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 Non-Violence and Islam

Non-violence should never be confused with inaction or passivity. Non-violence is action in the full sense of the word. Rather it is more forceful an action than that of violence. It is a fact that non-violent activism is more powerful and effective than violent activism.

Non-violent activism is not limited in its sphere. It is a course of action which may be followed in all matters.

Whenever individuals, groups or communities are faced with a problem, one way to solve it is by resorting to violence. The better way is to attempt to solve the problem by peaceful means, avoiding violence and confrontation. Peaceful means may take various forms. In fact, it is the nature of the problem which will determine which of these peaceful methods is applicable to the given situation.

Islam is a religion which teaches non-violence. According to the Qur’an, God does not love fasad, violence. What is meant here by fasad is clearly expressed in verse 205 of the second Surah. Basically, fasad is that action which results in disruption of the social system, causing huge losses in terms of lives and property.

Conversely, we can say with certainty that God loves non-violence. He abhors violent activity being indulged in human society, as a result of which people have to pay the price with their possessions and lives. This is supported by other statements in the Qur’an. For instance, we are told in the Qur’an that peace is one of God’s names (59:23). Those who seek to please God are assured by verse 5 of the sixteenth surah that they will be guided by Him to "the paths of peace." Paradise, which is the final destination of the society of God’s choice, is referred to in the Qur’an as "the home of peace" (89:30), etc.

The entire spirit of the Qur’an is in consonance with this concept. For instance, the Qur’an attaches great importance to patience. In fact, patience is set above all other Islamic virtues with the exceptional promise of reward beyond measure. (39:10)

Patience implies a peaceful response or reaction, whereas impatience implies a violent response. The word Sabr exactly expresses the notion of non-violence as it is understood in modern times. That patient action is non-violent action has been clearly expressed in the Qur’an. According to one tradition, the Prophet of Islam observed: God grants to rifq (gentleness) what he does not grant to unf (violence). (Sunan, Abu Dawood, 4/255)

The word rifq has been used in this hadith as an antithesis to unf. These terms convey exactly what is meant by violence and non-violence in present times. This hadith clearly indicates the superiority of the non-violent method.

God grants on non-violence what He does not grant to violence is no simple matter. It has very wide and deep implications. It embodies an eternal law of nature. By the very law of nature all bad things are associated with violence, while all good things are associated with non-violence.

Violent activities breed hatred in society, while non-violent activities elicit love. Violence is the way of destruction while non-violence is the way of construction. In an atmosphere of violence, it is enmity which flourishes, while in an atmosphere of non-violence, it is friendship which flourishes. The method of violence gives way to negative values while the method of non-violence is marked by positive values. The method of violence embroils people in problems, while the method of non-violence leads people to the exploiting of opportunities. In short, violence is death, non-violence is life.

Both the Qur’an and the hadith have attached great importance to jihad. What is jihad? Jihad means struggle, to struggle one’s utmost. It must be appreciated at the outset that this word is used for non-violent struggle as opposed to violent struggle. One clear proof of this is the verse of the Qur’an (25:52) which says: Perform jihad with this (i.e. the word of the Qur’an) most strenuously.

The Qur’an is not a sword or a gun. It is a book of ideology. In such a case performing jihad with the Qur’an would mean an ideological struggle to conquer peoples’ hearts and minds through Islam’s superior philosophy.

In the light of this verse of the Qur’an, jihad in actual fact is another name for peaceful activism or non-violent activism. Where qital is violent activism, jihad is non-violent activism.

Peaceful Beginning

When the Qur’an began to be revealed, the first verse of the revelation conveyed the injunction: ‘Read!’ (Iqra) (96:1). By perusing this verse we learn about the initiation of Islamic action. It begins from the point where there is hope of continuing the movement along peaceful lines, and not from that point where there are chances of its being marred by violence.

When the command of ‘Iqra’ was revealed, there were many options available in Mecca as starting points for a movement. For instance, one possible start