Attainment of Inner Peace
The Review of Religions, February 1997
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the Fourth Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, on various occasions, offers people from different faiths and beliefs the opportunity to put to him any questions or issues of interest to them. Presented below is the answer given by Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad to a question which was raised at a session held in Cologne, Germany, on 21 August 1996. Transcribed by Amatul-Hadi Ahmad.
Questioner: There are many people who have no inner peace. What does Islam say about this?
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad: The idea of ‘inner peace’ is something which is not properly defined. Unless it is well-defined you cannot attempt to attain it. Peace is a concept which differs among the different schools of philosophies. For instance, the Yogic peace has a different meaning. It only means that by exercise or by delving deeper into one’s soul, a person finds himself to be without any agitation. So, the absence of agitation in man’s desires is called peace. A similar concept of peace is found in Buddhism as well as in some other Chinese religions. For instance, in Taoism, peace means delving deeper into one’s own soul until one strikes the fountain-head of truth. So what is called Buddha in Buddhism is called Tao in Taoism, which means truth that is found in every nature — so when you reach truth, you reach peace.
This is a different view about peace which is found in various oriental religions. However, in the major divinely revealed religions of the world, which are Judaism, Christianity and, at the end, Islam, peace is not just one dimensional or an individual concept. Peace is, firstly, to be at rest with one’s own desires and ambitions and having a balance, which is an internal affair, and secondly, to have peace with the world around and to assure everyone that one poses no threat of danger to them – ‘no danger will emanate from me in the other’s direction’. It is this wider concept of peace which you find in major religions. In this concept of peace, no one can be at peace with himself until he is also at peace with his neighbours and with others. This is also the concept of peace in Islam.
In Islam the concept of peace is two-fold. Firstly, to be at peace with God and then, secondly, to be at peace with oneself and with the rest of the world.
Submission to the will of God is the only means of attaining peace
The concept of peace in Islam is the most comprehensive of all the religions and philosophies that I have just mentioned and the key to it lies in the fact that in Islam the word ‘peace’ does not only mean to be at rest or to have a compromise of a perfect understanding with the rest of the world. It also means submission. The meaning of this one single word has two aspects. One is peace as ordinarily understood and the other is peace in the sense of submission. So, according to the Qur’anic concept of peace, no peace on earth can ever be conceived, not to mention established, by human effort. It cannot even be conceived theoretically without man finding God, the Creator, without recognising the hand of the Creator universally at work in nature.
Once man recognises his Creator, the second step is to be at peace with Him and this peace has this dual meaning: Firstly, you are not to do anything which creates a distance between you and the Creator, and secondly, submission. So, both these meanings join hands at this stage. Submission to the will of God is the only means of attaining peace with God and this is a declaration which is proven by human experience. It has a profound wisdom which is universally experienced by man. If children are at peace with their parents, it is impossible for them to defy their orders and wishes and yet be at peace.
Hence, if you delve deeper into the meaning of peace you will realise that ultimately the meaning of peace is submission. If you submit to the authority or the will or the desire of someone so completely that nothing in you is at war with the desire, will, or the way of life or the style of someone whom you love, you will be at peace with that person or authority. Unless you do this, you cannot attain peace.
So in Islam the journey to peace begins with the attainment of peace with your Lord the Creator and for this you must understand His attributes. We must know what He is and this in Islam cannot be achieved through delving deeper into yourself because you can make many mistakes. If there is a God, He has to be an external reality. If He is an external reality, then He must introduce Himself to man and that is what actually happened in all the divine religions – it was God Who revealed Himself to mankind. It was never man or woman who by his/her own efforts reached God, without help from God. First this much should be understood. I will then come to the latter part of the concept of peace, peace within a person and peace between people.
The questioner has asked a very profound question and to give a brief answer is extremely difficult. So I am trying to build the answer little by little, in different sections. I hope you will bear with me and understand that your question needs to be answered logically, in detail, with regard to its various aspects.
First of all, I return to the idea of finding peace with God. Why is this essential? Why is it that no peace can be established without returning to God? God is the ultimate reality Who has created human beings according to His own attributes and peace means a complete balance between man’s attributes and the attributes of God. When there is no friction in any aspect of human behaviour caused by being at variance with God’s attributes, this then is the ultimate peace. No other definition of peace can hold good but this one which can be explained and demonstrated at length but I am trying to make the answer brief and that is why I have just claimed it.
If you think deeper on this question, I am sure you will agree with this claim that man’s attributes can only find peace when they find themselves at one with God’s attributes. Whenever the two join, they become alive and there is peace. Whenever they are at war, there is friction, and there is disturbance, psychological as well as otherwise. It is the disturbance created within human beings which causes all the disturbances in human relationships with each other and in the international relationships between people and between states.
I can explain this by demonstrating to you how man’s attributes can become at one with God’s attributes. But what do I mean by that? Everybody knows that in almost all religions, God is defined alike in His attributes, alike in almost all religions. They differ with each other in other things, but the concept of God is expressed as perfect goodness. No flaw can be attributed to God’s attribute or behavioural conduct, in the concept of God in any religion. All tell universally that God is True. All claim universally that God is Just. All claim, without variance, that God is Compassionate, Merciful, Forgiving. Now, these are the attributes that I had in mind when I said human attributes must come at one with God’s attributes and there you can never be mistaken about peace. Let’s begin with truth.
Truthfulness: One means of attaining peace
Only when man becomes true can he find peace with himself; otherwise he will claim to be something while deep inside he knows he is not that something. There will always be contradiction between man and his soul as long as he is not true. So, truth is the most important fundamental first step towards peace and this is the meaning of becoming like God. You cannot be God but you can imitate God in all the good attributes of God which we have also received from Him as His creation and when you become true to yourself only then will you be able to become true to your children, your husband, your wife, your relatives and your society and when you enlarge the role of this single factor then nations can become true to each other. Even if you were to forget about all the other attributes of God, if you were just true, then you will realise that the peace within you is not a confined, isolated experience of a person within himself. The moment he reaches peace through imitating God, he is immediately introduced as a true servant, as a humble creature of God. He is introduced as such, through his attributes, to all his surroundings, whether someone is related to him or not. If someone is true he will be identified as a godly person by all whether they believe in God or not because the attribute of truth is in itself a godly character. Even the atheists accept truth – they know it is good. So to be godlike but in humility, to try to achieve His attributes is the only passage to peace which can be advised and which does not become a confined experience within man. It becomes a universally shared experience between people in the same society and between people of different nations.
Again, I will emphasise that this is the only formula for creating universality in man. Without creating universality in man it is impossible to dream of peace and this universality can only be achieved through the image of God which is universal. Through Him, man can achieve such characteristics as are universally loved so that the human community, the human race, can become a single species if the human race submits to the will of God and becomes or attempts to become like God. Herein meet the two different meanings of peace, that is, peace in the ordinary sense, and peace in the sense of submission.