‘Islam means ‘peace’. Therein lies the soul and spirit of Islam. It is ironic that this religion of peace is understood today in the West as the religion of war, terrorism, chaos and disorder – while in reality Islam is not only ‘peace’ in name, but peace pervades all its teachings, and works as the key to its understanding. If translated literally, the second meaning of the word Islam is ‘submission’. So the words ‘peace’ and ‘submission’ create a complete picture of Islam. While peace is in relation to the Muslim’s attitude to his fellow human beings and also in relation to the deep content he finds in Islam, the word submission describes the attitude of the Muslim to God. So, in one single word, the entire philosophy of this religion is summed up. It is interesting to note that according to Islam, every true religion must have these two requisite features to indicate its divine origin. All religions, according to Islam, endeavoured to bring man back to his Creator on the one hand, and to establish an ideal relationship with his fellow human beings on the other.’ (From ‘An Elementary Study of Islam’ by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad)
Beginnings of Islam
Islam was founded in the year 610 CE by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. From its inception the followers of Islam were subjected to fierce persecution. Muslims were dragged along the burning hot sands of Arabia, some were tied between two camels and their bodies literally torn in two, they were stoned, beaten and starved. The Prophet himself was not spared and personally suffered countless attacks. In fact the persecution resulted in the death of his dear wife Khadija. Throughout this entire period in Mecca the Prophet counselled patience and forbearance amongst his followers and there was never any retaliation. Eventually, after 13 years of intense persecution, the Prophet was forced to migrate from his home town of Mecca to a place called Medina. However the persecution remained unabated and the whole of Arabia stood in opposition to the Prophet. Atrocity upon atrocity was committed against the Muslims. Entire scores of Muslims were slaughtered. However, slowly but surely the message of Islam began to take root in Arabia and before long the whole of Arabia had accepted Islam and the Prophet entered Mecca victoriously. What happened next was an act of forgiveness that resonates throughout history. Despite the Prophet and his followers having suffered horrendous personal losses at the hands of the Meccans, the Prophet instantly forgave them – including the man responsible for his daughter’s death, the people who killed and ate his uncle’s liver and those responsible for Khadija’s death. He unconditionally pardoned his most bitter and cruel enemies who had waged a war of unrelenting terror for 20 years.
Humane Teachings OF Islam and Their Impact On society
The teachings of the Prophet transformed the barbaric and desolate wastelands of Arabia into a haven of peace and tranquillity. Before the advent of Islam the people of Arabia treated women little better than slaves, some of them even buried their young daughters alive, slavery was widespread and slaves were treated like animals, if not worse. Illiteracy, immorality, the disregard for the rights of others, the poor and the weak in society were rampant. It is these people that Islam transformed, women were given the rights to divorce, the rights to own property, the rights of inheritance – similar rights would be afforded to women in Europe nearly 1400 years later. Women were no longer to be considered as property, but rather as individuals in their own right who had important and vital roles to play in society. Slaves were freed in large numbers, a welfare state was established to cater for the poor and needy, knowledge and learning were encouraged so much so that it is from these people that medicine, astronomy, mathematics, the arts, science and many other fields of civilisation would be resurrected and developed to unprecedented heights.
The humane teachings of Islam can be summarised in the words of the Prophet himself: ‘All creatures are God’s family. So Allah likes the person, from among all humans, who treats His family (creatures) well and looks after their needs.’