Islam on Peace and Violence

Peace is associated in the Qur'an with God, making it the defining feature of the life intended for humanity, to be fully realized ultimately in the next life. Islam recognizes corruption as endemic to humanity and the need for force to maintain political and social peace, within and across societies. Early biographies of the Prophet Muhammad suggest that while he waged war, he always sought a just peace—sometimes over the protests of his companions. Considerable confusion attaches to the concept of jihad, which can be translated as either spiritual or armed struggle. During the early centuries of Islam, scholars set ethical limits on war-making. Intentions had to be pure, and not just self-interested, and the use of force had to be absolutely necessary, for example, to protect the religious community, preserve justice, or defend territory. Therefore, jihad to extend the abode of Islam was driven more by imperial than by religious considerations. The Qur’an forbids coercion in religious affairs: “There is no compulsion in religion.” (Qur’an 2:256) and killing a life without cause is equivalent to "killing the whole human race" (Qur’an 5:32). Modern calls for holy war against the infidels, articulated by Osama bin Laden and others, are at odds with the Islamic tradition and roundly denounced by leading Muslim scholars. Islam is also home to a pacifist current, most richly developed within Sufism.
 
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