Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mohammed's Hope for Peace

If you read the Koran or study the life of Mohammed, it's pretty clear the one thing he really wanted was peace for his people, yet considering the violent strife within the Islamic community and violent strife at almost every border of the Islamic community, peace is something that's eluded Mohammed's followers, almost from the beginning.

Although we, in the west, tend to concentrate on violence between Islam and other cultures, violence within Islam is almost as prevalent. Mohammed himself was threatened by the violence of Arabic tribalism which is why he entered a period of self-imposed exile in Medina. For the lack of peace, he left his home and became a refugee.

I have no idea what it means to receive messages from God, but I do know what it's like to be a man who deeply wants peace and happiness for his people, so it's easy for me to sympathize with Mohammed on that level.

Mohammed created the Constitution of Medina, which was a watershed accomplishment in the very concept of peace among differing people and the traditional greeting among Islamic people is "As-Salamu Alaykum" meaning "peace be upon you". Despite all this, almost from the beginning, Islam has been embroiled in violent confrontation.

You would think peace was possible. Islam is a very disciplined religion, much more so than Christianity and its followers are very devout. If Mohammed wanted peace then there should be peace both within Islam and without, but why isn't there?

Part of the answer may be that, from the beginning, Islam had violence thrust upon them. Mohammed had attained peace in Medina, but soon afterward armed forces from Mecca attacked them. In response, Mohammed left the path of peace and became a man of war.

By unifying the people of Medina and using ideas from outside his own culture (see Salman The Persian), Mohammed was able to repel the attacks from Mecca and force Mecca into a treaty.

That may have been the turning point. To protect his followers, Mohammed made the transition from prophet to general and in the years to come he used his army to conquer not only Mecca, but most the Arabian peninsula.

Instead of maintaining peace in Medina, he became a man of conquest. Elements of a warrior's code found their way not only into the Islamic culture but also into the Koran itself.

I can't posit that Christians are any better than Muslims in this regard. Christians have their own history of violence to deal with that's at least as substantial as Islam's. Jesus may not have been a warrior himself, but his followers certainly took on that mantle.

I would say though, that it's very difficult for a warrior culture to ever find peace, and for one to truly follow Mohammed, it may be necessary to divorce the prophet's desire for peace from his own actions as a military man.

We're trying to come to a point where the people of the world can practice their different faiths without fear that anyone will attack them for it. To do that we have to eliminate all traces of tribalism or primativism or any warrior's code that tries to tell us that the only path to peace and safety is by eliminating anyone who believes or behaves differently from us.

Islam is truly a religion of peace and Christianity is truly a religion of love, but how far are we from either of these in reality? Particularly, we who descend from the faith of Abraham must rededicate ourselves to the real values of our faith beyond the interceding fallacies of tribalism that followed.

Peace? Love? The choice is ours.


Sandi said...

Have you ever read "No God But God" by Resa Azlan? You would enjoy it ... it's a history of the Islamic faith, and very well written.

A. Boyd C. said...

I think I have that! A few years ago I did a lot of research to try and educate myself on Islam and that was one of the books several people recommended.

I'm still fascinated by the story. A guy comes home one day and tells his wife he's been contacted by an angel...

Can you imagine? I told my wife at the time that if I ever did that to please be patient with me, but to have me checked out pretty thoroughly too!