Before taking the next step – embracing Submission to Allah (Islam) – I was one of the “People of the Book (i.e. of the Bible)”. People often say I apostatized and converted from one religion (Christianity) to another (Sunni), but for me it was not a revolutionary step, but an evolutionary one. I did not feel that I was embracing a “New” religion, but confirming the religion I was on – belief in One God (As-Salam). I often identify with the People of the Book in the following verses.
The Quran (28:51-55) says: “And indeed now We have conveyed the Word (i.e. the Quran) in order that they may remember. Those to whom We gave the Book (i.e. the Bible) before it (i.e. the Word/Quran), believe in it (the Word/Quran). And when it (the Word/Quran) is recited to them, they say: ‘We believe in it (the Word/Quran). Verily, it (the Word/Quran) is the truth from our Lord. Indeed even before it (the Word/Quran) we were Muslims.’ These will be given their reward twice over, because they are patient, and repel evil with good, and spend (in charity) out of what We have provided them. And when they hear vain talk, they withdraw from it and say: ‘To us our deeds, and to you your deeds. Peace be to you. We seek not the ignorant’.”
At the same time, I am not a pacifist.
The Quran (2:216) says: “Fighting is prescribed upon you, and you dislike it. But it may happen that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you. And Allah knows and you do not know.”
It is most important to act when seeking to help the suffering believers who are under relentless oppression.
The Quran (4:75) says: “And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Men, women, and children, whose cry is: ‘Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You, one who will protect; and raise for us from You, one who will help’.”
The rules of war allow for retaliation in kind, just like the Law of Al-Qisas (i.e. Reciprocity).
The Quran (2:194) says: “The prohibited month, for the prohibited month, and so for all things prohibited, there is the Law of Reciprocity. Then if any one transgresses the prohibition against you, you can transgress likewise against him. But fear Allah, and know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves.”
However, the Quran (2:180) also says: “There is (a saving of) life for you in the Law of Reciprocity.”
Abu Al-`Aliyah said, “Allah made the Law of Reciprocity a `life’. Hence, how many a man who thought about killing, but this Law prevented him from killing for fear that he will be killed in turn.”
This applies equally to retaliation in war. If the enemy fears the Muslims’ retaliation, they will hold back the initial stroke. In this there is the saving of lives. Moreover, there is a limit to retribution that calls for restraint.
The Quran (2:190) says: “Fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress limits. Lo! Allah loves not aggressors.”
Those limits are defined, in the Quran (2:193) & (4:90): “Fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against transgressors.”
And: “If they withdraw from you and do not fight and offer you Peace, then Allah allows you no way (to war) against them.”
Passivism is not preached by the Torah, either, though it calls to Peace (Al-Salam).
Deuteronomy (20:10-14): “When you draw nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim Peace (HaShalom/Al-Salam) unto it. And it shall be that if it accepts Peace and opens unto you, then all the people that are found therein shall become tributary unto you, and shall serve you.
But if it does not accept Peace from you, and decides to make war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when Yhwh Elohim delivers it into your hand, you shall smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword; but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, you shall take as spoil for yourself; and you shall consume the spoil of your enemies, which the Yhwh Elohim has given you.”
In the Gospel, Jesus, peace be upon him, told his followers (Luke 22:36): “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
And (John 14:27): “Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give it to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Many interpreters say the former saying (Luke 22:36) is to fulfill a prophecy – to give the Jews an excuse to kill Jesus as a leader of brigands, and the latter saying (John 14:27) refers to that very lack of hostility the world gives as the interpretation of “peace”.
Rather, I suggest the Peace of Elohim and His messenger, Jesus, Peace be upon him, is the “Peace” (Islam) as Allah and His messenger, Muhammad, Peace be upon him, give: Security in the true worship of One God which results in inner certitude in this world and, more importantly, security in the next.
In other words, it is Hashalom/AlSalam; it is the very words (and condition) in the Quran (16:32) with which the angels greet those who die “in a state of purity, saying , ‘Peace be on you; you may enter the Garden (of Paradise) because of (the good) which you did’.”