RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND HARMONY OF ISLAM
MJ Mohammed Iqbal
Islam preaches total social harmony which includes religious harmony that the whole world needs. Despite our age of information, geographical unification of countries and internationalisation of learning and economics, the world badly requires a strong movement to dispel aggression in the name of race and creed. Islam provides an excellent model implemented by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and proved of its practicality.
Allah epitomises religious tolerance in Qur'an in a nutshell: "Lakum deenukunm wa liya deen - Your religion is for you and my religion for me (109:6)". This need to be adopted world wide as a slogan. There need be no restraints on preaching faith by appealing to reason. Holy Qur'an says: "Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way" (16 : 125).
Coercion is rejected by Islam. Al Qur'an says: "La ilkraharfiddeen - There is no compulsion in religion" (2 : 256) Says Holy Qur'an: "Would you compel people that they should become believers?" (10:99 & 13:40). For, belief (iman) is something concerned with intellect and soul and not with physical body. On compulsion one may outwardly declare belief but the heart may reject it; in fact compulsion tends to prejudice the heart permanently even against plainest of truths, such as Allah and His Messenger (PBUH) had given expounded. Besides, the accountability for unbelief (Kufr) is on the unbeliever, not on Muslims - guarantees Allah (6:l08).
Allah ordained religious freedom and tolerance and His Prophet (PBUH) implemented and preached it. Allah tells believers: Do not insult what they call gods that are other than Allah. Prophet (PBUH) promised the Christians of Najran not to harm their crosses or idols. He even allowed Christian delegates from Najran to pray in his mosque at Al Medina.
Beyond tolerance, Islam supports harmony with other religions. In the edict he issued in Hijri 5, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave full protection to Christians of conquered territories in all religious, spiritual, social, cultural, economic and legal matters; he had warned that anyone who went against these provisions was an accursed offender on lslam. Non-muslim citizens were treated as equals of Muslims. In fact it was incumbent on the Governments to protect their life and property so mulch so that they were exempt from military service.
An English translation of a document is presented below for reference to understand the Prophet's (PBUH) magnanimity & Tolerance towards communal harmony and safety and security of other faiths.
"This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them."
No compulsion is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries no one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the last day (end of the world).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) set wonderful examples for us to follow. He stood up when funeral procession a jew passed. When asked by companions Why he stood up for a Jews funeral? Prophet (PBUH) replied, all human are equal in nature and it is our duty to pay respect to the departed soul.
Zayd, a Jewish slave boy was presented to Prophet (PBUH). He treated him as if he was his son and set him free. Zayd refused to join his parents and remained with the Prophet (PBUH) and converted to Islam. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) proposed and got him married to one of his close relatives, a free woman to Zayd.
Islam strongly rejects fanaticism in any form. Prophet (PBUH) clearly distinguished fanaticism from loyalty. He legitimized loyalty by saying: To love one's people is not fanaticism but to wreak cruelty on other peoples is. He condemned those who facilitate such cruelty. He observed that they will be thrown into hellfire as surely as a man will fall into a well who holds fast to tail of a camel jumping into it. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) further said: He is not of us who gathers people together on the basis of fanaticism, he who fights for it and he who dies for it! Prophet(PBUH) promised that in the hereafter he would advocate with God for him who was wronged by a Muslim.
From the life of Prophet it is understood that he is to attend feast of people of other faiths, visit their sick and welcome the delegation and honor them thus setting wonderful example to the world community. The Muslims of that also followed the good example of Holy Prophet (PBUH) and they associated with non-Muslims in peace and concord and feeling of agreement. Christians and Jews neighbor the Muslims and exchanged visits and gifts with them and they separated only in the places of worship. One of the children of Ibn Abbas a reputed companion of Prophet once slaughtered a male sheep. His father told him not to forget giving some of its flesh to the neighbor who was a Jew and repeated his request until son asked "How often you request this?" The father replied The Prophet makes a special recommendation of neighbors that one fears they might claim the right to inherit. Though Ibn Abbas's neighbor was a Jew, he made it a point to take of him as he did to his other neighbors thus to prove Islam's refusal of differentiation between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The Caliphas of Islmic ruling also certain example for the significance of the free exercise of religious belief. Citing an example Umar Ibn Hattab, the second Calipha of Islamic ruling, who one made his persons at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem when it was time for prayer. He did not pray there, lest people should take the place as a mosque and offend the Christians of Jerusalem
In general Islam put all people on equal status in common rights. Islam permits non-Muslims to call Muslims, no matter how noble or higher ranking to justice and demand their rights. A Jew once made a complaint against Ali Ibn Abuthalib (who is fondly and respectfully called as Abu Hassan by the companions) to Calipha Umar (May Allah and His Holy Prophet be pleased with Him). Ali (May Allah and His Prophet be Pleased with Him) was Prophet's cousin and son-in-law and nominee for Caliphate. When Ali stood in the presence of Umar, the latter looked at him and said "Stand up Abu Hassan, and sit in front of your opponent". Ali did what he was told, with signs of agitation and dissatisfaction on his face. After the settlement of the dispute the Calipha Umar asked "Tell me respected Ali, did you find it loathsome to sit in front your opponent" Ali immediately replied "No, but I didn't like your not treating us on equal terms. When you called me as Abu Hassan". What Ali meant was that Abu Hassan the nick name expressed was commendation of love and respect for the one addressed which was not necessary during settlement of dispute and judgement given by Calipha.
From the above it is understood Almighty and his Holy Prophet (PBUH) have repeatedly observed and declared to the masses that all the people of the world of descendants of single soul of Adam regardless of their present faiths. Their God is only One - Almighty. Their posterity will discover the original true path of lslam and join it in waves. Therefore we shall not keep Islam to ourselves alone as certain other religionists do on one extreme; We shall not also thrust our religion on anyone and we shall convey the Right Beliefs in a beautiful manner as God and His Prophet (PBUH) commanded.
Islam right from the beginning is preaching and practising true religious harmony and it even helped to settle disputes among followers of other religions,from its stand point of tolerance and understanding.It is to be noted and understood by every one tolerance and communal harmony are integral and inseparable parts of Islam.
Courtesy: Gulf Today