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- March 26, 2020
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
Written by Shuaib S. Khan
All praise belongs to Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. The Giver of life and death and the Owner of all the treasures.
Those who seek spiritual illumination and well being in the life of this world and the next can find the secrets of this attainment in this very concise and profound instructions of the Messenger of Allah, may peace and blessings be upon him and upon his family.
Spread peace, feed the hungry and pray in the night while others sleep
– Prophet Muhammad
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) uttered these words as he was welcomed into the city of Yathrib which became named after him as Madina, short for Madinatu An-Nabi – The city of the Prophet. The beauty of this simple instruction has no end to the benefits that it can bring and those who applied it in their own lives know of its fruits.
The most important need of any society is security before prosperity. Yathrib was a city that was torn by civil war, hatred and animosity. Tribalism of the Aus and Khazraj had paved the way to perpetual violence and unending hunger for revenge. The severity of Yathrib’s self-destruction had reached such levels that all those in the position of leadership in both clans had been killed before the tribesmen realized that they need to halt this madness and find a solution to coexist. Their Jewish neighbors who had been led to settle in Yathrib by an age-old prophecy could not wait to inherit the oasis city from the warmonger pagan Arabs. All they needed to do that was to wait for the arrival of the Last Messenger, as all the signs of his arrival had occurred exactly as the prophecy had described. They used to say “When our leader, the Prophet of God arrives, the believers are going to be victories and you pagans are definitely going to lose!”.
The Prophet was transforming people’s hearts with the message of his Lord, the God of mankind. He was known as the honest, the trustworthy long before he began calling people to the worship of One God, the Creator of all the worlds. This news reached the people of Yathrib and filled them with the hope that perhaps this was what they needed. They had heard of the arrival of the Prophet and so they were not averse to give an ear to his message, and indeed their hope was well-placed.
The persecution in Mecca against the Prophet and his followers had escalated to the point were plots of assassination had been put into motion; those without strong tribal protection were tortured and even killed by the pagan chiefs. The call to worship of One and Only True God was poison to the pagan way of life and it threatened their political and economic system which was built around housing idols in the Kabaa, a sacred place of worship built by their great ancestors Abraham and his son Ismael, both prophets and honorable servants of God. The Prophet Muhammad was seeking a place where he could teach the revelation and the divine guidance of the true Abrahamic way and at that moment the people of Yathrib, seeking a solution to their own problem approached the Messenger of God and heard what he had to say.
His words kindled the light in their hearts and transformed the core of their being and without hesitation, the people of Yathrib opened their hearts and their home to the Prophet and His followers. Thus came the great migration, the Hijrah, which marks the beginning of the Islamic Hijri Calendar. Though it was not known by the Arabs of that time, this moment changed the world forever and these words were the first instructions of the Prophet to this new society.
The greeting in Islam is actually a prayer bestowed upon the other. We say: Assalam Alaykum which literally translates to “Peace be upon you (all)”
Many of our social ills today are the result of a lack of peace and security. Children who grow up in homes tainted with domestic violence suffer from all kinds of mental illnesses. People who are exposed to the horrors of war are often traumatized to point they lose all sense meaning to life. In Islam, an unjust violent act, no matter the scale, is viewed as a result of a disturbed heart. Unfortunately, people consciously or unconsciously spread the anger and the frustration that is at the root of all the violence. Anger that is not controlled is a contagious disease, like a fire that burns whoever may come in its path and once expressed, it lives on from person to person.
One of my students once asked – Why did the dog get hospitalized? Upon inquiry he related to me this story.
A successful business owner had an argument with his wife . They could not resolve the conflict so he left his home angry. Upon arrival at his office, he looked over the sales reports and unloaded his anger upon his managers. The managers who feared to lose their job did not say a word back to their boss, but went to their subordinates and started yelling at them for various different reasons. Some subordinates were mature enough to let go, but others went home angry that night. Shouts were heard from many homes and all that anger brought with it the storm of tears. One mother abused by her husband shouted at her kids. One of the kids kicked the dog. That’s why the dog got hospitalized.
Therefore the Prophetic advice: Spread Peace also means do not spread hatred, anger, violence, any sort of negativity. Cultivate the will power to put out these flames whenever it comes to you. And every time you meet someone, greet them with peace.
The Prophet – peace be upon him – said:
“Do not cause harm or return harm.” -Sunan Ibn Mājah
“The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the Muslims are safe.” -Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī
“The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe, and the believer is the one who is trusted with the lives and wealth of the people.” -Sunan al-Nasā’ī
“Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.” (Farewell Sermon)
If people don’t feel safe around a person due to physical, verbal or emotional abuse, then that person has not yet applied the prophetic advice of spreading peace in his/her life, and their greetings of peace is empty and without life.
One of the reasons why most people are flammable when it comes to spreading anger and hatred, but struggle to spread peace is disunity. Islam teaches us to view all people as one family and the diversity between us as part of God’s design. To view the others as “other” is foreign to the Islamic world view.
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. ” Quran – 49:13
Even those who disbelieved and fought the Prophet and his companions, there was nothing in the heart of the Prophet towards them except compassion and concern. Even as they harmed him, he prayed for their well being. He forgave their transgression and later when they embraced Islam, he embraced them as his brothers with not a single ounce of grudge in his heart from they had done.
The Prophet – peace be upon him – said
“Whoever wishes to be delivered from the fire and to enter Paradise — should treat the people as he wishes to be treated.” – (Sahih Muslim)
“None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself” – (Forty Hadith-Nawawi)
“Do unto all men as you would wish to have done unto you; and reject for others what you would reject for yourselves.” -(Abu Dawud)
Being divided naturally leads to conflicts and being united natural leads to peace. Therefore to spread peace also means striving towards unity, rekindle the love and compassion between the hearts.
A person who judges people with labels, instigates conflict between others, or engages in gossip and backbiting that is damaging to relationships has yet to apply the prophetic advice to spread peace in their life and their greetings of peace are yet empty and meaningless.
The word salaam which means peace is also one of the names of God in the Arabic language. In the Quranic world view, no one can attain inner peace except by coming to know their Creator and by remembering Him often. Peace is a gift that is given by Allah. When a person really enters into the Grace of Allah, Allah illuminates their heart up and says to it:
“Peace! – a word from a Lord Most Merciful!” – Quran 36:58
None can attain this type of peace while they roam in the darkness of ignorance. No doubt ignorance is a cause of great suffering. And the hearts are agitated when it is not nourished with the knowledge of their Creator.
Every person upon entering Islam attains a degree of inner peace and it is the duty of every Muslim to invite to Allah. To spread peace therefore also means to educate, remind and do good works.
The one who withholds knowledge of God, while living among a sea of thirsty hearts has yet to apply the prophetic advice of spreading peace.
This message is the foundation of a healthy society because everyone declares peace with the other at the moment of their meeting. The correct implementation of this in the physical realm is to do away with violence and abuse, in the realm of the hearts, it is to do away from hatred and disunity and in the realm of the intellect to do away with ignorance of God.