Quran Verse of the Day on Peace
Chapter 25 of the Quran, “The Criterion” (al-Furqan), came to the Prophet Muhammad when he was still a preacher in Mecca (circa 610-622 AD), before the Meccans became so hostile and bloodthirsty that the Muslims had to leave for the nearby city of Yathrib, which became known as the City of the Prophet (Madinat an-Nabi) or Medina.
The Criterion lays out toward the end of its 77 verses a vision of the pious believer. That has to do first of all with wishing others peace.
The worshippers of the All-Merciful are they who tread gently upon the earth, and when the ignorant address them, they reply, “Peace!”
The small Muslim community in Mecca faced much harassment and persecution. The “ignorant” in this verse are the militant polytheists who hate the monotheistic message of Islam. What they “speak” to the Muslims is abuse and taunts. The early Muslims viewed the times of pagan dominance as the Age of Ignorance (al-Jahiliyyah).
One name for God in Islam is al-Rahman, or the All-Merciful. This verse chooses that epithet for the divine, it seems to me quite deliberately in this context. The Muslims are the worshippers of the All-Merciful. It is implied that they are expected to exemplify this divine attribute in their own lives, and to show mercy, compassion and forebearance to others. (The root r*h*m from which al-Rahman derives implies all of these characteristics).
So what do they do when the “ignorant” Meccans curse them, taunt them, and harass them?
They reply, “Peace be upon you.” They wish their tormentors peace, and in so doing they pledge their own nonviolence toward them.
In this phase of the development of the Islamic community, in Mecca, the pagans have not yet taken up arms against the Muslims. And the Muslims, in turn, are turning the other cheek, behaving with extreme restraint, and greeting harsh treatment with compassion and wishes of peace.
The subsequent verses go on to sketch out elements of the spiritual life before coming back to issues of peace and violence: The verses describe the ideal Muslims:
64. They pass the night in adoration of their Lord, prostrating themselves and then rising.
65. They say, “Our Lord, avert from us the torment of hell. Its torture is ruinous.
66. It is an evil place and abode.”
67. When they spend, they are neither spendthrifts nor miserly, but keep to a golden mean.
68. They do not call on any deity other than the one God. They do not kill a person, the taking of whose blood God has forbidden, except for just cause. They do not commit adultery. Those who commit these acts must pay. Their torment on the Judgment Day will be doubled, and they will be consigned to eternal abasement–
69. Unless they repent, have faith, and do righteous works. For such as these, God changes their evil deeds into good works. God is forgiving and compassionate.
These verses recommend nighttime prayer, fear of hellfire, balanced spending habits, and belief in only one God. They forbid murder and adultery. Since both of these are torts, the Quran recognizes that they must be punished. Typically in seventh-century Mecca, the wrongdoer would pay blood money or guilt money to the aggrieved party. But the Quran requires more than just the retirement of a debt to the injured family. It demands repentance, faith, and good works in redemption. These reorientations of the will can have a transformative effect, and lead to divine forgiveness.
These verses from The Criterion define the Muslim community as peaceful, as wishing even enemies peace, and as forbidding bloodshed except in self-defense.