Peace Conferences are a short-cut

By Dr Wasim Ahmad,

Increasingly we notice a culture of peace conferences being organized in many places as the one scheduled on 22-31 October 2010 in Mumbai. There is no problem with the peace conferences except that they are apologetic in nature and that they smack of our desire for short-cuts. The peace conferences miss out on the point that Islam as a way of life is to grant and maintain peace by dispensing justice – and not merely seeking it. It will not happen unless the upholders of this beautiful Faith realize it to the core and find out the gradual and natural ways of putting the lofty ideals of Islam in practice in all walks of life. How could we do so is the moot point.

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This is possible by empowering ourselves with the right kind of knowledge imparted in the right kind of institutions – with clearly defined objectives or a VISION. This is possible by mastering all the sciences of the world, aiming at being founders of many more and coming to the mainstream with the right kind of qualifications and the required focused hard work. This is a long way. We do not take to this long route. We rather take to the short-cuts, holding peace conferences – for instance. This is far easier and a onetime business in a year or so. It does not require carrying out “the most difficult job on earth”. It does not require sweating it out the entire year. By organizing peace conferences, however, we again prove that we have not grasped the fact that “the longest is the shortest”.

Let us not forget that Islam is not about “hit and run”. It is about living the life as it is and being in the thick of it. Being in the mainstream. It is not about an occasional life-giving shower and cool breeze. It is about the ever present source of life and energy. Islam is not like abr-e gurez paa. Islam is not merely for advising for peace from a safe distance. It is about being in the vortex (bhaNwar). It is not about holding a high profile conference with a lot of photo opportunity. It is about living this peace and allowing the actions to speak louder. The conferences in question also signify one more chronic problem i.e. the serious division between dunyaa and deen (this is the order of these two words: al-Baqarah, 2: 201). If there wasn’t this division there would not have been much need for peace conferences. Then the peace would have been maintainedon a daily basis. Then there would have been no need to make it an annual affair. Then there would have been no need to explain that Islam stands for peace, as an example. This division, therefore, is the culprit.

It is probably in order here to suggest that in Qur’an many a times only the adjectives are used – minus the nouns. Al-dunyaa and al-aakhirah are two such adjectives. The noun that is understood before these two adjectives – even without being stated – is al-hayaat. This is why these two adjectives (al-dunyaa and al-aakhirah) are feminine – as per the Arabic grammar rule. What is the meaning of al-dnyaa is clearly indicated by its counterpart, al-aakhirah. Al-dunyaa literally means ‘the nearest’ as al-aakhirah means ‘the later’ (hence, the Hereafter). Putting the nouns and the adjectives together, we get the following: al-hayaat al-dunyaa and al-hayaat al-aakhirah. Now let us recall one of the three meanings of al-Deen which is ‘the way of life’. The question that arises now is if Islam is ‘the way of life’ how can we divorce it from ‘the Nearest Life’? If the ‘life’ is there from the first breath to the last breath could ‘the way of life’ be irrelevant in any breath? This is why I wonder what we mean when we utter ‘deeni’ and ‘dunyaawi’ – implying that these two are different domains. Hence, before we utter ‘deeni’ and ‘dunyaawi’ we need to reflect for a minute on what we mean by these two words.

The desire for short-cuts reminds me of a conversation with a gentleman in India about two years ago. The gentleman was of the idea that India, too, should enact a law strictly restricting the number of children – like China. He was thinking about it because he faced a lot of crowd and rush wherever he went – to a bank or on a street. (We always think the crowd and rush is only because of others – minus ourselves.) Without going into the merits of the subject of family planning the idea of the gentleman did make me think that we are looking for a short-cut here. Educating and enlightening the teeming millions is a difficult task. The short-cut is to restrict the very birth of these teeming millions. Na rahegaa baaNs na baje gi baaNsuri. I also wondered that we have never complained that there are too many flowers and too much greenery, for instance, in the world. But we complain about too many human beings. In fact, there are less people and more jobs.

Many a times, therefore, I think that not only the arguments but the very subject of a discussion and the theme of a conference or seminar may be misplaced. Maybe this is why we need to think twice about all that we say and do.

(The author is Dept. Head of Islamic Studies, Preston University Ajman, United Arab Emirates. Email:[email protected])