Peace (salaam) is an absolute value in Islam. Everyday we wish peace to each other, pray for peace through our greetings (Assalamu alaikum, peace be upon you), send salaam to our Prophet in our prayers, and outside prayers, throughout our waking hours. Our holy Prophet (PBUH) accepted, rather preferred, peace, even on most adverse terms, though his companions were averse to it at the historic moment of Sulah-e-Hudaibiyia (the Treaty of Hudaibiya). The holy Quran endorsed it in the next few hours.
Why did God approve of something that was so bitter, apparently so dishonourable and humiliating to Muslims? Why did God call it a victory, a clear, transparent, unambiguous victory? Why was it (and remains today) a fatahummubin (clear victory)? Because in Islam, peace is an absolute value. It must be striven hard for. It is worth the price, because only in peace great ideas grow, societies flourish, people live happy, contented lives. That is why peace is worth all the trouble, all the heartache.
It is in that spirit that we look at the Supreme Court of India’s noble attempt to untangle the Ayodhya dispute through mediation, because adjudication may aggravate the old wounds. Justice is unaffordable at certain junctures of history of societies. Granted that only peace based on justice is the ideal, but pursuit of justice may lead to further chaos, bloodshed and entrenched ill will. Amartya Sen in his classical work on the subject says complete justice is not possible in the world. What we get through courts of judicature worldwide is incomplete, partial justice. In many cases the guiding principle of “ease of doing justice” is violated in pursuit of complete justice.
The Prophet (PBUH) told his companions that they should not expect that they would always get justice, or that others would give them their rights. He advised them not to insist on getting their rights from others, but always ensure that they give others their rights. He advised them to endure the denial of their rights by others. Islam and the other Abrahamic faiths believe that on the Day of Judgement all human beings (whatever their faith or colour) will get complete, unmitigated and unalloyed justice. The world is not the place for complete justice, like perfect ball-bearings can’t be manufactured on earth, because of earth’s gravity. Such perfection is possible only in outer space. On the Day of Judgment, God Himself would be the Judge (not some imperfect human being), then we will get complete justice.
The world is not a just place. This we have to understand. And maximalist, unyielding positions do not work. They are not appropriate for compromise, which requires accommodation of each other’s feelings. That through a large swath of Asia and Africa Muslims are caught in a fratricidal rage is merely because they are taking maximalist positions, are incapable of accommodating each other’s feelings and are not yielding some space to each other.
Recently, I read somewhere that we tend to see the world through our group affiliations. That is true of our view of the Babari Masjid demolition and proposed construction of a temple to Shri Ramji over that site. By “our view” I mean our national view, not just Hindu or Muslim view, in which there is no consensus among Indians. The imperfection here is: the site is aastha for Hindus, but the aastha of Muslims for their mosque is heartlessly and unimaginatively brushed aside. We have to accept this, along with the fact that we believe in the Day of Judgment when the Great Judge will consider all sides’ pleas.
For now, in the light of the above, the Supreme Court is the best bet we have. The mediation will follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines. If the mediation succeeds (let’s hope and pray for its success), parliament would have to step in to guarantee both side’s interests to the maximum.
We have to remember that some among the liberals - and also some on the extreme of the political spectrum, the Far Right - are not happy with the mediation panel. Many liberals think a partisan of Shri Ramji can’t be a mediator as he represents only the majority, while the hubris-driven far right dismisses the apex court and its panel summarily. Because it has got away with breaking law and cocking a snook at the Supreme Court, it thinks it has no use for a civilised compromise.
We would rather give peace a chance. All of us, whatever our faith and political affiliation, owe it to future generations to leave behind an India that is at peace with itself and the world. Good luck to the mediation!