The Islamic Call

The Egyptian Society for Spiritual and Cultural Research

HOME \ Second Point \

 


Tolerance in Treating People
from Other Beliefs

">PREVIOUS PAGE

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) , who did not impose the Islamic teachings on others, tolerated the differences and accepted them as facts. This was an anticipated attitude from a prophet who made peace and love, the main core of his mission. There are many examples in his life that showed this kind of tolerance. When Asma'a, the daughter of his companion Abu Bakr asked him about what she should have done with her mother who was opposing the Islamic teachings, he answered her that she should keep in good terms with her mother. Asma'a was a little bit confused because she could not understand one of the verses that banned a Muslim then from Madina to take one of the unbelievers as a friend. The verse says,

"O ye who believe! Take not My enemies and yours as friends (or protectors), offering them (your) love, … (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: … And any of you that does this has strayed from the Straight Path (HQ: 60: 1).

Asma’a came to grips with the fact that this verse meant to point to a certain incident. The verse criticized a behavior of a Muslim who confined secret information to a person from Quraish whom he considered a friend. This person delivered the information to the masters of his tribe. As such he chose to be enemy to Muhammad's message, so how come that a follower of Muhammad (PBUH) could have taken him as a friend!

A holy verse was revealed to support The Prophet’s Advice to Asma’a:

Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just (HQ: 60: 8).

The holy verse sends away any confusion by saying that Muslims are free to choose their friends from among all people regardless of their belief as long as those people accept living in peace with them. Let alone People of the Book.



óCoexistence With People
from Other Creeds

 


People of the Book, are not considered enemies to Muslims, and should be respected and honored:

And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book, those who believe in Allah, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to Allah: they will not sell the Signs of Allah for a miserable gain! for them is a reward with their Lord, and Allah is swift in account (HQ: 3: 199).

Those who had different beliefs, but did not attack or break covenants could leave peacefully within Muslims' community, even if they were not following any heavenly guidance:

If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure (HQ: 9: 6).

O ye who believe! when ye go abroad in the cause of Allah, investigate carefully, and say not to anyone who offers you a salutation of peace: "Thou art none of a Believer!" coveting the perishable goods of this life (HQ: 4: 94).

..if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (guarantees of) peace, then Allah hath opened no way for you (to war against them).(HQ: 4: 90).

Reading the treaty that The Prophet (PBUH) signed with all the Jew tribes in Yathrib, it is clearly stated that all Muslims (immigrants or natives of Yathrib) together with non-Muslims shared equal rights and duties of individuals in any society. Differences of faith did not stop The Prophet (PBUH) from writing in the treaty that, as individuals in an Islamic-ruled society, "Jews are to be protected by Muslims against any outside aggression". It is written in the treaty that "the Jews can be one nation with Muslims, if they so wanted", and they could share with them in fighting and financing the battles in case that any of them was exposed to outside aggression. The treaty says, "anyone (Muslim or Jew) should be as keen that no harm touches one's neighbor as oneself in all aspects." The treaty gives full "security to whoever (Jew) accepts to stay in Madina or him who chose to move away".glossary

Muslims were ordered to treat the conquered people with passion and love, be compassionate and understanding. The Prophet (PBUH) said,

“Do not kill an old man, a small child, or a woman. Do not commit acts of treachery nor make profits of the spoils of war (PH)

Narrated by Abu Dawoud

“Release the captured, support whoever ask for help, feed the hungry, and visit the sick” (PH).

Narrated by Al Bukhari and Ahmad

Some treaties between The Prophet (PBUH) and inhabitants of the conquered lands were documented. Those treaties shared the fact that people, not only People of the Book but also Magus and others, were secured to practice their worship system, and left free to choose their beliefs as far as they did not harm others. The Prophet (PBUH) , for instance, addressed Najran inhabitants (some place in Arabia very close to Yemen) telling them,

"all archbishops, priests, with their followers and monks have to keep up full authority over their churches and monasteries, few or many. They are to be regarded (by Muslims) as neighbors of Allah and His Prophet. An archbishop, a priest, or a monk is not to be forced to quit his faith. And none of them is to be slipped of any of his legal rights or authority as long as they are performing their duties without extending any injustice to anyone, and without being treated unjustly”(PH)

Ibn Saad, P. 2. pp. 30, 31.

The Prophet (PBUH) used to tell his companions that people of other faiths in an Islamic society were under his personal protection, forever. He called them Dhemmyeen ; The Prophet (PBUH) told his companions,

"if ever you hurt a ‘Dhemmy’ I shall be on his side on the Day of Judgment"(PH).

Narrated by Al Siouty. (Quoted in Al Dahabi, p. 61).



óRegulations
In Relation to Tolerance

 


On regulating the Islamic society where non-Muslims had to pay head taxes Jizya, The Prophet (PBUH) was keen not to make of those taxes an indirect pressure on non-Muslims. He commanded that the sums of taxes be proportionate with the economic capability of a non-Muslim. Jizya was not enforced on them as a kind of "punishment" because they refused to convert to Islam, nor to humiliate them. Quite the contrary, it was meant to enhance their feelings of citizenship, since it was clear that Jizya was paid as to cover the expenses of protecting non-Muslims against outside attacks. As citizens they had the right to share in their societies' protection. Moreover, the poor of them did not have to pay the Jizya and had the right -like Muslims to be supported by the money collected through Zakat (alms giving). In short they had the full right of “citizenship”

Non-Muslims were not given the chance to fight side by side with Muslims, because at that time, the danger that Muslims were facing was too great to carry. Muslims sought martyrdom and were fighting as to getting closer to Allah, not merely to conquer or to realize any worldly gains. It was not logical to ask non-Muslims to fight with the same spirit. It would be like enforcing them to practice a system of worship without the basic belief.glossary



Social Tolerance

 


Not only do Islamic teachings advise people to be just with People of the Book, but they also push Muslims to include them as family. When a Muslim man is married from a non-Muslim woman, he considers her family as part of his, and his children are related to their non-Muslim uncles by genealogical ties and should invest this relation to overcome any sensitivity from differences of beliefs.

In Islam, marriage is considered as a "divine covenant", mercy, respect and love should overwhelm the relationship between a husband and a wife. If she is affiliated with another creed, this should not affect their relationship. The Holy Qur’an, even, encourages Muslims to marry from non-Muslim women, emphasizing that the relationship between Muslim and others should be a relation of love and respect.

(Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time, when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues (HQ: 5: 5).

On the social level, The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) called upon his followers to be friendly, considerate and benevolent to their neighbors, regardless of their beliefs and creed or race affiliations. He advised his followers to exchange presents with their friends of different faiths. The Holy Qur’an points to a sign of friendship when a verse tells Muslims that they can invite and accept the invitations of their friends to food:

The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them (HQ: 5: 5).

Within that very clear guidance to Muslims to live as family with people regardless of their religious affiliations, it became obvious that verses in the Holy Qur’an which seemingly convey different message, should be considered within specific cases, for they don’t express the main principle in the Islamic Call. For example the following verse came as to respond to the declared enmity of Jews and Christians towards Muslims at the time of The Prophet (PBUH) , and should not be generalized.glossary The Holy verse says:

O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors; they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust (HQ: 5: 51).

Such a holy verse and several ones point to exceptional cases as was mentioned previously.

However, the general rule in regulating the relationship among humans, according to Islamic teachings, is that there is a common affiliation deeper than race, nationality, color, religious affiliations or labels of any kind. The Holy Qur’an says that all people are brothers and sisters in humanity and they are honored as being from one Origin.

We have honored the sons of Adam (HQ: 17: 70).

O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from one soul, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women (HQ: 4:1).

O mankind! We created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full Knowledge and is well-acquainted (with all things) (HQ: 49:13).



Guarding the Main Principles of Islam
Does Not Contradict with Tolerance

 

Despite all evidences of Islam's tolerance, the fact that non- Muslims were not allowed in Macca, since the spread of Islam in Arabia, raises many questions. Within this context, we have to observe the situation of Macca as a special one. Al Ka'ba (the Symbol of the House of God) was the center where all pagan tribes used to come to present their offers and to do their pilgrimage rites. Around the Ka”ba each tribe used to put its deities and perform their worship system. Before opening Macca, Al Ka”ba was a symbol of pagan beliefs.

Islam came with a very clear message, one of its goals is to support man to overcome illusions that s/he created and then worshiped. It would be completely illogical and inconsistent to keep the deities around the Ka”ba. This would not be called tolerance; rather it would be confusing to Muhammad's followers. On the other hand, Al Ka”ba has a symbolic dimension that should be preserved

Putting sharp line between Truth and illusion was partly expressed when Muslims were destroying the Idols that surrounded Al Ka’ba. As a sacred symbol, Al Ka”ba had to represent holiness and purity. Within this context, we can understand Allah's commandment in the Holy Qur’an,

"O ye who believe! Truly the Pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque" (HQ: 9: 28).

Macca as a town that includes the Sacred Mosque should be a peaceful place. No fights, conflicts, wars should take place in Macca. This is a reminder that Macca symbolically speaking, a piece of heaven on earth. This meaning is emphasized in the discipline that pilgrims should conform to. Those pilgrims are not to kill any living beings whether an insect or an animal. Because it was hard to make people from other creeds abide to those disciplines, Macca was confined to Muslims alone.

That was not to make any distinction between the followers of Muhammad (PBUH) and others, it was only to convey the message that underlies making Al Ka'aba as Quibla (Direction). It is a continuous reminder that the Path that Muhammad (PBUH) followed is the Path of Abraham (PBUH) . This should remain clear without any confusion.

This rule if understood within its correct contexts, is void from discrimination against or superiority over non -Muslims. For instance, Muslims are allowed to live under non-Muslims' political authority and abide to its rules if it does not contradict with the basic teachings of Islam. The Prophet (PBUH) sent early Muslims to live under the authority of Negus Emperor of Ethiopia who was a Christian ruler and was known by his just system.glossary The Prophet (PBUH) did not allow Muslims to migrate out of compromise with the Emperor to gain his alliance and support. He would be better off if he made a compromise with masters of Quraish when they offered him money and authority to leave the Call he was charged with conveying. He also refused to make another compromise with one of the tribes' master who agreed to support his call on condition that they would succeed him once he established a dominant position among the tribes. The Prophet (PBUH) refused that compromise. He could have accepted it and then would not be committed to it. That was not his ethics or moral. He never broke a promised all through his life.  Next >>>


sep.gif (955 bytes)

 

 
The Islamic Call