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Rights of minorities in Islam

Rights of minorities in Islam

All praise is due to Allah Subhanahu Wa Taa’ala the creator and the cherisher of the world and blessings and salutations upon our beloved Prophet Muhammad Sallalahu Alaihi Wassalam which is mercy to all mankind and the final prophet of Allah Taa’ala.

Islam seeks to establish such a society where all citizens of the state enjoy equal rights and religion does not become the basis for any discrimination. Islamic law holds both Muslims and non-Muslims equal and no superiority or privilege is given to the Muslims on any ground. The history of Islam is replete with such examples. Once, a Muslim, who was accused of killing a non-Muslim, was presented in the court of Hazrat Ali (ra). The evidence supported the accusation. When Hazrat Ali ordered the Muslim to be killed by way of qisas, the relatives of the murderer made the brother of the killed forgive by paying him the compensation money. When the Caliph came to know of it, he asked, “Perhaps these people may have coerced you into saying so.” To this, he replied in the negative, saying that the killing would not bring his brother back. Since they were paying him blood money, it would help the family financially to some extent. The Caliph agreed to the deal but added that the principle underlying the functioning of his government was “the blood of those of our non-Muslim subjects is equal to our blood and his blood money is like our blood money.” (Abu Yusuf, Kitab-ul-Khiraj, p. 187) every member of an Islamic society is entitled to privacy and personal life. No one can be allowed to enter his house or interfere in his matters without his consent. The minorities enjoy similar rights in an Islamic state as the Muslims do. It is the fundamental principle of Islamic law that it enjoins the similar rights and duties on both Muslim and non-Muslim citizens without any discrimination.

Islam ordains people to worship Allah Almighty but it does not coerce followers of other religions to accept Islam and change their creed. Invitation to truth and use of coercion are mutually exclusive realities. The Holy Quran has communicated the Islamic message of truth in these words: “(O Glorious Messenger!) Invite towards the path of your Lord with strategic wisdom and refined exhortation and (also) argue with them in a most decent manner. Surely your Lord knows him well who strayed away from His path and He also knows well the rightly guided.” (16:125)

Islam has strictly disallowed the adoption of such method of invitation, which affects the religious independence of the other party. Allah Almighty says at another place: “There is no coercion in religion. Verily, guidance has manifestly been distinguished from error.” (2:256)
the non-Muslim minorities are free to undertake any business enterprise or profession in an Islamic state like their Muslim counterparts and no restriction can be imposed upon them in this regard. However, those businesses, which are collectively injurious for the society, would be completely prohibited both for the Muslims as well as the non-Muslims. The minorities are also free to adopt any profession they like. They would also be subject to same trade-related taxation as the Muslims.

as it is the responsibility of the Islamic state to provide for the disabled or the poor or the destitute or the old, in the same way, it is also under obligation to pay for the maintenance of a member of the minority community in case of his disability, old age or poverty. Minorities enjoy equal rights in terms of collective maintenance in an Islamic state. According to a tradition reported by Abu ‘Ubaid in Kitab-ul-Amwal, “The Holy Prophet (PBUH) gave a donation to a Jewish family and it continued to be delivered even after (the Holy Prophet’s departure from this world).”

Islamic state is responsible for the protection and security of minorities. If it has entered into an agreement with another nation, the protection and security of the latter also falls under its domain of responsibility.

One of the conditions that defined the agreements between Muslims and the conquered non-Muslim minorities was that the Islamic government would be responsible for provision of basic necessities and security of lives of the minorities. The Peace Agreement, which was struck with the residents of the Heera had the following written in it: “A non-Muslim who grows old and cannot work or becomes disabled due to a natural calamity or he was previously rich but has become poor due to some untoward happening, the government would not charge any tax from such calamity-stricken people. Rather these people and their families would be provided with the maintenance allowance out of official treasury.” (Ibn Rushd, Badiyat-ul-Mujtahid, vol. 2, p. 310)

The minorities cannot be compelled to render defence services. Rather, it is the responsibility of the Islamic state to defend them. Since the Islamic state is responsible for the protection of lives, honour and property of the minorities and they do not have any other obligation with regard to defence, they are liable to contribute financially to the Islamic state in the form of a tax called Jizya. Even then, Islam has taught about justice and good manners when it comes to the imposition of Jizya on the minorities.
. The reprehensible Gojra-style incidents happen because of our society’s lack of knowledge of actual teachings of Islam. The vacuum of knowledge so created is bridged by the semi-literate clergy with no exposure to the Islamic historical tradition, demands of contemporary age and challenges of future.
Words fail to express the feelings of horror and grief one experienced while watching the scenes of mayhem, destruction of homes and the burning of seven people alive on TV channels in the Gojra city of Punjab. What made it all the more poignant was the fact that people, inspired by religious fervour and egged on by the so-called religious clerics having half-baked understanding of Islam, were doing everything our great religion condemned and ordained its followers against. Thus through their actions, these people brought a bad name not only to Pakistan but also Islam. Displaying sheer ignorance of Islamic teachings, they handed down a justification to those elements who are, otherwise, bent on demonizing Islam by invoking such incidents as the representation of what Islam stands for. It is high time we introspected ourselves and went back to the teachings of Islam vis-à-vis minorities.

Islam espouses values of universal brotherhood, tolerance and mutually peaceful coexistence ordaining its followers to be the source of peace for people around them. It aims at the establishment of such an ideal state and society where all citizens, irrespective of their association, religious identity, race, colour and creed, enjoy the similar rights and equality in the eyes of law. The Qur’anic injunction “There is no compulsion in Din (Religion)” (2:256) negates the element of coercion and oppression in religious matters and forms the basis for protection of rights of minorities. At another place, Allah Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: “(So) you have your Din (Religion) and I have my Din (Religion)” (109:6).
The importance and sanctity of rights Islam gives to minorities can be further gauged by the saying of the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him): “Beware! If anyone dared oppress a member of minority community or usurped his right or tortured him more than his endurance or took something away forcibly without his consent, I would fight (against such Muslim) on his behalf on the Day of Judgment.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

This is not merely a warning but has the sanctity of a law, which was promulgated in the Islamic state during the blessed period of the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) but which also continued to be implemented in the later period and is still a part of constitution of Islamic state. The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) would always forewarn Muslims about the rights of the minorities. While talking of minorities one day, he said: “Whosoever killed a member of a minority community, he would not smell the fragrance of paradise though fragrance of paradise would cover the distance of forty years.” (Bidiyat-ul-Mujtahid)

Whenever the non-Muslim delegations would come to the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), he would extend them hospitality himself. Once a Christian delegation from Abyssinia came over to meet the Prophet of Islam (blessings and peace be upon him) in the blessed city of Madina, he took it upon himself to play host to the guests and made them stay in the Prophet’s Mosque. He said: “These people occupy distinguished and privileged status for our companions, therefore, I chose to extend them respect and hospitality myself.” (Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wa an-Nihaya)

Likewise, another 14-member Christian delegation from Nijran came to the holy city of Madina. The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) made the delegation stay in the Prophet’s Mosque and allowed the Christians of the delegation to worship according to their religion in the Prophet’s Mosque. (Ibn Sad, at-Tabqat al-Kubra)

Such was the deep and penetrating impact of the Holy Prophet’s good treatment of the minorities that their interaction with him was also based on respect and reverence. When an ally Jew was about to die during a battle, people asked him about the possible heir to his huge property, he said that the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) would be guardian of his property. This speaks volumes of the reverence the Prophet of Islam (blessings and peace be upon him) had in the eyes of the non-Muslims.

Imam Abu Yusuf writes in his magnum opus Kitab al-Khiraj that both Muslims and non-Muslim minorities were treated equally in respect of civil law and law of punishments during the Prophetic period and that of the rightly guided caliphs. Once a Muslim killed a non-Muslim during the period of the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). He ordered the killing of that Muslim by way ofqisas and said: “The protection of rights of non-Muslims is my most important duty.” (Musnad ash-Shafi‘i)

In the like manner, the status of a Muslim and a non-Muslim is equal in civil law in an Islamic state. The non-Muslim would also deserve the same punishment which would be meted out to a Muslim in case of committal of crimes. Whether a non-Muslim steals things of a Muslim or otherwise, both would deserve the equal amount of punishment. No discrimination can be allowed in their treatment in the eyes of law.

Muslims in non-Muslims countries

The Muslims living a non-Muslim country, even if they entered that country by means of forged documents, are considered to be living in their adopted country under a covenant. They must, therefore, comply with the laws of their country of residence Allah says: “Oh you who believe! Fulfill (your) obligations.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah: 1]

He also says: “And fulfill (every) covenant. Verily! The covenant will be questioned about.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ': 34]

He says: “And fulfill the Covenant to Allah when you have covenanted, and break not the oaths after you have confirmed them.” [Sûrah al-Nahl: 91]

A Muslim is not to break or violate oaths or promises. He will not be a true faithful Muslim if he does so

Scholars have stated that those who enter non-Muslim countries have to adhere to their respective laws and regulations even if they entered those countries illegally, and they have no excuse for breaking those laws, since they were entrusted to abide by those laws upon entry into those countries.

For instance, when I came into this country, they issued me a visa, and I signed something. In the issuance of the visa and my signing of it, a legally binding contract occurred which was a sulih. It was an agreement that when I came into this country, I would obey the laws and would follow the restrictions that this visa demanded that I follow. This was a contractual agreement that is legally binding according even to the divine laws. In looking at this, we have to understand that the relationship between the Muslims living in this land and the dominant authorities in this land is a relationship of peace and contractual agreement-of a treaty. This is a relationship of dialogue and a relationship of giving and taking.

We should remember that when the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was in Makkah, what he asked for from the Quraish was just that they left him alone to do hisda’wa. He said, “Khalu bayni wa baynan naas: Leave me alone to talk to these people. Let me speak to them; let me call them.” And they wouldn’t let him do that. However, in this country, the ruling people are allowing you to call people to Islam, and this is exactly what the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was asking that they allow him to do in Makkah. These people here are allowing you to call people to Islam. They are not prohibiting you. If you go out and proselytize, they don’t come and arrest you; they don’t punish you; they don’t torture you. This idea here should be understood, and the verse from the Quran that we should take as the overriding verse in our relationship with this people is where Allah subhaana wa ta’aala says concerning those who neither fight you because of your religion nor remove you from your homes that He does not prohibit you from showing them birr: righteousness. “Birr” in the Arabic language is the highest degree of ihsaan-it is the ‘aala daraja of ihsan. Allah does not prevent you from showing them excellence-moral excellence-in your transactions with them nor from sharing with them a portion of your wealth.

Qadi Abu-Bakr, Ibn ‘Atiyah, and others have also said that this is what “antuqsitu ‘ilayhim” means. You give non-Muslims qistan: a portion of your wealth. In the early period of Islam, this is ta’lif al-quloob: one of the things that they used to do in order to bring people close. They would give monetary gifts to people whom they saw had inclinations towards Islam in order to draw the hearts. The Messenger of Allah,sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “give gifts to each other and love one another.” So, the act of giving something naturally inclines the one who is receiving the gift to have feelings of love towards the person who is giving them. The reason for doing these things-for treating these people with respect, showing this good character, and having this good courtesy-is that you will get from amongst them those who respond and will actually enter into Islam. Also, it is necessary for us to show respect to these people. Islam prohibits us from showing aggression towards people who do not show aggression towards us. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Do not enter the houses of the Christians nor eat anything of their fruits except with their permission.” Islam prohibits theft; it prohibits fraud; it prohibits cheating; and it prohibits these things in relation to the Muslims and in relation to the non-Muslims. The things that you cannot do to a Muslim, you also cannot do to a non-Muslim. The Messenger of Allah,sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, also said, “None of you truly believes until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself.” Imam Shabrakhiti ibn Rajul al-Hambali and others mentioned that “brother” here not only means your brother Muslim because this is a close brotherhood of Islam that others are not in, but it refers to the greater and broader brotherhood of our Adamic nature. It is a brotherhood in the sense that we are all from Adam, that Adam is the father of all us. Understanding this should cause us to realize that we have distant relations with all of these people out there, and all of them are potential Muslims. We should see them as potential Muslims.

Allah, subhaana wa ta’aala, for that reason says, “Call to your Lord with wisdom and with a beautiful admonition, and dispute them in the most excellent of ways.” In other words, debate with them and dialogue with them in the most beautiful of ways. Don’t be argumentative; don’t be cruel; don’t be mean; don’t humiliate them. Do it ways in which they can listen to the truth, respect the truth, and come to the truth. For this reason, we have to be du’ahtis salaam: people who are callers to peace.

We also have to be good citizens because an excellent Muslim is also an excellent citizen in the society that he lives in. This does not mean that we lose our distinctionIn addition, we have to recognize that the creation itself is a creation of diversity. It is a creation in which you see variation of colors. Allah did not make all the trees one, and He did not make all the animals one. He diversified the creation. He diversified even our colors and our languages; and He did all this for a wisdom. Not only that, Allah subhaana wa ta’aalamade us on different religions and different paths, and He did that intentionally because He said in the Quran, “They continue to be in differences except those whom your Lord has shown His mercy to, and for that reason He created them.” So, Allah subhaana wa ta’aala is saying that He actually created us in order that we differ-that there is a wisdom, a divine wisdom in the differences that we have. He created us to show mercy to us as well. So, we have to rise up to this challenge. This is a high challenge, and we as Muslims have to rise up to this challenge.

Another thing that is very important for us to remember is the moderation of Islam. This is a deen of wasatiyyah: it is a deen of moderation. We are a moderate community. We are between the two extremes of excess and deficiency. We are in the middle. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “Those people who go into matters too deeply will be destroyed.” [The shaykh is an expert in the Arabic language, and he said, “those people” are people involved in “tatarruf” or extremism. That is what “tanatau’” is.] The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, “The extremists are destroyed,” and he said, “Beware of extremism in the deen.” The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, warned against extremism, and he did not like it. Notice that one of the things that extremism does is that it causes you to lose your rational component so that you are not able to weigh things rationally. Once you have gone to an extreme, you can no longer see things in any balanced way. You have lost that balance of the middle way. This makes you think that what you are doing is right even though it is clearly wrong to others.

May Allah Taa’ala guide us all to the right path, Ameen !