Imam Zijad’s Corner: Islamic Methodology for Conflict Resolution and Building Peace
The purpose of Islamic law (maqasid of Shari’a) is to maintain peaceful, healthy, meaningful relationships with God and with all of humanity. This relationship is often disrupted by conflicts, whether interpersonal, communal, national or international. Its restoration is essential for the sake of fairness and justice and peace. Peace-building efforts work towards preventing an escalation of conflict and establishing a durable and self-sustaining peace.
Peace is intimately tied with justice and justice is tied with forgiveness in its Islamic understanding. You cannot achieve one without the other and the third. Legitimate grievances of the affected party must be addressed, if real and the necessary peace for normal life is to be achieved.
The Qur’an addresses the community of those who believe: “O You who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear God. For God is well-acquainted with all you do” (Al Maidah 5:8).
The Qur’an further reaffirms the previous statement: “O You who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or you kin, and whether it be against rich or poor: For God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do” (Al Nisa 4:135).
Towards this end Islamic scholars also emphasize promoting Islamic ethics in order to prevent, mediate, and resolve various conflicts. This must take place along with a personal transformation, developing spiritual awareness through constant remembering God (Thikr) and His Grace and ‘Ibadat (worship) as well as through acts of charity and love for other human beings.
One should exercise compassion and forgive others who have done us harm, and move away from greed, egocentricity, crass materialism, and harming others and work to live peacefully in cooperation with each other.
The Qur’an constantly uses the word Sulh in resolving all types of conflicts. It means seeking peace, reconciliation, compromise and settlement.
As such, during the early Islamic history Muslim jurists developed a number of legal structures and institutions, using a variety of techniques to resolve conflicts amicably, and achieve peace. Among these are the following:
- Appointment of a Justice of Peace (Qadi as Sulh) to oversee the processes of mediation, arbitration, and reconciliation to achieve settlement and peace.
- Parties in conflict have the option of resolving their dispute through a Wasta or third-party mediator who would ensure that all parties were satisfied with the outcome.
- Other practices could use tahkeem, or using intermediaries to represent the parties. These intermediaries should be able to represent the parties’ position as clearly as possible to negotiate on their behalf, and guarantee that the parties receive a fair settlement. A settlement could include a. financial compensation, b. service to the family, c. service to the community, and d. specific gestures of sympathy, or public demonstration of reconciliation.
These procedures and relevant structures need to be revived and further developed, as time and our understanding change, utilizing all possible modern techniques.