What is essential in Islam? War or Peace ?
Islam is a religion of peace. The words such as "Silm, salameh, salaam... which mean peace and security, come from the same root as the word Islam. One of the names of Allah (SWT) is As-Salaam. When Muslims come across each other, they say As-salamu Alaikum, which means, be Allahs peace upon you. One of the gates of Masjid-i Haram is Babus-Salaam (The Gate of Peace) and one of the names of Heaven is Darus-Salaam, which means The Place of Peace.
What is essential in Islam is not war but peace. (1) In Islam, war is waged either against aggressors or against those who are blocking the announcement of Islam. Non-Muslims are not to be fought against as long as they do not attack Muslims, permit Islamic announcement and interfere in the people who live based on Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) expresses that what is essential in Islam is peace:
O Men! Do not be eager to meet with the enemy. Wish peace from Allah. When you meet with them (for a fight), be patient. Know that Heaven is under the shades of swords. (2)
Islam recognizes human life as sacred. It regards killing an innocent person as killing all humanity, saving a persons life as saving the lives of all humanity.
Islam has come to let live not to slay. It is possible to see this approach in this verse: O ye who believe! give your response to Allah and His Messenger, when He called you to that which will give you life; and know that Allah cometh in between a man and his heart, and that it is He to Whom ye shall (all) be gathered. (Al-Anfal Surah, 8:24) Here is a good example that Islam spread in an atmosphere of peace seeing that Muhammad (PBUH) came to Hudaybiya with 1400 people, and returned to Mecca in order to conquest there with 10.000 companions of his two years later after the treaty made. (3)
Islam reached the masses after the Hudaybiya Treaty. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), by sending envoys to the governors he could reach, invited them to the religion of Allah (SWT). The kings of Byzantine, Persia, Abyssinia, Egypt, Oman, Bahrain, and Syria were some of those. (4)
The reliability of the principles he has brought, the appropriateness of truths, the good manners of Muslims who follow him, has enabled Non-Muslims to embrace Islam for fourteen centuries.
1. Rıza, X, 168; Azzam, p., 144; Tabbera, p., 377-378; Shedid, p.119; Abdurrabbih, p., 313; Sabuni, Kabes, III, 163
2. Muslim, Jihad, 20; Abu Davud, Jihad, 89
3. Berki, p., 324
4. Ibnu Hisham, IV, 254-255