by Jinan Bastaki
“O Allah, you are the Source of Peace, and from You is peace,blessed are You O Possessor of Glory and Honor.” [Muslim]
We all seek peace in some way. We work so that we do not have to worry about where our next meal will come from. We take breaks to rest and give ourselves some calm. We go out for long drives just to get to a place of quiet and tranquility.
Something in us constantly desires serenity. We were created in this way. And the reason why we desire peace so much is because Allahsubhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) is the Source of Peace; He is as-Salaam. And because He is the Source of Peace, only He can truly bestow peace. We are told in the Qur’an:
“Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” (Qur’an, 13:28)
Yet we sometimes act in contradictory ways. We look for an illusion of peace in the material, sometimes in other people, and in a certain way of life. But the reason why we sometimes see people who don’t seem to have much yet are filled with the light of contentment, and others who appear to have it all but are never satisfied, is precisely because peace comes from as-Salaam, and not from this world. If peace is sought through Him, then peace is achieved by Him. As He tells us:
“And Allah invites to the Home of Peace and guides whom He wills to a straight path.” (Qur’an, 10:25)
As-Salaam: the Flawless Source of Peace
We all understand “salaam” to be peace, but this word has a number of dimensions, and they all relate to Allah’s Name as-Salaam. The root s-l-m also means to be free from defect. Salaama means safety. So how are these meanings interrelated and how does that manifest in Allah’s Beautiful Name?
Allah’s actions are free from fault or blemish; He is flawless. As human beings, we try to seek and create what is flawless because we have a natural affinity towards it. And precisely what disturbs us and prevents a peaceful existence is when we put all of our hopes in the imperfect. We depend on other human beings as we should depend on God, and when we are disappointed in them, we are broken. We may get angry or frustrated when things don’t work out the seemingly perfect way we wanted. But that is because people and things are not perfect. And when we let go of that, and understand that we all have faults, we are in a better position to work in our environment and try to make it better. The lack of perfection does not cause us to despair. We understand that it is only Allah who is Flawless.
This should not be interpreted as we should not strive for perfection in our deeds. The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said, “When one of you does something, Allah loves that you do it with excellence,” [Tabarani]. But what is meant is that, internally, our hope should not rest on the imperfect. I recently missed a flight because of signal failures on the Heathrow Express. I deliberately took that train because it is supposed to get you to the airport in 12 minutes. But subhanAllah (glory to God), it was not meant to be, and I missed my flight. I wasn’t angry or upset. I took the lesson that I should have left even earlier and to plan for such unexpected occurrences, and that it was not written for me to take that flight this time. But the point is, we strive for excellence and for good because we are servants of the Perfect One, and realize that all and any good comes from Him.
As-Salaam and Our Hearts
Al-Ghazali makes the connection beautifully to the state of our hearts. He says,
“Every servant whose heart is free from deceit, hatred, envy and evil intent; and whose limbs are unblemished by sins and forbidden actions, and whose attributes are not affected by inversion and reversal, will be one who comes to God the most high with a flawless heart.”
Most of the things that cause real disturbances in our hearts and our lives are tied to what we allow into our hearts. When we allow ourselves to envy and to hate, we are naturally far from being in a state of peace, because our hearts are far from the Flawless Source of Peace. How can a person who is far from a well expect to quench his thirst?
We seek peace from the Flawless Source of Peace by attempting to remove the blemishes from our heart, and we are then granted peace insha’Allah (God willing). We free ourselves from the shackles of resentment, self-righteousness and rage. We start to do this by humbling ourselves to Allah (swt) and realizing that everything comes from Him. The anger in our hearts only harms us and shows discontent with the divine decree. We need to let go. As the Prophet ﷺ said:“Know that what has passed you by was not going to befall you; and that what has befallen you was not going to pass you by,” [Tirmidhi]. We are told in the Qur’an of “the Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children. But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart” (Qur’an, 26:88-89). The sound heart is “qalb saleem”, from the same root of Allah’s Name as-Salaam. We are also given an example of the one who had such a heart: “And indeed, among his kind was Abraham, when he came to his Lord with a sound heart.” (Qur’an, 37:83-84)
How did Ibrahim have such a heart? Because it was attached to Allah, as-Salaam. He had complete trust in Allah (swt), so much so that he was in a state of complete calm when he was to be catapulted into a raging fire. His heart was in such a state that when his father said he would stone him if he did not desist from his message, Ibrahim `alayhi assalaam (peace be upon him) told him that he would pray for him. And Allah (swt) bestowed upon Him peace, and upon all those who are attached to Him. In Surat As-Saffat, Allah tells us about some of the other Prophets upon whom He bestowed peace:
“Peace be upon Noah in all the worlds,” (37:79). “Peace be upon Abraham,” (37:109). “Peace be upon Moses and Aaron,” (37:120). “Peace be upon Elias,” (37:130). “Peace be upon the Messengers,” (37:181).
May Allah make us of those upon whom Allah bestows His peace!
The Weight of Sins
Sins also weigh heavily on our hearts. Sometimes we do not want to think of this. But just as eating a little poison every day will make us sick and eventually kill us, sins do that to our hearts. So it is very important in realizing Allah’s Name as-Salaam to critically reflect on ourselves and our states, and strive to become better. If it is difficult, then the key is turning to Allah (swt) and asking for His help, for He constantly accepts those who return to Him. Even stopping one little thing that is displeasing to God is good, because it is a step taken closer to the Source of Peace.
All the Prophets had peace from Allah (swt). And ultimately, that is what we all desire. But we must always remember to seek it through the source, not the illusions. So what are the practical ways to achieve a peaceful life?
Ibn al-Qayyim mentioned that remembering Allah is literally any action that is done with Allah (swt) in mind, so this includes prayer, specific forms of dhikr (remembrance), du`a’ (supplication), and doing things with the intention to please Allah (swt). Allah tells us in the Qur’an that the salah (prayer) is for His remembrance. And He tells us that hearts find rest in remembrance.
The Prophet ﷺ tells us that “The one who (regularly) says istighfaar [seeking forgiveness], Allah will relieve him of every burden, and make from every discomfort an outlet, and He will provide for him from (sources) he never could imagine.” (Abu Dawud)
- Remind yourself that only Allah is Flawless
We all have flaws and we all make mistakes. So we should not despair when this happens, but rather work hard to become better. We cannot place burdens on people that they cannot bear by expecting them to be perfect either.
- Seek the reward from Allah, not from people
We are rewarded for our striving. When we put our hope in results and not in Allah (swt), maintaining good works and activism can be hard. But when we realize that the point is the striving and in maintaining it and seeking ways to improve, we are not deterred by what may seem a failure.
And the ultimate peace comes in the Hereafter, in the Abode of Peace, where there is no fear or sadness. May Allah make us of its inhabitants.