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Understanding Religion, Mission, Jihad and Peace

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By Maria Khan

New Delhi: Members from the Centre for Peace and Spirituality (CPS) were invited to address students of theology at Vidyajyoti College of Theology, New Delhi on September 5, 2014. Of the four-member team, Rajat Malhotra spoke on the Al-Risala and CPS Movement, Sadia Khan spoke on Jihad in Islam, Maria Khan spoke on Understanding Religion from the Islamic Perspective, and Sufia Khan spoke on Islam and Peace. The talks were followed by a question and answer session. Victor Edwin SJ, the course director of the module “Popular Islam” invited CPS and made all arrangements. CPS is an organization founded by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. To spread spiritual wisdom based on peace, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan established CPS International, i.e., Centre for Peace and Spirituality in 2001. Al-Risala and CPS are basically same movements with different names. CPS chapters all over India and abroad are trying to spread the message of peace and spirituality to the world. Members of CPS are either working professionals or pursuing Islamic studies. Rajat Malhotra has done Master’s in Islamic History from Kerala University, Sadia Khan is doing PhD in Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, Maria Khan is doing PhD in Islamic Studies at Jamia Hamdard and Sufia Khan is currently doing Master’s in Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia. Jihad in Islam, Sadia explained, is the spiritual struggle within a believer in order to become God-conscious. It continues throughout the life of a believer. According to Islam, every person in this world is on test. Any situation, pleasant or unpleasant, that he is faced with, is meant as a test for man. It is required of a person to steadfastly adhere to the principles of justice, honesty, accountability in whatever he is faced with in life. This is the true spirit of jihad.
Explaining the purpose of life according to Islam, Maria Khan said that the goal, Islam gives to an individual is the building of the human personality on divine foundations, that is, on the principles of tolerance and humility, to God in all that one goes through in life. The teachings of Islam are aimed at transforming an individual. The aim of Islam is not the establishment of a system or government. Rather, the aim of Islam is to reform an individual. All the commandments of Islam are aimed at developing this noble character, so that in the afterlife, this developed personality can be settled in the eternal abode of Paradise. In her address on Islam and Peace, Sufia Khan said that peace was integral to the religion of Islam. All Islamic teachings are based, directly or indirectly, on the principle of peace. The very word Islam is derived from the Arabic root word “silm”, which means peace. The Prophet of Islam has said: “Do not wish for confrontation with your opponent. Instead, always ask for peace from God.”
Many questions were raised during the interaction that followed the talks. In the light of the atrocities being committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, one of the students enquired whether CPS had issued any statement in this regard. Rajat replied that in one of his recent lectures, the Maulana condemned ISIS’s activities as being wholly un-Islamic. The first four caliphs of Islam, whose period is considered as authentic in Islamic history, were referred to as amir al-mominin, that is, commander of the believers. The word “khalifa” or caliph came into use after the period of these four caliphs, that is, during the rule of the Umayyad dynasty. The Umayyads’ was a dynastic rule and to justify it they started to call their reign as khilafat or caliphate. Therefore, the concept of caliphate was not found in early Islamic history.
Another student asked whether in Islam men are held superior to women. To this Maria replied that the Quran is the authentic source of Islam, and no verse in it speaks of such superiority. On the other hand, the Quran says: “Men and women are members one of another.” (3:195). The Prophet of Islam has stated: “Men and women are two equal halves of a single unit.” . Rajat cited the example of Ayesha (RA), the Prophet’s wife and said that she is considered most learned among the Companions of the Prophet. Many of her sayings have been recorded in the books of the traditions of the Prophet and are regarded as a very valuable source for understanding the Prophet’s teachings. It was emphasized that Islamic teaching should be differentiated from Muslim practice, the latter should be judged in the light of the former and not vice versa.
(The writer is a PhD candidate, Department of Islamic Studies
Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi)