Mehol K. Sadain
If you are a Muslim and you live, or have relatives living, in Mindanao, thank God for the peace you are experiencing. If you are a millennial, chances are you have not gone through any war, even if you may have heard of the fighting that reduced the City of Marawi to ruins in 2017 or the Zamboanga Siege that paralyzed Zamboanga in 2013 and the Battle of Jolo and Pata that laid lives and properties to waste in the seventies. It you are older, say in your senior years or nearing that age, you know of the battles that raged between the MNLF and MILF rebels in the nineteen seventies to the early nineteen nineties, as well as the atrocities committed by armed bands in the name of religion in the sixties. You may have experienced them too if you lived in those areas of conflict. More importantly, you know that peace was and continues to be transient, and may be disturbed anytime, just like still water may be agitated at the swish of the hand dipped into the water.
Hence, we continue to search for peace in our homeland, for we know this is in keeping with the precepts of our religion, and its very name, “Islam”, signifying “Peace”. As Ali Asghar Engineer says: “The basic objective of Islam is to establish peace and sustain it.” In other words, a sustainable peace: one that is lasting and not merely momentary, one that reigns without interruption. That is the peace of Islam.
Allah in the Noble Qur’an points us to that peace in at least two verses. The first one declares, “Wherewith ALLAH guides all those who seek His good pleasure (rizwaanahu) to ways of peace (subula s-salaami) and He brings them out of darkness by His Will unto light and guides them to a Straight Way.” [5:16] When we perform Allah’s commandments which is the meaning of seeking His rizwaan, He says He will guide us to subula s-salaam or the ways of peace. It is like being brought into the light, or gaining better understanding and perception that light up the Straight Way, the oft-repeated Siratim mustaqeem.
So what is the Straight Way? In two consecutive verses, Allah teaches us the Straight Way that leads to peace, in this manner, “This is the Way of thy Lord, made straight: We have expounded the signs for a people who take heed. For them shall be the Home of Peace with their Lord. And He shall be their Friend (or Protector) because of what they used to do.” [6:126 &127] The way is detailed in the signs given by Allah to man, represented by His commands and admonitions in the Qur’an, to which the community must be in heedful remembrance. (li qawmi y-yadhdhakkaroon). For those who remember and heed these “signs of Allah”, Allah promises: “Lahum Daaru s-Salaami inda Rabbihim” or “for them shall be the Home of Peace with their Lord!” And not only that, Allah further says: “wa Huwa Waliyyuhum” or “He will be their friend!”
The word “Peace” in these verses is broad enough to include both external and internal peace, peace in this world and peace in the Hereafter, and peace with ourselves and peace with others. It also refers to a place of tranquility and blessedness, whether it is Paradise or a particular location on earth, in the concept of Dar us-Salaam or Daru l-Islam, the Abode or Territory of Islam, which is the place where Islam reigns.
In a place, like Mindanao and the Sulu and Tawi Tawi islands where peace is occasionally disturbed by violence and atrocities, it will do well for us to remember these verses and to take heed. What are the signs Allah has gifted us in the Qur’an, so that by heeding them we will be worthy of Allah’s Home of Peace? Let us identify them and live by them. How do we take heed of them, or have we even begun to take heed of them? Let us learn everything that Allah has taught us, for as He says: “Wa yu ‘allimukumullah,” or “it is Allah that teaches you”. [2:282]
Maybe, the reason why sustained peace in our homeland has remained elusive all these years and centuries, is we never found and established peace within and among ourselves to deserve the Abode of Peace with our Lord. Think about it. MKS