Human characteristics are baffling in their complexity and contradictions. Manís capacity for ennoblement is equalled only by his capacity for debasement. He can rise to heights of sublimity but also sinks to the lowest depths of degradation. He may adore God with a fervour which is truly angelical; on the other hand, he may take devilish delight in debauchery and sensuality. If he can rise to heights of spiritual grandeur in love and can even die for his beloved, he can also hate like a beast of the jungle. Endowed with an intelligence which can explore interstellar spaces and can weigh the sun and the earth, he may remain ignorant of his own worth and latent powers and foolishly follow a path that will surely lead to the extermination of the human race.
War has been with man throughout his existence on this planet. As far as our eye can penetrate the haze of the distant past, we see men fighting each other. Despite the splendid civilisation he has created, and despite his glorious achievements in art and science, one wonders whether a being so busy with destroying his kind deserves to be called human. It is true that from time to time great men have appeared who have held aloft the banner of peace, tolerance and fellowship, but equally prominent men have as often preached the opposite gospel and glorified war. To Nietzsche, fighting was a noble occupation. "Men should be educated for war" he counselled, "and women for the production of warriors," and adds, to make his meaning clear, "everything else is folly". Mussolini looked upon war as a moral necessity. Hitler regarded war as the basic principle of life. For him law was only that which a soldier laid down. In his view, only those who help the state to prepare for war really contribute to national culture and social well-being. "We should demolish", says Heinrich Hauser, "all those institutions which safeguard peace and security for man. Life will be stable and simple only in an age we call barbaric".
Although such extreme views are now generally despised and ridiculed, there are still many influential persons today who would not hesitate to plunge the world in war to settle an international dispute : fortunately they are restrained by the sober men in every country. They are also deterred by the prospect of nuclear war which would spell the annihilation of the victor and vanquished alike.
It is a fact that the menace of war has not receded from the present world. The policy of brinkmanship practised by some heads of states poses a threat to mankind. It is strange that modern man who aspires to colonise the moon and other planets cannot solve the problems that confront him on earth.
Let us see whether the Quran can help us in this predicament. Does it offer any effective remedy for our social malaise ? If so, how can the remedy be applied ? The Quran ascribes two significant attributes to God As-Salaam and Al-Muímin. As-Salaam is the Being Who is the source of peace and concord and Who assures peaceful existence to all beings. Al-Muímin is the Being Who shelters and protects all and bestows peace in every sphere of life on all beings. Moreover, the way of life which the Quran prescribes for us is called Islam, which basically means peace. It is no doubt true that human beings, by and large, wish to live in peace. Nevertheless, the outbreak of violence is by no means a rare phenomenon. The Quran offers us sensible advice on how we can check violence when it breaks out. If an individual disturbs the peace we can try persuasion and if it fails, the government will have to intervene and restrain him by force. However, the problem is much more difficult when a nation commits aggression against another nation.