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The Rights of Non-Muslims in Islam (parts 3,4,5)

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The Rights of Non-Muslims in Islam (parts 3,4,5)

THE RIGHTS OF NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAM (PART 3 OF 13): RIGHT TO PRESERVATION OF DIGNITY AS HUMAN BEINGS I

Description: The right of non-Muslims to preservation of their human dignity with discussion of historical precedents and textual evidence.

By IslamReligion

God has created human beings with certain dignity, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and has elevated their status above much of His creation. God says in the Quran:

“WE HAVE HONORED THE CHILDREN OF ADAM; PROVIDED THEM WITH TRANSPORT ON LAND AND SEA; GIVEN THEM FOR SUSTENANCE THINGS GOOD AND PURE; AND CONFERRED ON THEM SPECIAL FAVORS, ABOVE A GREAT PART OF OUR CREATION.” (QURAN 17:70)

As a token of honor and to elevate his status, God commanded the angels to prostrate out of humility before Adam, the father of humanity. God informs us in the Quran:

“WHEN WE SAID TO THE ANGELS, ‘PROSTRATE YOURSELVES TO ADAM,’ THEY PROSTRATED THEMSELVES, BUT NOT SATAN; HE REFUSED.” (QURAN 20:116)

God bestowed many favors on humanity, some of which are obvious, while others are hidden. For instance, He subjected the heavens and earth to human beings to honor them. He says:

“IT IS GOD WHO CREATED THE HEAVENS AND EARTH AND SENDS DOWN RAIN FROM THE SKY, AND WITH IT BRINGS OUT FRUITS THEREWITH TO FEED YOU; IT IS HE WHO HAS MADE THE SHIPS SUBJECT TO YOU, THAT THEY MAY SAIL THROUGH THE SEA BY HIS COMMAND; AND THE RIVERS (ALSO) HE HAS MADE SUBJECT TO YOU. AND HE GIVES YOU OF ALL THAT YOU ASK FOR, BUT IF YOU COUNT THE FAVORS OF GOD, NEVER WILL YOU BE ABLE TO COUNT THEM. SURELY, MAN IS GIVEN UP TO INJUSTICE AND INGRATITUDE.” (QURAN 14:32-34)

The God-given status of humanity forms the basis of the principle of human dignity in Islam, whether the person is Muslim or non-Muslim. Islam emphasizes the origin of all humanity is one; therefore all human beings have certain rights over one another. God says:

“O MANKIND! WE CREATED YOU FROM A SINGLE (PAIR) OF A MALE AND FEMALE, AND MADE YOU INTO NATIONS AND TRIBES, THAT YOU MAY KNOW EACH OTHER (AND NOT HATE ONE ANOTHER). SURELY, THE MOST HONORED OF YOU IN THE SIGHT OF GOD IS (HE WHO) IS THE MOST RIGHTEOUS OF YOU. AND GOD HAS FULL KNOWLEDGE AND IS WELL ACQUAINTED (WITH ALL THINGS).” (QURAN 49:13)

The Messenger of God declared in his farewell sermon, addressing the largest gathering in Arab history till that point:

“People, hear that your Lord is One, and that your father is one. You must know that no Arab has superiority over a non-Arab, no non-Arab has superiority over an Arab, or a red man over a black man, or a black man over a red, except in terms of what each person has of piety. Have I delivered the message?”

An example of the preservation of the human dignity of non-Muslims is the right that their feelings be respected, for example, that they are shown good manners in speech and debate in obedience to the divine command:

“AND DISPUTE YOU NOT WITH THE PEOPLE OF THE SCRIPTURE, EXCEPT IN THE BEST WAY, UNLESS IT BE WITH THOSE WHO DO WRONG, BUT SAY, ‘WE BELIEVE IN THE REVELATION WHICH HAS COME DOWN TO US AND IN THAT WHICH CAME DOWN TO YOU; OUR GOD AND YOUR GOD IS ONE; AND IT IS TO HIM WE SUBMIT (IN ISLAM).’” (QURAN 21:46)

Non-Muslims have the right not to have their religious beliefs mocked. It may not be an exaggeration to state that no other religion or sect in the world is as fair as Islam to people of other faiths. For example, let us look at a verse from the Quran:

“SAY, ‘WHO GIVES YOU SUSTENANCE FROM THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH?’ SAY, ‘IT IS GOD; AND IT IS CERTAIN THAT EITHER WE OR YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT GUIDANCE OR IN MANIFEST ERROR.’” (QURAN 34:24)

The verse ends with what Arabs linguists call a rhetorical question whose answer is common knowledge to the intended audience. The verse blends certainty with doubt: Muslims following guidance and the error of the unbelievers is presented as something doubtful. In doing so, God emphasizes the truth by allowing the reader to draw his own conclusion. God does not state in this verse who is following guidance and who is not. The verse treats the fictitious “opponent” with justice by presenting the argument and allowing the listener to judge. Az-Zamakhshiri, a classical linguist and exegete of the Quran, elaborates this point:

‘This is equitable speech: whoever hears it, supporter or opponent, will tell the person to whom the speech is directed that the speaker has treated him justly. It draws the listener to the inevitable conclusion, after the argument has been presented, that there is no doubt about who is following guidance and who is in error. Suggestion of the facts, as if the question were a conundrum, provides a more cogent proof of the truth, the opponent being gently disarmed, without resort to heated quarrelling.’

An example of the style employed by the Quran would be someone saying in a debate, ‘God knows who is telling the truth and who is a liar.’

God has also forbidden Muslims from speaking ill of the gods and deities worshipped by non-Muslims so that they do not speak ill of the One, True God. It will be difficult to find a similar example in any scripture of the major world religions. If the polytheists were to hear Muslims speak ill of their gods, it might lead them to speak ill of Allah (the personal and proper Name of God). Also, if Muslims were to speak ill of pagan gods, it might instigate the polytheists to soothe their wounded feelings by hurting the feelings of Muslims. Such a scenario is against human dignity of both sides and would lead to mutual rejection and hatred. God says in the Quran:

“DO NOT REVILE THOSE WHOM THEY CALL UPON BESIDES GOD, LEST THEY REVILE GOD OUT OF SPITE IN THEIR IGNORANCE. THUS, WE HAVE MADE ALLURING TO EACH PEOPLE ITS OWN DOINGS. IN THE END WILL THEY RETURN TO THEIR LORD AND HE SHALL THEN TELL THEM THE TRUTH OF WHAT THEY DID.” (QURAN 6:108)

Footnotes:

Musnad Ahmad

Zamakhshiri, ‘Kashhaf,’ vol. 12, p. 226

Aayed, Saleh Hussain, ‘Huquq Ghayr al-Muslimeen fi Bilad il-Islam,’ p. 17

THE RIGHTS OF NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAM (PART 4 OF 13): RIGHT TO PRESERVATION OF DIGNITY AS HUMAN BEINGS II

Description: The right of non-Muslims to preservation of their human dignity with discussion of historical precedents and textual evidence.

Another example of how Islam gives regard to human dignity in the following example. A famous story illustrates the degree to which the caliphs of early Islam protected the dignity of non-Muslims. Amr ibn al-As was the governor of Egypt. One of his sons beat up a Coptic Christian with a whip, saying, ‘I am the son of a nobleman!” The Copt went to Umar ibn al-Khattab, the Muslim caliph who resided in the city of Medina, and lodged a complaint. These are the details as related by Anas ibn Malik, the personal servant of the Prophet in his lifetime:

“We were sitting with Umar ibn al-Khattab when an Egyptian came in and said, ‘Commander of the Faithful, I come to you as a refugee.’ So, Umar asked him about his problem and he answered, Amr had a custom of letting his horses run free in Egypt. One day, I came by riding my mare. When I passed by a group of people, they looked at me. Muhammad, the son of Amr got up and came to me, saying, ‘I swear by the Lord of the Kaaba, this is my mare!’ I responded, ‘I swear by the Lord of the Kaaba, the mare is mine!’ He came up to me and began beating me with a whip, saying, ‘You may take her, because I am the son of a nobleman (meaning I am more generous than you).’ The incident got to Amr, who feared that I might come to you, so he put me in jail. I escaped, and here I am before you.”

Anas continued:

“I swear by God, the only response Umar made was to tell the Egyptian to take a seat. Then, Umar wrote a letter to Amr, saying, ‘When this letter reaches you, come and bring me your son, Muhammad.’ Then he told the Egyptian to stay in Medina until he was told Amr has arrived. When Amr received the note, he called his son and asked him, ‘Did you commit a crime?’ His son stated he has not. Amr asked, ‘Then why is Umar writing about you?’ They both went to Umar.”

Anas narrates the incident further:

“I swear by God, we were sitting with Umar, and Amr arrived wearing the clothes of common people. Umar looked around for the son, and saw him standing behind his father (to appear less conspicuous). Umar asked, ‘Where is the Egyptian?’ and he responded, ‘Here I am!’ Umar told him, ‘Here is the whip. Take it and beat the son of the nobleman.’ So he took it and beat him vigorously, while Umar said over and over, ‘Beat the son of the nobleman.’ We did not let him stop until we were satisfied he had beaten him enough. Then, Umar said, ‘Now you must take it and hit me on my bald head. This all happened to you because of my power over you.’ The Egyptian responded, ‘I am satisfied and my anger has cooled.’ Umar told him, ‘If you had beaten me, I would not have stopped you until you had wished to. And you, Amr, since when have you made the people your slaves? They were born free.’ Amr began to apologize, telling him, ‘I did not know that this is what happened.’ So, Umar said turned back to the Egyptian, telling him, ‘You may go, and be guided. If anything untoward happens to you, write to me.’”

Such was Umar who said when first chosen as Caliph, ‘The weak will be made strong, because I take for them what is their right. And the strong will be made weak because I will take from them what is not rightfully theirs.’ History has recorded him as a just ruler because of his equity towards the oppressed, regardless of their social status, and because of his firmness against the oppressor, regardless of their rank.

‘The value of this story is that it records how people had a sense of their humanity and dignity under the rule of Islam. Even an unjust blow was disapproved and despised. Many incidents of injustice similar to this story occurred at the time of the Byzantine Empire, but nobody moved to rectify them. However, under the protection of the Islamic state, we see an example of an oppressed person having the conviction of his dignity and access to his rights so strong that he was willing to undertake the hardship and privation of a trip from Egypt to Medina, because of his trust that he would find someone to listen to his compliant.’

Footnotes:

Tantawi, Ali, ‘The History Of Umar,’ p. 155-156

Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘Ghayr al-Muslimeen fil-Mujtama’ al-Islami’ p. 30-31

THE RIGHTS OF NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAM (PART 5 OF 13): THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF BELIEF I

Description: Islam gives members of other faiths the right to practice their faiths. A historical analysis of Islamic principle of ‘No compulsion in religion.’

Islam does not compel people of other faiths to convert. It has given them complete freedom to retain their own faith and not to be forced to embrace Islam. This freedom is documented in both the Quran and the prophetic teachings known as Sunnah. God addresses the Prophet Muhammad in the Quran:

“IF IT HAD BEEN YOUR LORD’S WILL, THEY WOULD ALL HAVE BELIEVED – ALL OF WHO ARE ON EARTH! WILL YOU THEN COMPEL HUMANKIND, AGAINST THEIR WILL, TO BELIEVE?” (QURAN 10:99)

Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, would give people a choice between entering Islam and retaining their religion. He would ask them to accept Islam only after making an agreement with them, once they had become residents in the Islamic state and felt secure about their personal safety and property. This allowed them to appreciate the security of the covenant with God and His Prophet. It is precisely for this reason that the non-Muslim citizens are referred to as dhimmis. When the Prophet of God sent a commander of an army or a battalion off to war, the Prophet would command him to be conscious of God in his conduct and to treat his Muslim companions well. Then the Prophet of Mercy would instruct him:

“Set out for battle for the sake of God and fight those who disbelieve in Him. Go into battle, but do not go to extremes, behave treacherously, mutilate their dead, or kill children. When you meet your enemies, the unbelievers, offer them three options, and accept any one of them to which they agree and cease the battle:

(a) Invite them to join Islam. If they agree, then accept this and cease the battle. Then invite them to move from their lands to the Land of the Immigrants (Medina), and inform them that if they do so, they will have the same privileges and obligations as the other migrants. If they refuse to migrate from their lands, inform them that they will have the same status as the nomadic Muslims: that they will be subject to the Law of God which applies to all Muslims, and that they do not have a share in wealth obtained from conquest, unless they participate in the jihad with the Muslims.

(b) If they refuse, then ask them to pay the jizyah, and if they agree, then accept it from them and cease the battle.

(c) If they refuse all this, then seek God’s help and battle with them.’”

These directives of the Prophet were in obedience to what God says in the Quran:

“LET THERE BE NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION; TRUTH STANDS CLEAR FROM ERROR: WHOEVER REJECTS FALSE GODS AND BELIEVES IN GOD HAS GRASPED THE MOST TRUSTWORTHY HAND-HOLD THAT NEVER BREAKS. AND GOD HEARS AND KNOWS ALL THINGS.” (QURAN 2:256)

Edwin Calgary, an American scholar, wrote about this verse, ‘There is a verse in the Quran that is filled with truth and wisdom, and it is known to all Muslims. Everyone else should know it as well; it is the one that says there is no compulsion in religion.’

This verse was revealed concerning some of the residents of Medina. When none of the children of the pagan women of Medina survived infancy, they would make a vow to make the child a Jew or a Christian if he lived. When Islam came to Medina, they had adult children who were Jewish or Christian. The parents tried to compel them to embrace the new religion, so this verse was revealed to prevent them from doing so. The verse and the history of its revelation reveals that it is not permissible to force anyone to become a Muslim. This is the case even if it is the parent who wants the best for their offspring, and their children become members of another religion. The Quran rejects forcing anyone to join Islam. God says in the Quran:

“SAY, ‘THE TRUTH IS FROM YOUR LORD,’ LET HIM WHO WILL, BELIEVE AND LET HIM WHO WILL, REJECT, IT. FOR THE WRONGDOERS WE HAVE PREPARED A FIRE WHOSE (SMOKE AND FLAMES ARE) LIKE THE WALL AND ROOF OF A TENT, WILL HEM THEM IN: IF THEY IMPLORE RELIEF THEY WILL BE GRANTED WATER LIKE MOLTEN BRASS THAT WILL SCALD THEIR FACES. HOW DREADFUL THE DRINK! HOW UNCOMFORTABLE A COUCH TO RECLINE ON!” (QURAN 18:29)

Not only does Islam give the freedom of religious freedom to non-Muslims, its tolerant law extends to the preservation of their places of worship. God says in the Quran:

“(THEY ARE) THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN EVICTED FROM THEIR HOMES WITHOUT RIGHT — ONLY BECAUSE THEY SAY, ‘OUR LORD IS GOD.’ AND WAS IT NOT THAT GOD CHECKS THE PEOPLE, SOME BY MEANS OF OTHERS, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN DEMOLISHED MONASTERIES, CHURCHES, SYNAGOGUES, AND MOSQUES IN WHICH THE NAME OF GOD IS MUCH MENTIONED (PRAISED). AND GOD WILL SURELY SUPPORT THOSE WHO SUPPORT HIM (MEANING HIS CAUSE). INDEED, GOD IS POWERFUL AND EXALTED IN MIGHT.” (QURAN 22:40)

The Muslim caliphs used to order their military leaders who went on military campaigns to take steps to guarantee this matter. The first example is the command of Abu Bakr to Usamah bin Zayd:

‘I command you to do ten things: kill no woman, no child, nor an elderly person; do not cut down fruit trees, or vandalize homes, or wound a sheep or camel except if you must eat it; do not drown a palm tree, or burn it, do not be treacherous; do not be cowardly; and you will pass by people who have devoted themselves to monastery life; leave them alone to their devotions.’

The second example is the treaty of Umar ibn al-Khattab with the people of Iliya of Jerusalem:

‘This is the security given by the slave of God, Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, to the people of Iliya: they are guaranteed the security if their persons, possessions, churches, crucifixes, and everyone within, whether sick or in good health, as well as everyone in their community. Their churches will not be occupied or demolished, nor will anything be taken from them: neither furnishings nor crucifixes or money. They will not be forced away from their religion, or harmed because of it. They will not be occupied by the Jewish settlers in Iliya.’

As a result, since the era of the rightly-guided caliphs, Jews and Christians have held their services in freedom and security.

Footnotes:

Zuhaili, Wahba, ‘al-Islam wa Ghayr al-Muslimeen,’ p. 60-61

Jizya: a protection tax payable by non-Muslims as a tribute to the Muslim ruler.

Saheeh Muslim

Quoted in Young, Quailar, ‘The Near East: Society & Culture,’ p. 163-164

Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘Ghayr al-Muslimeen fil-Mujtama’ al-Islami,’ p. 18-19

Aayed, Saleh Hussain, ‘Huquq Ghayr al-Muslimeen fi Bilad il-Islam,’ p. 23-24

Tabari, Tarirk al-Tabari, vol 3, p. 210

Tabari, Tarirk al-Tabari, vol 3, p. 159

Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘al-Aqaliyyat ad-Diniyya wa-Hal al-Islami,’ p. 13