Islam and Non-Violence
Prof. Mehboob Desai
The majority of audience may presume that there is no bond in between Islam and nonviolence. But, the nonviolence is one of the fundamental principles of Islam. The audience may wonder at the novelty of this presentation. Yet, those who understand the real meaning of Islam, who has the concept of its philosophy, will not reject the claim of nonviolence in Islam.
The first poem or Surah of Holy Quran is named as ‘Al Fatihah’. ‘Al Fatihah’ means ‘to start or to begin’. Mohammad, the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, had called it as ‘Ummal Quran’. ‘Ummal Quran’ means Mother of Quran. This poem is festooned with words like mercy, praise, prayer, right way, etc. In this Surah it is prayed,
“In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds. Most Gracious Most Merciful. Master of the Day of Judgment. Thee do we worship and Thine aid we seek. Show us the straight way. The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace Those whose portion is not wrath and who go not astray.
The first Surah of Holy Quran, namely ‘Al Fatihah’ is dedicated to Allah, Most Gracious. It is a prayer for success in a good action. There is no scope for violence in it. It never reflects on the violence, either directly or indirectly.
There is one incident referred in the Holy Quran. There were two sons of Adam, namely Habil or Abel and Qabil or Cain. The elder son of Adam, Cain, threatened Abel, the younger son of Adam with death. Then, Abel, the younger righteous son of Adam replied to the bullying brother Cain,
"If thou dost stretch thy hand against me to slay me it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee: for I do fear Allah the Cherisher of the worlds. For me I intend to let thee draw on thyself my sin as well as thine for thou wilt be among the companions of the fire and that is the reward of those who do wrong.”
With this belief in Islamic nonviolence, and for fear of Allah the Cherisher of the worlds, Abel was readied to be martyred. Abel had followed the instructions of Allah the Cherisher of the worlds. For, Allah says in the Holy Quran,
“On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people:”
Mahatma Gandhi, our Father of Nation had expressed his opinion on the Islamic nonviolence as under, “I have come to an opinion that the doctrine of Holy Quran is basically recommending the nonviolence. In the Holy Quran, it is said that nonviolence is better than violence. The order of implementation of violence should be done to fulfil the duty. The violence is permitted as much as necessary.”
There is a pre-concept of nonviolence and a prejudice against the Islam. Populace believe that Muslims are basically violent, because, three Islamic tenets, namely Qurbani , Jehad and permission for eating the flesh. These tenets are making the populace to believe that there is the violence in Islam. But, these three things are allowed under certain limitations and for some special purpose only. So, we shall try to understand the real and theological meanings of them, and their practice in real sense. Then only we shall be able to understand the concept of nonviolence in Islam. Firstly, it is necessary to understand the concept of nonviolence, as preached by Jain Dharma and as practiced by our beloved Gandhiji.
The fundamental doctrine of Jain Dharma is nonviolence. Gandhiji had adopted the best tenets from every living religion for his practical life, as well as for the guidance of his people in his Ashram. From the Jain Dharma, he had adopted the tenet of nonviolence. He had adopted the concept of ‘congregational prayers’ and ‘equality for all’ in religious functions from the teachings of Islam. Certainly, there is a difference in between the nonviolence preached by Great Trithanker Mahavir of Jain Dharma, and the nonviolence practiced by our Great National Leader, Mahatma Gandhi. The nonviolence of Mahavir is delicately intricate and divine, whereas the nonviolence being adopted and practiced by Mahatma Gandhi is humane in nature. When compared to these two kinds of nonviolence, the Islamic nonviolence is innate, sensible and practical.
As per the teaching of Jain Dharma, the present creation and the creature in it are not real in true sense. For the salvation from the false world, one should have to liberate himself from the eighteen misconducts, namely Prana-Atipata or Micro-violence, Mrushavad or Falsehood, Adattadan or Stealing, Maithun or Intercourse, Parigraha or Material Collection, Krodh or Anger, Ahankar or Arrogance, Maya or False Impression, Lobha or Greediness, Raga or Passion, Dwesha or Hatred, Kalah or Quarrelling, Abhyakhyan or Allegation, Paishun or Blaming, Rati or Emotion, Paraparivad or Accusation on others and Mithyatva or Blind Faith. To get ride of these eighteen entanglements of misconducts, Jain Dharma has shown four way-outs for human beings. These four jewels like way-outs are Samyagdhrusti or True Lookout, Samyaggyan or True Intelligence, Samyagvani or True Telling and Samyagcharitra or True Conduct. These principles of Jain Dharma reveal that performance of violence by oneself, or making anyone to do violence, or permitting anyone for violence or tolerating anyone’s violence are equal sins. Even a thought of killing an ant is a sin. Mercy is the Dharma for human being. I believe that this type of micro-nonviolence of Jain Dharma is aiming to achieve and to establish valuable dedication and good mannerism in human society.
Gandhiji had used Truth and Nonviolence as his armour. Experimenting with Truth is the main magic of his manly verve. His concept of nonviolence is very humane. He had recommended people to participate in bloodshed wars for a just cause. He had preferred to inject a deadly poison into a mild bullock in Ashram rather than to let it leave with unbearable pain and sufferings. Overall, he had not made the concept of nonviolence as synonym to cowardice. He has declared his ideas about nonviolence as under:
“Nonviolence is a concept which is cosmic and thick in nature. We are but ignorant creatures, which are encircled by the Holi-fire of violence. ‘Living thing lives upon a living thing’ is not a fallacy. Man cannot live for a minute without causing violence on other living things. While eating, sitting or in all his actions, intentionally or unintentionally he is bound to commit some kind of violence against other living things. If he endures the idea of endeavoring at his level best to protect even a small living thing from his violent actions, this passion makes him the worshiper of nonviolence. In his conduct, there will be an ever-expanding restrain and an ever-spreading compassion. Yet, no one can achieve freedom from encircling superficial violence.”
We, as ordinary human beings, may accept the humane concept of nonviolence of Gandhiji as simple and easily practicable than the delicately intricate and divine concept of nonviolence of Jain Dharma, which is professed by Mahavir, the Great Trithanker. Yet, the fallacious feeling of simplicity and adoptability of humane concept of nonviolence may turn into a strong challenging act in practice.