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“The religion of peace” is a phrase that Muslims supposedly say all the time. Most of the time when I actually see or hear this phrase, it is used sarcastically by those who really believe Islam is “the religion of violence.”
I don’t know where this phrase originated, but once when I was on the “muscular liberal” blog, Harry’s Place, one of their thuggish visitors hounded me with the question, “Is Islam the religion of peace?”
That is a trick question. First because it wasn’t the topic of the post, and I had not asserted that Islam is the religion of peace. Beware of those who will try to force you into defending an assertion you have not made by framing it as a question!
If it’s not your assertion, you don’t have to defend it.
But I was in the middle of a heated debate and this person seemed determined to hobble my efforts through relentless hounding with this question. Harry’s Place is a rough neighborhood, and some of the other regulars said it was their goal to drive me off the site. This only strengthened my resolve, and so on it went, round and round.
One of my friends who was a silent spectator to all of this contacted me behind the scenes, and advised me to answer that Islam is a “religion FOR peace.” He assured me this was a defensible answer and a way out of this relentless hounding. Sure enough, it was.
Since then, I’ve thought a lot about that question and answer, and have concluded that for or me, Islam absolutely is the “religion OF peace” and the “religion FOR peace.” I can simplify it even further: Islam is peace.
Counter jihadists will scoff and start hounding anyone who dares to say Islam is peace. They will cite portions of Islamic doctrine. They will point out (correctly) that Islam is not pacifist. They will cite the violent acts committed by other Muslims to serve as evidence against this claim.
But here’s the thing about that. The violence they cite has nothing to do with me. Literally nothing! Why would I be responsible for things that are done by someone else, over whom I have no authority or control?
Islam is made an exception when it comes to guilt by association and collective accountability. The logic behind that exception seldom comes under scrutiny.
Let’s run a test to illustrate a point.
Let me apologize now for all the sins of all Muslims. And of all Americans, because I’m American. For all the West, too. For all white people, because I’m white. And all people with blue eyes, because I have blue eyes. And for all cat lovers too! Because why not? I do love cats!
Can you see how this would necessarily submerge us all in an endless sea of guilt and collective accountability? Refusing to accept collective guilt isn’t a matter of apologetics, but of consistent logic.
Muslims are ceaselessly asked to answer for the crimes of others. Why is that?
I think we’re singled out because people really do believe Islam is something alien and violent. If you are a believer in such an “evil thing,” in their minds, you’ve got some explaining to do!
We’re indicted after something bad has happened because we were already indicted before it happened. Our existence in the present context is a provocation.
Is there a way to win an argument with someone who has come to challenge you regarding your “violent religion”? To challenge you personally regarding the things other Muslims have supposedly done “in the name of Islam”?
Well, I’ve been debating such people for years and years now, and the answer is “no.”
People believe what they want to believe. Facts do little to sway them, especially in matters where their judgement is clouded by emotion. You don’t have to take my word for it. Numerous studies confirm these findings.
So unless you like to go round and round with counter jihadists for the sheer fun of it, don’t waste your time. That’s my advice.
Some of you who know me must be thinking, “you should take your own advice!” What can I say? If that’s what you’re thinking, you’re right! But that’s part of the reason I’m writing this today. I want to say something entirely different from what I’ve spent so much time saying for all these years. I’m going to put away my stock talking points, and appeal to something far more profound: personal experience.
Personal experience is a bulletproof argument. Because I am the one who defines my own experience. No one else! And for me, Islam is peace.
Islam is peace because its guidance brings concordance. Concordance with Allah ﷻ, with our own nature, and with the whole of creation. When your thoughts and actions are discordant, you are struggling. The less you engage in this kind of struggle, the more you’re at peace, whether you consciously realize it or not.
I can say from my own experience, the more knowledge I gain about Islam, and the more closely I follow its guidance, the more I feel at peace. The more I surround myself with others who are striving along the same path, the more I feel at peace.
Muslims understand this because we are Muslims. Not because of whatever is shown on TV. Not because of whatever others read in our doctrine, and interpret in their own way. Not because of what other Muslims do or say or feel. None of that.
We know Islam is peace because we experience it. Those of us who are converts know what it was like to live before we arrived at the home of peace. Who can tell us otherwise? No, this is my life and my experience. I decide what brings me peace.
There are times when I sense some of the counter jihadists are annoyed precisely because we have found peace. Because we believe in something absolutely in a world where a lot of people–maybe even most people–don’t anymore.
Whenever something good happens, they will find us proclaiming ALHAMDULIlLAH!
Whenever something bad happens, they will still find us proclaiming ALHAMDULILAH!
When we see a praiseworthy attribute or act in someone else, we say, MASHA ALLAH!
When we see the awesome beauty and wonder of creation, we say SUBHAN ALLAH!
When we reflect and humble ourselves before our Creator, we say, ALLAHU AKBAR!!!
Allah ﷻ is greater. There is no need for a qualification. Our hearts are always with Him. Have you ever opened your heart to Allah ﷻ? The One Who, in His infinite mercy, pours love into our hearts and peace into our souls. Alhamdullilah! Allahu akbar!
If what I’m describing is not part of your experience, know that it is a part of mine.
It’s part of our experience as Muslims, each enjoying some flavor of this sweetness in his or her own heart. We’re intoxicated by so much love.
It doesn’t matter to us whether you understand or whether you believe. What you should understand, if you’re a counter jihadist, is that hounding Muslims is never going to change anything for the better.
You don’t find peace by denigrating what others find sacred.
You find peace by seeking what’s sacred, so you can know for yourself. Know that it’s in remembrance of Allah ﷻ that hearts find rest (Qur’an 13:28), whether you understand that consciously or not.
Understand that when it comes right down to it, we all have exactly two options.
We are human beings, and as such, we are not without need. We must submit, to something or someone, or to many things. The choice comes down to this: either we submit to Allah ﷻ or we submit to His creation. There is no third option.
So submit to Allah ﷻ and thereby to nothing and no one else.
Think about that. The first time I heard this, it changed my life forever. The bottom line is that
Orwell got it right, if by accident.
Slavery really is freedom. It’s also peace. Because the closest you will ever come to absolute peace and freedom is through absolute submission to Allah ﷻ.
Whatever good has come from me is due to Allah ﷻ and solely to Allah ﷻ. Whatever bad has come from me is from the whisperings of Shaytan, and from my own sins. All praise is due to Allah ﷻ, and may His peace and blessings be upon His Final Messenger Muhammad ﷺ , his pure family, his noble companions, and all those who follow them with righteousness until the Day of Judgment. Ameen.