammed Zafrullah Khan, as follows:
In as much as God’s sovereignty extended over the whole universe the ultimate ideal of a state in Islam is a universal federation, or confederation of autonomous states, associated together for upholding freedom of conscience for the maintenance of peace and co-operation in promoting human welfare throughout the world.
Apply this definition and the question of separating the love of one’s country from the desire for independence is altogether eliminated, for this definition ensures that both these sentiments would lead to a point where national and international interests coincide and, instead of competing they would become complementary to each other.
Implicit, thus, in the concept of patriotism is the concept of righteousness and accordingly, patriotism without the garment of righteousness leads to extreme nationalism which is detrimental to world peace. It is only after such a radical change in the definition of the state, that a true democracy of nations can be achieved.
Such a scheme of defining things is not meant to lead to a conflict free society. Such a society, obviously, cannot be achieved unless autonomous states are completely merged into a world-state which is an idea that can immediately be rejected. The idea of the development of a world-state is utterly impracticable. The argument that the effective size of a nation depends on its means of transport loses its validity when applied to the possibility of a world-state, for inherent in such a social unit are grave dangers for peace and liberty. A world state particularly if it is based on military force, might easily degenerate into a world tyranny. Indeed it might almost be said that a world-state has been tried and failed. The Roman Empire included almost the whole communicable world and fell apart. A world, as is said, in which there are refugees is bad enough, but a world in which there is no place of refuge would be worse. A uniform and authoritarian world-state might easily become a horrible and inescapable tyranny, destructive of liberty, of variety, of creativity and of progress. The Holy Quran, therefore, rules out such a possibility of ultimate social integration.
Accordingly, the alternative suggested by the Holy Quran in the field of international co-operation is a world-federal organisation with member states sovereign within their own territories concerning their special and particular interests and problems but knit together in one organisation for securing more completely and effectively that which may be the common concern of all them.
A social unit is a psychological rather than a physical fact. As Professor Greaves has put it:
What makes a society is the fact that its members are conscious of being one.
The sense of community, thus, rests on awareness of common interests and common purpose. It is only such an awareness, which creates a sense of community as well as an obligation. The whole concept of authority relies on agreement as to common ends. The recognition of obligation, of the duty to obey and the right to command, springs from a unity of purpose. A world federation can be founded on a strong awareness of the unity of purpose. Without such an awareness, no world federation can purposefully survive, for such a survival demands that it must serve the common end.
As soon as we apply the theory to the United Nations, an implicit disintegration starts flashing. The fact which stands out is that the member nations have become more conscious of differences of purpose than of similarity and are no longer willing to co-operate in achieving the agreed ends. The maintenance of peace and security and the promotion of economic and social development are the two overriding objectives of the United Nations. It has however virtually failed on both these objectives.
The main cause behind this failure has been a lack of unity of purpose and of a sense of community – a unity and a sense which, as already intimated, provided all the necessary reasoning for the establishment of the United Nations. The biggest blow to the sense of community comes from the Veto power. The institution of Veto proved to be the first leak which sank the great ship of the United Nations into the ocean of vested interests. Which is why the United Nations has virtually become an instrument of injustice by the ‘powerful five’. Take the case of the Palestine problem for instance. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has pointed out that the Security Council has passed twenty-seven different resolutions at different times declaring Palestine to be the victim of transgression and instructing Israel to vacate the occupied territories. Interestingly enough, twenty-seven times the United States used, singly, the power of Veto to turn down the united decision of the nations of the world. The absurdity of the fact makes one wonder what the United Nations is all about. As long as the Veto system is in operation, the terms ‘peace’ and ‘justice’ will have to be redefined, for under the present structure, to wish for the ideal of true peace and natural justice is tantamount to a dream of an innocent child who stretches out his little hands towards the moon.
The manipulation of the United Nations by the United States and its Allies, and the manifest injustices arising there from is well illustrated by a joke. A lion persuades a fox to go hunting with him for food. At the end of the day the two bring back their catch. The lion divides the day’s catch into three parts and then addresses the fox: ‘The first part is mine for I am king of the jungle’, he soberly declares. ‘The second part is mine for I was equal partner in today’s endevour’. ‘The third part’, he brazenly declares, ‘is yours if you have the power to snatch it’. As matters stand the third world countries will have to go without their share of justice so long as they do not exhibit the required power to snatch it. The ‘king of the jungle’ has acquired an exclusive monopoly over justice and peace. The only brand of the product, that is available in the market today is the one labeled ‘Made in America’ for the United States and United Nations are simply two sides of the same shield and it can safely be claimed that the latter is nothing more than a ‘foreign office’ to the former. The nations of the world will either have to change their taste or their attitudes. Although it requires will, courage, determination and steadfastness, the latter is the real solution. Explaining the justice apathy of the United Nations, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has written:
The present United Nations have proved again and again to be a powerful organisation working not for justice but for political ends of whichever nation has the greatest lobbying power. The concept of right and wrong has never played a part in the decision-making process of the United Nations in our recent memory nor in the present set up can it play a meaningful role in the future. Politics and diplomacy are too deeply and inextricably rooted in the soil of modern politics to leave any room for absolute justice to take root and be given a fair chance of survival. It is a hard and bitter fact which no man with respect for truth can deny that this great and awesome institution has been reduced to an arena of intricate diplomatic activities lobbying, secret paramours and power struggles all carried out in the name of world peace.
Here lies the greatest potential danger for the survival of the United Nations and here also lies the most urgent need for it to be revitalised. The nexus between the United Nations and the Superpowers’ vested interests must be broken in the interest of a true democracy of nations – a democracy where nations can treat other nations as fellow-creatures. The need of the day is to stop the United Nations from falling into the wrong hands and becoming a ‘puppet’.
The difficulties involved in persuading the so called leaders of the world, who have happened to jeopardise democracy, to relinquish power to a strengthened United Nations are enormous. History offers depressively few precedents for such a fundamental transfer of power undertaken voluntarily. Restoring democracy demands sacrifice. The member nations must, therefore, purposefully gather themselves together to give life to their voice and then raise that voice to restore democracy. There is a dire need for all the nations of the world to be united on this so vital issue. The future of world peace greatly depends upon the way it is tackled today. A world without poverty and without war is technically possible. This, however, demands a thorough diffusion of ideas of truth and justice, progress and freedom. If a free world is to survive, these ideas must spread beyond the circle of professionals and there is an urgent need for intellectual middlemen who can assist in their distribution. The Holy Quran states:
And let there be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness, and enjoin equity and forbid evil. And it is they who shall prosper. (3:105)
The evils associated with the United Nations are only a manifestation of the more general evils that have entrenched the entire contemporary society. To eradicate these evils, therefore, every individual will have to stand up against every social evil operating at each level of social existence. Only a joint and committed effort can save contemporary society from ruin.
Directly and physically eradicating a manifested social evil or verbal and open condemnation of it or, at least, feeling resentment at heart are the three different grades of human actions. The day when people start losing courage to raise their voice against injustice, is the first day of their decline. History testifies this proposition. It categorically indicates that the major cause of the eventual downfall of nations has been the moral apathy of their people – allowing social evils to reach a point no return. The Holy Prophet of Islam has eloquently drawn our attention towards this fact in a style which also provides the most telling of all illustrations of the diseased state of the United Nations:
Nu’man bin Bashir relates that the Holy Prophet SAW said: The case of those who observe the limits set by Allah and those who are careless about them is like passengers on a ship who cast lots to determine who should occupy the upper deck and who the lower and settled accordingly. Those who occupied the upper deck had no direct access to water. To fetch water, they had to repeatedly climb down thus disturbing the occupants of the lower deck. Once they suggested to the occupants of the lower deck that they had no objection , they could bore a hole through the bottom of the ship to gain direct access to water. Now if the occupants of the lower deck were to leave the others to carry out their design they would all perish together, but if they were to stop them from carrying it out, they would all be saved.
The occupants of the lower deck, the third world countries, must, therefore, stop the occupants of the upper deck, the first world countries, to carry out their ill designs and stop them fetching the water of vested interests by boring a hole through the bottom of the ship of the United Nations. Failure to do this would ultimately drown both the occupants of the lower as well as the upper deck.
The nations of the world must have to be genuine and sincere. They must be courageous enough to say ‘No’ to the wrong and the unworthy. And above all, they must be magnanimous, for it is this very quality which can save the world today. Diseases require remedies. But desperate diseases call for desperate remedies, and, I believe, that the present disease of the United Nations could, if left untreated, in the end prove fatal – the voice of each nation may well be lost in the awe inspiring presence of the so-called guardians of the United Nations, the world may well become prey to one or a few tyrants, the notion of national sovereignty may well become a mere tribute to tradition and a new system of slavery may well be introduced in a form and magnitude from which there will be no escape. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad writes:
One wonders with a deep sense of sorrow as to how long the member nations of this august House would continue to shut their eyes and refuse to open their minds to the dangers inherent in the style in which the affairs of nations are run.World peace hangs precariously on the strings of a feeble hope that justice will prevail and justice will be done.
As far as the maintenance of world peace is concerned, Islam makes fighting obligatory in defence of freedom of conscience, so long as the enemy continues to fight an aggressive war with the object of depriving people of freedom. When freedom is secured or the enemy desists and is prepared to make a just and equitable peace fighting should stop. The Holy Quran says:
And if two parties of believers fight each other make peace between them; then if after that one of them transgresses against the other, fight the party that transgresses until it returns to the command of Allah. Then if it returns, make peace between them with equity and act justly. Verily Allah loves the just. (49:10)
This verse clearly reveals the fact that peace and justice are the two sides of the same coin; they cannot be separated from each other. Any peace-making effort is bound to be abortive if justice is sacrificed in the process. The only thing which cannot be sacrificed in securing justice is justice itself. Everything else can be. Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmud Ahmad, the second successor to the Promised Messiah, has written:
The verse lays down the following principles for the maintenance of international peace. As soon as there are indications of disagreement between two nations, the other nations, instead of taking sides with one or other, should at once serve a notice upon them, calling upon them to submit their differences for settlement to a ‘League of Nations’ or ‘United Nations Organisation’ as the case may be. If they agree the dispute will be amicably settled. But if one of them refuses to submit to the ‘League’ or having submitted refuses to accept the award of the ‘League’ and prepares to make war, the other nations should all fight against it. It is evident that one nation, however strong, cannot withstand the united might of all other nations and is bound to make a speedy submission. In that event terms of peace should be settled between the two original parties to the dispute. The other nations should act merely as mediators and not as parties to the dispute and should not put forward new claims arising out of the conflict with the refractory nation, for that would lay foundation of fresh disputes and quarrels. The terms of peace should be just and equitable with reference to the merits of disputes; they should be confined to the original dispute between the parties and should not be allowed to travel beyond it. It is such a ‘League’ or ‘Organisation’ which can safely be entrusted with the maintenance of international peace, not a league or organisation whose very existence is dependent upon the goodwill of others.
Similarly, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has written:
According to the Holy Quran, therefore, what the world needs is an institution which sets itself the task of establishing justice. Without absolute justice, no peace is conceivable. One can wage wars in protestation in the name of peace, stifle conscience and still dissent for the purported aim of establishing peace, but all that one can achieve is death but not peace.
These two passages, as is obvious, contain the whole theory of the United Nations and set the guidelines within which any international organisation should operate. There is available no other formula for restoring world peace. There is no peace without justice as its basis. There is no justice without sacrifice. If the needed sacrifice is forth coming without hesitation, it is certain that peace will come to the world.
Having discussed the role of the United Nations and the nations of the world in restoring peace, let us venture some thoughts on factors that are conducive to world peace, and harmony, in the hope that we may shed some light on the way the United Nations can operate in fostering the sentiments of love, peace and compassion throughout the world. This we shall do under three different headings namely, economic equality, racial equality and religious tolerance.
The most potent source of tension in the world today is the ever widening gulf between the rich and the poor countries. Closely allied to world peace, therefore, is economic equality. From this point of view policies of world peace would have to include an attempt to homogenise the quantitatively diverse living standards of nations. Although the main responsibility for development of the poor countries rests with the people of those countries, they require the assistance of the developed countries. Domestic savings have to be augmented by foreign aid and increased as a result of improved trading opportunities. Little boys, as it is said, should be seen and not heard.
The fundamental Islamic economic concept is that the absolute ownership of everything belongs to God alone. Accordingly, private ownership is only a trust for which the owner is answerable to God with regard to the moral obligation that in all wealth all sections of society have a right to share. Islam teaches that wealth must be in constant circulation among all sections of the community and should not become the monopoly of the rich. The obligation pertaining to the communal aspect of ownership is made effective through a fair combination of legal sanctions and voluntary efforts put forth through a desire to win the pleasure of God. In this way economic equality is achieved through particular economic institutions and through moral exhortation. Such a scheme of securing economic equality proves to be a great stimulus to social solidarity.
The same applies to the international field. History testifies the fact that both economic equality and political peace are related to each other. We can have no difficulty in seeing that both from economic and political view points, it is unreasonable and undesireable to perpetuate a world divided into a few ‘have’ nations and a great many ‘have-not’ nations. Such a scheme of distribution is economically unsound because extreme living-standards disparities work against both the rapid growth of underdeveloped economies for lack of capital and the stable growth of advanced economies for lack of demand. Politically, the existence of a wide living-standard between ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ nations tends to induce the former to divide and rule while at the same time tempting the latter to raise the general living standard quickly even at the expense of personal liberty and private initiative. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has written:
Moreover, economic disparity and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots of the world are bound to play an important role in the future events of the world … unless the principle of absolute justice in the economic relationship between countries is accepted and strictly adhered to and unfair market practices which exploit the resources of the poor are removed by and for all members of the United Nations, no peace can ever be guaranteed or even visualised for the nations of the world.
It is important, therefore, to explore possible economic foundations for international amity, not because international strife is caused, as already noted, by the economic factor alone, but because the creation of an amicable and viable economic milieu is an indispensable preliminary to durable world tranquility, stability and equity. For so long as the world is divided into ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, the sentiments of hatred would be strong enough to be detrimental to international goodwill and quiescence .
In this field the principle of responsibility demands a programme of multi-national co-operation on a purely technical and non-political basis and irrespective of the type and principle of government and economic policy existing in the prospective member states. This implies that nations ought to be left free to solve their internal social and political problems by their own methods without external interference, except when such national policies obviously endanger world peace or when as a result of such policies, some of the nation’s own subjects are subjected to maltreatment and deprived of basic human rights.
The second requirement in this connection is an international policy of fostering the social and racial equality of nations. The rationale of such policy is easy to see in the light of the historical experience that so much international friction was caused by the doctrine of racial supremacy of some over the other nations and such other pretexts to ‘civilise’ so called backward people. It is not possible to secure international peace so long as there is in any part of the world political domination or socio-economic exploitation of any one people by another. Self-determination in the political field establishing complete freedom and equality among nations, as already noted, will alone secure peace and the fullest economic co-operation will alone secure prosperity. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has written:
The most tragic and inhumane treatment of the Jews at the hands of Christians in Western Europe for more than a thousand years may be considered buried in the past but the recent beastly treatment of the Jews during the thirties and forties at the hands of the Nazis is too fresh in our memories to be forgotten. Therefore, the moment we hear the word ‘racialism’, our minds are inadvertently turned to anti-Semitism and the long history of the ill-treatment of the Semitic race at the hands of the gentiles.
Defining racialism he has written:
The essence of racialism is class prejudice. Perhaps this is the best definition of racialism. Whenever people begin to act prejudicially against another class of people on the pretext of their own class interests, racialism uncoils and raises its ugly and venomous head. No discretion is exercised in the expression of such hatred; no individual merit is taken into account; and, generality becomes the law ……..Racialism in the broader sense, has to be understood as group prejudices as opposed to considerations of absolute justice and fair play.
Thus viewed, great social inequalities persist in many areas of the world, to provoke such bitter and cynical resentment against aristocracy, plutocracy, authority, the elite and the cast system as to produce grave international repercussions. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other such measures are promising steps in the right direction, but lack ways and means for practical implementation. This is in fact a barren land and, as matters stand, a considerable amount of work needs to be done before one could expect to reap the fruits of social harmony and goodwill.
There is a dire need for the false notions and symbols of honour and prestige to be abandoned in order for the true notions of honour and prestige to take root and to be accepted. Without such a profound change in the attitudes of people, it will be futile to think of world peace, for it would be tantamount to seeing visions while standing on the mountain tops without going down into the valleys and actually working for the fulfilment of those visions. How far and how fast the present United Nations can go down into these valleys is a matter of great importance and urgency. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has written:
As long as the relationship of the United Nations Organisation with its individual member states is not more clearly defined than at present, the prospects of world peace will remain bleak.There is a need to devise some measures to prevent governments from being cruel to their own subjects. Some instrument has to be made available to the United Nations to justly fight injustice wherever it prevails. Till then, one cannot dream of peace for the world.
He also pointed out the inherent dangers associated with the misuse of such power – dangers which must be observed before assigning any such role to any International Organisation:
How far the United Nations can interfere with the so-called internal affairs of a country is a very sensitive question and yet vital to the attainment of world peace. But if, in the final analysis, the policy of the United Nations is not governed by the principle of absolute justice, and different standards are applied to individual nations, then providing greater leverage to the United Nations Organisation to interfere in the affairs of a state may create more problems than it can resolve. Therefore thy issue requires a thorough, cool and detached study.
Above all, it is increasingly important to foster the great unifying force making for a true universal brotherhood – a force inherent in religion. To think of world peace without reference being made to religion is nothing more than an illusion. We may devote a great deal of time and energy to improving communications, raising the standard of living, developing industry, but these alone will not make ‘one world’ in any more than a geographical sense. The problem of our nuclear age is to know how to avoid conflicts and wars, and turn world society into a world community. The construction of a world-wide harmony is too great a task to be undertaken except with religious faith. For the necessary energy, vision and goodwill are available from no other source.
Unfortunately, however, religion has never been exploited in the interest of international amity rather religion had been, throughout all history, a persistent source of disunity, frictions and tensions and instead of transcending itself to embrace all humanity, it had been a source of disintegration of man and mankind – of man signified by his moral degradation and of mankind reflected in the break down of interfaith relationship and lack of religious tolerance. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has observed:
But more than after the blood of man – created in God’s image – was shed in the name of his Creator, religion was used as an excuse for mass murder. Seeing thy aspect of human nature makes us wonder if mankind is not the basest and most ruthless species on earth. One expects religion to teach man to be civilised, yet religion itself drips with blood ……The history of religion in any part of the world at any time is the history of torture, repression, execution and crucifixion. It is disappointing indeed to find that religion, which is supposed to be the last refuge of peace in a world of war and conduct, is a cause of destruction and bloodshed.
This does not mean that religion teaches violence. As far as the theory of religion is concerned, religion preaches peace and unity and nothing else. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has written:
Religion itself is not the real cause of mass murder, however, and it is a mistake to think it is. Religion was not given to man to encourage killing.[l7]
The gap between the theory and practice of religion and the present state of international affairs calls for some bold re-examination. It would be a great error to assign, on the basis of the unfortunate past, only a trifling importance to so great an institution as religion. It must not be concluded that its influence is small because it cannot bestow what the general circumstances of society have not prepared it to receive. The importance of religion as a unifying force or as an explosive factor should by no means be under-estimated. A further feature of religion is here to be observed. It is a strange paradox, and an age-old problem, that as far as the formative role of religion is concerned, it has lost its hold on many people, but, at the same time, with reference to the explosive forces inherent in religious intolerance, its grip is so strong that these forces cannot easily be counteracted. As with individuals so with nations. And the experience of nations with religious tolerance is exceedingly brief. Nearly all, throughout all history, have been the prey to religious intolerance. The exception, almost insignificant in the whole span of human existence, has been the true followers of all religions, who themselves have been the victims of persecution. We must, therefore, while evaluating the possibility of exploiting religion for peace purposes, be aware of these forces if we are later to engineer an escape and if we are to stop the ghost of religious intolerance from haunting the world. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV has written:
Judging from the growing influence of materialism and the emphasis of society as a whole shifting from spiritual to carnal and sensual pleasures, one may be led to believe that religion should be discarded and ignored as an unimportant factor.I regret to disagree with such a conclusion because unless we reform religious attitudes, internally and externally, religion will continue to play a very negative role, rather than a beneficial positive role, in our effort to achieve global peace. Religions which should have played a leading role in establishing peace, removing misunderstandings between adherents of different sects and religions, cultivating decency, and promoting the principle of live and let live, has unfortunately, in the contemporary times, played a very minor and insignificant role, if any at all, in the promotion of peace anywhere in the world. Yet in creating disorder and bloodshed and in causing misery and immense suffering, it still is a very potent and dynamic force which should not be under-estimated at all. No global peace can be visualised without addressing this vital problem and redressing its faults.[l8]
He also pointed out:
In inter-religious relationship, the Hindu-Muslim riots in India, or Muslim-Christian strife in Nigeria or Jewish-Muslim hostilities in the Middle East and elsewhere, and also an undercurrent of politically and economically fragile Judo-Christian relationship, are all but a few signs of latent dangers which lie like dormant volcanoes in the subterranean religious world.The importance of reforming the attitudes to such problems cannot be over-emphasised.
The fact of the matter is that religion is a great influencing force and urgently needs to be exploited in the interest of world peace. Rather than to look upon religion as defunct, it is vitally important that the great role of religion in human affairs should be recognised. Religion in this respect stands as a double-edged sword – religion on its own and religion in relation to other religions, and as such can be used, respectively, to socialise man and to unite mankind. The integration of man depends upon the truth that man cannot live on bread alone and upon the truth that all religions lead to God. The study of religions must be fostered so that their resources maybe understood and drawn upon for building harmony and peace. The ‘values for values’ philosophy should be totally discarded, for inherent in such a philosophy are the seeds of human destruction.
To sum up, the vicious attack of materialism against religion must not be under-estimated. This is exactly the time that all the religions of the world must unite on the basis of the ultimate truth – a truth which is common to them all. This is the time of revival of religion and of religious values. The religions of the world face a completely new situation today. Never before this century have they been in such close contact as they are now. And interestingly enough, never before this century has man been in such an urgent need for religious unity as he is now. The ‘small’ world in which we live makes nonsense of religious isolation as well as of religious intolerance. The need of the day is to seek affinities between different religions – affinities leading towards unity, harmony, goodwill and peace. The religions of the world must lay aside their traditional rivalry and side with one another to preserve the highest cultural values of mankind and face the worst enemy that has ever appeared against them. Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad has written:
I really feel deeply concerned and disturbed at what is happening in the world of religion today. There is a deep urgency for religions to make a genuine and serious effort to remove misunderstandings between themselves.
It should, however, be noted that the common action of religions need not mean at all that conviction should be abandoned. All it demands is to lay aside old prejudices and rivalries and work for stopping anti-religious movements from robbing humanity, again, of its liberties. The fact that all religions believe in the same spiritual reality provides the promising grandstand for searching the common grounds between the followers of different religions and their traditions. The unity of God is the real point of unity. The Holy Quran states:
Say, ‘O People of the Book! Come to a word equal between us and you – that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partner with Him, and that some of us take not others for lords besides Allah.’ But if they turn away, then say, ‘Bear witness that we have submitted to God.’ (3:65)
The religions of the world must, therefore, join hands in order to establish the true Unity of God and must agree to gracefully disagree on matters of disagreement with a possibility of enlightening dialogue and must agree to peacefully co-operate with each other to secure peace and prosperity. It is this combination of ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ which contains the panacea for the problems that confront mankind today. This, infact, was the last appeal of the Promised Messiah to the world – a fair combination of enlightening dialogue and mutual respect. This alone, he declared, in his last book, can bring peace to the world.
Such must, therefore, be one of the corner-stones of any new outlook capable of giving men and women the moral material needed to resolve many of the basic problems that confront the contemporary world. In order to suggest an agenda, in an articulated mariner, for discussion of a new outlook on religion, I, once again, find no alternative but to quote Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, at full length:
1. All religions of the world, whether they believe in Islam or not, must conform to the underlying Islamic principle of not permitting the use of force and coercion in any manner as an instrument in resolving inter-sectarian and inter-religious strife. The choice of religion, the freedom to profess, propogate, practise and exercise or to denounce or to cease to believe or change one’s belief must be protected absolutely.2. All religions must conform to the Islamic principle of showing respect and reverence to the Founders and holy personage of other faiths. In pursuance thereof they do not have to compromise their principles. It is simply a matter of fundamental human rights. The right of every human being that his religious sensibilities and sentiments shall not be violated and offended must be recognised.
3. It should be remembered that the above principle cannot be enforced by any national or international law. It should be understood in conjunction with the principle that blasphemy does not warrant man-made punishment but that it should be decried and discouraged by promoting public opinion for condemning such acts as indecent, imprudent and loathsome.
4. Interfaith conferences on the pattern introduced by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the earlier part of this century, should be widely encouraged and promoted. The soul and spirit of such conferences can be summed up by the following characteristics:
(a) All speakers should be encouraged to highlight the good points and attractive and distinctive features of their respective faiths without maligning other faiths.
(b) Indeed, speakers, preferably, belonging to one faith, should genuinely try to discover the good features of other faiths, speak on them and explain why they are impressed by them.
(c) Speakers belongings to different faiths should pay tribute to the nobility and character of the leaders of other faiths…….
(d) Without prejudice to what has been proposed in (c), the sanctity of religious dialogue must be protected between sects and faiths. Inter-religious exchange of views must not be condemned as attempts to sabotage religious peace. It is the manner of dialogue, which, if wrong, should be condemned and not the dialogue itself. The free flow of ideas is the most important of fundamental human rights, essential for the survival of the fittest. It may not be compromised at any cost.
(e) To narrow the areas of differences and enlarge the possibilities of agreements, it is highly essential that all religions accept the principle of limiting their debates with followers of other faiths to the sources of their respective religions. The Quranic declaration that all religions are the same at their sources should not be treated lightly. It comprises a world of wisdom which should be examined and explored by all religions to their own advantage as well as to the advantage of mankind as a whole.
(f) Co-operation in all good plans and schemes for the mutual benefit of mankind must be promoted and encouraged.
Such is the agenda for a true democracy of nations. The United Nations, the existing or any future variant of it, is the only possible, and vital, instrument for discussing and implementing such an agenda as well as for establishing the economic and social foundations for world amity as discussed earlier.
It remains to be mentioned, in recapitulation, that the nations of the world must be conscious, all the time, of the unity of purpose, must be aware of common interests and must be united ‘only’ for the pursuit of certain ‘clearly defined’ ends. Unity, by definition, in a thoughtful exercise. Unity must serve some ends; it must be emphasised. Otherwise, unity for the sake of unity could prove a fatal poison for world peace. The sense of unity must be revitalised, for the world is in urgent need for the new brooms to sweep the dust of materialism, racialism and religious intolerance from the stage of world peace. Not only do the nations of the world have to unite, they have also to watch their unity taking active part in the creation of world peace and in the rebuilding of a strong and lasting house in which to dwell and enjoy the fruits of real intellectual, economic and political consolidation of human affairs:
And help one another in righteousness and piety; but help not one another in sin and transgression. And fear Allah; surely Allah is severe in punishment. (5:3)
Finally, all the nations of the world must also be prepared to act in the interest of humanity as a whole, even if such an action may conflict with their own short-term national interests. The sense of responsibility must keep on being exhibited throughout their actions, for the United Nations is nothing more than a reflection of a combination of such actions. And above all, justice should be the means and justice should be the end.
Should such unity ever occur, peace would embrace humanity. Otherwise if we shut our eyes to justice and truth, then the very survival not only of the United Nations but also of the upholders of the status quo is at stake. Vanity of vanities would, in the end, prove to be nothing else but all vanity, for ideologies and institutions which fail to serve man, never last. This is a divine decree and divine decrees are never altered. The Holy Quran says:
…… but as to that which benefits men, it stays in the earth. (13:18)
- Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV,
Islam’s Response to the Contemporary Issues;
Islam International Publications Ltd.; 1992,
- Ibid; p.217.
- Ibid; p.112.
- Muhammad Zafrullah Khan;
Islam, Its Meaning for Modern Man;
Routledge & Kegan Paul; 1962;
- Greaves, H.R.G.;
The Foundations of Political Theory;
G. Ball and Sons Ltd.; 1966;
- Islam’s Response;
Quoted from Islam’s Response, p.
- Islam’s Response;
- Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih II,
The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary;
- Islam’s Response;
- Ibid; p.203.
- Ibid; p.204.
- Ibid; pp.104-107.
- Ibid; p.203.
- Ibid; pp.203-204.
- Ibid pp.1-2.
- Ibid pp.2.
- Ibid; pp.45-46.
- Ibid; p.104.
- Ibid; p.104.
- Ibid; pp.47-48.