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|Topic: The Tolerance of Islam|
Joined: 22 February 2011
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| Topic: The Tolerance of Islam
Posted: 01 July 2012 at 8:40am
The Tolerance of Islam
Dr. Muhammad `Imarah
In Islamic and Arabic terms, the word “Tolerance” means generosity, i.e. giving without limits. Moreover, it means leniency, liberality and flexibility in various matters and dealings without the desire for compensation, return or reward. Almighty Allah has established Islam to guide people to the right path and to preserve their interests within the legal boundaries of the Islamic Law (Shariah). For, the ultimate objectives of Islamic Shari`ah seek to achieve what is essential, complementary and embellishing for the human society and humanity in general, both in this world and the afterworld.
For sure, Allah (Exalted and Glorified be He) is in no need of any of His creatures. He established for them this constant guidance, i.e. Shari`ah, and showered them with His Tolerance and Generosity without limits and without expecting any reward.
In this way, there has been no priesthood in Islam as there have been no rabbis nor monks who have exploited the followers of their religions in return for guiding them. Muslims take their religion directly from Almighty Allah with nothing in return; Moreover, they turn directly to Him in repentance without the need of mediators or paying financial compensation.
Thus, tolerance is a characteristic and distinctive feature of Islam. it has been a realistic trait embodied in the Islamic Ummah, culture and history and not an “ideal” that is difficult to apply.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) spoke the truth as he said, “I have been sent with the true, tolerant religion”(1) and he (peace be upon him) said, “The most beloved religion to Allah is the true, tolerant religion.”(2)
Many a writer wrote about the tolerance of Islam, and it is not new to contrast it with the clemency of other religious, philosophical and civilizational creeds and patterns.
The idea I am setting forth throughout these pages on the Tolerance of Islam is expressed in a rather different way. What I would like to assert here is that the real beginning of tolerance in human history coincided with the revelation of Islam and it reached an outstanding level that could not be found except in Islam. This was the point at which the Islamic principles and rules as well as their practical application made its stamp on human culture and history.
Toleance first emerged in human history as a distinguished human quality with the advent of Islam.
Islam was revealed to Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah (peace be upon him) when there was no other religion or culture that recognized or kept peace with others. Talmudic Judaism had been transformed into a racist religion whose distorted Old testament claims that the Jews - on account of their descent, race and blood, regardless of their irreligiousness, unrighteousness and impiety - are God’s chosen people, His children and His loved ones!
Their distorted Old Testament asks them not only to hate, curse and deny other nations but also to completely consume them. They mistakenly think that destroying other nations is a Divine order;
“Kill every male child, and kill every woman who has been laid by a man” (The Numbers 31:17). “for you are a holy people to Jehovah your god: Jehovah your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (The Deuteronomy 7:6). “You shall be blessed above all peoples.” (The Deuteronomy 7:14); “you shall consume all the peoples who Jahveh your God shall deliver to you; your eye shall not pity them.” (The Deuteronomy 7:16)
The Ever-Glorious Qur’an opposes this racial face of judaism and its false beliefs that deny other nations and ignore their rights to live, only because they are not Jews.
“They say, there is no blame on us to betray and take the properties of the illiterates (Arabs); ‘But they tell a lie against Allah while they know it.”
“And (both) the Jews and the Christians say, ‘We are the children of allah and His loved ones’”
“The Jews said that the Christians follow nothing (i.e. are not in the right religion).”
“And they say, ‘None shall enter paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.’”
Christianity followed in the footsteps of Judaism. Christians applied to Jews the same unjust basis that they originated and attributed falsely to the Divine Being when they claimed that Allah punishes the successors because of their ancestors’ sins up to four generations!
“Jehovah is slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity and disobedience; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generation;" (The Numbers 14:18)
Christianity applied this unjust “principle” to Jews and put it into effect forever. It ordered Christians to curse all Jews in their prayers for what their forefathers had committed against Jesus (peace be upon him);
The Ever-Glorious Qur’an refers to this Christian denial to others, when it mentions their false belief that they hold a monopoly over salvation, paradise and redemption.
“And they say, ‘None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.”
“The Christians said that the Jews follow nothing (i.e. are not on the right religion).”
This reciprocal denial of the other has, in reality, in both practice and application, taken the form of revolutions and persecution as is evident in the books of history whenever and wherever Jews and Christians coexisted within the same community.
The same acts of denying, despising, persecuting and depriving a person of his/her humanity and legitimate rights were first practiced by the Western civilization during the Greek and Roman ages.
Democracy in Athens - its birthplace as the West claims - was confined to some knights, nobles and proprietors, who used to meet at the square of Athens to practice democracy and enjoy its fruits. As for the rest, the elite considered them to be barbaric riffraff with no chance to practice democracy or to enjoy their human rights.
This was the same during the Roman Age. The Romans showed considerable progress in the field of law, as it was crystallized in the Code of Justinian (483-565), a Roman Emperor who ruled from 527 to 565. However, democracy in this Code was confined to the Roman knights and nobles while others were considered - according to the elite’s viewpoint - as barbarians who had no right to be under the wing of the same law of their Roman masters.
If we are to refer to a practical case study to show the denial and persecution of one party to the other before and at the beginning of Islam, it will be enough to cite the gloomy state of Egypt. The disciples of Akhenaton(3) persecuted the followers of the god Amon(4) … and when the followers of Amon obtained victory over the disciples of Akhenaton, they in turn reciprocated denial and persecution.
When Christianity was introduced to Egypt in the middle of the first century, it was confronted by extreme denial and persecution from the Roman and Egyptian idolaters. Persecution reached its climax during the reign of Gallerius Valerius(5) (245-313 A.D.), who offered Christians as a food to lions and carnivorous fishes. He also threw them alive into raging fire. Christian historians of Egypt called his reign “the Age of Martyrs.” (6) Ironically, when the Roman state embraced Christianity during the reign of Emperor Constantine (274-337 AD), the Roman and Egyptian Christians persecuted the Egyptian idolaters. They violated their temples, dragged along and slaughtered their philosophers, burnt their libraries and destroyed their monuments in order to build churches and monasteries.
Tuefilus, the archbishop of the Egyptian Patriarchate (385-412 A.D.), led an aggressive persecution campaign against the idolaters. He destroyed the school of Alexandria, set fire to its great library, pulled down the temples’ libraries, smashed the statues and violently dragged and burnt Hypatia, the Egyptian Neo-Platonist philosopher, mathematician and astronomer (415-370 A. D.)(7).
Before long, denial and persecution took place and imposed their own law following the disagreement of the ecclesiastical councils about the nature of ‘Isa (Jesus) (peace be upon him). Roman Christianity denied and persecuted its Egyptian counterpart (Jacobite Church) and Egyptian Christians ran for their lives to the deserts, grottoes and caves. Benjamin, the archbishop of the Egyptian Patriarchate (623-662 A.D. / 1-41 A.H.), fled for thirteen years until ‘Amr ibn Al-'As, the leader of the Islamic conquests (574-664 A.D.), summoned him, guaranteed him security, honored him and gave him back the Egyptian churches. By this great act of the Muslim leader Ibn Al-'As, Egypt came to witness, for the first time, a new era of real tolerance and leniency.
This was the gloomy image of the world and the aggressive stance against the other before Islam. There was no tolerance at all. No party recognized the other. So what has Islam offered the world in this regard ?
This is what we will attempt to expound in what follows, drawing on the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Tradition, as well as reliable historical facts.
The History of Tolerance began with Islam
Actually, Islam has established unprecedented pillars of human rights and principles on which to govern.
First, it has asserted that Allah, the Almighty, is the Lord of all the Worlds;
Almighty Allah says;
“All the praises and thanks be to Allah, the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists).”
He is not the Lord of some people without others; nor is He the Lord of a particular nation, excluding all other nations.
Then it has asserted that Almighty Allah has honored man when He breathed into Adam (the progenitor of humanity) the soul which He created for him.
“And (remember) when your Lord said the angels, ‘I am going to create a man (Adam) from sounding clay of altered black smooth mud. So, when I have fashioned him completely and breathed into him (Adam) the soul which I created for him, then fall (you) down prostrating yourselves unto him.’”
So, God has honored all humans.
Almighty Allah says,
“And indeed We have honored the Children of Adam.”
This honoring has not been restricted to a particular people, religion or civilization.
In Islam, precedence and superiority before Allah does not have anythig to do with some “inherent feature”, otherwise it would be racist. Instead, it establishes many other criteria that are accessibe to every man; piety, enjoining that which is good and forbidding that which is evil have come to be the criteria of righteousness in this life and in the Hereafter.
Almighty Allah says,
“Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has at-Taqwa [i.e. one of the Muttaqun (the pious and righteous persons who fear Allah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)].”
“It will not be in accordance with your desires (Muslims), nor those of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), whosoever works evil, will have the recompense thereof, and he will not find any protector or helper besides Allah.”.
Moreover, Islam does not confine salvation to the followers of a specific religion, while excluding the other revealed religions, as they are all Divine in their original sources.
Almighty Allah says;
“So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant), shall see it.”
Also, it indicates that those who believe in Allah’s Oneness, the Ghayb (Divine secret), the Day of Judgement and Reckoning and make righteous deeds according to any divine religion during their worldly life, are not equal to those who disbelieve and deny Allah’s Oneness, the Divine religions, the Ghayb, the Day of Judgement and Reckoning and do not make righteous deeds, while rejecting all divine laws.
Almighty Allah says;
“Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whosoever believe in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”
Islam attacks all the philosophies and ideological trends claiming that violence, fighting and shedding blood are an instinctive part of the disposition of man. Islam refers to fighting as an exception and not as a rule. It considers fighting as an abnormal thing that goes against man’s innate nature. Furthermore, it is a burden on the real man who belongs to the world of humans. It is something which is abhorred by humans, and that is a fact according to the Holy Qur’an.
Almighty Allah says;
“Jihad (holy fighting in Allah’s Cause) is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it.”
Also, this Qur’anic fact is clarified by the purified Sunnah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said; “O people! Do not wish to face the enemy (in a battle) and ask Allah to save you (from calamities) but if you should face the enemy, then be patient and remember Allah a lot.”(8)
In fact, Islam has gone as far as to order justice even towards those whom we dislike.
Almighty Allah says,
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well acquainted with what you do.”
“… and let not the hatred of some people in (once) stopping you from Al-Masjid al-Haram (at Makkah) lead you to transgression (and hostility on your part).”
Moreover, it orders Muslims to be just when taking their revenge on those whom they fight.
Almighty Allah says,
“Then whoever transgresses the prohibition against you, you transgress likewise against him.”
Also, Islam has established unprecedented and unique rules of chivalry. The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade the killing of women and children.
Moreover, whenever he (peace be upon him) appointed a leader of an army or detachment he would say; “Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils; do not break your pledge; do not mutilate (the dead) bodies; and do not kill the children.”(9)
Abu Bakr(10) (573-643 A.D./1 B.H.(11) -13 A.H.) (may Allah be pleased with him) when he was a Caliph, followed the steps of the Prophet (peace be upon him) concerning Islamic chivalry; When he (may Allah be pleased with him) sent Yazid ibn Abi Sufyan (639 A.D./18 A.H.) to Ash-Sham as a commander of one of the battalions, he advised him,
“You will find people who claim to have totally given themselves to Allah. Leave them to what they claim they have given themselves. I advise you some things: Do not kill women, children or aged persons. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn palms or scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.”(12)
The Islamic code of chivalry induces Muslims to behave well towards humans, animals, plants and inanimate objects, as the entire nature is vibrant with life and it glorifies its Creator even though we do not understand their glorification. Thusly, the Islamic relation to nature is that of compassion, leniency and kindness and not a relation of subjugation, destruction or exploitation.
Above all, Islam determined only two reasons to justify fighting against the disbelievers: first, to defend the Islamic creed in order to free the conscience and to make religion altogether (worship) for Allah alone. Second, to defend the country, which is the abode of Islam, by deterring those who fight against us on account of religion, drive us out of our homes and help to drive us out.
Almighty Allah says,
“Perhaps Allah will make friendship between you and those whom you hold as enemies. And Allah has power (over all things), and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. 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. It is not as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are the Zhalimun (wrong-doers those who disobey Allah).
Moreover, Islam does not make this conditioned fight against the disbelievers a struggle aiming at exterminating them. Rather, it makes it a way to change false stances and to achieve fair balance that should replace flagrant injustice, and even a peaceful coexistence among the different parties. Therefore, it is not intended to be a clash meant to defeat and annihilate the other. Pluralism, difference and distinction are, in fact, part of the practice approved by Allah and which nobody can alter.
In other words, whereas the struggle ends up with canceling pluralism and exterminating the other party, Islam seeks to keep that pluralism and to achieve the balance and the peaceful coexistence among different parties. Thus, seeking a fair balance is the right way of life while seeking struggle is the way of extermination.
Almighty Allah indicates the results of struggle saying,
“… So that you could see men lying overthrown (destroyed), as if they were hollow trunks of date-palms! Do you see any remnants of them?”
While He (Exalted and Glorified be He) orders the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger and to excuse those who treat them badly saying,
“Repel (the evil) with one which is better, then he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.”
Islam has treated in the same way even those who worship idols. The people of the Scripture (the Jews and Christians) who denied, cursed, persecuted and exterminated each other, Islam affirms the fixed belief that there is only one God of all the worlds and all creatures, and also affirms the firm belief in all the Divine books, Prophets and religions from Adam to Muhammad (Peace be upon them).
The sameness of religion throughout human history asserts that all Prophets descend from one father (the same religion) but their mothers (religious creeds) are different within the framework of the same religion.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asserts this by saying :
“The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”(13)
Almighty Allah says,
“Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. They say, ‘We make no distinction between one another of His Messenger”
Through this unique tolerance, Islam encompasses all Divine religions and asserts the comprehensive belief in all that is Divine, i.e. the revealed books, Prophets and religions. Thus, for the first time in history, Islam made the “Other” part of the “Self” and, so surpassed all levels concerning recognizing and admitting others.
This is why one notices the positive, impartial and objective verses of the Ever-Glorious Qur’an about the other revealed Books, at a time when non-Muslim scholars confessed their distortion, fabrication and alteration(14). The Holy Qur’an has not, therefore, referred to these Scriptures as being falsified ; rather, it says :
“Allah! La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists. It is He Who has sent down the Book (the Qur’an) to you (Muhammad) with truth, confirming what came before it. And He sent down the Torah and the Injil (Gospel). Aforetime, as a guidance to mankind, And He sent down the criterion [of judgement between right and wrong (this Qur’an)].”
“And in their footsteps, We sent ‘Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), confirming the Torah that had come before him, and We gave him the Injil (Gospel), in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Torah that had come before it, a guidance and an admonition for Al-Muttaqun (the pious and righteous persons who fear Allah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained).”
Furthermore, Islam does not forbid those who cling to other religion to judge by their Divine books.
Almighty Allah says,
“Let the people of the Injil (Gospel) judge by what Allah has revealed therein.”
(Al-Ma’idah : 47)
Almighty Allah says,
“But how do they come to you for decision while they have the Torah, in which is the (plain) Decision of Allah.”
This unprecedented tolerance of Islam manifests itself through the dialogue between Hatib ibn Abi Balta’ah (586-650 A.D. / 35 B.H.-30 A.H.) and Al-Muqawqis, the Christian ruler of Egypt, when Hatib delivered the letter of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to him. Hatib told him, “We invite you to Islam - which Almighty Allah made sufficient - and we do not forbid you to cling to the religion of Jesus (peace be upon him) but we order you to cling to it.”(15)
Thus, Islam has reached the highest point of justice and objectivity to the extent that it does not overlook the tiny differences among people. it does not generalize the judgements or descriptions concerning the people of the Scripture.
Almighty Allah says,
“Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand for the right ; they rehearse the Signs of God all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration.”
“There are, certainly, among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), those who believe in Allah and in that which has been revealed to you, and in that which has been revealed to them, humbling themselves before Allah. They do not sell the Verses of Allah for a little price, for them is a reward with their Lord. Surely, Allah is Swift in account.”
“Among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is he who, if entrusted with a Cantar (a great amount of wealth, etc.), will readily pay it back; and among them there is he who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless you constantly stand demanding, because they say, “There is no blame on us to betray and take the properties of the illiterates (Arabs). ‘But they tell a lie against Allah while they know it.”
The Qur’an does not overgeneralize in its judgements about the various parties and currents of the People of the Book. It has laid down this rule (not overgeneralizing) when it says :
“Not all of them are alike”
Islamic tolerance is unprecedented to the extent that it comprehends not only the people of the Scripture but also those who believe in manmade religions. Islam treats them in the same way as the people of the Scripture and leaves them to worship as they choose. When Muslims conquered Persia (its people were magi; they worshipped the fire and believed in two gods: the god of Benevolence and Light and that of Evil and Darkness), the Commander of the Faithful ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab(16) (584-633 A.D. /40 B.H.-32 A.H.) set forth the matter of the Magi before the Shura Council.(17)
He (may Allah be pleased with him) said to the members of the Shura Council, “How should I deal with the Magi of Persia?”
‘Abd ar-Rahman ibn ‘Awf (580-652 A.D./44 B.H.-32 A.H.) suddenly said, “I bear witness that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Treat them as you treat the People of the Scripture.”(18)
So, the followers of manmade religions were treated the same way as those of Divine religions. Muslim jurists have consecrated this practice by admitting that these religions used to have Divine books but that they were eventually lost.
In order to realize the new Islamic horizon that introduced real tolerance to humanity with its unique philosophy and culture, we have to know that Islam makes this recognition of the others not just a permissible matter (Mubah), but rather an obligation and a basic condition of absolute belief in the Islamic creed.
Moreover, Islam does not confine tolerance to those who reciprocate Islam with the same recognition and acceptance but also extends to comprehend those who deny, reject and disbelieve in Islam. It even comprehends those who deny each other and agree to deny Islam as a Divine religion and to deny Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Ever-glorious Qur’an. Despite all this opposition, we see the mercy and tolerance in the unprecedented and unique Islamic stance towards those who deny and reject it. Furthermore, Islam surpasses all levels of recognition and makes others part of the “self”, or else part of the integrated being of the Divine religion and the nation. It also considers their freedom to practice their religious rituals as a basic condition of the Muslim’s belief and a unique character of the Islamic state.
So has there been throughout history any nation, culture, positive law or philosophy - before or after Islam - which has had such a unique tolerance ?
All what Islam has established and achieved is merely a theoretical ideology like the ideal commandments of the Books that preceded the Ever-Glorious Qur’an. These commandments fell far short of being applicable in the societies of those who were entrusted with them, who failed to observe them, and hence were unable to preserve these obligations. In other words, all what Islam has established has become a life, a state, a culture and a significant part of history.
… with the Jews :
In the first Islamic state, in Medina, headed by Muhammad (peace be upon him), the constitution stipulated pluralism, justice and equality among all citizens regardless of their religion.
Actually, Islam combined all the tribes making them integral units within the Islamic structure. It made all citizens, regardless of their religion, a unique structure seeking the prosperity of their state. In the history of Islamic thought, there has never been such a concept as “minorities”. Rather, there has been the notion of one “Ummah”, as Islam considers the diversity of religions, tribes, nations, colors, races, tongues, methods, traditions and customs as the unalterable practice of Allah.
Thus, the constitution of the first Islamic State, which was laid down by the Prophet (PBUH) subsequently to his settling in Medina, stipulated the following :
* The Jews shall adhere to their religion and the Muslims to theirs.
* The Jews who live under the Islamic state shall have assistance and advocacy and they will not be dealt with unjustly.
* The Jews’ retinue and partisans shall be treated like Jews.
* The Jews shall share the expenses along with Muslims as long as they fight jointly against any aggressor.
* Muslims and Jews should advise each other and cooperate to achieve the common good. Furthermore, they should not help each other in sin and transgression.
* Whoever commits sin, he shall commit it only against himself.(19)
Thus, this constitution of the first Islamic state achieved unique and unprecedented equality, justice and tolerance. In spite of the political freedom and the atmosphere of democracy that they claim, the West has failed to achieve what Islam achieved fourteen centuries ago.
Moreover, what increases the greatness of the Islamic achievements concerning tolerance, equality and justice is that Islam does not ignore other religions as secular countries have done. In addition, this equality and justice do not disregard the Islamic reference as secularists tend to do. The Islamic constitution of al-Madinah asserted this Islamic reference: “When there are differences, disputes or struggles among the people of al-Madinah about anything, the matter will be referred for a decision to Allah and to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).”(20)
… with Christians :
When the Islamic state extended to include the Christians of Najran, the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent them a letter in which he assured them of pluralism, freedom, Islamic tolerance, equality and justice.
The pact of Najran included the following :
* Full protection shall be accorded from Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him) to the Christian inhabitants of Najran regarding their life, land, nationhood, property and wealth, even to those who are residing as their dependants in the vicinity of Najran and to those living outside the country, their priests, monks, churches, and everything, whether great or small.
* No bishop or monk shall be removed from his office, the intention being that no change in any form of every one will be made (the status quo shall be maintained);
* They shall neither be subjected to military service nor be treated harshly. Neither shall ‘Ushr (21) be imposed on them nor shall any army enter their area.
* They shall not be dealt with unjustly.
* I shall protect them and safeguard their religion, churches, places of worship, the houses of their monks, their belongings and their tourist places whenever they are, in the same way as I protect my Islamic nation and myself.
* None of their buildings shall be adjacent to the Muslim’s Mosques or houses.
* None of them shall pay Kharaj(22) or Jizyah(23) except those who have an inheritance of land that has a specific tax to be paid to the Sultan. Should this be the case, they shall be required to pay as their counterparts without injustice, unfairness or excess. Muslims should not put on them a burden greater than they have strength to bear concerning cultivation.
* None of them should be compelled to fight alongside Muslims against their enemies as they were promised to be protected by the Muslims and not vice versa. Furthermore, Muslims shall protect them wherever they are.
* None of them should be compelled to provide Muslims during battles with soldiers, money, weapons or horses. If some of them do so voluntarily, they should be thanked and rewarded.
* None of them should be compelled to embrace Islam and Muslims should not argue with them unless it is in a way that is better than mere disputation; with good words and manners. Muslims should treat them with mercy and keep them from harm wherever they are.
As Almighty Allah says : “And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation)".
(Ankabut, verse : 46)
None of them should be compelled concerning marriage; they should not be compelled to marry their daughters to Muslims. They should not be blamed if they refuse the suitor, as it is their absolute right to reject or to accept voluntarily.
* If a Muslim gets married to a Christian woman, he should be content with her Christianity and should not prevent her from performing her religious rituals. If he prevents and compels her to do something opposing her religion, then he will be of those who disobey Allah and His Prophet and he will be amongst the liars.
* If they need assistance concerning reconstruction of their churches, hermitages or anything else regarding their interests, the Muslims should help and assist them without seeking compensation in order to support the interests of their religion as a favor from Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him).
* Muslims should keep my promise, as I promised them to protect and safeguard all their belongings. Furthermore, they shall enjoy the same rights and be bound by the same duties as Muslims.
Actually, the people of current times who do not know the reality of Islam are overwhelmingly amazed because of the Islamic generosity, equality, justice and tolerance towards those of other religions fourteen centuries ago. Undoubtedly, their amazement will even be greater when they come to know that Islam does not ask others to return their generosity and tolerance. All that Islam asks them to do is to ensure the Islamic nation’s integrity; their allegiance must be fully pledged to the Islamic state and should not be the cause of a security failure to the benefit of its enemies.
In this regard, the pact stipulated the following:
* None of them should spy on Muslims in the interest of the enemies.
* None of them should offer refuge to the enemies or provide lodgings for those who want to harm Muslims.
* None of them should support the enemies. They should not provide them with weapons, soldiers, horses or any other assistance.
* None of them should flatter the enemies.
* They should give refuge to Muslims during wars, provide them with lodging, express their sympathy towards them, keep their secrets and protect them from their enemies(24).
Thus, Islam reaches an unprecedented, unparalleled peak of tolerance, as it induces others to maintain the characteristics that make them different. It also works towards keeping this dissimilarity and making others an integral unit under the wing of the one Muslim state. Furthermore, Islam makes tolerance part and parcel of the Islamic belief, Divine commandment, the Prophet’s Sunnah, Sharia-based politics and Allah’s Covenant and not a mere human right that is given by some rulers and precluded by others. This Islamic policy has continued under the protection of the Islamic state, culture and history.
… and throughout Islamic history :
Actually, all the Islamic conquests were against the major aggressive powers (Romans and Persians) that had colonized the East for many centuries. Muslim armies did not fight the locals of the countries they conquered. Rather, people of these countries supported these Muslim armies materially and morally and, sometimes, they fought with Muslims against Persians and Romans without renouncing their respective religions. Such was the case of the locals of Iraq and the Copts of Egypt and Christians of Syria(*).
Not only did the Muslim armies liberate those countries, but they also liberated these locals’ conscience from continual religious persecution. For the first time, they were given the right to practice their religious rituals freely. They became an integral part within the Islamic state having the same rights and the same duties as Muslims. Afterwards, some of them embraced Islam without compulsion while others adhered to their religion under the wing of the unprecedented tolerance of Islam.
Moreover, Islam has made this “other” - in the religious sense of the term - part and parcel of this one nation of the Islamic State, Islam allowed others to contribute to the new Islamic culture in which Islam revived the cultural inheritance of ancient nations which had been eliminated by aggressive conquerors, by undertaking the translation of its sciences and arts. The new Islamic culture revived the sciences, arts and philosophies of the schools of Alexandria, Antakya and many others in order to save the human heritage from loss and submersion. Thus, the people of those countries regarded Islamic culture as a new phase of their own national culture. Therefore, they became an integral part of the Islamic national and cultural being in spite of their different religion. This religious diversity remained a sacred right as the religion belongs only to Almighty Allah and no one has the right to compel others to embrace any religion.
In addition, Islam allowed others to contribute to edifying the new Islamic civilization and govern the divans and councils of the state. Adam Mitz (1869-1917), the prominent German orientalist said, “It was the Christians who were governing the Islamic State”(25). Sir Thomas Arnold (1864-1930), a deeply religious English orientalist, confessed Islamic tolerance saying, “It is true to say that, under the Islamic rule, non-Muslims enjoyed a degree of tolerance unprecedented in Europe up till modern times. For sure, the existence of Christian sects in Muslim countries proves that the persecutions they had suffered from time to time by some fanatics and extremists were more a result of domestic circumstances than of intolerance and fanaticism.”(26)
George Qaram, the Christian writer and historian of Lebanon, asserted the same fact when he mentioned three factors concerning the short-lived, temporary sectarian tensions in Muslim communities:
1. The insanity of some Muslim rulers, who persecuted minorities along the majority.
2. The prejudice and injustice practiced by some Christian and jewish leaders, who controlled the financial and administrative bodies, against the majority of poor Muslims. In return, the furious reactions and tumults of Muslims were arbitrary and blind.
3. A limited number of the religious minority responded to the mean temptations of the conquerors and colonizers. In return, the furious reactions did not differentiate between the treacherous band and the commoners among these minorities.
The Christian writer then confined the origin of such incidental sectarian tensions to these three causes, and went on saying, “The periods of tension and persecution against non-Muslims during the Islamic rule were very short-lived. Actually, there are three factors behind these actions :
First, the eccentric temperament of some Muslim rulers. The most aggressive actions of persecution against non-Muslims were during the reigns of al-Mutawakkil (821-861) and al-Hakim Beamrillah (985-1021) as they were cruel, severe and brutal Caliphs.
Second, the deterioration of the economic and social conditions of the Muslim majority and the prejudice and injustice practiced by some non-Muslims who held high administrative positions. Undoubtedly, those unjust non-Muslim leaders were the direct reason behind persecution in some Muslim countries.
The third factor relates to the periods of foreign intervention in Muslim countries. The foreign leaders tempted some treacherous non-Muslims to cooperate with them against the Muslim majority. The foreign colonizers, including the British, exploited the Christian minority in Muslim countries in order to control the people and to exhaust the poor through exorbitant taxes. We can clearly observe the shameful actions of the colonizers concerning recruiting minorities in Syria.
Researches carried out by Gibb and Polliack showed that the upper hand of the minority over the economic field led to dangerous and violent agitation and confrontations between Muslims and Christians in Damascus (1860) and between the Druze and Maronite in Lebanon (1840 & 1860). Moreover, following the Crusades, Muslims took revenge and attacked Christian minorities (especially the Armenians) who had cooperated with the conquerors.
In addition, the stance of Christian minorities on Islamic rule, even when the latter was extremely tolerant with non-Muslims, was a direct reason behind sectarian strife. Besides, the excessiveness of Christian officials living under Muslim rule, their blind bias for the people of their religion, their impudence against Muslims and their sectarian provocation enraged Muslims in the full sense of the word.”(27)
This was then the testimony of the Christian Lebanese writer, who only confirmed what the English orientalist had previously mentioned about the reasons of sectarian tension in Islamic history.
Actually, many writers stated some other historical events that proved the authenticity of the above-mentioned analysis and reasoning. For example, Al-Maqrizi (1365-1441 A.D./ 766-845 A.H.) wrote about the superiority complex of the Christians and Jews who took charge of ministries, levying taxes and administration during the Fatimid Era(28) and about the Damascene Christians who sought the support the Mongol armies and their leaders Hulagu and the Nestorian Kutubgha during the Mongol invasion against the Islamic countries. Because of the shameful acts of some treacherous Christians, Sultan Qutuz punished them severely following his great victory over the Mongols at the battle of Ein Jalout (1260-A.D./658 A.H.)(29).
Also, al-Jabarti (1754-1822) A.D. /1167-1237 A.H.) wrote about the treachery of Jacob Hanna (1745-1801 A.D.), ‘the cursed Jacob’, who recruited a Christian corps to fight against the Egyptian people in favor of the French Campaign (1213 A.H./1798 A.D.) headed by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). Furthermore, KIÈBER (1753-1800) allowed Jacob to do whatever he wanted against Muslims. Therefore, he and his riffraff soldiers insulted Muslims, caused mischief everywhere, showed their hostility and grudges and claimed that the days of Islam and those of Almohades were gone(30).
Thus, we can note that in spite of the blind responses of some non-Muslims to the temptations of the colonizers and invaders, the sectarian tensions remained limited, short-lived and restricted to the times of invasion. Meanwhile, the national and civilizational fabric came to embody diversity within unity, difference within the one nation, civilization and state, which were but the outcome of Islam’s tolerance.
A Comparative View
The fine quality of any thing may be shown by its opposite and the opposite may show the superiority of that thing, thus it is appropriate to mention some examples to set forth a fair comparison.
First example : A case in point is the Islamic victory in about twenty battles (from 2 A.H. to 9 A.H.) over idolatrous polytheism that attacked Muslims and drove them out of their homes, and the Jewish treachery that allied with polytheism against Islamic monotheism, which has changed history and the entire world, claiming the lives of no more than 386 dead; 183 being Muslims and 203 polytheists(31). At the same time we note that the religious war that lasted for more than two centuries among the Christians (Catholics and Protestants) during the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, eliminated about 40% of the people of Middle Europe or about ten million Christians according to Voltaire (1694-1778)(32).
Second example : Islam let non-Muslims adhere to their religion and gave them permission to practice their religious rituals freely.
Almighty Allah says,
“There is no compulsion in religion.”
And, “And say, ‘the truth is from your Lord. ‘Then whosoever wills, let him believe, and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve.”
And, “To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way. If Allah willed, He would have made you one nation.”
“To you be your religion, and to me my religion (Islamic Monotheism).”
These principles and basics were embodied in the Prophet’s pacts and covenants with Jews and Christians. While, on the contrary, the European Church assassinated religious freedom through the Inquisition, putting torture, burning, imprisonment, drowning and execution at the stake into force for more than three centuries(33). Furthermore, the bishops, kings and princes compelled people to embrace Christianity in spite of the fact that true Christianity orders its followers to love the enemies and to bless the cursers.
Thomas Arnold asserted that Charlemagne (742-814) compelled the Saxons to embrace Christianity. Cnut of Denmark, the Sword Brothers of Prussia, King Olaf I Tryggvesson of Norway, Vladimir of Russia (988), Bishop Daniel Petrovich of Cabo Negro, King Charles Robert of Hungary and King Saif Ar’ad of Al-Habashah (present-day Ethiopia) exterminated anyone who followed a religion other than Christianity. As soon as these cruel and brutal kings and princes embraced Christianity, they started to sever the hands and legs of those who did not follow them, and to slay, banish and dislodge those who adopted other religions(34).
Third example : The tolerance of the Islamic state, from the first state of al-Madinah up to now, made it a ‘forum’ in which all religions, doctrines, languages, nationalities, races and colors have had the same rights. On the contrary, the West was unable to deal with pluralism, even Christian pluralism, i.e. doctrinal variety. Actually, the West did not know pluralism save at the time of secularism that excluded religious considerations from civil and worldly affairs. Even under secularism and the claims of freedom and human rights, the West is still fed up with Islam. It considers the existence of Islam in Western communities as an invasion against Europe.
Some Western priests said, “Islam represents a great challenge to Europe and to the West in general. The Islamic world has come to impose its authority over Europe thanks to petrodollars. it started to build some Islamic centers for Muslim emigrants to the Christian countries. Thus how can we not consider all these acts as a clear scheme of expansionism and new conquest !”(35)
The Christian West has sought to Christianize Muslims inside their own abodes under the auspices of Western secularism.
The protocols of the priests of Christianization issued a statement during the conference of Colorado in May 1978 that stated, “Islam is the only religion whose original sources contradict the principles of Christianity. Moreover, the Islamic system is the most harmonious religious system concerning social and political affairs. We need hundreds of centers to understand Islam and to penetrate it cunningly. Thus, Christianizing Muslims is the first of all our priorities.”(36)
During this conference, they planned to penetrate the Islamic culture and to Christianize Muslims while relying on the local and national churches, arts, literature, foreign employees, with a special focus on women, along with the Muslims dispatched to western communities. Moreover, they decided to contrive disasters that might disturb the balance of Muslims and thus facilitate their conversion to Christianity.
They said, “In order to compel Muslims to convert to Christianity, crises and problems that may disturb their balance should find their way to their communities. These crises may be natural factors such as poverty, diseases, disasters and wars, as they may ensue from moral factors such as racial discrimination and low social status. Without these prearranged disasters, there will not be wide conversion to Christianity. Giving a helping hand to the needy among Muslims has become a very important factor concerning the process of Christianization. One of the major facts of our age is that the neediness of Muslim communities has changed the hostile stances of their governments and turned them to be more lenient towards the process of Christianization and Christians themselves.”(37)
Thus, the politically secular West sought to wage war within Islam in order to compel Muslims to accept Western secularism, which is based mainly on the Christian principle of rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s, and also persuade them to accept Western modernity that ruptures all relations with God by humanizing religion, and thus empty it from what is religious”(38). The advocates of this Western modernity defined it as follows : “It is the act of replacing the Divine religion by the natural (human) one, as the latter is the true religion(39). It is also the act of licensing the human mind as a judge and replacing Divine dominance over the universe by human dominance over nature”.(40)
These were but three examples quoted from the other for those who may need to draw comparisons.
It has become clear that the roots of tolerance in human history coincided with the revelation of Islam. The Islamic state and culture put this unprecedented norm into effect throughout its history. Muslims have the right to boast of such unprecedented and unique tolerance that is not confined to those who reciprocate Islam the same recognition and acceptance but also extends to comprehend those who deny, reject and disbelieve in Islam. Moreover, Islam makes this recognition of the others and enabling them to exercise their religious rituals, as an obligation and a basic condition of absolute belief in the Islamic creed and one of the main duties of the Islamic state.
Furthermore, Islam makes others an integral part of the national and civilizational “self”. It considers nations, tribes and civilizations as a sort of diversity which is part of humanity, as Almighty Allah wants this diversity and pluralism to endure until the Day of Judgement.
As the merits of a given thing can easily be brought into light by mere comparison with its opposite, and as the opposite may show the superiority of that thing, Islamic tolerance manifests itself as a unique norm when compared to Western tyranny and persecution.
Finally, while Muslims can boast such tolerance, the wise and rational minds of the West should deliberately consider this unique tolerance and come to common terms with Islam instead of talking about the Crusades and the clash of civilizations and cultures.
All the praises and thanks are due to Allah, the Lord of the Universe, for Islam and its tolerance.
(1) Reported by Imam Ahmad.
(2) Reported by al-Bukhari and Ahmad.
(3) King of Egypt (1380-1358 B.C.) who rejected the old gods and initiated a new form of sun worship.
(4) The Egyptian god of life and reproduction, represented as a man with a ram’s head.
(5) Roman Emperor and a notable persecutor of Christians, dies in Tarsus, in Cilicia, Asia Minor (modern Turkey).
(6) John Nicos, Tarikh Misr (History of Egypt), pp. 90-95, translated into Arabic, surveyed and commented by Dr. Omar Abduljalil, Cairo edition, 2000.
(7) Ibid., pp. 122 and 125-130, and Dr. Sabry Abu Alkhair Salim, Tarikh Misr fi Al-'Asr Al-Bizanti (the History of Egypt in the Byzantine Age), pp. 40-41, 49, 126, 167-168, Cairo edition, 2000.
(8) Reported by ad-Darami.
(9) Reported by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Malik in Al-Muwatta’.
(10) First Caliph of the Muslim Empire (632-634). Ascending to power after the death of his son-in-law Muhammad (peace be upon him), he made Islam a political and military force throughtout Arabia.
(11) Before Hegira.
(12) Reported by Malik, Muwatta’
(13) Reported by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Daoud.
(14) See Tarikh Naqd Al-'Ahd Al- Qadim min Aqdam Al-'Usur Hattal’an (The History of the Critique of the Old Testament from Ancient Times up to Now), edited by Zalman Shazar, pp. 31, 33-35, 37-39, 50-52, 59, 60, 65-68, 70-74, 79, 80, 88, 89, 93-96, 98-101, 105, 107, 111, 117, 131, 144, 145, 156-160, 162, 165, 166, 174, 186, 187, 190-192, 194-196, 205-207, 214, 215, 220, 222, 226. Translated by Ahmed Mohamed Huwaidi and revised by Mohamed Khalifa Hasan. Cairo edition, 2000.
(15) Ibn Abd Al-Hakam, Futuh Misr wa Akhbaruha (Conquests and News of Egypt), p. 46. Leiden edition-the Netherlands, 1920.
(16) ‘Umar succeeds Abu Bakr as the second Caliph. A stern but just ruler, he made the Islamic caliphate as the dominant power of the Middle East during his ten-year rule. He was murdered by a Persian slave.
(17) This Council was being held in the Mosque of al-Madinah in specific times to discuss the various matters of the Islamic Caliphate.
(18) Al-Baladhri, Futuh Al-Buldan (Conquests of Countries), p. 327. Annotated by Dr. Salaheddine Al-Munjid. Cairo edition, 1956.
(19) A collection of the Political Documents of the Prophet’s Era and during the Rightly Guided Caliphate, pp. 17-21. Compiled and annotated by Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah al-Haydarabadi. Cairo edition, 1956.
(20) Ibid., p. 20.
(21) ‘Ushur is the title levied in support of the Islamic state.
(22) Kharaj is a tax of tribute on land. This was originally applied to a land tribute from non-Muslim tribes.
(23) Jizyah is a head-tax imposed by Islam on the people of the Scripture when they are under Muslim rule.
(24) Ibid., pp. 112, 123-127.
(*) Ancient region in South-West Asia, bordering on the Mediterranean and covering modern Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan.
(25) Adam Mitz, Al-Hadara al-Islamia fi al-Qarn ar-Rabii al-Hijri (Islamic Civilization in the Fourth Century of the Hegira Era), v. 1, p. 105, translated into Arabic by Dr. Mohamed Abdelhadi Aburida, Beirut edition, 1967.
(26) Sir Thomas Arnold, the Call to Islam, pp. 729, 730, translated into Arabic by Dr. Hassan Ibrahim Hassan, Dr. Abdelmajid Abidine and Ismael Nahrawi, Cairo edition, 1970.
(27) George Qaram, Ta’addud al-Adyan wa Nudhum al-Hukm : Dirasa Susiulojia wa Qanunya Muqarina (Multiplicity of Religions and Government Systems : a Comparative Sociological and Legal Study), pp. 211-224, Beirut edition, 1979, quoted by Dr. Saad Eddine Ibrahim, Al Milal wa Nihal wa A’raq (Religious Communities, Faiths and Races).
(28) Al-Maqrizi, Itti’ad Al-HUnafa Bi Akhbar Al-A’ima Al-Fatimiyine Al-Khulafa (Taking warning of the Fatimid Caliphs), pp. 297-298, Cairo edition, 1967, and Al-Khitat (Plans), Part 2, p. 123, Dar Attahrir edition, Cairo.
(29) Al-Maqrizi, Kitab Assuluk Ila Duwal Al-Muluk (A missive on conduct to the Kings’ states). Part 1, Section 2, pp. 425, 432, annotated by Dr. Mohamed Mustapha Ziyada, Cairo edition, 1956.
(30) Al-Jabarti, ‘Aja’ib Al’Athar Fi Attarajim wal Akhbar (Wonders of Traditions in Biographies and News), v. 5, p. 136, annotated by Hassan Mohamed Jawhar, Omar Dasuqi and Ibrahim Salim, Cairo edition, 1965.
(31) Cf Ibn Abdel Barr, Addurar fi Ikhtissar Al-Maghazi Wassiar. Authenticated by Dr. Shawqi Daïf. Cairo Edition, 1966. See also my book entitled : Islam and the Other, p. 65. Cairo edition, 2001.
(32) For more information about these religious wars, cf Will Durant, Qissatu Al-Hadara (The Story of Civilization), v. 6, parts. 3-4. Translated into Arabic by Dr. Abdelhamid Yunus. Cairo edition, 1971-1972. And also Sir Thomas Arnold, The Call to Islam, pp. 30-32, 72, 73, 122-124, 135, 136, 141, 143, 154-156, 223, 226, 274, 276. See also Butrus al-Bustani, Encyclopedia : under the following entry “Hurub Diniyyah” (Religious Wars). Cairo first edition. See also Hashim Salih, Asharq al-Awsat Newspaper. (London edition, 26 February, 2000).
(33) Dr. Tawfiq at-Tawil, Qissat al-Idtihad ad-Dini fi al-Massihiya wa al-Islam (The Story of Religious Persecution in Christianity and Islam), pp. 7, 70, 73, 76, 77, 80, 81-83. Cairo ed., 1991.
(34) The Call to Islam, pp. 30, 32, 72, 73, 122, 135, 136, 141, 143, 144, 154, 156, 223, 226, 274, 276.
(35) Cardinal Paul Boba, assistant to the Pope of the Vatican and official in charge of the Vatican Council of Culture, from an interview with “Le Figaro”. See also Monseigneur Josebi Bernardini in the presence of the Pope of the Vatican. Cf Asharq al-Awsat Newspaper, London ed. 13 October 1999.
(36) Attansir : Khuttatun Lighazwi al-Alam al-Islami (Christianization : A Plan to Conquer the Islamic World), pp. 22, 23, 425. Papers of Colorado Conference, Arabic edition. Malta, 1991.
(37) Ibidem, pp. 4, 5, 24, 26, 28, 53, 56, 147, 242, 338, 339, 364, 383, 469, 627, 630, 644, 732, 773, 789, 790, 826, 827, 839, 845, 880. See also my book : Al-Ghara al-Jadida ‘alal Islam (The New Assault on Islam). Cairo ed., 1998.
(38) Fukuyama, Newsweek. (Annual edition, Dec. 2001-Feb. 2002).
(39) Hashim Salih, Asharq al-Awsat Newspaper. London edition, 13 December 2001.
(40) Dr. Ali Harb, Al Hayat Newspaper. London edition, 18 November 1996
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|Posted: 22 July 2012 at 8:42am|
There is no tolerance for the people of the book who want to testify in court or run for a public office in an Islamic state. There is no tolerance for Hindus, Buddhists and atheists. They are idolaters and to be dealt harshly with.
Many modern Muslims are in fact tolerant, because they reject some of the traditional teachings. Which is good.
A religion that's intolerant of other religions can't be the world's best religion --Abdel Samad
Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people--Eleanor Roosevelt
Joined: 02 March 2012
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|Posted: 23 July 2012 at 3:08pm|
"It ordered Christians to curse all Jews in their prayers for what their forefathers had committed against Jesus"I know of no Christian who curses any Jew. In fact the Christians know better than anyone that to turn against God's 'chosen people' is to condemn themselves.
“And they say, ‘None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.” (Al-Baqarah: 111)What the Christian scriptures actually say is that no one who denies Jesus will get into heaven. 'The only way to the Father is through the Son', 'Anyone who is ashamed of Me, I will be ashamed of him on that day[the day of judgement]'
“The Christians said that the Jews follow nothing (i.e. are not on the right religion).” (Al-Baqarah: 113)The Christians say that the Jews are God's chosen people, and once again, that to turn against them is to condemn oneself. The Christian religion is built on the foundation of the Jewish religion.
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