The Rights of Non-Muslims in Islam (part 12,13)
THE RIGHTS OF NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAM (PART 12 OF 13): SOCIAL SECURITY
Description: Poor and needy non-Muslims have the right to social security under Islamic Law. Examples from history where non-Muslims were provided from the public treasury.
Modern welfare states provide social benefits to their poor citizens, but Islam preceded all nations in establishing social security services. Islamic law set up financial provisions for needy Muslims through zakah (obligatory charity) and sadaqa (voluntary charity). Zakah was made obligatory on wealthy Muslims to take care of the poor, whereas sadaqa was left on individual discretion to help the needy. Social security provided by Islam includes non-Muslims as well. Islamic Law requires the state to provide for its citizens with disabilities – Muslim or non-Muslim – that prevent them from employment. They are provided for by the public treasury and the ruler is negligent if he does not do so. Many instances of Muslims providing social security to the non-Muslim citizens are recorded in history. Umar ibn al-Khattab the second caliph of Islam, once passed by a old, blind man begging in front of a house. Umar asked him which religious community he belonged to. The man said he was Jewish. Umar then asked him, ‘What has brought you to this?’ The old man said, ‘Do not ask me; ask …poverty, and old age.’ Umar took the man to his own home, helped him from his personal money, and then ordered the head of the treasury, ‘You must look after this man and others like him. We have not treated him fairly. He should not have spent the best years of his life among us to find misery in his old age.’ Umar also relieved him and others in his situation of paying the jizya.
Another example is found in Khalid ibn al-Walid’s letter to the people of the Iraqi city of Hira. It contains the terms of truce he offered them:
‘If God gives us victory, the people of the covenant will be protected. They have rights promised to them by God. It is the strictest covenant God has made incumbent on any of His prophets. They are also held by the duties that it places upon them and must not violate it. If they are conquered, they will live comfortably with everything due to them. I am commanded to exempt from jizya the elderly who cannot work, the disabled, or the poor who receive charity from their own community. The treasury will provide for them and their dependants as long as they live in Muslim lands or in the communities of Muslim emigrants. If they move outside of Muslim lands, neither they nor their dependants shall be entitled to any benefits.’
In another instance, Umar ibn al-Khattab, the Muslim Caliph, was visiting Damascus. He passed by a group of Christian lepers. He ordered that they be given charity and regular stipends for food.
Umar ibn Abdul-Aziz, another Muslim Caliph, wrote to his agent in Basra, Iraq, ‘Search for the people of the covenant in your area who may have grown old, and are unable to earn, and provide them with regular stipends from the treasury to take care of their needs.’
Some of the early Muslims used to distribute part of their post-Ramadan charity (zakat ul-fitr) to Christian monks, based on their understanding of the verse of Quran:
“GOD DOES NOT FORBID YOU FROM THOSE WHO DO NOT FIGHT YOU BECAUSE OF RELIGION AND DO NOT EXPEL YOU FROM YOUR HOMES – FROM DEALING KINDLY AND JUSTLY WITH THEM. INDEED, GOD LOVES THOSE WHO ACT JUSTLY. GOD ONLY FORBIDS YOU FROM THOSE WHO FIGHT YOU BECAUSE OF RELIGION AND EXPEL YOU FROM YOUR HOMES AND AID IN YOUR EXPULSION – (FORBIDS) THAT YOU MAKE ALLIES OF THEM. AND WHOEVER MAKES ALLIES OF THEM, THEN IT IS THOSE WHO ARE THE WRONGDOERS.”(QURAN 60:8-9)
Finally, there are other rights that we have not discussed here, because of the assumption that they are elementary and taken for granted, such as the right to work, housing, transportation, education, and so forth. However, before concluding, I would like to make the following observation. Our discussion has clarified how non-Muslims living in Muslim countries enjoy rights that they might not be granted in non-Muslim countries. Some readers may respond with the objection that these rights might have existed in history, but the experience of non-Muslims living in Muslim countries today is different. The author’s personal observation is that non-Muslims still enjoy many of these same rights today, perhaps even more. Allah Almighty has commanded us to be truthful, in the verse:
“O YOU WHO BELIEVE! STAND OUT FIRMLY FOR JUSTICE, AS WITNESSES TO ALLAH, EVEN THOUGH IT BE AGAINST YOURSELVES, OR YOUR PARENTS, OR YOUR KIN, BE HE RICH OR POOR, GOD IS A BETTER PROTECTOR TO BOTH (THAN YOU). SO FOLLOW NOT THE LUSTS (OF YOUR HEARTS), LEST YOU AVOID JUSTICE; AND IF YOU DISTORT YOUR WITNESS OR REFUSE TO GIVE IT, VERILY, ALLAH IS EVER WELL-ACQUAINTED WITH WHAT YOU DO.”(QURAN 4:135)
Further, when we compare the conditions of non-Muslims living in Muslim countries to the status of Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim countries, whether now or in history, we see a profound difference. What happened to Muslims during the Crusades, under the Spanish Inquisition, in Communist China, or the Soviet Union? What is happening to them today in the Balkans, Russia, Palestine, and India? It would be worthwhile to reflect in order to give an answer based on fairness and declaration of truth and justice. Allah is the best of Judges, and He states:
“O YOU WHO BELIEVE! STAND OUT FIRMLY FOR GOD AS JUST WITNESSES; AND LET NOT THE ENMITY HATRED OF OTHERS MAKE YOU AVOID JUSTICE. BE JUST: THAT IS NEARER TO PIETY; AND FEAR GOD. VERILY, GOD IS WELL-ACQUAINTED WITH WHAT YOU DO.”(QURAN 5:8)
Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, p. 136
Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, p. 155-156
Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘Ghayr al-Muslimeen fil-Mujtama’ al-Islami,’ p. 17
Abu Ubayd, al-Amwaal, p. 805
Sarkhasi, ‘al-Mabsut,’ vol 2, p. 202
Jassas, ‘al-Ahkam ul-Quran,’ vol. 3, p. 215
Public Regulations Relevant to non-Muslims, p. 43-58.
THE RIGHTS OF NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAM (PART 13 OF 13): PROTECTION FROM FOREIGN AGGRESSION
Description: The right of non-Muslims to be protected against outside aggression in return for paying jizya.
Non-Muslim citizens have a similar right to be protected from external enemies just as a Muslim fellow citizen does. The payment of jizya ensures protection against outside aggression, defense against enemies, and ransom to be paid on their behalf if they are taken captive by an enemy.
Writing a few centuries ago, Ibn Hazm, a classical scholar of Islam, said:
‘If we are attacked by an enemy nation who is targeting the People of the Covenant living among us, it is out duty to come fully armed and ready to die in battle for them, to protect those people who are protected by the covenant of God and His Messenger. Doing any less and surrendering them will be blameworthy neglect of a sacred promise.’
History has recorded many examples of Muslims fulfilling their sacred promise towards the dhimmis. The companion of Prophet Muhammad, Abu Ubayda al-Jarrah, was the leader of the army that conquered Syria. He made agreement with its people to pay the jizya.
Realizing the faithful loyalty of the Muslims, the Syrian people of the covenant resisted Muslim enemies and aided the Muslims against them. The residents of each town would send some of their people to spy against the Byzantines, who conveyed the news of the gathering of Byzantine army to Abu Ubayda’s commanders. Finally, when the Muslims feared they would not be able to guarantee their protectect ,Abu Ubayda wrote to his commanders to return all the money they had collected as jizya with the following message for the Syrians:
‘We are returning your money to you because news has reached us of the awaiting armies. The condition of our agreement is that we protect you, and we are unable to do so, therefore, we are returning what we have taken from you. If God grants us victory, we will stand by out agreement.’
When his commanders returned the money and conveyed his message, the Syrian response was:
‘May God bring you back safely to us. May He grant you victory. If the Byzantines had been in your place, they would not have returned anything, they would have taken everything we own and left us with nothing.’
The Muslims were victorious in the battle. When people of other towns saw how their allies were defeated, they sought to negotiate a truce with the Muslims. Abu Ubayda entered into a truce with all of them with all the rights he had extended in the first treaties. They also requested that the Byzantines hiding among them be given safe passage back home, with their families and possessions, without any harm, which Abu Ubayda agreed to.
Then the Syrians sent the jizya and opened their cities to welcome Muslims. On the way back home, Abu Ubayda was met by the representatives of townspeople and villagers requesting him to extend the treaty to them as well, to which he happily complied.
Another example of Muslims’ defending the non-Muslim citizens can be seen in the actions of Ibn Taimiyya. He went to the Tartar leader after they had sacked Syria for release of their captives. The Tartar leader agreed to release the Muslim prisoners, but Ibn Taimiyya protested:
‘We will only be satisfied if all the Jewish and Christian prisoners are released as well. They are people of the covenant. We do not abandon a prisoner whether from our own people or from those under a covenant.’
He persisted until the Tartars released all of them.
Furthermore, Muslim jurists have stated that protecting non-Muslims from external aggression is a duty just as their protection from internal harassment. Al-Mawardi stated:
‘The payment of the jizya entitles the people of the covenant to two rights. First, that they be left undisturbed. Second, that they be guarded and protected. In this way, they can be secure in society and protected from outside threats.’
Islam considers abandoning the protection of its non-Muslim citizens a form of wrongdoing and oppression that is forbidden. God says:
“…AND WHOEVER COMMITS INJUSTICE AMONG YOU — WE WILL MAKE HIM TASTE A GREAT PUNISHMENT.” (QURAN 25:19)
Therefore, harming or oppressing people of the covenant is considered a serious sin. Upholding treaties with them is an obligation on the Muslim Caliph and his representatives. The Prophet promised to argue on the Day of Judgment on behalf of the dhimmi against someone who harms him:
“Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, curtails their rights, burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu Dawood)
All evidence in Islamic Law points towards protecting the people of the covenant. Al-Qarafi, another classical Muslim scholar, wrote:
‘The covenant is a contract that has conditions that are compulsory for us, for they are under our protection as neighbors, and the covenant of God and His Messenger, and the religion of Islam. If someone harms them with inappropriate speech, defamation, any type of harassment, or is an accomplice to such actions, then he has made light of the covenant of God, His Messenger, and Islam.’
Umar, the second Caliph of Islam, would inquire from the visitors coming to meet him from other provinces about the situation of the people of the covenant and would say, ‘We may know that the treaty is still being upheld.’ On his deathbed, Umar is reported to have said, ‘Command whoever becomes Caliph after me to treat well the people of the covenant, to uphold the treaty, to fight whoever wants to harm them, and not to overwhelm them with burden.’
The writings of Muslim scholars and the actions of many Muslim rulers demonstrate the Islamic commitment from the earliest times to this right of non-Muslims.
Some parts of this article are taken from the books: ‘Ghayr al-Muslimeen fil-Mujtama’ al-Islami,’ by Yusuf Qaradawi and ‘Huquq Ghayr is-Muslimeen fid-Dawla al-Islamiyya,’ by Fahd Muhammad Ali Masud.
Qarafi, ‘al-Furuq,’ vol 3, p. 14
Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, p. 149-151
Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘Ghayr al-Muslimeen fil-Mujtama’ al-Islami,’ p. 10
Mawardi, ‘al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya,’ p. 143
Qarafi, ‘al-Furuq,’ vol 3, p. 14
Tabari, Tarirk al-Tabari, vol 4, p. 218
Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, p. 1136