Tuesday, August 31, 2010

China's Female Imams

Here is something we don't hear about often when we hear about Islam in the media:
As early as the late Ming dynasty (around the 17th century), the faithful had set up female Muslim schools around the country. These turned into female mosques operated by women imams in late Qing dynasty (around the 19th century). The practice of female imams then spread to all the Chinese Muslim societies, said Shui Jingjun, a Henan Provincial Academy of Social Sciences researcher. Currently, Ningxia has more than 80 female imams. There are more than 3,600 registered mosques and 6,000 ahongs in the region, he said.

NPR also reports:
This city in central China's Henan province has an Islamic enclave, where Muslims have lived for more than 1,000 years.

In an alleyway called Wangjia hutong, women go to their own mosque, where Yao Baoxia leads prayers. For 14 years, Yao has been a female imam, or ahong as they are called here, a word derived from Persian.

As she leads the service, Yao stands alongside the other women, not in front of them as a male imam would. But she says her role is the same as a male imam.

"The status is the same," Yao says confidently. "Men and women are equal here, maybe because we are a socialist country."

China has an estimated 21 million Muslims, who have developed their own set of Islamic practices with Chinese characteristics. The biggest difference is the development of independent women's mosques with female imams, something scholars who have researched the issue say is unique to China.

Yao studied to become an imam for four years, after being laid off from her job as a factory worker. First she studied under a female imam, then with a male imam alongside male students.

Her main role is as a teacher, she says.

"When people come to pray, they don't know how to chant the Quran, so my job is teaching people about Islam, helping them to study one line at a time and leading the prayers," she says.

However there is still opposition against this more Progressive breed of Islam wherever Fundamentalist Islam holds influence:
Opposition Still Exists To Women's Roles

In central China, most Muslims support the female mosques, but there is some resistance closer to China's border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, closer to the harder-line Wahhabi and Salafi influences.

"Historically in northwestern China, there were no female mosques," says Shui, the researcher. "There was resistance because people thought that building female mosques was against the rules of religion. But in central China and most provinces, people think it's a good innovation for Islam."

In the past decade, some women's mosques have been established in northwest China. The phenomenon appears to be spreading, helped politically by the Islamic Association of China, a state-controlled body that regulates Islam and issues licenses to practice to male and female imams alike.

See also: China's Female Imams and NPR: Female Imams Blaze Trail Amid China's Muslims.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Bunch Of Quotes: Quotable Quotes

The Church as Contrast-Society:
“The idea of church as contrast-society does not mean contradiction to the rest of society for the sake of contradiction. Still less does the church as contrast-society mean despising the rest of society due to elitist thought. The only thing meant is contrast on behalf of others and for the sake of others, the contrast function that is unsurpassably expressed in the images of ‘salt of the earth,’ ‘light of the world,’ and ‘city on a hill’ (Mt 5:13-14).

Precisely because the church does not exist for itself but completely and exclusively for the world, it is necessary that the church not become the world, that it retain its own countenance. If the church loses its own contours, if it lets its light be extinguished and its salt become tasteless, then it can no longer transform the rest of society. Neither missionary activity nor social engagement, no matter how strenuous, helps anymore. …

What makes the church the divine contrast-society is not self-acquired holiness, not cramped efforts and moral achievements, but the saving deed of God, who justifies the godless, accepts failures and reconciles himself with the guilty. Only in this gift of reconciliation, in the miracle of life newly won against all expectation, does what is here termed contrast-society flourish.”

—Gerhard Lohfink, Jesus and Community: The Social Dimension of Christian Faith (SPCK, 1985) as quoted in Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission: Paul and the Early Church (IVP, 2004), 1577-1578.

George W. Bush on Islam:
...days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush had much to say about the need for religious tolerance even after Islamic extremists carried out the worst foreign attack in history on U.S. soil.

"The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam," Bush said at the Islamic Center of Washington in a speech that set the tenor for when he later sent U.S. troops to fight on Muslim soil in Afghanistan and later Iraq. "That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war."

N. T. Wright on Idolatry and Community:
One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sexual objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch. ---Surprised By Hope (HarperOne, 2008): (pg. 182).

Mark Driscoll on Idolatry and Commmunity:
If we idolize our gender, we must demonize the other gender. If we idolize our nation, we must demonize other nations. If we idolize our political party, we must demonize other political parties. If we idolize our socioeconomic class, we must demonize other classes. If we idolize our family, we must demonize other families. If we idolize our theological system, we must demonize other theological systems. If we idolize our church, we must demonize other churches. This explains the great polarities and acrimonies that plague every society. If something other than God’s loving grace is the source of our identity and value, we must invariably defend our idol by treating everyone and everything who may call our idol into question as an enemy to be demonized so that we can feel superior to other people and safe with our idol. ---Doctrine (Crossway, 2010): (pgs. 350-351).

Thomas Merton on Christian Non-Violence:
Christian non-violence is not built on a presupposed division, but on the basic unity of man. It is not out for the conversion of the wicked to the ideas of the good, but for the healing and reconciliation of man with himself, man the person and man the human family.

The non-violent resister is not fighting simply for "his" truth or for "his" pure conscience, or for the right that is on "his side." On the contrary, both his strength and his weakness come from the fact that he is fighting for the truth common to him and to the adversary, the right which is universal and objective. He is fighting for everybody. ---Faith And Violence: Christian Teaching and Christian Practice, pg. 15.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Theology?

Shawn Warnsley has an excellent posting over at his blog entitled "Everything is Theology." Here is the list of reasons he gives for why theology is important:

So, what’s so great about theology? I’ll ditch the research paper format in favor of the homily, and let you have it in three parts like any good preacher would. If you behave, I’ll even throw in a poem and alliterate the points. Deal?

1) Theology Inspires Curiosity
Theology didn’t earn the moniker ”Queen of the Sciences,” because church leaders needed some impressive sounding nom de guerre for the culture wars. The title was bestowed upon her, because theology in its true form drives the curiosity of the human mind. In the Middle Church, theology inspired churchmen from all walks of life to pursue knowledge of God through His creation. Tony Hunt rightly points to the fact that, “Theology is uniquely equipped to speak to most academic and truth-seeking conversations in an infinitely inter-disciplinary way.” I would offer that this is so precisely because theology predicates most of these conversations, in at least intent. Many early breakthroughs in math, science, et al were had at the hands of men who studied their respective fields alongside theology. Theology properly derived and rightly practiced will fuel the human imagination and temper the ego of men in a way that lends to the discovery of truth in other academic fields. It offers peace in the fear of new and unknown discoveries, it offers creativity and inspiration in the midst of traditional worldviews, and it offers boldness in the face of disputation. In fact, I would say that theology demands we seek out truth through every means available. This quality, I believe, is precisely what some (again, both within and without) are trying to avoid in disavowing theology. Theology drives us to the heart of who God is and that “heart” is irrevocably tied to the nature of truth. However, it is truth that stands apart from humanity – a truth that extends from the transcendent God and encompasses humanity as a member of the very creation it seeks to understand.

2) Theology Initiates Response
I reject most complaints that theology is necessarily flawed, due to its reliance on human reasoning as an intellectual endeavor, because this view misunderstands genuine theology in a fundamental way. Theology, correctly conceived and accurately applied, will necessarily lead to action. In fact, everyone lives out a theology every day. Whether they can articulate that theology in a meaningful way is another issue entirely. This, I suspect, is the real issue behind those that want to attack theological inquiry from without. There seems to be a rampant assumption that an unrecognised or unsophisticated theology is no theology at all. Sadly, our world is full of examples that demonstrate how dangerous bad theology is to all of creation. Before I go into full rant, though, let me just back up and reiterate the important point: you are not really a theologian unless the theology you talk is the theology you walk. Unfortunately, many opponents of religious faith understand this dynamic better than many Christians. There is an inherent national interest at stake in any religious expression by people – namely, the Church of Jesus Christ is a theological entity that transcends nationality and crosses government borders. It demands allegiance from its adherents, and is united (or at least it should be) under one Lord and one agenda. It stands at once in favor of all life, virtue, and truth and against human vice of all varieties, especially those commonly perpetrated by governments. While this is a deep mine to explore, it will have to suffice to say that we should bother with theology, because theology directs the hearts and actions of people.

3) Theology Infers Necessity
The problem with rejecting Theology on the basis of its intellectual nature lies in the fact that such a rejection requires not only intellectual reasoning but also a clearly defined Theology. How deliciously ironic, no? And so, it seems, there exists no prospect to opt out of theology. There is no possibility for the absence of theology; there is only good theology and bad theology. Consequently, I am of the opinion that theology is a kind of self-perpetuating phenomenon. The burden, then, lies with those obtuse wizards of the Word that have hidden in libraries and universities for too long. If the Church has lost contact with theology, it is our fault. It is time for the incarnation to inform our theology again. God’s greatest expression of himself to humanity was in an embodied form. Does anything in life get any more beautiful or nuanced than the loving relationships we have with family and friends? What better way do we have than to live out, to participate in the Church’s theology with those friends and family?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Christianity And Non-Violence: Several Views

Several thoughts on Christian non-violence and pacifism:

Complete non-violence is a religious teaching, not a political one. I am not a pacifist. But a Christian grappling with politics will nonetheless, I think, seek a system where violence is minimized, and a free space is given for faithful non-violence to flourish. That's why the civil rights movement was, in my view, a religious movement at its core, and was never better illustrated than by the choice of its participants to submit non-violently to the hatred and fear directed toward them, to resist it but not to counter it with more of the same.

For me, Christianity can lead to a certain form of political conservatism, one dedicated to law and tradition and civility and conversation, not tyranny and ideology and warfare and violence. This conservatism is just as accessible to atheists as well - and was perhaps best expressed by Hobbes. It will require an effective monopoly of violence by the state, but will henceforth do everything to restrain its manifestation in the civil and international sphere. (Source)

Do not be deceived. The Pope's recent words of truth concerning how violence is not pleasing to God apply also to so called "Christian civilization" as well as Islam. Both our scriptures and our history books depict the widespread prevalence of sin, injustice, abuse, and domination which are deeply woven into the social fabric of not only the world at large, but America throughout its entire narrative. Though the twentieth century began with waves of unbounded hope- the trust in "progress” soon gave way to disbelief and despair. Technology has allowed us to build bigger and better weapon systems to kill more people, industrialization allowed us to mass produce those weapons as well as the material trappings of the "market driven economy"; mass media allowed the propaganda- driven mobilization and indoctrination of entire populations to both use and defend that technology and industrialization in service of killing their enemies...in contravention of the biblical edict to love enemies and never return evil for evil because vengeance belongs to God.

Hitler's anti-Semitic Holocaust remains an indescribable horror of our age. But, Paul reminded his Roman readers that they ought not judge others when they thereby condemn themselves: in response to the injustice of others, and in the name of utilitarianism, United States forces likewise decimated Japanese men, women and children in our firebombing of Tokyo and our nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki...We did likewise in Dresden and Hamburg Germany. In our Cold War wake and mindless rush toward mastery and domination we created a world where total destruction by nuclear conflagration is a constant and impending threat right up until this very moment. We napalmed children and innocent adults in Viet Nam to "make the world safe for democracy". We have created a world in which MAD- mutually assured destruction- is no sci-fi acronym but stated government policy in response to any threatened attack or affront to our idol, democracy. We have held policies toward the Middle East for decades that oscillate between neglect and reactionary bombing... we have exploited the poor and pumped wealth and weaponry into the hands of tyrants and the men we now call enemies throughout the Mediterranean basin...including poison gas, bombs of every sort and all other sorts implements of death and destruction...We have backed Israel unfailingly even when they have also been outside of God's plan for mankind. In the last decade, according to U.N. estimates, we have contributed to the deaths of at least half a million children in Iraq through sanctions and shock and awe tactics...before "Operation Iraqi Freedom" commenced....and then wax innocent and pious when we recieve blowback in the form of "terrorism". "Terrorism" being noted as what one does with carbombs as opposed to laser guided bombs and televised "shock and awe" glory.

Someone will undoubtedly tag these assertions as "liberal-America- hating -blasphemy and pie- in -the-sky- touchy-feely- lovey-dovey- denial of realities.... an assertion that I will openly challenge. In the light of the sobering reality of ongoing rebellion to God's purposes, Christians cannot naively assume that "niceness" will necessarily entail "niceness" in others. The political "realists" are quite right on that score: pacifism is naive if it assumes that it will bring about easy victory over one's enemies. Christians must realize that walking in the Way of the Cross, may indeed lead to a cross. If you are "nice to people", the possibility exists that one may be killed. The Way of the Cross is indeed a costly way of dealing with injustice, conflict, and rebellion against the ways of God. It is certainly NOT for the weak of heart. To be a disciple that follows in the non- violent- way- of- Christ that harbors no fear of death in the midst of a culture that thrives on fear and worships domination is no easy work... in the Middle East or the West.
BUT, it is not the true Disciples who naively believe they can cure the world of war. Very often, it is the purveyors of warfare and "peace through superior firepower" who exhibit a utopian trust in the power of violence! Thus, World War 1 was called "the war to end all wars", wars are always characterized as good versus evil, and America's most recent campaign has been too often suffused with the rhetoric of "ridding the world of evil," of "getting rid of terror," and other such utopian dreams. This is of course nonsense. War IS terror after all.
SOOO, Disciples of Christ, actual followers, refuse to fight wars not because they naively believe they will thus rid the world of war, instead we do not fight because the Kingdom of God HAS come, in which war is banished, in which it is possible to order our lives according to the justice, peace and assurance of the primacy of God. (Source)
The Kingdom Alternative

But there is an alternative to this ceaseless, bloody, merry-go-round: it is the kingdom of God. To belong to this kingdom is to crucify the fleshly desire to live out of self-interest and tribal interest and to thus crucify the fallen impulse to protect these interests through violence. To belong to this revolutionary kingdom is to purge your heart of “all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice” (Eph 4:31)—however “justified” and understandable these sentiments might be. To belong to this counter-kingdom is to “live in love, as Christ loved you and gave his life for you” (Eph 5:1-2). It is to live the life of Jesus Christ, the life that manifests the truth that it is better to serve than to be served, and better to die than to kill. It is, therefore, to opt out of the kingdom-of-the-world war machine and manifest a radically different, beautiful, loving way of life. To refuse to kill for patriotic reasons is to show “we actually take our identity in Christ more seriously than our identity with the empire, the nation-state, or the ethnic terror cell whence we come,” as Lee Camp says.

Hence, while I respect the sincerity and courage of Christians who may disagree with me and feel it their duty to defend their country with violence, I myself honestly see no way to condone a Christian’s decision to kill on behalf of any country.(Source)
Nazism could not have flourished if the German churches had been peace churches. The movements of Gandhi and King and Jesus, as well as a multitude of other examples of successful nonviolent resistances throughout history, are proof that nonviolence can work, but it is only for the faithful and the courageous. Far more courage is needed by unarmed nonviolent resisters who may be forced to jail or to their deaths, than is asked of modern patriotic warriors who do battle using high-tech weaponry that almost guarantees their safety.

Is post-Auschwitz Christianity still ignoring Christ's teachings on nonviolence? Knowing that essentially no mainstream seminaries teach courses on Christian nonviolence, the Just War Theory or the morality of war, I would have to say yes. Seeing the silence of the churches in the face of massive Iraqi civilian suffering since the Gulf War, I would have to say yes. The nonviolent gospel message of Jesus was again not preached, and the blood of the 1,000,000 Iraqi dead are on our hands. The killing was at the hands of Christians and the vast majority of victims were innocent civilians -- mostly children. Numerous American war crime atrocities against Iraqis occurred in that war, but none were prosecuted.

Are we, like the church after Constantine, so entwined in the power, wealth, prestige and privilege granted by our secular rulers that we don't even recognize the betrayal of Jesus? Are we so frightened of losing the good graces (e.g. tax-free status) of our secular rulers that we are willing to participate in, or bless, the homicide? Are we so afraid of losing church members that we cannot proclaim the radical Gospel that sometimes asks sacrifice and suffering? Are we so certain of our own righteousness that we are unwilling to leave judgment up to God? Is our violent hatred of "the other" so ingrained that we don't recognize it as un-Christ-like -- or even demonic?

When will American Christianity recognize and repent of the immorality of militarism, racism, and excess luxury wealth in the face of grinding poverty all around it? When will we start believing that mercy is what Christians are supposed to be all about? When will we start reversing injustice nonviolently -- what Jesus taught and what the world must do for real peace? The churches must be the ones to start, for we can hardly expect the world to do justice if we in the churches do not.

The implications for the Christianity are complex, and solutions won't come easily. Leadership on nonviolence issues will apparently have to come from the laity. But if we stop the betrayal and begin again to teach what Jesus taught -- and live that way -- unexpected things will happen. People who have given up on a "hypocritical" church rejoin. Some of the answers for our violent times may suddenly come clear. Apathetic church members may be re-energized by this forgotten message of peace. And the unchurched will eventually notice.

Christian nonviolence seems to not interest those whose faith systems are based mainly on personal salvation, "believing in" (as opposed to "imitating") Christ, and "glory to God" religiosity, all of which are valid practices. But the modern "non-peace" churches obviously don't trust the Sermon on the Mount either. Most don't know that Jesus commanded the love of friends and enemies. Most churches even seem agnostic about the Last Judgement passage in Mt. 25: that mercy offered (or not) to the least of God's children is mercy offered (or not) to Jesus, with radical consequences for the unmerciful. When we are apathetic about human suffering, we fail Christ.

The Gospel is supposed to be good news to the poor, the children of God who are the most oppressed and who suffer the most in wartime and in peace. But before peace can come, the oppressed need to see real justice from their rulers and Christ-like love from the churches; otherwise there will be no peace.

The earliest Christians who knew Jesus and the apostles understood nonviolent love, lived it, and Christianity thrived. How a message of such clarity in the New Testament could be a nonissue in the modern churches is a wonder, but it has indeed been ignored for 1700 years.

Do we have the courage to confess and repent of our faithlessness to the clear nonviolent teachings of Jesus? Do we have the courage to start anew and live and love the way Christ and his earliest disciples lived and loved? Can we adopt the Peace Plan of God as revealed in the Sermon on the Mount? Can we start living lives of Christ-like/Agape love -- the love that is unconditional, merciful, forgiving, nonjudgmental, non-retaliatory, sacrificial and nonviolent?

The survival of an errant church demands it. (Source)
A common misunderstanding of Christian pacifism is that its goal is to provide an alternative solution to physical violence. Stanley Hauerwas, following the tradition of Mennonite John Howard Yoder and Reformed theologian Karl Barth, believes Christian pacifism is not to be understood as a ’solution,’ but as the only response appropriate for those attempting to follow the life of Christ. Consider this quote from his interview with Sojourners:

The sacrifice to end sacrifices was made by God through the sacrifice of his son, and the ending of sacrifice means that we don’t continue to sacrifice other people to make the world come out all right. Justice has been done. We’ve been given all the time in the world to announce that God would not have God’s kingdom wrought through violence. That’s good news. It’s hard news, but it’s good news.
Interview with Stanley Hauerwas. (Source)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Interesting News

(Aug. 11) -- For centuries, an astronomy observatory in Greenwich, London -- the namesake of Greenwich Mean Time -- has been the reference point for lines of longitude, ships' navigation on the world's seas and the time zones used today.

But Saudi Arabia wants to change that. It's building what it calls the largest clock in the world, atop the second-largest skyscraper in the world, in the Islamic holy city of Mecca -- in hopes of replacing GMT with "Mecca Time."

Source: Saudis Want 'Mecca Time' to Replace GMT

(Aug. 11) -- At least 80,000 people, including about 60,000 Jews, died at the Majdanek Nazi concentration camp in Poland. And now up to 10,000 pairs of shoes, which served as a memorial to the victims who wore them, have perished.

A wooden barrack housing the shoes and other artifacts was nearly destroyed by a fire that broke out just before midnight on Monday.

Source: Fire Destroys Shoes Worn by Nazi Victims

Warsaw, Ohio, just got way more interesting than it has any right to be: A local strip club recently launched an all-out offensive against the town menace, the New Beginnings Ministries Church.

Sources say that for the past four years Pastor Bill Dunfee has been harassing Tommy George and his Foxhole strip joint. What's worse is that Dunfee and his ilk are a full seven country miles from the private business, yet bother to show up every weekend to block traffic, take photos of customers' license plates to upload to their shaming site and just generally condemn and insult George.

Source: Strip Club Goes to War Against Neighboring Church

LONDON (Aug. 6) -- Ever engaged a freegan in nonversation, or does the very idea make you want to precuperate? If you haven't a clue what we're talking about, don't worry, you're probably not xenolexic.

The bizarre terms used in those last two sentences are "non words": Words that have allegedly been submitted to the Oxford English Dictionary -- the gatekeepers of the English language -- but rejected on the grounds that too few people currently use them. Some of these non words are hyper-local slang, while others briefly spring in and out of existence when they're deployed to describe short-lived phenomena. A freegan, for example, is an eco-campaigner who hunts for goodies in other people's trash; a nonversation is a vapid, pointless chat; to "precuperate" means to get ready for an oncoming illness; and, perhaps most appropriately of all, a xenolexic is someone who suffers intense confusion when faced with new words.

Source: Unused but Useful: Oxford English Dictionary's Reject List

(Aug. 5) -- Writing an award-winning book is hard to do for an adult, much less a teenager.

It's even more difficult when you have problems reading books.

But twin sisters from Orange County, Calif., who just turned 15 aren't letting little things like age, dyslexia or attention deficit disorder keep them from becoming acclaimed authors.

Source: Reading Problems Don't Stop Twins From Being Acclaimed Authors

Monday, August 9, 2010

Islam And Non-Violence

...Whoever killed a human being should be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind...(Surat Al-Mā'idah (The Table Spread) - سورة المائدة).

The cold-blooded murder of 10 medical aid workers -- six of them Americans -- working in Afghanistan for a Christian group, the International Assistance Mission, has raised new concerns about the safety and viability of Western missionary work in a time of growing resentment among many Muslims toward anything connected to the U.S. or Europe.

American Christian missionaries and even aid workers who, like those representing International Assistance Mission (IAM), do not proselytize, can represent Western imperialism or "crusader" Christianity to militants like the Taliban, which has claimed responsibility for the killings.

The Taliban on Saturday charged that the traveling medical team was "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity" even though the group, which has operated in Afghanistan since 1966, does not preach or seek converts as it delivers medical assistance.

Source: Taliban's Killing of Christian Aid Workers Could Chill U.S. Missionary Impulse

"He knew the laws, he knew the religion. He respected them. He was not trying to convert anybody," Tim Grams said. "His goal was to provide dental care and help people. He knows it's a capital offense to try to convert folks."

Source: Friends of Slain Doctors Deny They Pushed Religion

"We object to this senseless killing of people who have done nothing but serve the poor. Some of the foreigners have worked alongside the Afghan people for decades," the IAM statement said, noting that the charity has worked in Afghanistan since 1966, making it the longest-serving NGO there.

Source: Militants Kill Medical Aid Workers in Afghanistan


Now would be a good time for more non-violent Islamic resistance groups to rise up in protest against the militant fundamentalist factions that have co-opted the normative rule of Islamic faith: peace and submission to Allah (God). Islam has in the past had a history of non-violent resistance groups akin to those within the Christian tradition as Maulana Wahiduddin Khan says:
Non-violence should never be confused with inaction or passivity. Non-violence is action in the full sense of the word. Rather it is more forceful an action than that of violence. It is a fact that non-violent activism is more powerful and effective than violent activism.

Non-violent activism is not limited in its sphere. It is a course of action which may be followed in all matters.

Whenever individuals, groups or communities are faced with a problem, one way to solve it is by resorting to violence. The better way is to attempt to solve the problem by peaceful means, avoiding violence and confrontation. Peaceful means may take various forms. In fact, it is the nature of the problem which will determine which of these peaceful methods is applicable to the given situation.

Islam is a religion which teaches non-violence. According to the Qur’an, God does not love fasad, violence. What is meant here by fasad is clearly expressed in verse 205 of the second Surah. Basically, fasad is that action which results in disruption of the social system, causing huge losses in terms of lives and property.

Conversely, we can say with certainty that God loves non-violence. He abhors violent activity being indulged in human society, as a result of which people have to pay the price with their possessions and lives. This is supported by other statements in the Qur’an. For instance, we are told in the Qur’an that peace is one of God’s names (59:23). Those who seek to please God are assured by verse 5 of the sixteenth surah that they will be guided by Him to "the paths of peace." Paradise, which is the final destination of the society of God’s choice, is referred to in the Qur’an as "the home of peace" (89:30), etc.

The entire spirit of the Qur’an is in consonance with this concept. For instance, the Qur’an attaches great importance to patience. In fact, patience is set above all other Islamic virtues with the exceptional promise of reward beyond measure. (39:10)

Patience implies a peaceful response or reaction, whereas impatience implies a violent response. The word Sabr exactly expresses the notion of non-violence as it is understood in modern times. That patient action is non-violent action has been clearly expressed in the Qur’an. According to one tradition, the Prophet of Islam observed: God grants to rifq (gentleness) what he does not grant to unf (violence). (Sunan, Abu Dawood, 4/255)

The word rifq has been used in this hadith as an antithesis to unf. These terms convey exactly what is meant by violence and non-violence in present times. This hadith clearly indicates the superiority of the non-violent method.

God grants on non-violence what He does not grant to violence is no simple matter. It has very wide and deep implications. It embodies an eternal law of nature. By the very law of nature all bad things are associated with violence, while all good things are associated with non-violence.

Violent activities breed hatred in society, while non-violent activities elicit love. Violence is the way of destruction while non-violence is the way of construction. In an atmosphere of violence, it is enmity which flourishes, while in an atmosphere of non-violence, it is friendship which flourishes. The method of violence gives way to negative values while the method of non-violence is marked by positive values. The method of violence embroils people in problems, while the method of non-violence leads people to the exploiting of opportunities. In short, violence is death, non-violence is life.

Both the Qur’an and the hadith have attached great importance to jihad. What is jihad? Jihad means struggle, to struggle one’s utmost. It must be appreciated at the outset that this word is used for non-violent struggle as opposed to violent struggle. One clear proof of this is the verse of the Qur’an (25:52) which says: Perform jihad with this (i.e. the word of the Qur’an) most strenuously.

The Qur’an is not a sword or a gun. It is a book of ideology. In such a case performing jihad with the Qur’an would mean an ideological struggle to conquer peoples’ hearts and minds through Islam’s superior philosophy.

In the light of this verse of the Qur’an, jihad in actual fact is another name for peaceful activism or non-violent activism. Where qital is violent activism, jihad is non-violent activism.
The greatest problem facing Islam today is, as I see it, that Muslims have almost totally forgotten the sunnah (Prophet’s way) of non-violence. In latter times when the Ottoman and Mughal empires disintegrated and problems like those besetting Palestine have had to be confronted by the faithful, Muslims all over the world have fallen a prey to negative reaction on a colossal scale; they have failed to remember that the policy of Islam is not that of violence but of non-violence. It is the result of this deviation, that despite almost a 100-years of bloody wars, Muslims have achieved no positive gain. Rather whatever they already had has been lost by them.

According to Imam Malik, later generations of this Ummah (Muslim community) settled matters at issue in the same way that earlier generations had done, i.e. non-violent methods. Similarly, Muslims of modern times must likewise resort only to non-violent methods. Just as no gain could accrue from violent methods earlier, no gain can accrue from violent methods today.

The state of affairs of Muslims in modern times resembles that which prevailed at the time of Hudaybiya. Today once again — only on a far larger scale — this hamiyat al-jahiliya prejudices prevailing in pre-Islamic Arabia (48:28) is being displayed by the other party. In the first phase of Islam its solution lay in Muslims sedulously avoiding an equivalent display of prejudice, and in holding firmly kalema at-taqwa they became entitled to the succor of God and were granted a clear victory (48:26).

At the time of the Hudaybiya peace treaty, the Quraysh, who had secured the leadership of Arabia, were bent on waging war. The Kaaba was in their possession. They had expelled the Prophet and his companions from their home town. They had taken possession of Muslims’ homes and other properties, and spared no effort in disseminating negative propaganda against Islam.

Given this state of affairs, there were only two options before the believers. One was to attempt to put an end to tyranny and launch an outright war on the other party in the name of securing their rights. The result of such a move would certainly have been further loss in terms of lives and property.

The second option was to remain patient in the face of immediate loss, be it political or material, and, in spite of the losses avail of whatever opportunities are already available. The Prophet of Islam and his companions chose this second course. The result was that in just a few years time the entire history of Arabia was altered for the better by an Islamic revolution.

The same state of affairs is widespread in modern times. Although today Muslims have suffered great losses, political and material, at the hands of other nations, there still exist a great number of opportunities only for self-betterment and for dawah work on a far larger scale. If availed of wisely, we can rewrite the history of Islam in magnificent terms.