What is a religion of peace? I need your answers

A long time Muslim reader of this blog, Abdul Hakim, has posed two excellent questions. I want to invite you to consider and answer his questions:
I mostly agree that a religion from God would be peaceful. But I would like to ask a few questions in that regard:

1. Who defines what is peaceful?
People have different opinions on things like death penalty, abortion, and even spanking. If people can differ so much in just the US, how much more so about religions that span the globe? Who sets the criterion and says "OK this is peaceful, this is not. This is good, this is bad"?

2. How does a religion being peaceful prove it is from God?

Unless you wanted to get into a complicated philosophical discussion that God must be kind (which I don't think either of us want to do)

Christians often complain about how Muslims are narrow-minded and judgmental. But here we have a Muslim who is asking some very good questions (I think). He deserves your prayerful answers.

--Abu Daoud


I am touched :)
Jeff said…
I think a possible beginning of an answer might lie in a definition of peace.

Peace means a lot of different things. But it can't be the same as war!

If a religion seems to mandate and encourage violence as a solution to problems rather than compromise and forgiveness, then it would be hard to consider it a religion of peace.

On the other hand, if a religion mandated or even encouraged avoidance of violence, then it might qualify as a religion of peace.

To most outsiders, Buddhism seems peaceful, even though some Buddhists and even religious leaders have been violent.

To many outsiders, Islam seems non peaceful, violent, angry, even though many of its adherents are peaceful.

Of course, you can argue that war might sometimes be the only way to gain peace. Or that peacefulness can sometimes lead to war.

But I think this is a good place to begin the discussion. :)
Jeff said…
I'm thinking this through and kind of brainstorming...

Let's say a religion taught that you should never respond to violence with violence. For example, if you took the Amish version of Christianity as an example, you would probably have to say it's peaceful. We don't have to agree whether or not this is Christian doctrine or not in reality, but most of us would agree that this is a peaceful religion. No war!

Another example: There is a famous letter from the ambassador of one of the Tripoli to Thomas Jefferson and the Americans explaining why they could not just be at peace with those who were at peace with them:

"The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise."


Now without getting into how correct the quote is or whether this interpretation of Islam is correct, I think most people would find that the religion expressed in this quote--attack and enslave all those who do not bow down to your religion--doesn't seem peaceful but rather warlike.

What do you think? :)
Jeff said…
How does a religion of peace prove that it is from God?

I'm not sure that if you put it like that, it does. I can invent a very peaceful religion right now and it wouldn't be from God.

I think if you turned the question around and said, Could a violent, cruel, warlike religion be from God, you might be able to argue, No.

We have a sort of moral sense and a sort of moral longing. Peace is good and beautiful! War is awful and hideous.

We have a sense that much conflict is a reflection of the smallness and selfishness of men and that a God's eye view would reveal that most of the causes of war are time and perspective bound.

We aspire and long for, with the best part of ourselves, for some kind of permanent peace.

Heaven or paradise is a picture of peace. Imagine if God promised us a heaven full of bloodshed and cruelty!

Visions of perfect justice such as the coming of the Messiah in Judaism, envision the reign of perfect peace.

This is something that the religious sense, the heart of man, longs for.

I once was chatting with a Muslim friend on a forum about pre Columbian pagan religions in which hundreds of slaves became the ritual victims of painful human sacrifice. His reaction was that "obviously" such a religion doesn't qualify as a real religion at all.

I don't know that this is proof. But I think many of us would react the same way to the Tripolitanian ambassador's understanding of Islam in the same way: This cannot be from God.

God does not need cruelty and subjection to "convince" people of His Truth.

I think Pope Benedict put forth these two visions in his (in)famous talk some years ago. But it bears reading, whether or not the teaching of Islam as he outlined it was correct or not. Peaceful means of spreading religion rest on an appeal to the reason, which is a reflection of God and His Truth. Violent means are corruptions and ungodly, because violence silences ALL objection and stills the search for Truth. It cannot be used to establish truth.

How's that for a start?
Robert Sievers said…
People tend to focus on external manifestations of peace. What is of more meaning, though, is our internal view of peace. The world will always be full of strife.

Yet what indicates a true religion from God is one that allows us to be peaceful not in our circumstances, but despite them. (Philippians 4:7)

The first two points are about the definitions of peace.

The first point is regarding response to violence with violence.

While it would be nice to imagine that we could live like that. It is simply not practical.

Japanese author Gosei Yamaguch believed that one should train to protect one self and to learn to exercise self-restraint.


Chinese philosophy takes it a step further and states

'''it was the duty of a hero to help those who couldn’t defend themselves.'''


This is the philosophy which Islam (as I have studied) strongly emphasizes. I think Christianity would agree to.
This video provides a good (not perfect) presentation of what I believe.


But as Mohatma Gandhi said.

"''An-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye.. ends in making everybody blind"''

So obviously there has to be a limit to what point we tolerate violence. I as a Muslim believe in certain ways of interacting with violence which may be different from Buddhists, Amish, Jews, etc.
So who is right??? Has anyone decided an exact balance????

The only thing I can think of at this point is to turn to sociology and criminology, as they have the relevant data and evidence to tell us what we need to do in order to function properly
With regards to the second point about declaring ''eternal war on non believing nations''.

It depends on the context. People in the past did not have international governing bodies to keep the world peaceful (?) as today. (Or at least try to!!!)

Abdul Hakim Jackson explains this very well with regards to Islam by quoting professor Fred Donner

'''a ‘state of war’ was assumed to
exist between one’s tribe and all
others, unless a particular treaty
or agreement had been reached with
another tribe establishing amicable

(((The article 'Jihad in the Modern world can be seen here

AS A GENERAL RULE, though, I agree.
A religion cannot be peaceful if it declares perpetual war. All the sources I used thus far would agree.

Yusuf al Qaradawi states

“They have invested more time and
effort than the preceding scholars,
clarifying the issue beyond the
shadow of a doubt, thus eliminating
controversies. It was unanimously
agreed that all the Prophet’s forays
were only for the purpose of self
protection and in order to safeguard
the religion, and this is not a
conjecture but a certitude”

With regards to a Merciful God being a True God.

While I do agree with many of your points (God lets us use reason, doesn't require violence, etc),
this nonetheless a philosophical question which has no easy answer.

At the end of the day, it is all human conjecture.

My main point is that if a religion has kind or beautiful teachings that does not make it true, which you seem to agree with.

This may seem obvious, but this argument has been posed to me numerous times on this forum as a 'proof' that I should become a Christian.

At the end of the day, it ultimately reasoning and logic which lead us to believe ina true faith.

May God have mercy on us all and
give us blessed knowledge about Him.

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