Peace in the Quran is an important component of all societies and something that everyone seeks. It is also one of the topics discussed in many religions, including Islam.
What does Islam say about peace? How important is peace in this religion? What are the different contexts that peace is discussed in the Quran and Islam? These are a few of the questions we will look into in this article.
Topics discussed in the article are the following:
Islam is a Religion of Peace
The greeting that Islam teaches us is the word ‘salam’ (سلام) and it is a moderate greeting. 1
The word comes from the root word ‘silm’ (سلم) which means to be free of apparent and hidden calamities or blights and faults. Sometimes the salam is external to mean a state of well-being and sometimes it is verbal. This latter type is a prayer seeking the well-being of another person from God and is the greeting Islam teaches us. 2
This greeting is, in reality, an announcement from the giver of the greeting to the receiver. The giver is announcing to the receiver that you are safe from all oppression from me and the innate freedom God has blessed you with will not be violated by me. 3
The attribute moderate that has been referred to above is because the first thing that any cooperative society needs is a feeling of safety that dominates over a person’s wealth, life, and honor from the hands of others. Not only must these, but anything that is connected to these must also be safe.
And this is the greeting that Allah has established between the Muslims so that whenever they meet, before anything else, they greet each other with salam, i.e. give the other person safety from any danger, trouble and oppression from his/her side. 4
History of Salam
It must be noted, however, that this greeting ‘salamun alaykum’ (سلام علیکم), peace be on you, was used by the Arabs of the Age of Ignorance even before the advent of Islam as is evidenced by the fact that God, in narrating the story of Ibrahim in the Quran, narrates the word as used by Ibrahim which shows it is a leftover from his time.
As we also witness in the verses of the Quran, God has chosen this word as His way of greeting. When He greets the Prophets in the verses of the Quran, He uses the word salam. It is also the way of greeting of the angels and the inhabitants of Heaven. 5
Verses and Hadith regarding Salam
As mentioned above, many verses refer to greeting and salam, as do many hadith. A few will be mentioned below
فَإِذَا دَخَلْتُم بُيُوتًا فَسَلِّمُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ تَحِيَّةً مِّنْ عِندِ اللَّـهِ مُبَارَكَةً طَيِّبَةً ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّـهُ لَكُمُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ ﴿61﴾
So when you enter houses, greet yourselves with a salutation from Allah, blessed and good. Thus does Allah clarify His signs for you so that you may exercise your reason. 6
الَّذِينَ تَتَوَفَّاهُمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ طَيِّبِينَ ۙ يَقُولُونَ سَلَامٌ عَلَيْكُمُ ادْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿32﴾
—those whom the angels take away while they are pure. They say [to them], ‘Peace be to you! Enter paradise because of what you used to do.’ 7
- Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him and his household) narrates:
Salam is one of the names of Allah; therefore, make it public among yourselves. If a Muslim person passes by a group and greets them (with salam) and if they do not reply to his salam, those who are better and purer than them will reply to their salam (i.e. the angels) 8
- He has also narrated:
By Him in whose hands my life is, you will not enter Heaven until you believe and you will not bring faith until you love each other. Should I not guide you to something which if you perform, you will love each other? (that is) To make salam public among yourselves. 9
The Words used to Express Peace in the Quran
In the Quran, two root words are generally used for peace in the Quran. They are ‘silm’ (سلم) and ‘sulh’ (صلح). They refer to peace in different contexts; sometimes in contrast to war and at other times to make peace between families or between believers, etc.
The Importance of Human Life in Islam
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَٰلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا ۚ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ثُمَّ إِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنْهُم بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فِي الْأَرْضِ لَمُسْرِفُونَ ﴿32﴾
IOn that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one 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: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. 10
All the people of the human species are individuals of the same species and each of them shares in the reality, humanity and essence that endless numbers of other humans have.
The purpose of God’s creation of the individuals of this species and their reproduction is that this reality – which has a short life in each of the separate individuals due to their short life – remains on this earth.
This is why one generation follows another: so that the succeeding generation worships God as the preceding one had done.
Therefore, if one person from among human beings is killed, the purpose of God’s creation which is the survival of humanity through generation after generation is made void. In this case, the murderer has opposed and disputed the position of God’s Lordship.
In conclusion, because of the reality that human beings share with each other, killing one person is tantamount to killing the human species and vice versa, saving a life is equal to saving all of humanity. 11
Peace in the Quran always takes Precedence
From this verse we can conclude that for Islam, human life is invaluable and can only be justified in being taken in the two cases mentioned in the verse, i.e. as retribution for a life unjustly taken by a murderer or if a person is spreading corruption.
Therefore, for Islam it is always peace that takes precedence to war and fighting; unless required as is evidenced by verses of peace in the Quran.
Accepting a Request for Peace in the Quran
وَإِن جَنَحُوا لِلسَّلْمِ فَاجْنَحْ لَهَا وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ ﴿61﴾
But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah: for He is One that heareth and knoweth (all things). 12
Considering this verse along with other verses from the Quran 13 shows that Islam does not promote starting a war – even with the disbelievers. It strives as far as possible to make sure that war does not take place.
This verse shows this well in that explains that if the enemies seek peace and wish to remain in their own religion and sign a treaty promising to not attack the Muslims, the Prophet must accept it.
And in case of fearing a scheme by the enemies in this regard, one must put his trust in God; albeit, while taking into consideration the different motives, causes and issues involved. 14
This shows that Islam is a religion that seeks peace, not war. 15
The Priority of Peace in the Quran
إِلَّا الَّذِينَ يَصِلُونَ إِلَىٰ قَوْمٍ بَيْنَكُمْ وَبَيْنَهُم مِّيثَاقٌ أَوْ جَاءُوكُمْ حَصِرَتْ صُدُورُهُمْ أَن يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ أَوْ يُقَاتِلُوا قَوْمَهُمْ ۚ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ لَسَلَّطَهُمْ عَلَيْكُمْ فَلَقَاتَلُوكُمْ ۚ فَإِنِ اعْتَزَلُوكُمْ فَلَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ وَأَلْقَوْا إِلَيْكُمُ السَّلَمَ فَمَا جَعَلَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ سَبِيلًا ﴿90﴾
Excepting those who join a people between whom and you there is a treaty, or such as come to you with hearts reluctant to fight you, or to fight their own people. Had Allah wished, He would have imposed them upon you, and then they would have surely fought you. So if they keep out of your way and do not fight you, and offer you peace, then Allah does not allow you any course [of action] against them. 16
Jihad in Islam is not for forcing belief on others and neither is to gain dominion; rather it is to repulse and eliminate evil and obstacles. Therefore, if the enemies step back, the Muslims must not attack them. If they do, it is possible that God would give the enemies strength and they would eradicate the Muslims.
As a result, one must respect requests for peace and ceasefire as in Islam peace is the core and war is allowed only in cases of necessity. However, it is not the suggestion of peace alone from the enemy that is enough to accept ceasefire. To be certain of their intentions, they must abandon war and fighting and extend peace. 17
This is the teaching of peace in the Quran and Islam.
Making Peace between Spouses
وَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ شِقَاقَ بَيْنِهِمَا فَابْعَثُوا حَكَمًا مِّنْ أَهْلِهِ وَحَكَمًا مِّنْ أَهْلِهَا إِن يُرِيدَا إِصْلَاحًا يُوَفِّقِ اللَّـهُ بَيْنَهُمَا ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا خَبِيرًا ﴿35﴾
If you fear a split between the two of them, then appoint an arbiter from his relatives and an arbiter from her relatives. If they desire reconcilement, Allah shall reconcile them. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all-aware. 18
One of the other instances of peace in the Quran is in making peace between spouses.
For instances where there is a chance that the relationship between a husband and wife might result in enmity, God has commanded that an arbiter from both sides be appointed. If there was only arbiter, from only one side, there was a chance that person would rule in favor of one side and give a prejudiced ruling. 19
Intent to Reconcile
If both sides really seek reconciliation and are not spiteful or stubborn, God will establish peace and reconciliation between them through this ruling. This is because when both sides have delegated their choice to the arbiter of their own choice, an agreement and conciliation will definitely be achieved.
It is important to note that the verse attributes reconciliation and peace to God even though there is a normal cause i.e. seeking peace and reconciliation and the submission of both sides to the ruling of their arbiters. This attribution to God is to help us realize that God is the real cause who establishes the relationship between the apparent causes and effects. 20
This verse again shows the important of establishing peace, this time in the context of family.
Believers and Making Peace in the Quran
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ ﴿10﴾
The faithful are indeed brothers. Therefore, make peace between your brothers and be wary of Allah, so that you may receive [His] mercy. 21
This verse establishes a relationship of brotherhood between believers that wasn’t present before. However, this is different from natural and legal relationships and although it brings with it consequences, effects and rights, they are different from those that come with brotherhood through blood or contract. 22
The Implications of this Brotherhood
There are some subtle points and implications in the fact that the Quran has introduced the relationship between believers as that of brotherhood. Some of these are as follows:
- The friendship between two brothers is deep and enduring
- This friendship is mutual not one way
- The friendship between brothers is founded on one’s innate nature and makeup not material and worldly attractions
- When facing a stranger, two brothers are one and are each other’s support
- The origin and root brothers is one
- Attention to brotherhood is a source for forgiveness and absolution
- A brother is happy in his brother’s happiness and sad in his sadness
In narrations, two brothers have been compared to two hands that wash each other. 23
Brothers and Peace in the Quran
One of the blessings that God has bestowed upon believers and which has been mentioned in the Quran is the love between the hearts of the Muslims:
Remember Allah’s blessing upon you when you were enemies, then He brought your hearts together, so you became brothers with His blessing. 24
According to other verses, making peace between people results in receiving God’s mercy and forgiveness. 25
The responsibility of establishing peace is that of everyone and not just one group of people. 26
Rules Pertaining to Making Peace between People in Islam
There are some special rules that Islam has established and things it has allowed in the matter of making peace between people. Some are:
- Lying, which is one of the major sins in Islam, is not considering a sin if it is told to make peace between people
- Secret talks and whisperings with the intent of evil has been forbidden in Islam and considered a satanic act except in certain cases; one of which is making peace between people
- It is obligatory to act upon one’s promise and prohibited to break it. However, if a person makes a promise or oath to not make peace between two people, Islam allows the breaking of such a promise.
- Even though it is obligatory to act upon the last will of a deceased person and forbidden to go against it, if acting upon it brings enmity and animosity between people, Islam allows us to abandon the wishes of the deceased so that peace and accord prevails between people. 27
Establishing peace is a matter that is given much importance by Islam. And Islam considers peace and not war or fighting to be principal and allows and condones war only when necessary, i.e. as a retribution for a person killed or when someone is spreading corruption.
One of the things that highlights Islam’s importance to peace is the greeting of ‘salamun alaikum’ with which the believers greet each other and means: peace be on you.
Peace in Islam is sometimes spoken of in contrast to war and sometimes in terms of establishing peace between believers or between spouses and families.
- Tabatabai, M. H. (1374). Tafsir al-Mizan. (Transl. by Seyed Muhammad Baqir Musavi Hamedani). Jamiat al-Modarresin Publications. Vol. 5, p. 47
- Qarashi, A. A. (1371). Qamus Quran, 6th ed. Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah. Vol 3, p. 296
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid.
- Ibid. pp. 47, 48 & 49
- [24: 61]. Qarai translation
- [16: 32]. Qarai translation
- Bihar al-Anwar, 2nd ed. (1403 AH). Research and edited by a group of researchers. Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi. Vol. 73, p. 10
- Tabarsi, A. (1965). Mishkat al-Anwar fi Ghurar al-Akhbar, 2nd ed. Najaf: al-Maktabat al-Haideriyyah. Main text, p. 124
- [5: 32]. Qarai translation
- Tabatabai, M. H. (1374). Tafsir al-Mizan. (Transl. by Seyed Muhammad Baqir Musavi Hamedani). Jamiat al-Modarresin Publications. Vol. 5, pp. 515 & 517
- [8: 61]. Qarai translation
- [2: 190] & [4: 90]
- Qarashi, A. A. (1377 AP). Tafsir-i Ahsan al-Hadith. Bethat Publications. Vol. 4, pp. 159-160
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Anfaal. Verse 61.
- [4: 90]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Nisa. Verse 90
- [4: 35]. Qarai translation
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. Vol. 4, pp. 546-547
- Ibid. p. 547
- [49: 10]. Qarai translation
- Al mizan. Vol. 18, p. 470
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Hujurat. Verse 10
- [3: 103]. Qarai translation … وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّـهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا…
- For example, [4: 129]
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Hujurat. Verse 10