The Policy of Peace in Islam -
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of Peace in Islam - How to
attain normalcy in Jerusalem
to the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, a believer is one with whom one
can trust one’s life and property. That is because Islam is a religion of
peace. The Qur’an calls its way ‘the paths of peace’ (5:16). It describes
reconciliation as the best policy, (4:128) and states quite plainly that God
abhors disturbance of the peace (2:205).
this world, for one reason or the other, peace remains elusive.
Differences—political and apolitical—keep on arising between individuals and
groups, Muslims and non-Muslims. Whenever people refuse to be tolerant of these
differences, insisting that they be rooted out the moment they arise, there is
bound to be strife. Peace, as a result, can never prevail in this world.
example is the ever-recurring conflict over Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a very
ancient, historic city with a unique value for all the millions of people of
different religious persuasions who believe it to be their very own Sacred
Place. Jerusalem is, indeed, a symbol and center of inspiration for the three
great Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For Jews, it is a
living proof of their ancient grandeur, and the pivot of their national
history. For Christians, it is the scene of their Savior’s agony and triumph.
For Muslims, it is the first halting place on the Prophet’s mystic journey, and
also the site of one of Islam’s most sacred Shrines. Thus, for all three
faiths, it is a center of pilgrimage, while for Muslims it is the third holiest
place of worship.
Now the question
arises as to how, when it is a place of worship for all three religions, it can
be freely accessible to all. How can the adherents of all the three religions
have the opportunity there to satisfy their religious feelings?
all around us, we hear the slogan: "Jerusalem is ours." The raising
of this slogan by different parties clearly shows that each one desires
political supremacy for itself. All the three believe that without political
dominance over this sacred city, they cannot worship God in the proper sense of
condition for visiting this sacred place were that only that person or group
could visit it who enjoyed political dominance there, Jerusalem would be turned
from a place of peaceful worship into a battlefield. As political power can be
wielded by only one religious group at a time, the other two groups, who are
not in power, will constantly be in opposition to it. In this way, a place
which should remain perfectly ‘tranquil’ will be eternally rent by clash and confrontation.
As a result, not even the group in power will have the opportunity to perform
its religious rites in peace.
indeed a very practical and important question which demands a serious
rethinking. I would like to deal here briefly with the position of Islam in
indirect reference to Jerusalem appears in the 17th Surah of the Qur’an. It
says: ‘Glory be to Him who made His Servant go by night from the Sacred Mosque
to the distant Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, that we might show him
some of Our Signs’ (17:1). Prior to the emigration in early 622, the Prophet
Muhammad went on an extraordinary journey called Mi‘raj (Ascension) in the
history of Islam. Through God’s unseen arrangement, this journey took the
Prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem. There, according to the belief of the Muslims,
he performed a prayer in congregation with all the Prophets who had been his
forerunners at the holy site of al-Masjid al-Aqsa (al Bayt al-Maqdis).
reference to Jerusalem appears in one of the sayings of the Prophet recorded in
all the six authentic books of Hadith with minor differences in wording.
According to this tradition, there are only three mosques to which a journey
may be lawfully made for the purpose of saying one’s prayers—al-Masjid al-Haram
of Mecca, al-Masjid al-Nabi of Medina and al-Masjid al-Aqsa of Jerusalem.
(Certain traditions use the name Masjid Ilia for the Masjid al-Aqsa in
Palestine.) Yet another tradition tells us that there is a far greater reward
for praying in these three mosques than in any other mosque.
however, from the Qur’an that in no part of the world can political power be
wielded indefinitely by the same nation or group: ‘We bring these days to men
by turns’ (3:140). Given that power changes hands from time to time between
different communities, how are believers to worship at al-Masjid al-Aqsa?
Whereas each Muslim has a natural desire to enter this mosque and prostrate
himself before God as the Prophet Muhammad and the other Prophets did.
to the Qur’an, political power, by the very law of nature, cannot forever
remain with one nation. In that case, if this act of worship is linked with the
notion that a Muslim can receive God’s blessings only when this land is under
Muslim political rule, millions of Muslims would have had to bury this desire
in their hearts and leave this world with this cherished desire unfulfilled, as
it happened with the former Saudi king Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz (1906-1975). They
would never have had, the unique experience of prostrating themselves before Almighty
God at a place where the Prophet Muhammad, along with all the Prophets, had
prostrated himself before his Lord.
the solution to this problem? Its solution lies in a practice (Sunnah) of the
Prophet Muhammad: to separate the religious from the political aspect of the
matter. This would enable men of religion to solve the problem by applying what
is called ‘practical wisdom,’ that is, to avoid the present problems and grasp
the available opportunities. By following this process, they would be able to
fulfill their cherished religious desire of which they have been denied
unnecessarily so far. In the process, they would be able to avoid
confrontational situations. Here are some telling examples of this Sunnah of
1. The Prophet Muhammad emigrated from Mecca
to Medina in July 622. For the first year and a half in Medina (i.e. till the
end of 623) he and his companions prayed in the direction of al-Bayt al-Maqdis
in Jerusalem. At the beginning of 624, the faithful, were enjoined, by Qur’anic
revelation, to face in the direction of the Sacred Ka‘ba at Mecca to say their
When this injunction regarding the Qiblah
(direction of prayer) was revealed, 360 idols were still in position in the
Ka‘bah, at that time a long-established center of polytheism. The presence of
these idols must certainly have made Muslims feel reluctant to face in the
direction of the Ka‘bah at prayer time. How could believers in monotheism turn
their faces towards what was, in effect, a structure strongly associated with
polytheism? It is significant that along with the change of Qiblah came the
injunction to treat this problem as a matter requiring patience, and not to
hesitate in facing the Ka‘bah: "O believers, seek assistance in prayer.
God is with those who are patient" (2:153).
As history tells us, this state of
affairs continued for six long years, till the conquest of Mecca (630) when the
Ka‘bah was cleared of idols. This establishes a very important principle of
Islam which may be termed as Al-fasl bayn al-qaziyatayn, that is, the
separation of two different facets of a problem from each other. According to
this principle, the Ka‘bah and the idols were given separate consideration. By
remaining patient on the issue of the presence of the idols, believers were
able to accept the Ka‘bah as the direction for prayer.
2. Another such example is the above
mentioned heavenly journey (Isra
or Mi‘raj undertaken by the Prophet
before the emigration in 622. At that juncture, Jerusalem was ruled by
Iranians, that is to say, by non-Muslims. The Iranian ruler, Khusroe Parvez,
attacked Jerusalem in 614, wresting it from the Romans, who had governed it
since 63 BC This political dominance of the Iranian empire ended only when the
Roman Emperor Hercules defeated the Iranians and restored Roman rule over
Jerusalem in 629.
This means that, before his emigration,
the Prophet Muhammad entered Jerusalem on his Mi‘raj journey to say his prayer
at the Masjid al-Aqsa at a time when the city was under the rule of a
non-Muslim king. From this we derive the very important Sunnah of the Prophet
that worship and politics practically belong to separate spheres, and, as such,
should not be confused with one another.
3. The third example took place after the
Hijrah in 629. At that
time, Mecca was entirely under the
domination of the idolatrous Quraysh. In spite of that, the Prophet and his
companions came to Mecca from Medina to spend three days there to perform Umrah
(the minor pilgrimage) and the circumambulation of the Ka‘bah. This was
possible solely because the Prophet did not mix worship with politics. If the
Prophet had thought that Umra could be performed only when Mecca came under
Muslim political rule, he would never have entered Mecca for worship along with
In the light of this Sunnah of the Prophet,
the solution to the present problem of Jerusalem lies in separating the issue
of worship from that of political supremacy. Muslims belonging to Palestine, or
any other country, should be able to go freely to Jerusalem in order to pray to
God in the Aqsa Mosque. Worship should be totally disassociated from political
To sum it
up, the only practical solution to the problem of Jerusalem, in present
circumstances, is to apply the above principle of Al-fasl bayn al-qaziyatayn to
this matter, that is, to keep the two aspects of a controversial issue separate
from one another. There is no other possible solution to the problem of
Jerusalem. We ought to keep the political aspect apart from its religious
aspect so that no ideological barrier comes in the way of worship by the
people, and the faithful are able to go to Jerusalem freely in order to satisfy
their religious feelings.