There are many cruel incidents in the history of humankind, in which millions of people have been violently killed. Two of the deadliest and the most notorious wars in the history each of us know and have heard about are the First and the Second World Wars, with an ultimate death toll estimated at over 100 million people. An indisputable fact about the Second World War is that it wiped out around 3 percent of the world population at the time. Some other gruesome conflicts the world has ever seen, with large numbers of casualties, include: Chinese Civil War (1850-1864,25 million deaths), Qing Conquests (17th Century, 25 million deaths), War of Three Kingdoms, 2nd & 3rd Centuries CE, 38 million deaths), Mongol Invasions (13th & 14th Centuries, 55 million deaths), and etc.
Have you heard the names of the latter wars before? If yes, can you recall who the oppressors and the oppressed ones were? Why don’t people commemorate the anniversary of these important battles each year? Why isn't there so much passion, excitement, or motivation to honor the heroes that fought courageously in those wars?
There is one battle in the history of the human race, however, that has not faded from the memory of humans yet- after about fourteen hundred years-, is still commemorated and celebrated year after year with more passion, love, and excitement. That is the anniversary of Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions’ martyrdom at the battle of Karbala on the 10th of Muharram of the year 61 AH.
Why do you think the reason behind Imam Hussain's (AS) movement was that made it endure so long? Whereas many other wars throughout history during which millions of oppressed people have been killed, have been forgotten?!
While for many leaders and commanders of wars, the only purpose is to gain victory by any means, for Imam Hussain (AS), the end does not justify the means. What mattered to him more than anything else in the battle of Karbala was the values, not the victory in its apparent sense. He never disregarded human values or committed even one minor sin to achieve his purpose.
He did not also seek out a large army to fulfill his aim, whereas most of the other commanders always try to increase their troops in wars. It is narrated in an account, on the night before Ashura, Imam Hussain (AS) asked all his companions to leave Karbala without any restrictions to save their own lives.
If you take a look at the general overviews of why wars happen, you will clearly see people have been involved in wars for some common reasons over the years. Some of these reasons include: economic gain, territorial gain, nationalism, taking revenge, etc.
Imam Hussain (AS), however, fought in the battle of Karbala for none of the reasons above. He did not want to invade or conquer a city or a country, nor did he want to impose his beliefs and religion upon people. The only thing he aimed in his movement was not to be oppressed by a cruel tyrant. He was unwilling to compromise with the tyrant of his time because he had violated their very fundamental human rights. He put his life and his family at risk to recognize and maintain human dignity.
As mentioned above, while many warriors of either side of the battle have different motives to fight, like financial gains, promotions, etc., Imam Hussain (AS)’s companions in the battle of Karbala fought for no other reason than sincerely following in their Imam’s footstep and remain loyal to him. They didn’t even long for Heaven or the rewards of Hereafter. In an account, on the day of Ashura at noon prayer, one of Imam Hussain (AS)’s companions -named Saeed bin Abdullah Hanafi- saved Imam’s life, shielding him against arrows and spears thrown to him and other prayer performers. He continued doing this until the prayers finished. He then fell down before his Imam (AS), saying: “O son of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) of Allah! Have I fulfilled my promise?” “Yes! You have,” the Imam replied. Saeed bin Abdullah then left this world smiling.
And on the night before Ashura Imam Hussain (AS) once again gave all his companions the opportunity to rethink their choice and freely decide whether to stay or leave. However, they not only did not leave or escape –as many other warriors in different battles- but insisted on staying with the Imam (AS) in spite of all the dangers that were threatening their lives and families. They resisted to the last drop of their blood, and courageously declared their loyalty to their Imam (AS).
And finally, when it comes to the way different sides of a battle deal with their enemies, the only things that come to your mind are probably humiliation, disrespect, foul language, etc. But these are not even close to how Imam Hussain (AS) treated his enemy. He recognized his enemy’s dignity as a human being in the most challenging situations, never insulted or disrespected them, and seized every opportunity to invite them to peace and stop the war.
So these were very few reasons why Imam Hussain (AS)’s movement has not faded from our memory; because this historical event is an enlightening and life-giving truth that nurtures self-sacrificing, honest, and moral people who treat everyone with dignity and respect even when confronted with the enemy. That’s why when Arbaeen comes, about twenty million people head for Karbala since Imam Hussain (AS) and his companions did not fight for worldly desires. They fought for eternity, and for the sake of their creator, Allah Almighty.
Those who do not know Islam very well and those who follow the propaganda of the media, especially in this period of time when several terrorist attacks have been committed by pseudo-Muslim groups, which do not have anything to do with Islam, accuse Islam of encouraging violence and terror. That is absolutely wrong. Islam is the religion of peace and intrinsically promotes peace. The reasons for that will be reviewed next.
The greatest miracle of Islam is the Quran; a Book. Books are among the most efficient and prominent means of connecting thoughts and minds. This means that Islam has chosen a very civilized way of communication with human beings; by having dialogues with them. By the means of the Quran, Islam, in the first place, deals with the thinking power of humans and then their emotions. In other words, Islam tries to communicate with people through common sense, mutual understanding, logic and reasoning which consequently prevents harshness or sudden actions caused by the outpouring of emotions. That is while “Book” and “communicating through words” did not serve like that regarding the previous divine religions [i].
According to Islam, one should truly believe in the Islamic principles and axioms. It means that one should accept these Islamic facts by reasoning and rational search and demonstrate his\her belief in every act and deed; otherwise, if one has not really changed his\her mind to accept Islam or accepts Islam in words but do not practice it, he\she will be a “Muslim” but not a “believer” (Mu'min). This shows that Islam educates the people who are adherent to rational and commonsensical rules and regulations and consequently prevents apostasy and chaos.
Many suppose that Immanuel Kant was the first who formed and introduced the Golden Rule, a rule of ethical conduct, while this ethical code has been among the teachings of Islam since 1400 years ago. Imam Ali (AS) and other Imams (AS) have emphasized this ethical advice by words and acts and encouraged people not to consider themselves superior to others or do not prefer their benefits to others .
Imam Ali (AS) has addressed Imam Hassan (AS) as such: “What you prefer for yourself, prefer for others; what you find objectionable for yourself, treat as such for others. Don’t wrong to anyone, just as you don't like to be wronged; do good to others just as you would like others to do good to you; that which you consider immoral for others, consider immoral for yourself” . There is no sign of injustice or cruelty among these words. On the contrary, this is an invitation to get along with others, to respect their preferences and not to expect too much from them. This is simply an encouragement to peace.
When hearing about Jihad, the first thing that strikes to mind is Al-Qaeda, ISIS and fire, and blood. Many people think that Jihad equals aggression, but that is wrong. Jihad has a clear definition. There exist two types of Jihad in Islam: Defensive and Offensive. Defensive Jihad, as can be guessed from the name, is for the aim of defending the Islamic territory against the assaults and intrusions of outsiders and invaders.
Offensive Jihad aims at liberating people from unjust oppressive regimes and allowing them to search, read and choose the right religion and lifestyle. Many Islamic jurists believe that the Offensive Jihad to invite to Islam is only allowed under certain circumstances; i.e. in the presence of the Imams (AS) and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). Otherwise, only Defensive Jihad is permitted which is actually obligatory to all Muslims in whatever condition. No one in the whole wide world would admit that defending oneself is aggression; Neither do the Muslims. Then, it is clear that unlike a widespread thought nowadays, Islam is against war and violence.
There is a theory in Islam: any harm to others or oneself is banned. It explains that a Muslim does not cause any harm to other people or do not misuse rules to cause harm to them . Through this theory, Islam protects the benefits and rights of others. This includes any individual or any group of people. It also covers both Muslim and non-Muslim societies and people, hence, this theory, in fact, reinforces and advertises the peace all around the world.
It was explained above that Islam also bans any harm to oneself. In this regard, suicide is illegal (Haram) in Islam. Some might suppose that they own their physical body while it is a divine trust offered to us to do good deeds (16:97), worship God (51:56) and practice the religion. This is another means by which Islam promotes peace all around the world.
Considering the Islamic approach described above in interaction with the humans, the efforts to establish ethical standards and to form the interrelationship among humans demonstrate the contribution and role of Islam to create a peaceful world.
[i] While Old Testament and New Testament are written by humans, the Quran is the divine revelation to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
[ii] Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated.
- Nahj al-Balaqa, Letter 31.
- peace in islam
The responsibilities of a Muslim towards family, relatives and other Muslims in general, were already reviewed in an article. Here one's responsibility in Islam towards neighbors, friends, and enemies are discussed.
Doing good to neighbors is highly emphasized in Islamic teachings: “Worship Allah and … be good to … the near neighbor and the distant neighbor” (4:36). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) advised Imam Ali (AS) to honor the neighbors, even if they are disbelievers (Kafir) . Imam Ali (AS) said that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to invite repeatedly to doing good to neighbors such that we thought he (PBUH) was going to consider an inheritance for them .
To honor them in their presence, and to help and care about them when they are absent . It includes visiting neighbors when they are sick, to assist their funeral, and to offer them your tasty meals that smell good ;
To keep their secrets. It means that not to look for their faults and errors. And, if ever you become aware of some of their faults, do not reveal them but try to conceal their deficiencies ;
Do not leave neighbors alone in difficulties ; e.g., help them in case of financial needs ;
Do not be jealous of them if God grants them some blessings ;
Ignore their errors to yourself and forget about them. If ever they do wrong to you unintentionally, be patient and in peace with them ;
Do not let others talk behind their back and reveal the deficiencies of your neighbors here and there .
Giving priority to the neighbors. It is narrated from Imam Hassan (AS) that Lady Fatima al-Zahra (AS) used to pray firstly for the neighbors and then for members of the family .
According to Imam Sadiq (AS), having good behavior and interaction with neighbors increases the provision (Rizq) . Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advised to respect neighbors as much as one should respect his\her mother  and he (PBUH) said: “God bless whoever does good to his\her neighbors” . On the contrary, whoever sleeps peacefully at night while one of the his\her neighbors is hungry, God will deprive him of his blessings on the judgment day . The same will happen to whoever annoys his\her neighbors .
Take your time and think about these attitudes towards the neighbors. Life will be surely much agreeable and peaceful if we improve our social interactions with our neighbors within the Islamic framework.
Having a good companion is known as a blessing; on the contrary, a bad one is like a disaster . Friends and companions have certain rights one over the other including:
To interact with them with generosity as much as you can, otherwise, be fair to them ;
To be smiling when you meet them and to receive them modestly ;
To respect them as they respect you ;
To be the first one who does good to the other one, otherwise, try to compensate properly ;
To help them in difficulties and whenever they are in need, as Imam Ali (AS) advised to ;
To hold them in great affection according to Imam Ali (AS) ;
Not to reveal their deficiencies and mistakes;
To encourage them in obedience to God and to prevent them from committing sins ;
To be honest with them and not to cheat ; e.g., nor to talk behind their back neither to reveal their deficiencies and to guard their secrets;
To be trustworthy whenever they rely on you .
The enemy here means a person whom one is in conflict with. There are some recommendations in Islamic resources on how to treat enemies and what is one's responsibility in Islam towards them:
To be fair with them . According to Imam Sadiq (AS), a real believer (Mu'min) does not oppress his\her enemies ;
To testify in favor of the enemies if they are right  even if your testimony is against yourself ;
To keep the promises you made to your enemies ;
To forgive and tolerate them, if possible . According to Imam Ali (AS), there is a virtue in forgiving enemies ;
To talk nicely and shortly with whoever you have complained of , to argue with them in a way that is best (16:125), and not to ignore their rights if ever you are wrong .
- M. Shoueiri “Jami’ al-Akhbar”, p. 84.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 7, p. 51.
- Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (AS), “Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq)”.
- responsibility towards others
- Shaykh al-Saduq, "Ilal Al-Shara'i", p. 181
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 666.
- Shaykh al-Saduq, “Al-Amali”, p. 288.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 668.
- “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, T. 4719-4720.
- “Nahj al Balaqa”, p. 494.
- “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, T. 9665.
- Ibn Shu’bah, “Tuhaf al-Uqul”, p. 88.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 1, p. 47.
- Shaykh al-Saduq, “Sifat al-Shia”, p. 24.
- “Nahj al Balaqa”, p. 53.
- “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, p. 435.