Peace as the Condition of Life in our World

  • | Sunday, 8 July, 2018
Peace as the Condition of Life in our World


Prof. Dr. Mahmoud Hamdy Zaqzouq

President of Al-Azhar Center for Dialogue


    If we look at present-day life, we can see that the problem of peace now preoccupies or at least concerns more or less the whole world. Everyone tends to agree that it is worth striving for and even necessary. Unfortunately, however, the way human beings act is usually anything but peaceful. However, as we have already mentioned, unjust and aggressive action cannot produce peace. Purely theoretical considerations, which are not followed by corresponding action, also cannot come up with peace. The more we want to analyze what peace is and how it can be attained, the more it seems to elude us. As already mentioned, this is what happens when we do not make the effort to translate our thought into appropriate and feasible action. Yet if we do, we may find, for example, that what seems to be a sacrifice, subsequently yields a profit and enrichment. From an Islamic point of view, if one wishes to develop one's reason, it is necessary for action and thought to be as closely connected as possible.

      Yet for this one needs faith. It is written in the (Qur'an, 26: 226) that people without faith "say what they practice not".

      Only independent thought, following the trail of reality, enables man to translate his thinking into action and to behave in accordance with his words. His words follow the deeds.

      When we talk about peace today - for example, in terms of the conclusion of a peace treaty, peacetime strength, peace process or inner peace - it often proves, if one tries to achieve it, to be rather intangible or fleeting and unstable, as peace requires a balance which is difficult to achieve. The only form in which peace still appears as a constant today is peace as the gift and promise of God.

     Islam sees the central human task as being that of gaining the love of God and thus peace. Therefore, when we speak about peace, we come to the question of the development of man, the main obstacle standing in the way of peace today is the problem of the difference between the poor and the rich parts of the world, as far as opportunities of development are concerned. It is almost unanimously recognized today that the problem of peace involves the question of how we can ensure that as many people as possible in all parts of the world have the freedom and thus the chances of development that they need.

     Muslims make a significant contribution to the peace efforts in trying to follow the teaching of Islam.     

   In fact, when we look more closely, the subject of peace, like that of life itself, is inexhaustible. It has something to do with both the unity and the variety of human existence. As an aim, peace unites man's deepest desires and highest strivings. However, with the help of God, it also reveals to each human being his own way to achieve it, which he then has to struggle for to follow through his own personal efforts, in accordance with his talents. The same applies, in a figurative sense, to the various religious, national and cultural communities, and in fact to every 'community. And today the emerging world community is striving for peace.      

      As far as the problem of the differences between human communities is concerned, Islam teaches that diversity makes unity possible. For this is where man's task lies, which is why in the Qur'an it is written: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other."(49: 13).

      Above and beyond all differences, the human being who recognizes himself knows himself through other human beings. This enables him to engage in creative work with others, and to be genuinely tolerant and ready to try to understand others. The whole creation reveals itself to anyone who recognizes himself as one of its creatures. He or she sees the various paths followed by human communities as paths towards a goal, which is basically the same. The whole of creation points towards this path. It is a straight path, and yet it is manifold. For it is always being walked on a new. Every generation has to find its own new solutions to the problem of peace. Hope lies in the regeneration of the world, which thus becomes possible. Islam teaches this continuous new beginning, which is why the new moon, as a symbol of the new beginning, has become the symbol of Islam. As such, considered as a goal, peace has a clearly delineated out-line. Yet when we speak of the way towards it, it often becomes hidden and almost unrecognizable.

It is due to this fact that people make statements such as 'the unattainable dream of and desire for peace is as old as mankind itself. It can only be striven for in an experimental manner, with varying degrees of success. It cannot be aimed at directly, yet that applies to all ideals. This does not make them less worthwhile. For where would we be without them? Or perhaps we should ask more concretely: 'Where are we without them?' All those who place peace beyond our reach as something unattainable for man have not understood the real nature of peace. In reality, it is something, which is as necessary for life as the air we need in order to breath. Without peace, life ceases. This, at any rate, is the situation from the Islamic point of view.

The present-day world situation has made us clearly aware of the necessity of peace. If peace is the central demand of religion, then this message, which is common to all religions, has become a very real necessity for us today. This demand requires that human beings, in peaceful cooperation and mutual tolerance, create chances for everybody, especially the poor and the oppressed, thus creating a peaceful world. In view of the development of our present world society, the standpoint that peace is but a pipe-dream, a fiction which has nothing to do with reality, is no longer sustainable. In the same measure - this much has also become clear - peace is not to be found in a peace process which might proceed quite automatically of its own accord. On the contrary, it is a task, which has to be mastered by all of us together. It has today become clear, at least to all clear-thinking people with a sense of responsibility that senseless wars, aggression and the desire for expansion, just like passivity and apathy, are increasingly destroying not only our chances of peace, but also the World itself. For this reason we must finally learn to act in accordance with our knowledge and to intervene in this process of destruction, so that we might be able to bring it to a halt.

Today, the whole world is ruled by means of our very highly developed scientific knowledge and technology, and we are always pushing further and further into outer space. Yet at the same time there is a very real danger that the world is slipping from our grasp. For we still know far too little about human beings themselves. Science still has much to investigate in this area. Nevertheless - and this is important - these investigations have to take the right direction. It ought to be a case of emphasizing human reason as a creative inheritance and thus guaranteeing and deepening respect for human life. Experimentation with nature, which has been so successful but which has also destroyed so much life on earth, has increasingly become experimentation with mankind itself. In way the last bastion of nature is being stormed, which contains the possibility of peace among human beings and for the world, for this earth which has almost been exploited to destruction.

Man is - in contrast to the rest of nature - a creature that has to create peace if it wants to live. Today we are more or less aware of that fact, yet in thinking about the goal of peace we frequently forget that peace also has to be the way to achieve peace; Everything points to the fact that the lack of peace incur world is threatening to destroy the world completely and that only our united efforts to achieve peace can save it.

The key word for us all here is the word Justice. And with justice we touch upon the word Truth for what is truly just?

Efforts to achieve peace can begin anywhere, even with the attempt to understand the concept of 'peace'. After all, we have a word for peace in all languages. Whether we say peace,Paix, Friede or Salam, we mean the same thing. It is the same for us all. Yet it is often almost impossible to discover what this word actually means. The aim of modern technology and science is to comprehend and analyze objects and from that starting position to govern. With these methods they increasingly occupy even language itself. Yet the intellect, the organ of the spirit in man, seeks more than that. It wants to listen to what is true and lead mankind toward the truth. The human being has to be truthful in this sense, in order to be able to create peace and to be able to create in peace, so that he needs not only the sciences but also religion in order to be able to arrive at the truth.

At the very latest, this becomes clear when we want to speak about peace for mankind, because for mankind peace is a vital necessity. In this way we can comprehend the necessity of peace as an object. Yet we still do not have it within our sight, for peace is more than just something which is vitally necessary for us. The actual state of affairs is really very simple. Through our injustice we make peace more and more impossible. In striving to dominate and exploit others - in the last analysis a pointless activity - we drive peace away. Unfortunately, even religions are all too often used as a means of dominating others, in order to gain worldly power and prestige for themselves. Has that not been going on too long already? We need religion, but we have to understand it correctly. According to their aims, religions should be instruments of peace and compete with one another in educating people to live in peace. On this point the Qur'an says: 'verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). [...] Only those are Believers who [...] have striven with their be-longings and their persons in the Cause of God: such are the sincere ones." (49: 13-15).

Religions should call upon people to compete with one another for good deeds, not for power. Islam teaches that it is the just and merciful acts which lead us to the experience of peace and through which we can further the cause of peace. Purely theoretical analysis, without any corresponding action, cannot help us to find the way to peace.

Contemporary German peace research characterizes peace quite rightly as a fundamentally human problem. Its philosophical importance has only recently become evident. On the other hand, "its status as a principle of thought and action has still received very little attention at all". In the view of German peace research, world peace has become "a condition of life in the age of science and technology".

Already Kant says, peace is what humanity should strive for with all its might, since the practical reasons for accepting the rational principles of 'God' and 'Immortality' are stronger than those for doubting them.


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