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The Rights of Non-Muslims in Islam (parts 9,10,11)

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The Rights of Non-Muslims in Islam (parts 9,10,11)

THE RIGHTS OF NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAM (PART 9 OF 13): THE RIGHT TO JUSTICE II

Description: Further examples of Islamic justice towards non-Muslims and justice as a right.

Once, a dispute arouse between Ali bin Ali Talib, when he was the Caliph, and a Jewish man who went to Judge Shuray al-Kindi. Shuray tells the details of what happened:

“Ali found he was missing a suit of mail, so he went back to Kufa and found it in the hands of a Jewish man who was selling it in the market. He said, ‘O Jew! That suit of mail is mine! I did not give it away or sell it!’

The Jew responded ‘It is mine. It is in my possession.’

Ali said, ‘We will have the judge rule on this for us.’

So they came to me and Ali sat next to me and said, ‘That suit of mail is mine; I did not give it away or sell it.’

The Jew sat in front of me and said, ‘That is my suit of mail. It is in my possession.’

I asked, ‘O Commander of the Faithful, do you have any proof?’

‘Yes,’ Ali said. ‘My son Hasan and Qanbar can testify that it is my suit of mail.’

I said, ‘Commander of the Faithful, the testimony of a son in his father’s favor is not admissible in court.’

Ali exclaimed, ‘How Perfect is God! You cannot accept the testimony of a man who has been promised Paradise? I heard the Messenger of God saying that Hasan and Husain are the princes of the youth in Paradise.’

The Jewish man said, ‘The Commander of the Faithful takes me before his own judge and the judge rules in my favor against him! I bear witness that no one deserves worship except God and that Muhammad is His Messenger [the Jewish man accepted Islam], and that the suit of armor is yours, Commander of the Faithful. You dropped it at night and I found it.’

Another amazing story of Muslim justice towards non-Muslims pertains to the conquest of the city of Samarkand. Qutayba, the Muslim military general, had not given the residents of Samarkand a choice between accepting Islam, entering into a protective covenant with the Muslims, or to accept fighting at the time. Years after the conquest, the people of Samarkand lodged a complaint with ‘Umar bin Abdulaziz, the then current Muslim Caliph. Umar, upon hearing their complaint, ordered the governor of the city to turn it over to the people and vacate it, and then to give the people the three alternatives to choose from. Astounded by this display of instant justice, many of the residents of Samarkand embraced Islam!

We also read in history instances where the general Muslim population was aware of the rights of the non-Muslim minorities and would demand justice for non-Muslims from their rulers. Waleed ibn Yazeed, an Omayyad Caliph, exiled the inhabitants of Cyprus and forced them to settle in Syria. The scholars of Islam did not approve his move at the time and declared it to be oppression after the event. They brought the issue up with his son when he became Caliph so that the people could be resettled in their native land once again. He agreed to the proposal, and is thus known to be one of the fairest rulers of the Umayyad dynasty. Another similar historical instance is when the governor of Lebanon, Salih ibn Ali, expelled an entire village of non-Muslims because some of them refused to pay the land tax. The governor was a close advisor of the Caliph, yet Imam Awza’i, a renowned Muslim scholar of Syria, came to their defense and wrote to letter of protest. Part of the letter reads:

‘How can you collectively punish people for the misdeeds of a few, going so far as to expel them from their homes? God states:

“NO BEARER OF BURDENS WILL BEAR THE BURDEN OF ANOTHER.” (QURAN 53:38)

It is the most compelling evidence to consider and follow. And the most deserving command of the Prophet to preserve and follow is:

“If anyone oppresses a dhimmi or burdens him with something he can not bear, I will argue against him on the Day of Judgment”

They are not slaves whom one is able to take from one place and move to another as one pleases. They are the free People of the Covenant.’

Secular writers and historians have been compelled to acknowledge the justice of Islam towards non-Muslims in their midst. The British historian, H.G. Wells, wrote the following:

‘They established great traditions of just tolerance. They inspire people with a spirit of generosity and tolerance, and are humanitarian and practical. They created a humane community in which it was rare to see cruelty and social injustice, unlike any community that came before it.’

Discussing the Christian sects at the beginning centuries of Islamic rule, Sir Thomas Arnold writes:

‘Islamic principles of tolerance forbade these actions [mentioned previously], that always involved some oppression. Muslims were the opposite of others, and it appears that they spared no effort in treating all of their Christian subjects with justice and equity. An example was the conquest of Egypt, when the Jacobites took advantage of the removal of the Byzantine authorities to dispossess the Orthodox Christians of their churches. The Muslims returned them to their rightful owners when the Orthodox Christians presented them with proof of ownership.’

Amari, a Sicilian Orientalist, observed:

‘At the time of the Muslim Arab rule, the conquered inhabitants of the island of (Sicily) were comfortable and content compared to their Italian counterparts, who were collapsing under the yoke of the Langiornians and Franks.’

Nadhmi Luqa commented:

‘No law can eradicate injustice and prejudice better than one that states:

“…AND DO NOT LET THE HATRED OF A PEOPLE PREVENT YOU FROM BEING JUST.” (QURAN 5:8)

Only when a person holds himself to these standards, settling for no other, and devotes himself to a religion with these lofty principles and rectitude, accepting no other… only then can he claim to have honored himself.’[10]

Footnotes:

Al-Tirmidhi

Hayyan, Abu Bakr, ‘Tarikh al-Qudat,’ vol 2, p. 200

Tantawi, Ali, ‘Qasas Min al-Tarikh,’ p. 85

Balazuri, Ahmad, ‘Futuh al-Buldan,’ p. 214

Al-Baihaqi, ‘Sunan al-Kubra’

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

Quoted by Siba’i, Mustafa, ‘Min Rawai Hadaratina,’ p. 146

Arnold, Thomas, ‘Invitation To Islam,’ p. 87-88

Quoted in Aayed, Saleh Hussain, ‘Huquq Ghayr al-Muslimeen fi Bilad il-Islam,’ p. 39

Luqa, Nadhmi, ‘Muhammad: The Message & The Messenger,’ p. 26

THE RIGHTS OF NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAM (PART 10 OF 13): SECURITY OF LIFE, PROPERTY, AND HONOR

Description: Protection of life, property, and honor of non-Muslims under Islamic Law.

Islamic Law protects basic human rights like the preservation of life, property, and honor for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Whether the non-Muslims are residents or visitors, they are guaranteed these rights. These rights cannot be taken away except in a justified case permitted by law. For instance, a non-Muslim may not be killed unless he is guilty of killing. God says:

“SAY, ‘COME, I WILL RECITE WHAT YOUR LORD HAS PROHIBITED TO YOU. (HE COMMANDS) THAT YOU NOT ASSOCIATE ANYTHING WITH HIM, AND TO PARENTS, GOOD TREATMENT, AND DO NOT KILL YOUR CHILDREN OUT OF POVERTY; WE WILL PROVIDE FOR YOU AND THEM. AND DO NOT APPROACH IMMORALITIES – WHAT IS APPARENT OF THEM AND WHAT IS CONCEALED. AND DO NOT KILL THE SOUL WHICH GOD HAS FORBIDDEN [TO BE KILLED] EXCEPT BY [LEGAL] RIGHT. THIS HAS HE INSTRUCTED YOU THAT YOU MAY USE REASON.’” (QURAN 6:151)

The Prophet of Islam declared that the life of non-Muslims residents or visitor has sanctity when he said:

“Whoever kills a person with whom we have a treaty, will not come close enough to Paradise to smell its scent, and its scent can be found as far as forty years of travel [away].” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Islam does not allow assaulting a non-Muslim, violating his honor or property, or hurting him. If someone steals from a dhimmi, he must be punished. If anyone borrows from a dhimmi, the property must be returned. The Prophet of Islam said:

“You must know that it is not lawful for you to take the property of the People of the Covenant unless it is (in payment) for something.”

He also said:

“Indeed God, Mighty and Majestic, has not allowed you to enter the homes of the People of the Book except by their permission, nor has He allowed you to hit their women, nor eat their fruit if they give you what is obligatory upon them [from the jizyah].” (Abu Dawood)

There is an interesting story from the era of Ahmad ibn Tulun of Egypt. One day a Christian monk came to Tulun’s palace to complain about his governor. Upon noticing him, a guard inquired about the problem. On finding out that the governor had taken 300 dinars from the monk, the guard offered to pay the monk on the condition that he does not complain, and the monk accepted his offer.

The incident reached Tulun who ordered the monk, guard, and the governor to come to his court. Tulun said to the governor, ‘Are not all your needs met with a sufficient income? Do you have needs that justify taking from others?’

The governor conceded to the force of his argument, yet still Tulun kept on questioning him, eventually removing him from his post. Tulun then asked the monk how much the governor had taken from him, and the monk told him it was 300 dinars. Tulun said, ‘It is too bad you did not say 3000, as he needs a larger punishment, but I can only base it on your statement,’ and took the money from the governor and returned it to the monk.

Non-Muslims have the right that their honor be protected. This right is extended not only to non-Muslim residents, but also to visitors. They all have the right to be secure and protected. God says:

“AND IF ANY ONE OF THE POLYTHEISTS SEEKS YOUR PROTECTION, THEN GRANT HIM PROTECTION SO THAT HE MAY HEAR THE WORDS OF GOD (THE QURAN). THEN DELIVER HIM TO HIS PLACE OF SAFETY. THAT IS BECAUSE THEY ARE A PEOPLE WHO DO NOT KNOW.” (QURAN 9:6)

The right to asylum makes it a duty on every Muslim to respect and uphold the asylum granted by another Muslim according to the Prophet’s statement:

“The obligation imposed by the covenant is communal, and the nearest Muslim must try hard to fulfill it. Anyone who violates the protection granted by a Muslim will be under the curse of God, the angels, and all people, and on Judgment Day no intercession will be accepted on his behalf.”

One of the female companions, Umm Hani, said to the Prophet:

“Messenger of God, my brother Ali claims that he is at war with a man whom I have granted asylum, a man with the name of Ibn Hubayra.”

The Prophet answered her:

“Anyone you have given asylum to is under the protection of all of us, O Umm Hani.”

The right to asylum and protection requires a Muslim to give asylum and grant security to a non-Muslim who seeks it and warns of severe punishment for anyone who violates it. Asylum guarantees protection from aggression, or attack for anyone who has been given security, a right that is not explicitly granted in any other religion.

Footnotes:

Musnad Ahmad

Ibn Hamdun, ‘at-Tazkira al-Hamduniyya,’ vol. 3, p. 200-201

Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Ibn Majah

Saheeh Al-Bukhari

THE RIGHTS OF NON-MUSLIMS IN ISLAM (PART 11 OF 13): GOOD TREATMENT

Description: Receiving good treatment is the right of a non-Muslim under Islam, not just a matter of courtesy.

The Quran instructs Muslims to treat non-Muslims courteously in a spirit of kindness and generosity, given they are not hostile towards Muslims. God says:

“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)

Al-Qarafi, a classical Muslim scholar, describes the depth of the meaning of “dealing kindly” referred to in the above verse. He explains the term:

‘…gentleness towards the weak, providing clothing to cover them, and soft speech. This must be done with affection and mercy, not by intimidation or degradation. Furthermore, tolerating the fact that they may be bothersome neighbors whom you could force to move, but you do not out of kindness towards them, not out of fear or financial reasons. Also, praying they receive guidance and [thus] join the ranks of the blessed with external reward, advising them in all wordily and spiritual matters, protecting their reputation if they are exposed to slander, and defending their property, families, rights, and concerns. Assisting them against oppression and getting them their rights.’

Divine commandments to treat non-Muslims in this manner were taken seriously by Muslims. They were not just verses to be recited, but Divine Will to be acted upon. The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, himself was the first person to put the divine commands into practice, followed by his caliphs and the general population of believers. The life-story of the Prophet of Islam gives many instances of his kind, tolerant co-existence with non-Muslims. Some of his neighbors were non-Muslims and the Prophet would be generous towards them and exchange gifts. The Prophet of Islam would visit them when they fell sick and do business with them. There was a Jewish family he regularly gave charity to and the Muslims after his death maintained his charity towards them.

When a Christian delegation from Ethiopian churches came to Medina, the Prophet opened up his mosque for them to stay in, hosted them generously, and personally served them meals. He said:

“They were generous to our companions, so I wish to be generous to them in person…”

…referring to the event when they provided asylum to a number of his companions after they fled persecution in Arabia and took asylum in Abyssinia. In another instance, a Jewish man named Zayd bin Sana came to the Prophet of Islam to reclaim a debt. He grabbed the Prophet by his robe and cloak, pulled the Prophet close to his face, and said, ‘Muhammad, are you not going to give me my due? You and your clan Banu Muttalib never pay debts on time!’ Umar, one of the companions of the Prophet, got agitated and said, ‘Enemy of God, am I really hearing what you just said to God’s Prophet. I swear by the One who sent him with truth, if I were not afraid that he would blame me, I would have taken my sword and cut your head off!’ The Prophet looked calmly at Umar and censured him gently:

“Umar, that is not what we needed to hear from you. You should have counseled me to pay my debts in time and asked him to seek repayment in a respectful manner. Now take him, repay him his debt from my money and give him an extra twenty measures of date.”

The Jewish man was so pleasantly surprised by the Prophet’s behavior that he immediately declared his acceptance of Islam!

The companions of Prophet Muhammad followed his example in how they treated non-Muslims. Umar set-up a permanent stipend for the Jewish family the Prophet used to take care of in his lifetime. He found justification for allotting funds for the People of the Scripture in the following verse of the Quran:

“ALMS ARE ONLY FOR THE POOR AND FOR THE NEEDY AND FOR THOSE EMPLOYED TO COLLECT (THE FUNDS) AND FOR BRINGING HEARTS TOGETHER, AND FOR FREEING CAPTIVES (OR SLAVES) AND FOR THOSE IN DEBT AND FOR THE CAUSE OF GOD, AND FOR THE (STRANDED) TRAVELER – AN OBLIGATION (IMPOSED) BY GOD. AND GOD IS KNOWING AND WISE.” (QURAN 9:60)

Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, a famous companion of the Prophet Muhammad, would regularly give charity to his neighbors. He would send his servant to take portions of meat on religious occasions to his Jewish neighbor. The surprised servant asked about Abdullah’s concern for his Jewish neighbor. Abdullah told him the saying of Prophet Muhammad:

“The angel Gabriel was so adamant in reminding me to be charitable with my neighbor that I thought he might make him my heir.”

Turning to the pages of history, we find a marvelous example of how a Muslim ruler expected his governors to treat the Jewish populace. The Sultan of Morocco, Muhammad ibn Abdullah, issued an edict on February 5th, 1864 CE:

‘To our civil servants and agents who perform their duties as authorized representatives in our territories, we issue the following edict:

‘They must deal with the Jewish residents of our territories according to the absolute standard of justice established by God. The Jews must be dealt with by the law on an equal basis with others so that none suffers the least injustice, oppression, or abuse. Nobody from their own community or outside shall be permitted to commit any offense against them or their property. Their artisans and craftsmen may not be scripted into service against their will, and must be paid full wages for serving the state. Any oppression will cause the oppressor to be in darkness on Judgment Day and we will not approve of any such wrongdoing. Everyone is equal in the sight of our law, and we will punish anyone who wrongs or commits aggression against the Jews with divine aid. This order which we have stated here is the same law that has always been known, established, and stated. We have issued this edict simply to affirm and warn anyone who may wish to wrong them, so the Jews may have a greater sense of security and those intending harm may be deterred by greater sense of fear.’

Renault is one of the unbiased Western historians who has acknowledged the kind and fair treatment of Muslims towards the non-Muslim minorities. He comments:

‘The Muslims in the cities of Islamic Spain treated the non-Muslims in the best possible way. In return, the non-Muslims showed respect to the sensibilities of the Muslims and would circumcise their own children and refrain from eating pork.’

Footnotes:

Al-Qarafi, ‘al-Furooq,’ vol 3, p. 15

Abu Ubayd, al-Amwaal, p. 613

Ibn Hamdun, ‘at-Tazkira al-Hamduniyya,’ vol. 2, p. 95

Siba’i, Mustafa, ‘Min Rawai Hadaratina,’ p. 134

Ibn Kathir, ‘al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya,’ vol 2, p. 310

Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, p. 86

Saheeh Al-Bukhari

Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘al-Aqaliyyat ad-Diniyya wa-Hal al-Islami,’ p. 58-59

Quoted by Siba’i, Mustafa, ‘Min Rawai Hadaratina,’ p. 147