This is the greeting the Prophet Muhammed taught his followers to use. Today this greeting is exchanged millions of times each day throughout the Muslim world.
Rev. Leslie Boies
“Peace be upon you.” What a wonderful wish for others! Who among us does not yearn for peace? Who among us would not like to receive daily blessings to live in peace? And how wonderful to hear this greeting in the workplace, the streets, the marketplace, and not just in a temple or mosque while praying.
The very name “Islam” is related to the word “salam”, which means “peace” in Arabic. Even those of us who may have never actually experienced deep inner peace have an innate yearning in our soul for it. It is as if we remember a distant time when we did live in peace, and we long to return to that time.
In the Qur’an, God refers to himself as “al-Salam”, or Peace. So essentially, our yearning for peace is a yearning for God. Islam, like most religions, aims to lead its followers to the Source of all Peace: God Himself.
I hear this and think, “Sign me up! I want to go to the Source of all Peace. How do I get there?”
According to the Qur’an, what I need to do is both the simplest thing and the hardest thing in the world to do. I need to surrender. The word “Islam” is not just related to “salam” meaning “peace”; it also comes from the Arabic “al-islam”, meaning “to surrender.”
Ah, language has so many wonderful layers of meaning. So surrender is the path to peace! But what does it mean to surrender?
Over the last few weeks I have found myself living into this question of surrendering and how it connects with Peace. As I worked this question (and as it worked me—it was quite a wresting match at times when my stubborn, independent self jumped into the fray), an image came to me from Ladakh in northernmost India.
In Ladakh, the land is brown, dry, and barren. One wonders how anyone could live there. But the region is encircled by the snow-covered Himalayas, and every spring when the snow melts, water comes pouring down the mountain side. Left alone, the water would simply flood the valleys below. So over the centuries, and with painstaking care, the Ladakhi people have gathered thousands of rocks and created irrigation canals from the foothills of the mountains to the valleys miles below.
The result is a veritable transformation. In stark contrast to the barrenness all around, the valleys are bright green oases filled with apricot and apple trees and fields of barley swaying in the wind.
Seeing these beautiful green oases in my mind’s eye, and taking them into my heart, encouraged me to walk the path of surrendering. Now, when I find myself struggling and resisting against the “limitations” of life, of my body, of the narrow rocky channels, I hear the rushing water whispering in my ear:
“Leslie, the rocks are not your enemy. They are nothing other than Divine Spirit guiding you home.”
So I offer up this blessing:
May we rest in the mystery of not knowing.
And may we all taste the sweetness of surrendering to the Divine Spirit in ourselves and others.