Islam is a religion of peace – peace to humanity and one and all. It is a religion to lead mankind from the depths of darkness and ignorance towards the path of light and knowledge. The literal meaning of Islam, derived from the Arabic word Salaam, means peace. The word “Islam” has another root derivation – Slim – which means surrender or submission. In short, Islam means peace acquired by humans by submitting their will to the Will of Allah.
Moreover, Islam not only fosters love between fellow Muslims; rather it is a merciful for all of humankind. The “peace” of Islam has got many dimensions: peace with Allah, peace with society and peace with all of mankind irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Islam guides people to the path of non-violence and tolerance and shows the path of righteousness and piety.
Coming to the point, a religion with such high values enshrined in its very name is misunderstood by the bulk of humans as violent and intolerant. If any Muslim commits a wrong, it is directly or indirectly attributed to Islam. The misinterpretation of many mischievous people has given a bad name to this “religion of peace”. But, at this critical point, people should know that Islam is not what X or Y says. It is not this scholar’s or that scholar’s interpretation; Islam is what the Holy Scripture – the Quran says and what Muhammad– the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) of Islam says. They are the two primary sources of Islam.
Islam is against compulsion in religion
It is enshrined in the the Holy Quran that there is no compulsion in Islam. Muslims are prohibited to force people of other faiths to accept Islam. There is no tolerance for one who forces another person to submit to his/ her will and convert to the religion unwillingly. Allah says:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things. ”[Sura Baqara 2:256]
This is the foundation for tolerance towards any and every religion and their people. There is no force and no compulsion on any individual to accept Islam. If he or she wants to accept Islam, it has to be necessarily out of their own free will and not at the point of sword. This is the essence of Islam. Islam is an open invitation to mankind and they have the full right either to accept it or to reject it.
Islam is non-violent and tolerant
Violence is not in the dictionary of Islam. There is no place for violence, neither in the Holy Quran nor in the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions). It is mentioned at several places in the Holy Quran that Allah does not like those who spread mischief on this earth. One such verse is:
“…Allah does not love those who do mischief…”[Sura Mai’dah 5:64]. “Mischief”, in Arabic is Fasad, and it can refer to murder, corruption, evil and violence. So, when Allah does not like those who spread violence, how can He legislate violence in His Deen? These two opposites can never exist in Islam.
Moreover, the biggest violence – killing innocent people – is repudiated in such strong words the likes of which are found in no other religious scripture:
“…if any one kills a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole humanity…”[Sura Mai’dah 5:31]
This verse explicitly denounces any innocent killing. Even in retaliation or in war, Muslims are not supposed to kill innocent people. In a Hadith (Prophetic Tradition), Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “Go out in the name of Allah and by the help of Allah, following the way of the Messenger of Allah. Do not kill any old man, infant, child or woman… spread goodness and do good, for Allah loves those who do good.”(Abu Dawood).
At other place in the Holy Quran, Allah asks the believer to keep the door for peace wide open. The door of peace is open all the time in Islam, even in a battle field. Allah says, “… If the enemy incline towards peace, you (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah…”[Sura Anfal 8:61].
Even in retaliation, a Muslim is not supposed to transgress. If you have been wronged by some person, you have no right to wrong them or any other person to take revenge. And, if you are helpless and unable to do anything, Islam orders you to cling to patience. There is no permission for violence, whatsoever, in Islam at any point of time. Reflecting on the following Hadith: “If anyone harms (others), Allah will harm him, and if anyone shows hostility to others, Allah will show hostility to him.” (Abu Dawood), makes it clear that complete tolerance, peace and perseverance are the virtues ascribed by the religion.