Conflict Resolution in the Quran

As I conduct conflict resolution training in Muslim-majority countries, rooting my curriculum in the teachings of the Quran and the rich traditions, values and principles of Islam helps contextualize my Western framework of mediation ("Wasata") or dialogue ("Hewar") facilitation.

Participant selection for the training is the first modification. Seeking out impartial third-parties, a model so widely sought after in Western communities, can clash with the values favored by associative cultures who prefer hierarchical processes and authoritarian leaders. Instead, selecting high-ranking individuals from diverse tribes or clans may be more suited when building local capacity for peacemaking. Drawing from religious leaders with moral legitimacy is a priority in situations of conflict where faith is a prominent worldview.

The concept of the "Fitrah" provides a good starting point to anchor one's conflict transformation training. The "Fitrah" emphasizes the value of human life and stresses that all life deserves to be protected regardless of gender, ethnicity and religion. In the Quran the fallen nature of man is a deviation from his or her good nature. For the mediator to bring warring parties into a dialogue space that supports reconciliation calls on the parties’ potential to choose good over evil.

Traditional conflict resolution mechanisms such as the Sulha, Xeer and Jirga, for example, provide great examples to draw from for teaching modules on the design of dialogue spaces. These processes, much like a restorative justice approach in the West, view wrongdoing as an offense not only towards the individual but also towards the broader community and stress the importance of repairing broken relationships. The concept of a “just order” is central to peace in Islam. Indeed, justice (“Adl”) is perceived as a precondition to peace, as well as being a divine tenet. Nevertheless, evaluating whether these local conflict resolution mechanisms are still legitimately used or whether they reinforce conflict dynamics is important before assuming their effectiveness.

The principle of "Tawhid," while referring to the uniqueness of God, when speaking about humans stresses the act of uniting diversity, thus living in a world that fosters connectedness and integration. This teaching works well to introduce lessons on stakeholder mapping which highlights those relationships that need repairing before we are able to achieve unity. “Tawhid” reminds Muslim participants that transcending tensions and re-establishing harmony cannot be done at the expense of one group but that peace requires the integration of diversity and differences because everyone and everything is part of God’s creation [1].

Consulting with others is a principle which Allah the Exalted mentions numerous times in the Quran.

The virtue of "Sabr" or patience can be used to discuss ripeness and timing when seeking to use a mediated dialogue process, as well as to remind training participants to move the dialogue along at the pace of the parties themselves, avoiding the pitfall of pressuring the parties to rush towards an outcome that may be unsustainable.

Teaching communication tools that help the mediator tranform the parties' anger into feelings of loving-kindness ("Mawadda") and compassion and mercy ("Al-rahman al-rahim") towards the other can create powerful shifts during a mediation. "Afu" or "Musaham" are Quranic principles that remind Muslims to forgive each other and work to repair broken relationships by repenting and acknowledging wrong-doings. This is illustrated by the Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH), who sought out a peaceful settlement and eventually forgave those of his own Quraysh tribe who had persecuted him and the nascent Muslim community.

Peace in Islam is not a passive concept but requires individuals and communities to take action. "Ihsan" describes peace as a collective responsibility that requires concrete involvement [1]. The "Hadith" encourages people to actively change the evil that they see and change their own conditions by doing good. These are all tenets that can be drawn from to teach on the co-creation by disputants of peace agreements that promote social responsibility towards one another as parties seek to move forward.

Measuring the effectiveness of a conflict resolution process will also differ in Muslim-majority countries. Satisfaction with the mediator will tend to be rated in terms of respect for symbolic concerns, such as preserving the social status of the parties or the observance of rituals as opposed to factors such as a facilitator's ability to control the steps of a process. Modules on what an agreement looks like should also be carefully adapted to the local culture. The terms of a reconciliation can become a formal contract ("Aqd") and be legally as well as morally binding although a handshake may at times have more value that any written document.

The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) has a long tradition of supporting dialogue and peace processes to resolve conflict [2]. Drawing on Islamic principles to teach Muslim training participants can help anchor conflict resolution skills in a rich tradition of Islamic values and tenets that already compels individuals to work toward unity and harmony in the world.





[1] Kadayifci-Orellana S.A., Abu-Nimer M. & Mohamed-Saleem A. (2013), “Understanding an Islamic Framework of Peacebuilding” Islamic Relief Worldwide (Birmingham, UK) working paper series no 2013-02.

[2] Abbas Aroua. "The Quest for Peace in the Islamic Tradition" TRANSCEND Media Service (2013).





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