HERAT -- The peace process is legitimate and the conflicting parties must end the war, Herat religious scholars from a variety of backgrounds told researchers in a recent survey.
The Herat-based Social Development and Advocacy Organisation (SDAO) and Herat University's Centre for Peace conducted the study, titled "Religious Legitimacy of the Peace Efforts in Afghanistan", between February and August.
Researchers interviewed scholars from eight different Islamic schools of jurisprudence for their views about the peace process.
The results of the study were published in an academic report on August 22 at Herat University.
"Our goal in conducting the study was to gather and include the views of various schools of jurisprudence about the peace process," said Fardina Salehi, director of the SDAO.
"No study has ever been conducted on the religious legitimacy of peace," she said. "We're at a delicate [time in the peace process], and discussions of peace have been very heated these days."
"During the study, we interviewed various religious groups that include [students and scholars from] schools of jurisprudence that are associated with Sunni and Shia," she said.
"This research has tried to study the viewpoints of eight schools of jurisprudence about the Afghan peace process," said Esmatullah Jafari of Herat Province, one of the study's researchers.
The overall findings of the study show that the traditional schools of jurisprudence consider the peace process legitimate, he said.
"Religious scholars called for peace in their interviews with us, and they insisted that the Taliban and the Afghan government sit together and make peace in conformity with the religious scriptures," said Abdul Waheed Gulrani of Herat Province, another researcher.
The schools of jurisprudence consider peace an important need for the public, and they are optimistic that the peace talks will succeed, he said.
Religious scholars: this war is 'illegitimate'
According to the teachings of Islam, the war is illegitimate and has to end as soon as possible, religious scholars say.
If one looks at the history of Islam, it is evident that peace is a core principle of the religion, said Maulawi Abdul Hadi Wasiqi, a religious scholar in Herat city.
"I can say this for sure, that at the moment all members of society -- including the government, ordinary Afghans and religious scholars -- want peace," he said. "I call on all the religious scholars to encourage all sides to the conflict to make peace."
"God has ordered Muslims to make peace between the two conflicting sides," said Maulawi Eid Muhammad Osmani, another religious scholar in Herat city. "Based on this, it is compulsory upon Muslims to make peace among themselves."
"Peace is of grave importance in Islam," Osmani said. "Peace is very much needed in Afghanistan, and all of us should strive for ensuring a full-fledged peace and an end to the war in our country."
Peace, intra-Afghan dialogue 'top priority'
Almost 400 religious scholars called for an end to the war and the start of intra-Afghan peace talks at a gathering in Herat city on August 30.
"In the current situation in which the country grapples with the war and bloodshed, peace is the top priority," said Abdul Majeed Samim, a lecturer in the Faculty of Sharia at Herat University.
"The war in Afghanistan must stop as soon as possible, and our country should achieve peace and stability through intra-Afghan peace talks," he said.
"Our only demand as religious scholars is to put an end to the war," he said. "We call on the Taliban to start talks with the Afghan government."
"From the viewpoint of Islam, the best thing to avoid fighting and social problems is to make peace," said Maulawi Abdul Sami Farid, a religious scholar in Herat city.
"For God's sake and for the sake of our people who have suffered greatly, we call on both parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to lower the level of their demands and resolve their issues through discussions," he said.
"According to Islam, shedding the blood of the innocent in war is akin to killing [all] mankind," he said. "Given this, we as religious scholars ask the parties to the conflict and the Taliban to refrain from killing more innocents and to make peace."
"We all call this war 'illegitimate' and consider peace the best option for the country's prosperity and freedom," said Maulawi Muhammad Daud Kakar, another religious scholar in Herat city. "This war and the killing of the innocent have to stop."
Every day the war widows hundreds of women, orphans hundreds of children and leaves hundreds of families without any guardians, he said, adding that the war has caused immense grief to the Afghan people.
"The Afghan people should no longer... fear suicide attacks and explosions," added Farid. "We no longer want our mothers and children to lose their loved ones at war and to shed tears."