The Prophet Muhammad received his first Divine revelation in Makkah in the year 610 C.E. God had appointed him to spread the message of tawhid or the oneness of God. Now, with regard to this mission there was a major issue that he had to deal with. And this was that the Ka‘aba, which is in Makkah and which the Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael had built for the worship of the one God, had, in later times, been converted into a centre for polytheism. 360 idols had been installed therein.
One may think that, given this situation, the first commandment of the Quran should have been to purify the Ka‘aba of these idols. But no! Ignoring this problem, the Quran’s initial commandments were about the need for internal purification. Had the Prophet been ordered to purify the Ka‘aba of idols at the very outset, at a time when the Quraish polytheists were dominant in Makkah, it would inevitably have led to conflict and even war. After being appointed as a prophet, the Prophet prayed for thirteen years at the Ka‘aba even while scores of idols remained therein. Likewise, after he shifted to Madina, he and his Companions performed the Umrah to Mecca and circumambulated the Ka‘aba following the Treaty of Hudaibiyah (628 C.E.) at a time when these idols were still present there.
The Prophet’s behaviour in this regard clearly suggests that he wanted to avoid confrontation and war with the polytheists and to preserve peace. The entire life of the Prophet was an illustration of this peace-loving policy of his. The Quraish of Makkah were ready to wage war on him, but he avoided it by silently leaving the town and shifting to Madinah. Just before the Hudaibiyah Treaty, war-like conditions prevailed, but the Prophet accepted the Quraish’s one-sided conditions and entered into a peace pact with them. Likewise, on the occasion of the Battle of the Trench (627 C.E.), a massive force of some 12,000 polytheists reached the outskirts of Madinah, challenging the Muslims for war. However, the Prophet ordered a long trench to be dug around the town and established a buffer between the Muslims and their opponents. All this clearly indicate the great importance that the Prophet gave to peace.
Islam’s mission is that of tawhid, the oneness of God. The fundamental purpose of Islam is to make human beings worship and serve only the one God. It aims to so transform the minds and hearts of people that they love just the one God, fear Him alone and make Him their biggest concern.
A mission of this sort that invites people to the path of God simply cannot accept violent confrontation. This is because violence or war puts an end to the atmosphere that any movement that seeks to reform people’s thinking and bring about a spiritual revolution requires. The fact of the matter is that peaceful conditions always produce an atmosphere conducive for the mission of Islam. On the other hand, violent conditions always produce an atmosphere that works against Islam.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan heads the New Delhi-based Centre for Peace and Spirituality. He can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org A prolific writer, many of his writings can be accessed on http://www.cpsglobal.org/articles/mwk and on www.spiritofislam.co.in