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Islam and World Peace - Explanations of a Sufi
by M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen


Among the great religions of the world, Islam is no doubt the one that is least known and least appreciated by the non-Muslim world. The recent resurgence of military and militant groups inside Islam has caused a renewal of feelings and sentiments that have been harbored for centuries and a new spirit of crusade against the only major religion that appeared in history after Christianity. This has caused many Western laymen and intellectuals to ask, "What do 'the Islams' have in mind now?" (A horrible form used by many instead of the correct term, Muslims.)

Real Islam is a deep and unquestioning trust in God, the realization of the truth that "There is no deity save God" and of the threefold aspect of religious life: that of islam, complete surrender to God; iman, unquestioning faith in Him and His wisdom; and ihsan, to do right and to act beautifully, because one knows that God is always watching man's actions and thoughts. For fourteen hundred years the Muslims have practiced these virtues, and the great mystics of Islam have taught them to millions of faithful who have survived the most difficult times, the greatest hardships because of their unshakable faith in the loving kindness of God, the creator, sustainer and judge of everything created.

Sufism, the mystical current inside Islam, developed logically out of the serious study of the Koran, according to Muslim belief the uncreated word of God, and of the constant direction of all faculties toward God. The Sufi masters taught their disciples that their duty is the fulfillment of God's will, not out of a feeling of duty but rather out of love - for could there be anything greater than the unconditional love which man offers his Lord? And in order to be able to love God and, through Him, His creatures, the heart has to be purified by constant remembrance of God and by constant struggle against one's lower qualities, the so-called nafs, which are, according to the word of the Prophet of Islam, "the greatest enemy of man." This struggle against one's lowly and base qualities is indeed the "greater Holy War," for outward enemies can disappear and are not as dangerous as the inner, satanic forces, which try to incite man into evil, disobedience, and forgetfulness. It is this "Holy War" which in the following pages forms the center of the teaching of one of the masters of Sufism in our day, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, who hails from Sri Lanka and stands in the age-old tradition of wisdom and love.

The reader will learn from these pages, which are written, or rather recited, in a simple, almost childlike style, that the inner dimensions of Islam are very different from those which he usually associates with this religion; that there is a wealth of love, of patience, of trust in God, and, last but not least, of gratitude; for the qualities of patience in affliction and gratitude belong together. The true lover of God knows that even in affliction it is the hand of the Divine Beloved that he feels, and he trusts that whatever befalls him is for his best, for God knows what is good for the soul's growth and for the spirit's purification.

I hope that many people read the warm, loving words of Bawa Muhaiyaddeen and understand that indeed the words islam and salam-peace-belong to the same root and that a true understanding of the inner dimensions of Islam will help them to find peace for themselves, insha'Allah, God willing.

Annemarie Schimmel
Professor of Indo-Muslim Culture
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts


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