What United Nations can learn from Islam about conflict resolution

Ali Fatty, Student Jamia Ahmadiyya International Ghana

One month ago, the world was thrust into a challenging and delicate state of affairs since the start of the conflict in the Holy Land. While it is reported that Hamas initiated the conflict with an air strike on Israel on 7 October 2023, nevertheless, the subsequent actions taken by the Israeli government have been perceived as increasingly severe and disproportionate, resulting in the tragic loss of thousands of civilians in Palestine.

These unprecedented heartbreaking happenings have become a major concern for the world—as Israel continues its carpet bombing on the pretext of self-defence. For the past few weeks, Israel has been bombing innocent Palestinians indiscriminately. Many people have raised their voices in condemning this act of Israel and, furthermore, calling it unjust and a violation of international laws on war. 

Colombian President Gustavo Petro commented on X in condemnation of Israel’s bombardments of Gaza. He wrote.

“It is termed ‘genocide’, carried out to expel the Palestinian people from Gaza and claim it for themselves. The head of state who perpetrates this genocide is a criminal against humanity. His allies cannot speak of democracy.” (@petrogustavo on X, translated from Spanish)

It is argued that justice dictates that only the group involved in a war with Israel should be targeted, not innocent civilians who have nothing to do with the war.

The Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Mirza Masroor Ahmadaa, elaborated on this in his Friday sermon on 27 October 2023. Huzooraa elucidated:  

“Representatives of the Israeli government claim that Hamas has killed our innocents; hence, we will take revenge. This revenge has now gone beyond limits. The loss of Palestinian lives is four to five times greater than the loss of Israeli lives, which is reported. If their target, as they claim, is to eliminate Hamas, then why do they not directly combat them? Why are they targeting women, children, and the elderly? They have also deprived these people of water, food supplies, and medical care. All claims to human rights and the rules of warfare end when it comes to these governments.” (“Huzoor urges Ahmadis to intensify prayers amidst growing escalation in Palestine”, www.alhakam.org)

Countless media outlets and political pundits have raised the concern that Israeli forces did not even spare refugee camps, which are seen as safe havens for those fleeing from the war, and that under international laws of war, i.e., the Geneva Convention, they are not to be attacked under any circumstances. Yet, a refugee camp in Gaza was recently bombarded with missiles, claiming the lives of at least 47 people and injuring many more. (“Israel bombs al-Maghazi refugee camp, killing dozens, Gaza officials say”, www.aljazeera.com)

Moreover, reports have it that last month Israel was also accused of attacking a hospital in Gaza, causing the deaths of more than 500 people. According to sources, when the bombardment occurred, Israeli authorities were quick to start a blame game of pointing fingers at Hamas—claiming that they misfired a rocket that landed in the Palestinian hospital, causing the tragic loss of lives. However, experts say that it is evident that Israel carried out the raid on the hospital. (“What We Know About the Explosion at the Hospital in Gaza”, www.nytimes.com)

According to a report by the UN, confirmed by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, since Israel began bombarding Palestine after the 7 October attack by Hamas, at least 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, including 4,324 children. (“Israel revises down death toll as deadly strikes hit Gaza facilities”, www.France24.com)

The general secretary of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has informed reporters at the UN that the Gaza strip is becoming a “graveyard for children”. Guterres said, “We must act now to find a way out of this brutal, awful, agonising dead end of destruction. […] Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day.” (“‘Gaza becoming ‘a graveyard for children’, says UN secretary general’”, www.theguardian.com)

Now that the war seems to be escalating beyond all limits, several attempts have been made by individuals and organisations to broker peace through a ceasefire or a humanitarian truce. However, it remains futile, as Israel adamantly insists on not agreeing to stop the bombardment. (“Nations overwhelmingly vote for humanitarian truce at the UN, as Gazans say they have been ‘left in the dark’”, https//.edition.cnn.com)

As organisations and statesmen fail in their truce efforts between the two states, it is important to find solutions through other means. So, I tried to reflect on the teachings of the Holy Prophetsa and Islam to see if both offer any solution to conflict resolution that, if used by international organisations today, could be fruitful in ceasing the unfortunate war in the Holy Land.

Islam, 1400 years ago, laid down the blueprint for ending conflicts and disputes between people and nations. The Holy Quran in chapter 49, verse 10, commands Muslims that when two parties are engaged in a war, peace should be brokered between them; nevertheless, the party that insists on not accepting the truce, all parties are entreated to join and fight that party until it concurs with the peace pact brought to the table.

وَإِن طَائِفَتَانِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ اقْتَتَلُوا فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا فَإِن بَغَتْ إِحْدَاهُمَا عَلَى الْأُخْرَى فَقَاتِلُوا الَّتِي تَبْغِي حَتَّى تَفِيءَ إِلَى أَمْرِ اللَّهِ فَإِن فَاءتْ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَهُمَا بِالْعَدْلِ وَأَقْسِطُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ

“And if two parties of believers fight against each other, make peace between them; then if after that one of them transgresses against the other, fight the party that transgresses until it returns to the command of Allah. Then if it returns, make peace between them with equity, and act justly. Very, Allah loves the Just.” (Surah al-Hujurat, Ch. 49, V. 10)

Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa succinctly explained this commandment of the Holy Quran. Huzooraa says:

“In the event of an agreement, if either party unjustly seeks to subjugate the other and contravenes the negotiated settlement, then the other nations should unite together and use force if necessary to stop the aggressor.  However, once the aggressive party withdraws, they should not be humiliated or unjustly restricted. Rather, they should be permitted to move forward as a free nation and a free society. This principle is of great significance in today’s world and in particular for the major powers and international organisations such as the United Nations, to act upon”. (“World Peace & Security — Critical Issues of Our Time”, www.reviewofreligions.org)

The Holy Prophetsa has also practically taught Muslims the principles of dispute resolution; he is reported to have said in a hadith that you should help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or an oppressed one. A companion was prompted to ask that it is understandable to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor? The Holy Prophetsa replied, ‘By preventing him from oppressing others.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-mazalim, Bab a‘in akhaka zaliman aw mazluman, Hadith 2444)  

During the 7th annual Peace Symposium of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the UK, Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa explained this soothing teaching of the Holy Prophetsa in the most beautiful manner. Huzooraa said:

“The Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has taught us that to develop peace and to remove hatred from your heart, a person must help both the oppressor and the oppressed. Hearing this, his Companions said that they could understand the principle of helping the oppressed, but how could they help the oppressor? The Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him replied that you can help the oppressor by stopping him from acting cruelly so that he can be saved from the Wrath of God. (“7th Annual Peace Symposium; Address by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad”, www.alislam.org)

He added:

“It is necessary, therefore, to take practical steps to stop cruelty, regardless of whether it is the mighty or the weak that are inflicting the cruelty. Peace will not be established merely by adopting UN resolutions; practical steps must be taken. It is necessary to establish trust and build confidence, and for this, absolute equality must prevail. Differences between the rich and developed and the poor and developing countries must be eliminated. All forms of veto power should be removed, and the finer points of justice need to be identified. We need to be loyal to our covenants, our obligations and our status, and this loyalty can only occur when it is followed to the letter and spirit of the law; double standards should be eliminated.” (Ibid.)

In the modern world today, if leaders of countries and international bodies at all levels act upon these golden teachings of Islam, many wars that seem difficult to stop would be stopped, and the world would become a much better place to live for all mankind.

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