Islam and World Peace

by H. Ahmed

Editor’s Preface: This article is from The War Resister, issue 70, First Quarter 1956, and continues our series of essays on nonviolence in Islam. Please consult our Islam category for further articles. Reference and acknowledgments are at the end. JG

“Islam is Peace”; courtesy

In the limited space at my disposal, I will concern myself with the fundamental principles of pacifism in Islam, as taught by the great Prophet of Arabia. As in the case of almost all the other religions, Islam has also been betrayed by its followers, so much so that the other day I came across a rather blunt remark that there is no place for nonviolence in Islam and that Islam does not advocate the establishment of world peace. And it is very often that we come across such remarks.

There is a bar to all knowledge, and that is contempt prior to investigation. Any scholar who studies the original Islam without preconceived ideas will realise that Islam is also a religion of peace and that it also advocates pacifism. It aims at the welfare and prosperity of every human being without the difference of caste, creed, colour or nationality. The teachings of Islam lead one to the golden rule of “Live and let live for mutual forbearance and tolerance”. The Prophet of Arabia declared, “Faith is restraint against all violence”. Further exhorting his followers to non-violence, he said, “Let no Muslim commit violence!” Can there be a clearer injunction than this?

Islamic Realism

Islam, being a thoroughly practical religion, approaches the problem of peace and pacifism in a simple, realistic, straightforward and practical way. Islam, like Buddhism, laid great emphasis on the personal responsibility of men. World conditions, like so many other things, are the result of our own doings. Man in general is responsible for tension between peoples, nations, and governments. This personal responsibility is very important, for only after realising that we are responsible for the situation and that we alone can change it, can something substantial be achieved.

Islam teaches the futility of miracles. It can, therefore, be concluded that according to the teachings of Islam there is no shortcut or patent cure for world peace. Those who expect that Islam has a magic wand, and that by waving it we can establish heaven on earth, will be disappointed. It is a plain fact, and I feel very pleased to announce, that Islam has no such talisman.

The Causes of War

Then what is the solution offered by Islam? To understand the point of view of Islam thoroughly we must consider the causes of moral degradation.

The seeds of war are to be found in an unhealthy society and unsolved problems. Nature provides war when it is necessary. In other words, war is the product of circumstances and the prevailing conditions. Unless we remove the circumstances that lead to war and conflicts it would be futile to talk of peace. Nobody can deny the fact that Hitler was the product of circumstances. As long as society is unhealthy, such personalities will appear and will play their own destructive part. This is the world of cause and effect. Unless we remove the causes, we cannot expect to escape the results.

Greed, fear, misuse of power, and exploitation of the weak by the strong are also the causes of war. The problem of armaments is important; destructive weapons cannot be kept idle for long. They must be used. In spite of this, the fact remains that the whole environment must be changed first. We cannot establish world peace merely by talking about peace. In the words of H. G. Wells, “A desire for peace will no more give us peace by itself than the concentration of mind upon hunger will nourish the body”.

The Heart of Man

So it is quite clear that to promote world peace, it is necessary, even inevitable, to reform society. But it is not easy to change society. As a matter of fact, it is very difficult to break habits, customs, traditions and ideologies. Nothing useful can be achieved unless a strong body of devoted and selfless persons is formed, ready to sacrifice everything for achieving reforms. We have seen in our own lifetime, how such a group of enthusiastic men under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi changed the destiny of India.

About fourteen hundred years ago when the conditions of society were not very different from these of ours, was born a man called Mohammed. He was very disturbed to see the petty quarrels of his countrymen, and the degradation of contemporary society. He was also concerned about the whole of humanity and wanted to make reforms. After much contemplation about how to improve the conditions, he received inspiration. According to these inspired teachings, he civilised his own people, and very slowly but efficiently changed the hearts of men. Thus in his own lifetime he formed a society in which it became impossible for one section to exploit the other. This is the main foundation on which permanent world peace can be established.

Some people are too pessimistic with regard to the extermination of war. They think that war is in the very nature of human beings, and the idea of pacifism is the mere dream of a Utopian and, therefore, every step taken towards this goal is nothing but a waste of time and energy. There are still others who are on the other extreme, so to say.

Islam advocates the middle path and offers a realistic outlook. According to the teachings of Islam, evolution is possible in all human institutions, and it is the responsibility of man to make changes for the better. Islam at the same time teaches its followers not to be pessimistic. It also exhorts its followers to struggle after righteousness through their own strength.


Nationalism is a great obstacle in the way of establishing world peace. As Rabindranath Tagore observed, nationalism is a cruel, evil epidemic sweeping over our present age and sapping into its moral vitality. The prophet of Islam gave us a system in which one is able to proclaim “every land belongs to me for it belongs to my God.”

The idea of a God who created the universe is the basis for the philosophy of Pacifism. Side by side with this concept there is the idea of the brotherhood of man, which in itself is also a fundamental principle of Pacifism. In this regard the teachings of Lord Buddha and Mohammed are quite similar.

I can say without the slightest hesitation that if we approach the original teachings of Islam and the noble principles for which it stands, after removing all the evils of later fabrications, dogmatism and orthodoxy, we will find that Islam contributes equally with other world religions to the philosophy of pacifism.

Reference: IISG/WRI Archive Box 117: Folder 2, Subfolder 1; with thanks to WRI/London and Christine Schweitzer, director.

“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi