Non-violence: a foundational principle of Islam

Each day we are bombarded with violent scenes in the name of religion. However, this violence is diametrically in opposition to the purpose of religion which came to positively transform humankind, nurturing moral character, fostering universal love and promoting the general welfare and prosperity for all people. Religion came to enrich life, not to take life away or deplete life.

In this spirit, the Madina Institute’s Center for Non-Violence and Peace Studies SA will officially be launched in South Africa on Wednesday 24 August 2016 at the Century City Convention Center as an important unambiguous voice that non-violence is a core part of the Islamic tradition illustrated by the peaceful co-existence of over a billion Muslims around the world. In the context of rising Islamophobia, it is often ignored that in the current examples of violence cloaked with religious rhetoric, the biggest victims are Muslims who are the silent majority.

South Africa is the ideal launching pad for a ‘Center’ whose foremost call is to raise the collective consciousness, educational knowledge and awareness of non-violence as a key foundational principle of Islam based on the Holy Quran and the Prophetic tradition. South Africa’s credentials make it the perfect home for an enabling environment where the conversation and social activism for non-violence, universal compassion, neighbourliness, non-racialism and religious, cultural and gender inclusiveness can be deepened, broadened, and resonated globally.

Dictatorial regimes and rulers have created tyrannical conditions of injustice, oppression, inequality, social decay, the collapse of civil society, and the resultant violent responses which have had devastating consequences. This is simply because violence should never be the answer. Violence is the language of the inarticulate and bloodshed only breeds more bloodshed. The Madina Institute’s South Africa’s Center for Non-Violence and Peace Studies SA aims to offer seminars and certificate courses leading to a Bachelor’s Degree in the Madinan methodology of Non-Violence with the intent of increasing awareness and countering the narrative of extremism, in both its violent and non-violent form. It seeks to introduce peace as not simply the absence of violence but rather requiring proactive peace-making, thus positively contributing to all segments of society and working hard to create a civilization of love for humanity and unbridled respect for the sanctity of human life.

The Madina Institute Center for Peace and Non-Violence SA will have global outreach by linking and coordinating its synergies with its branches around the world, as well as other voices for peace, non-violence and activism with authentic Islam as its point of reference. The focus is on humanity as a whole when we speak about justice, equality, freedom, dignity, and human rights which goes beyond the limitations and narrow self-interests of xenophobic nationalism, culture, race, or religious sectarianism. A strong well organised activist and globally connected civil society as a formation independent from government, its agencies and structures, is the catalyst for societal change. More civil society formations will have to emerge to strengthen the sterling work of those without whose role the plight of the oppressed people in several domains would be even more imperilled.

With regards to investing in future leadership, the focus will be to orientate and educate youth, in particular, to build and develop themselves, their families and their communities through informed action choosing non-violent and peaceful strategies to do so, avoiding violence and aggression, radicalisation or extremism. Specifically, the Center will focus on improving youth awareness on Islam and non-violence through youth leadership development opportunities, workshops and other training forums asserting universal values based on a common humanity espousing justice, human dignity, equality, inclusiveness, diversity; and access to opportunities to develop, grow and constructively contribute to building society.

With regards to interfaith collaboration, the Madina Institute Center for Peace and Non-Violence SA will also setup forums for dialogue across a diverse range of communities and formations with the expressed intent and purpose to build a common understanding and purpose cementing common cause of peaceful citizenry.

The world is a global village and events in one part of the world has ripple and after effects elsewhere as illustrated by the litany of terror attacks we have witnessed and the subsequent widespread rise of Islamophobia across the world. South Africa’s rich history and leadership in peace making and non-violence strategies led by the father of the nation former President Nelson Mandela, can serve as a practical example of success giving the world a glimpse of the South African tradition on non-violence and peace at a turbulent time in world affairs. There is much work to do as civil society to act as catalysts in building a new reality of non-violence and peace-making at the family, community and societal levels and it is going to take all of our collective energies to succeed.

by Shaykh Dr Muhammad Bin Yahya Al-Ninowy
Founding Director of Madina Institute Center for Non-Violence & Peace Studies