The world is passing through very turbulent times. The global economic crisis continues to manifest newer and graver dangers almost every week. The similarities to the period just before the Second World War continue to be cited and it seems clear that events are moving the world at an unprecedented pace towards a horrific third world war.
If we survey the last few centuries impartially, we will notice that the wars over that period were not really religious wars. They were more geopolitical in nature. Even in today’s conflicts and hostilities amongst nations, we notice that they arise from political, territorial and economic interests.
It is my fear that in view of the direction in which things are moving today, the political and economic dynamics of the countries of the world may lead to a world war. It is not only the poorer countries of the world, but also the richer nations that are being affected by this. Therefore, it is the duty of the superpowers to sit down and find a solution to save humanity from the brink of disaster.
We are seeing small-scale wars erupting, while in some places, the superpowers are claiming to try and bring about peace. If the requirements of justice are not fulfilled, the conflagration and flames of these local wars can escalate and embroil the whole world.
Now, I will briefly mention what the teachings of Islam are to bring about peace in the world, or how peace can be established in the world in the light of these teachings. It is my prayer that to create peace in the world those who are being addressed initially, that is to say the Muslims, may be able to act upon them, but it is a duty of all the countries of the world, all the superpowers or governments, to act upon. In this day and age when the world has literally shrunk to a global village in a way that could not have been imagined previously, we must realise our responsibilities as human beings and should try to pay attention to solving those issues of human rights that can help to establish peace in the world.
Clearly, this attempt must be based on fair play and on fulfilling all the requirements of justice. Amongst the problems of today, one problem has arisen, if not directly, then indirectly, because of religion. Some groups of Muslims use unlawful means and suicide bombers, bombing in the name of religion to kill and harm non-Muslims including soldiers and innocent civilians, and at the same time to brutally kill innocent Muslims and children. This cruel act is totally unacceptable in Islam. Due to this ghastly behaviour of some Muslims, a totally wrong impression has developed in non-Muslim countries, and as a result, some parts of the society talk openly against Islam, whilst the others, even though do not speak openly, do not carry a good opinion about Islam in their hearts. This has created distrust in the hearts of the people of Western and non-Muslim countries about Muslims, and because of this attitude of a few Muslims, instead of the situation improving, the reaction of non-Muslims is getting worse by the day. A primary example of this erroneous reaction is the attack on the character of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam and on the Holy Qur’an, the Sacred Book of the Muslims. In this regard, the attitude of British politicians, whatever their party, and of intellectuals in Britain, has been different to that shown by the politicians of some other countries, and I thank you for that. What can the benefit be of hurting such sensitivities apart from increasing hatred and dislike? This hatred spurs certain extremist Muslims into committing ‘un-Islamic’ deeds, which in turn, provides further opportunity to a number of non-Muslims to air their opposition.
However, those who are not extremists and who deeply love the Holy Prophetsa of Islam, are terribly hurt by these attacks. Our single most important task is to show the world the perfect character of the Holy Prophet sa and the beautiful teachings of Islam. We, who respect and revere all the Prophets (peace be upon them all) and believe all of them to be the but we are very saddened when we hear baseless, untrue allegations against our Prophetsa. Nowadays, when the world again is getting divided into blocks; extremism is escalating; and the financial and economic situation is worsening, there is an urgent need to end all kinds of hatred and to lay the foundations of peace. This can only be done by respecting all kinds of sentiments of each other. If this is not done properly, honestly and with virtue, it will escalate into uncontrollable circumstances. I appreciate that economically sound Western countries have generously permitted the people of poor or underdeveloped nations to settle in their respective countries, among whom are Muslims as well. True justice requires that the sentiments and the religious practices of these people should also be honoured. This is the way by which the peace of mind of people can be kept intact. We should remember that when the peace of mind of a person is disturbed then the peace of mind of the society is also affected. As I said earlier, I am grateful to the British legislators and politicians for fulfilling the requirements of justice and for not interfering in this way. This, in fact, is the teaching of Islam that is given to us by the Holy Qur’an. The Holy Qur’an declares that: There should be no compulsion in religion… (ch. 2: v. 257) This commandment not only counters the accusation that Islam was spread by the sword, but also tells Muslims that acceptance of faith is a matter between man and his God, and you should not interfere in this in any way. Everyone is permitted to live according to his faith and to perform his religious rituals. However, if there are any practices performed in the name of religion that harm others and go against the law of the land, then the law enforcers of that State can come into action, because if there is any cruel ritual being practised in any religion, it cannot be the teaching of any Prophet of God. This is the fundamental principle for establishing peace at the local level as well as the international level. Moreover, Islam teaches us that if as a result of your change of faith, any society, or group or a government tries to interfere in the observance of your religious practice, and thereafter the circumstances change in your favour, then always remember that you must carry no malice or ill-will. You should not think of taking revenge but should rather establish justice and equity. The Holy Qur’an says: O ye who believe! Be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be their respective faiths.
Today, peace can be established only if all requirements of justice are met for the enemy, not only in wars against religious extremists, but also in all other wars. And only such peace is long-lasting. In the last century, two world wars were fought. Whatever the causes were, if we look deeply, only one cause stands out; and it is that justice was not properly administered in the first instance. As a reaction, what was considered to be an extinguished fire turned out to be cinders that kept on burning slowly, eventually bursting into flames and enveloping the whole world a second time. Today, restlessness is increasing and wars and actions to maintain peace are becoming the forerunners for another world war. Moreover, the present economic and social problems will be the source of aggravating the situation. The Holy Qur’an has given some golden principles for establishing peace in the world. It is an established fact that greed causes enmity to grow. Sometimes it manifests itself in territorial expansion or the seizing of the natural resources or, indeed, in impressing the superiority of some upon others. This leads to cruelty, whether it is at the hands of merciless despots who usurp the rights of people and prove their supremacy in pursuit of their vested interests, or it is at the hands of an invading force. Sometimes, the cries and anguish of the cruelly treated people call out to the outside world. But be that as it may, we have been taught the following golden principle by the Holy Prophet of Islamsa, which is: help both the afflicted and the cruel. The Companions of the Prophetsa enquired that whereas they could understand helping the afflicted, how could they help a cruel person? The Prophetsa responded by saying, ‘By stopping his hand from committing cruelty because his excess in cruelty will make him worthy of God’s punishment.’
So, out of mercy, you try to save him. This principle extends beyond the smallest fibres of society to the international level. In this connection, the Holy Qur’an says: And if two parties of believers fight against 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. (ch. 49: v. 10) Though this teaching is about Muslims, yet by adhering to this principle, the foundation of peace on a worldwide basis can be laid. In order to maintain peace, it has been explained at the outset that the foremost requirement is justice. And, despite abiding by the principle of justice, if efforts to make peace are unsuccessful, then unite and fight collectively against the party that has transgressed and continue until such a time that the transgressing party is ready to make peace. Once the transgressing party is ready to make peace, the requirement of justice is: do not seek revenge, do not impose restrictions or embargoes. By all means, keep an eye on the transgressor but at the same time try and improve his situation. In order to end the unrest prevalent in some countries of the world today—and unfortunately, some Muslim countries are prominent amongst them—it should be analysed in particular by those nations that have the power to veto, to determine whether or not justice has been properly dispensed. Whenever help is needed, the hands are stretched towards the powerful nations. As I stated before, we bear testimony to the fact that the history of the British government has always upheld justice and this has encouraged me to draw your attention to some of these matters. Another principle that we have been taught for restoring peace in the world is not to covetously eye the wealth of others.
The Holy Qur’an says: And strain not thy eyes after what We have bestowed on some classes of them to enjoy for a short time—the splendour of the present world—that We may try them thereby… (ch. 20: v. 132) Greed for any envy of the wealth of others is a cause of increasing restlessness in the world. On a personal basis, keeping up with the Joneses, as the saying goes, has resulted in unending greed and destroyed social peace. Greedy competition on a national basis started and led to the destruction of world peace. This is proven by history and every sensible person can assess that the desire for the wealth of others causes envy and greed to grow and is the source of loss. This is why God Almighty says that one should keep an eye on one’s own resources and derive benefit from them. The effort to make territorial gains is for seeking the benefit of that territory’s natural resources. The grouping of nations and the making of power blocs are to procure the natural resources of some countries. In this regard, a number of authors who had previously worked as advisors to the governments have written books detailing how some of the countries endeavour to get control of the resources of other nations. How far the writers are truthful is best known to them, and God knows best, but the situation that emerges from reading these accounts causes serious anguish in the hearts of those who are loyal to their poor countries, and is a major reason for the growth in terrorism and the race for weapons of mass destruction. Nowadays, the world considers itself more sober, conscious and educated than in the past. Even in the poor countries there are such intelligent souls who have greatly excelled in education in their respective fields. Highly intellectual minds work together in large research centres of the world. Under such circumstances, one should have imagined that people would have joined together and jointly tried to end the wrong ways of thinking and the follies of the past that had resulted in animosities and had led to horrific wars. The God-given intellect and scientific progress should have been used for the betterment of humanity and for devising permissible methods of deriving benefits from one another’s resources. God has bestowed each and every country with natural resources that should have been fully utilised to turn the world into a haven of peace. God has gifted many countries with an excellent climate and environment for growing different crops. Had proper planning been adopted to use modern technology for agriculture, the economy would have strengthened and hunger could have been eliminated from the earth.
Those countries that have been endowed with mineral resources should be allowed to develop and trade at fair prices and openly, and one country should benefit from the resources of the other country. So, this would be the right way, the way that is preferred by God Almighty.
God Almighty sends His messengers to the people so that they can show them the ways that bring people closer to God. At the same time, God says that there is complete freedom in matters of faith. According to our beliefs, reward and punishment will be after death as well. But under the system that God has set up, when the cruelty is inflicted on His creation and justice and fair play are ignored, then by the laws of nature, the after-effects can be seen in this world as well. Severe reactions to such injustice are observed and there can be no guarantee about the reaction being right or wrong.
The true way to conquer the world is that every effort should be made to give the poorer nations their due status.
A major issue today is the economic crisis of what has been termed as the credit crunch. Strange as it may sound, the evidence points towards one fact. The Holy Qur’an guides us by saying: avoid interest because interest is such a curse that it is a danger for domestic, national and international peace. We have been warned that he who accepts interest will one day be as one whom Satan has smitten with insanity. So, we Muslims have been warned that in order to avoid such a situation, stop dealing in interest because money that you get for interest does not enhance your wealth, although on the face of it, it may seem to you that it is increasing. Inevitably, a time comes when its true effects emerge. Furthermore, we have been cautioned that we are not allowed to enter into the business of interest, with the warning that if you do so, it will be a war against God.
This factor is obvious from today’s credit crunch. In the beginning there were individuals who borrowed money to buy property; but before they could see ownership of the property they used to die burdened with the debt. But now there are governments that are burdened with debt and smitten as if with insanity. Large companies have become bankrupt. Some banks and financial institutions have folded or been bailed out and this situation prevails in every country, regardless of its being rich or poor. You know better than I do about this crisis. The money of the depositors has been wiped off. Now it depends upon governments as to how and to what extent to protect them. But for the time being, the peace of mind of the families, businessmen and leaders of the governments in most countries of the world has all but been destroyed.
Does this situation not compel us to think that the world is heading to the logical conclusion whose warning was given to us well in advance? God knows better what the further consequences of this situation will be. God Almighty has said: Come towards peace that can only be guaranteed when there is pure and wholesome trade and when resources are put into usage in a proper and fair manner.