Finding peace in our hectic and chaotic world can be an elusive task. We all desire peace, whether it is between nation states, between family members, or in the depths of our own hearts. It’s the freedom to be unburdened by anxiety regardless of any situation. Peace is the ability to exist in harmony with others around us, even without unity or without being in perfect agreement. Both Islam and Christianity give advice on how to find such peace, but their methods are quite different.
In Christianity, God has much to say about peace. Jesus tells us that peace is one of the things that He grants to those who follow Him. Right after He tells His disciples about the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) He tells them that they will have peace (John 14:27). Indeed, peace is one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Ultimately, this peace comes from God through His Son Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36). But this peace isn’t even some external emotion that God gives us. Rather, it is Christ Himself who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). Peace is something we are to pursue (Romans 14:19). Letting go of anxiety, being in prayer, and being thankful (Philippians 4:6) help us tap into the peace that God gives us, and this peace is so vast and outrageous that it will make no sense to the world around us (Philippians 4:7)!
Yet there is another side to tapping into this peace. Ultimately, finding true peace is all predicated upon our having peace with God Himself (Romans 5:1). It was God who made peace with us by reconciling us to Himself through the forgiveness of sins. And notice what our response is to be (1 Corinthians 2:18-19).
18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
In other words, since God has made peace with us by forgiving our trespasses, so too we are to go out and do the same with others (Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25). Lack of peace comes from the refusal to forgive others. The bitterness and turmoil of not forgiving others only harms ourselves. The command for Christians to forgive others thus ultimately benefits our own state of mind. This call to forgive others because God has first forgiven us is perhaps stated no more clearly then in Ephesians 4:32.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
The bottom line is that peace comes through forgiveness. The Bible testifies to this truth, and my own personal experience backs this up as well. So what does Islam teach about finding peace, particularly as it relates to forgiveness?
There are various ways in which Islam discusses peace, including the Muslim greeting of “Salam Alaikum”, which means, “Peace be upon you.” This particular aspect of peace within Islam was discussed in a previous article. Yet the relationship between peace and forgiveness is not as well understood. It is seen in the context of one of the most violent verses of the Qur’an. While many people with knowledge of Islam are familiar with the first verse in this pair, not nearly as many are aware of the second.
[9.14] Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing people.
[9.15] And remove the rage of their hearts; and Allah turns (mercifully) to whom He pleases, and Allah is Knowing, Wise.
People often cite Surah 9:14, which commands Muslims to fight the unbelievers. However, what is discussed less often is the reason the Qur’an gives for them to do so. Specifically the Qur’an says that fighting the unbelievers will “heal their hearts” and “remove the rage of their hearts”.
So how do Muslims interpret this promise of the therapeutic impact of jihad? Respected Qur’an commentator Al-Maududi says that Allah promises jihad will “soothe the hearts of many believers.”[i] In other words, anxiety and pain can be eliminated by obeying this command to fight. Fighting is the curative remedy that will bring calming peace for the Muslim. Within Islam, peace is promised by waging jihad and through the ensuing conflict with those outside Islam. The Qur’an says that jihad is the balm that heals the anxious heart. As Mark Durie says, “Strange therapy indeed for the human soul!” [ii]
In Christianity, peace is found through forgiveness and reconciliation. In Islam, peace is found through jihad, killing, and conflict. I recognize that stating this may cause discomfort for readers, but it’s what the religious texts and Islamic commentators teach. If any Muslim reader would like to dispute these interpretations, I welcome your thoughts and opinions in the comments section of this article. For Christian readers, I suggest we work harder to befriend our Muslim neighbors so that they too can experience real peace.