Osama bin Laden, the world's most notorious terrorist, has handed Muslims everywhere their worst public-relations nightmare: September 11 as a picture, an embodiment, of Islam. Muslims now have to define themselves in relation to the day of infamy.
Abdulaziz Sachedina, a Muslim scholar at the University of Virginia, says he does not remember ever praying so earnestly that God would spare Muslims the blame for "such madness that was unleashed upon New York and Washington . …I felt the pain and, perhaps for the first time in my entire life, I felt embarrassed at the thought that it could very well be my fellow Muslims who had committed this horrendous act of terrorism. How could these terrorists invoke God's mercifulness and compassion when they had, through their evil act, put to shame the entire history of this great religion and its culture of toleration?"
Every judgment about Islam, all reaction to Muslim doctrine, and each Muslim-Christian encounter are now cast in light of the events of that dreadful day.
Islam as a Path of Peace
There are three distinct interpretations of the events of September 11. The first view is that the terrorist acts do not represent Islam. President George W. Bush best expressed this notion when he said that "Islam is a religion of peace." One of the leading Muslims to echo this is Yusuf Islam (the former rock musician Cat Stevens, who now helps promote Muslim education in England). "Today, I am aghast at the horror of recent events and feel it a duty to speak out," he said in a London newspaper. "Not only did terrorists hijack planes and destroy life; they also hijacked the beautiful religion of Islam."
During an interfaith ceremony at Yankee Stadium on September 23, Imam Izak-El M. Pasha ...1
Islam is a religion of peace in the fullest sense of the word. The Qur’an calls its way ‘the paths of peace’ (5:16). It states that God abhors any disturbance of peace (2:205).
In fact the root word of Islam is ‘silm’ which itself means peace. So the spirit of Islam is the spirit of peace. The first verse of the Qur’an breathes the spirit of peace. It reads: In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.
This verse is repeated in the Qur’an no less than 113 times. It shows the great importance Islam attaches to such values as Mercy and Compassion. One of God’s names, according to the Qur’an, is As-Salam, which means peace. Moreover the Qur’an states that the Prophet Muhammad PBUH was sent to the world as a mercy to mankind. (21:107)
A perusal of the Qur’an shows that most verses of the Qur’an (and also the Hadith) are based on peace and kindness, either directly or indirectly. The ideal society, according to the Qur’an is Dar as-Salam, that is, the house of peace (10:25).
Islam attaches great importance to peace. In fact, Islam cannot afford not to be in a state of peace because all that Islam aims at—spiritual progress, intellectual development, character building, social reform, educational activities, and above all Missionary work —can be achieved only in an atmosphere of peace and harmony.
According to Islam, peace is not simply an absence of war. Peace opens doors to all kinds of opportunities that are present in any given situation. It is only in a peaceful situation that planned activities are possible. It is for this reason that the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) went to great extents to establish peace at all costs.
According to Islam, peace is the rule and war is only an exception. Even in defensive war we have to see the result. If the result is doubtful, Muslims should avoid war, even in a defensive situation. Stray acts of aggression are not enough for Muslims to rush into war. They have to assess the whole situation and adopt a policy of avoidance when war is not certain to achieve a positive result. This can be seen from the examples given in the articles of this section as was in the case of the battle of the trench. In this event there was clear-cut aggression on the part of the antagonists, who traveled as far as 300 miles from Mecca to Medina only to attack the Muslims. But the Prophet got a trench dug in order to prevent an armed confrontation and thus avoided engaging in a defensive war.
Thus Islam is a religion of peace in the complete sense of the word. Every teaching of Islam is based on the principles of peace and avoidance. Any deviation from the model is a deviation from Islam and is due to misconceptions. We should, therefore, understand the ideology of peace given in Islam and base our actions upon this ideology so that peace will prevail in the world.