Tolerance and Coexistence with Non-Muslims in Islam


[Written on the occasion of ‘All India Anti-Terrorism Conference’ on 25th February, 2008 at the behest of: Hazrat Maulana Marghoobur Rahman Sahib Mohtamim, Darul Uloom Deoband & President, Rabita Madaris-e-Islamia Arabiah (Islamic Madrasas Association)]

By: Maulana Shaukat Ali Qasmi Bastawi,
Professor, Darul Uloom Deoband & General Secretary, Islamic Madrasas Association

Jointly Translated by:
Mufti Obaidullah Qasmi
Mufti Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi

Today, this rumour and lie is being spread that Islam and its followers do not have any tolerance towards the people of other faiths. This is a misleading and baseless propaganda. This is part of the planned world conspiracies to malign and defame Islam and Muslims.

Non-Muslims in Islam and their rights

In fact, Islam is the religion of blessings, kindness and tolerance for all humanity without any differentiation. It stresses on its followers to behave with equality, sympathy, love and tolerance towards non-Muslims. It orders the rulers not to have any discriminatory attitude towards them. Their lives, honour, property and rights must be protected. The Holy Quran says:

“Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of Religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.” (Surah Mumtahanah: 60/8)

Explaining the verse, Hazrat Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani says: “Some non-Muslims of Makkah neither embraced Islam nor they had any enmity and hatred against Muslims. They did not fight against them about the faith of Islam and did not help others torturing and ousting them. Islam does not permit Muslims to behave such non-believers with cruelty and malice but it commands them to behave them with kindness and affection. Islam does not permit Muslims to consider both non-Muslims on war and those not involved in war against them with the same yardstick. To treat both in an equal fashion is against common sense, wisdom and justice.” (Footnote commentary on Tarjamah Shaikhul Hind)

This is the Islamic principle of co-operation which advises Muslims to extend their best help and assistance to the people of other faiths in common social and national issues as far as they are not against Shariah and Islamic teachings. If even some members of other faiths are bitter enemies to Islam, Islam teaches Muslims to show tolerance and patience toward them. The Holy Quran states:

If, then, they have patience, the Fire will be a home for them! and if They beg to be received into favour, into favour will They not (then) be received. (Surah Fussilat 41/24)

Good Treatment towards Makkan Non-Muslims

Makkan Non-Muslims strained their every nerve to harm, hurt and oppress the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him!). They called him a magician, poet and soothsayer. They tortured him physically and mentally. They pelted him with stones and hit him hard. Thorns were put in his way; his throat was pressed as an attempt to strangle him to death; the load of camel dirty intestines was put on his back when he was busy in the prayer. Plots to kill him were made by them. He was detained in Shi’ab Abi-Talib for long three years, during which he had to eat acacia leaves. In Taif, he was tortured beyond limit, was abused and was injured so much that drops of blood were collected in his shoes. He was forced to migrate from Makkah to Madinah. In Madinah too, he could not find relief but faced many trials and troubles. Several conspiracies were hatched against him. Plots were planned against the Prophet and his Companions with the help of the Jews.

At the conquest of Makkah, Non-Muslims were feeling very close to death and were thinking Muslims will avenge their tyranny and oppression. But the Prophet addressed them: O’ Quraish! How do you think I would treat you? They replied: ” We expect nothing but good from you as you are a noble and kind brother to us and the son of a noble and kind brother as well.” The Prophet said,” I say to you what the Prophet Yusuf (peace be upon him!) said to his brothers: No blame against you! You are free. (Zadul Ma’ad Vol.1, p.424)

Can human history present an example of such kindness and affectionate treatment?

Good treatment toward Jews

Many Jewish tribes lived in Madinah. For some time, after the Prophet’s flight from Makkah to Madinah, the Jews remained neutral and silent. But they could not hide their hatred and enmity against Islam, the Prophet and Muslims for long. They strained their every nerve to do harm to the Prophet and his Companions. They made secret plots and planned rebellion against him; mix poison secretly in his food; made several plots to kill him. In brief, they left no stone unturned to damage Islam and Muslims. Envoy and biased feelings, coupled with their wrong creeds and foul manner, were among the causes leading them to such wrongdoings. Imagine surprise when he treated them with noble manners and tolerance.

After the Prophet arrived in Madinah, he entered into an important treaty with the Jews so that friendly relations and peaceful co-existence between Muslim and Jewish communities might be established and both might live peacefully and show tolerance to each other helping in removing anxieties and troubles from each other. Some important articles of the treaty are as follows:

1. All Jews will enjoy the same rights of citizenship that they had enjoyed before the coming of Muslims.
2. Muslims will have friendly relations towards all people.
3. If a Muslim is killed by a Madinah, a ransom will be taken from the killer if agreed by the heirs of the person killed.
4. If any inhabitant of Madinah commits a serious crime, his family will not be punished.
5. In need, Jews and Muslims will help each other.
6. Any group will not deceive its ally.
7. The wronged and distressed will be helped without any communal discrimination.
8. If the Jews are attacked by foreign enemies, Muslims will defend them.
9. The Jews will enjoy their religious freedom.
10. If any Muslim ill-treats someone, he will be punished by Muslims.
11. The Jews of Bani Auf will be considered among Muslims.
12. If any dispute takes place between the Jews and Muslims, the Prophet will act as judge in the case.
13. This treaty will not favour any sinful or criminal person.
(Seerat bin Hisham p.501-504)

Everyone can observe the equal rights granted to Jews with an open heart and full justice. The Prophet followed the treaty but it was Jews who breached the terms of the treaty. They helped Makkan Non-Muslims against Muslims. They always tried to do harm to Islam and Muslims.

Good treatment towards Christians

The Prophet showed exemplary good treatment towards Christians also. An important Christian delegation of Najran situated between Makkah and Yemen met and conversed with the Prophet. The Prophet accommodated them in the mosque and they had a dialogue with him on religious issues. A historic and important treaty was concluded between Muslims and Christians in which many rights were agreed upon for Christians. The articles of the treaty are as follows:

1. Their lives will be secured.
2. Their land, property and wealth etc. will continue to be in their custody.
3. Any change will not be made in their religious system.
4. Religious office-holders will continue their offices.
5. Crosses and statues will not be damaged.
6. Anything belonging to them will not be taken.
7. They will not be employed in military services.
8. Tithe or Ushr will not be levied on them.
9. Soldiers will not be sent to their country.
10. Full justice will be delivered in their cases and issues.
11. Any tyranny and ill-treatment will not be allowed against them.
12. Interest will not be allowed.
13. Any innocent will not be punished in the place of the offender.
14. They will not have any mistreatment from Muslims.
(Deen-e-Rahmat p. 239, Futuhul Buldan)

No government of today’s world can give even to its own subjects the rights that were granted by Islam to non-Muslims.

Non-Muslim subjects living under an Islamic government or Zimmis are in the protection of Allah and the Prophet according to Islamic Shariah. Therefore, they are called Zimmis. The Islamic law orders to remove the wrong from Zimmis in the same way as from Muslims themselves. (Al-Mabsut Li Al-Sarakhsi Vol. 1 p.85)

Good treatment towards Hypocrites

In Madinah, there was an opportunist group which pretended to be Muslims but they were not genuine Muslims. Seeing the growing influence and power of Muslims, they declared themselves Muslims but, in fact, had severe hatred and enmity against them. Their leader was Abdullah bin Ubai ibn Salul. He was an influential person of Madinah and the inhabitants of Madinah were preparing to make him their ruler. But, after the Prophet’s migration, his hopes were dashed to pieces. He pretended to be Muslim but remained a Hypocrite until his death. Hypocrites tried their best to divide Muslims; they insulted the Prophet; they made plots together with Jews and other non-Muslims to harm Islam and Muslims. In spite of their several plots and feeling of hatred against them, the Prophet and his Companions treated them with tolerance and patience. The Prophet even led the funeral prayer of Abdullah bin Ubai, the leader of Hypocrites, and offered his shirt or Jubbah for his shroud on the request of his son.

Rights of Non-Muslim subjects under Islamic rule

Islam came to the world as the religion of blessings and kindness for all human beings and groups of people. This is the reason why it treats the people of other faiths and Non-Muslim subjects with equality, kindness, love, sympathy, tolerance and forbearance. It is Islam, in the world history for the first time, which has guaranteed such social and national rights for them that no religion or culture has ever given to the followers of other faiths or culture. Islam has ordered the rulers to protect the life, honour, property and religious freedom of Non-Muslim subjects living under an Islamic government and treat them without any discrimination. The Islamic concept about Zimmis or Non-Muslim subjects is that they are in the protection of Allah and the Prophet. Therefore, the Islamic Shariah says: “It is a duty of Muslims to remove the wrong from Non-Muslim subjects in the same way as from Muslims themselves.” (Mabsut Sarakhsi Vol. 1 p.85)

Oppressing a zimmi (Non-Muslim subject living under Islamic government) is worse than oppressing a Muslim. (Al-Durr Al-Mukhtar: 5/396)

Zimmis will have the same rights that Muslims have and they will be equally bound to what Muslims will be. Their lives will be safe and protected like Muslims. (Al-Durr Al-Mukhtar, Kitabul Jihad)

The non-Muslim subjects under Muslim rule enjoyed such freedom that their educational institutions and their personal law courts were independent and free.

According to Islamic Shariah, a Muslim who kills a Mu’aahid (a person who is granted the pledge of protection by Muslims) shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise which can be smelt at a distance of forty years (of travelling).”

An Islamic government is responsible to safeguard the wealth and property of the zimmis (non-Muslims living under Muslim rule).

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Behold, one who will oppress non-Muslim subject, load them with extra burden or take their belongings without their pleasure I will fight their case against the oppressor on the Day of Judgment. (Abu Dawood, Mishkat: 354)

In Makkah, the infidels were inflicting great deal of oppression on Muslims that it was hard for Muslims to live in Makka. The Muslims did not find any relaxation after their migration to Habsha (Ethiopia) and Madinah. They were continuously victims of conspiracies hatched by the infidels and the hypocrites. Even the enemies invaded Madinah with a huge army with intention of ravaging Madinah and destroying Muslims. So, Muslims were left with no option except to defend the sword with sword. In the long run, they were ordained by Allah: “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed able to give them victory, who have been expelled from their homes unjustly only because they said: “Our Lord is Allah.” (Al-Quran, Surah Al-Hajj, 39)

Thus, on one hand, Jihad was allowed to fight against injustice and oppression, while on the other Muslims were asked to behave with tolerance and good conduct, the example of which is not found in any other religion:

1. It prevented Muslims to attack first. (Al-Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah, 39)
2. It prohibited oppression and transgression of lawful boundaries. (Al-Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah, 39)
3. It allowed continuing war with the enemies only until the mischief and evil is not over. (Al-Quran, Surah Al-Hajj, 39)
4. It guaranteed the peace of messengers and ambassadors of enemies. (Al-Bidayah wa Al-Nihayah: 3/47)
5. It forbade killing of enemy’s women, children, disabled and handicapped people. (Tareekh-e-Ibn Khaldoon: 2/499)
6. It prohibited ruining green fields and cutting down fruitful trees. (Tareekh-e-Ibn Khaldoon: 2/499)
7. It stopped demolishing worship-places and killing of ascetic people and religious elders. (Tareekh-e-Ibn Khaldoon: 2/489)
8. It disallowed torturing the prisoners of war.
9. It asked Muslims to tend to reconcile if the enemy requests for the same. (Al-Quran, Surah Al-Anfal, 61)
10. It asserted to give peace and behave well with the non-Muslims coming in Muslims’ refuge.
11. It prohibited fighting only for obtaining spoils of war. (Abu Dawood: 1/348)
12. Looting was regarded unlawful. (Tareekh-e-Ibn Khaldoon: 2/489)
13. Muslims were held responsible for the protection of lives and properties of Zimmis (Deen-e-Rahmat 229, with reference of Futoohul Buldan)

Love of one’s native land

In fact, man needs food for life, and this food is obtained from the earth. Likewise, man has been created by the soil as the Quran says: “We created man from soil.” (Al-Quran, Surah Al-Hajj)

At another place it says: “And surely, we gave you authority on the earth and appointed for you therein provisions (for your life).” (Al-Quran, Surah Al-Araaf: 10)

Thereof (the earth) we created you, and into it we shall return you, and from it we shall bring you out once again. (Al-Quran, Surah Taaha: 55)

Naturally a man has sentimental attachment with the land from which he was created and where he was born and where he leads his life. It is a famous saying of Arabic: “The land where a man is born is like his suckling mother”. There is a famous wise saying: “Love of one’s land is a part of faith”.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was reported saying when he was migrating from Makkah: “O Makkah, how much dear you are to me! I would never leave you if I was not forced by your people.” (Jam’ul Fawaid, 1/195)

After settling in Madinah he was often reported stating: “O Allah! Infuse the love of Madinah in our heart as much as you infused the love of Makkah. O Allah! Sweeten the weather of Madinah and give us blessings in the Mudd and Saa’ (measuring scales) and shift the traders of Madinah to Jahfa. (Al-Bukharif: 1/558)

This hadith signifies the love of one’s land. Moreover, it expresses his ardent desire for its economic prosperity, goodness of weather and health of the people. Therefore, love of native land is natural as well as religious.

Virtues of India

Hazrat Shaikhul Islam Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, former Head Teacher of Darul Uloom Deoband and President of Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind writes: “The Islamic books tell that Hazrat Adam (peace be upon him) was sent down in India and lived herein, and from here his offspring spread throughout the world. Therefore human beings are called ‘Adami’ (attributing to Adam). (Hamara Hindustan awr uske Fazail, with reference of Tafseer ibn Kathir, vol 1, p 8)

Hakimul Islam Hazrat Qari Muhammad Tayyib, former Mohtamim of Darul Uloom Deoband writes: “India is the capital of prophet-hood since Hazrat Adam first descended from heaven here. The second prophet was Hazrat Shees who appeared in India and his grave is said to be in Ayodhya.

The Founder of Darul Uloom Deoband Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi writes in one of his books that Ram Chandra Ji and Krishna Ji should be taken with respect and they should not be blasphemed. (Qaumi Ittihad, p 7)

Hazrat Maulana Muhammad Miyan says: “India is the capital of humanity since Hazrat Adam the prophet was guided by Jibreel (Gabriel, angel who brought the revelation from Allah); thus India was the land from where the sun of Islam rose. Hazrat Jibreel ascended first in India. Ibn Sa’ad writes in his book ‘Tabaqaat’ that Allah Almighty made the body of Adam from the soil of Wajni from India. According to scholars, Wajni was the name of a place in India. Thus India holds the honour that first prophet was made of its soil. Secondly, Hazrat Adam is the forefather of all prophets, thus the spiritual and material root of all prophets and humanity is India. As per the reproduction and breeding rules, the origin of all the prophets, pious people and entire mankind belongs to this sacred land.

Hazrat Ibn Abbas (May Allah bless him) narrates that Ahd-e-Alast was taken at Wajni in India when Allah derived all the souls from Hazrat Adam and addressed them: “Am I not your Lord?” All the souls unanimously said: “Why not? You are our Lord.” (Hamara Hindustan awr uske Fazail)

Hazrat Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri, former Head Teacher of Darul Uloom Deoband says: “In India and in every non-Muslim majority country every Muslim is responsible as much as he can to maintain the rights of peace and freedom which Islam has allotted for common people. Obviously, to fulfill this target every Muslim has to take part in the political, economical and civil activities of his country so that with his political and economical power he can discharge the responsibility of safeguarding the rights pertaining to life, wealth and belongings of common citizens. If a Muslim is only a spectator and keeps aloof from the political and economical activities of his country then how he can discharge the duty of serving the people.” (Hindustan mein Musalmaanon ke Mulki Faraiz)

National duties of Muslims in India

Our ancestor Ulama and common Muslims has always played prominent roles to promote love, tranquillity, good manners, communal harmony, national integrity and tolerance.

Shaikhul Islam Hazrat Maulana Syed Hussain Ahmad Madani said: “We as Indians are integrated and have an alliance which perpetuates in all conditions along with the differences in religions and cultures. In the same way, being different in complexions, castes, colours and heights has no impact in our mutual humanity, we all are Indians as per holding same nationality. Hence, Muslims are equally dutiful like other communities to avail the national interests and make attempts to remove any kind of harm and damage. If the inhabitants of a village do not extinguish the fire together in case it catches, then the whole village will be engulfed by the fire and all people will be badly affected. Likewise, the inhabitants of a country, whether Muslims or Hindus, Sikhs or Parsis, all are equally obligated to strain every nerve jointly to guard their country in case of national calamity.

This responsibility implies all and being different in religions causes no hindrance. Everyone can discharge this duty having full allegiance to their respective religions. The same collaboration is prevailing in municipal boards, councils and assemblies. Member of different religions perform their duties related to a city, a district, a state or a country. This is what called ‘composite nationalism’. (Extracted from ‘Khutbaat Fidaa-e-Millat: 205, 216)

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