Peace is the Rule in Islam, War an Exception. By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

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War Only In Defence; The Quran (22:39) tells us: Permission to fight is granted to those who are attacked, because they have been wronged […]
This Quranic verse teaches us about an important principle. And that is that the only legitimate war is one that is fought in defence, in response to a clear aggression. All other forms of war are forms of zulm or oppression, and oppressors have no place in God’s world. As this Quranic verse indicates, wars other than those that are defensive simply have no justification whatsoever.
According to the Quran, defensive wars must be fought after giving a clear declaration or announcement of war. Unannounced or undeclared war is not permissible. Furthermore, a defensive war can only be fought be an established government. Non-governmental actors do not have the permission to unleash war under any pretext whatsoever. Keeping these teachings in mind, it is clear that according to the law of war established by the Quran, all forms of war other than defensive war that is fought out of compulsion are illegitimate in Islam. This means that guerilla war, proxy war, undeclared war and aggressive war are all, without any doubt, illegitimate as far as Islam is concerned.
War is something really despicable. According to the eternal Law of Nature, peace is a general rule, while war is an exception. War can be resorted to only under very extreme conditions—in order to protect oneself, and that, too, only if all possible peaceful ways to avoid confrontation have been sincerely tried and have failed.
The Path of Patience Wins God’s Help
The Quran (8: 46) instructs us:
Have patience: God is with those who are patient.
The path of patience can also be termed as the path of peace. The opposite of the path of patience is the path of violence. The above-quoted Quranic verse tells us about a natural law—that those who walk on the path of peace will find that Nature itself helps them at every step. On the other hand, those who adopt violence lose Nature’s assistance—and for such people there is nothing in this world but loss, failure and destruction.
What does walking on the path of patience mean? It means simply this: that in the face of difficult or unfavourable conditions and situations, a person does not lose his tolerance, and so his positive thinking remains unimpaired. Such a person remains in a position to distinguish the possible from the impossible, and begins his journey from what he knows to be possible. He does not hanker after immediate results. Rather, he adopts the gradual way. He does not lose heart in the face of apparent failure, but, instead, keeps walking ahead. He takes each day as it comes. He keeps his desires under the restraint of the Law of Nature. All of this leads him to sure success.
Peaceful Conveying of the Message
The Quran (25:52) relates:
[D]o not yield to those who deny the truth, but strive with the utmost strenuousness by means of this [Quran, to convey its message to them].’
The Quran is a book, an ideological book. It is definitely not a sword. And so, to engage in jihad by means of the Quran, which this Quranic verse refers to, can only mean to convey the teachings of the Quran to others in a peaceful manner, including by providing adequate proofs, so that people can accept them.
This verse indicates to us that peaceful efforts are superior to violent efforts. Whenever anyone adopts violence, the scope of his efforts are severely limited. On the other hand, the path of peace expands this scope infinitely. On the path of violence, only a sword or gun may come in handy, while on the path of peace, every single thing becomes a useful means for achieving a higher purpose.

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