Ishfaq Nissar Padder
Islam is a Religion, a civilization, an ideology, and a system as well. The Noble Qur’an and the Prophetic Traditions (Ahadith)—the two basic sources of Islam and its law (Shari’ah)—guide its adherents in all aspects—from belief and creed, moral and spiritual aspects, to aspects of social, political, economic, legal nature and so on.
For instance, in the political aspects, it gives certain rights to its citizens, irrespective of their religion or faith. From the very beginning of Prophetic period at Medina (after hijrah/ migration in 622 CE), non-Muslims have been a part of an Islamic State. That is, Prophet (PBUH) guaranteed full rights to non–Muslims in the city-state of Madinah. Thereafter, with more conquests in the subsequent periods/eras, from the Pious Caliphate (632-660 CE) era, more and more non-Muslims became subjects of the Islamic State. In these subsequent eras, they became to be known as ‘ahl al–Dhimma’ or ‘Dhimmis’ (literally ‘protected people’)—a term referring to ‘non-Muslims living in an Islamic state with legal protection’. That is, it is the responsibility of the Islamic state to protect, respect, the life, property and honor of a dhimmi exactly like that of a Muslim citizen.
People subscribing to religions other than Islam were granted full civic rights by Prophet (PBUH), by the virtue of the Quran, as in Q. 2: 256: “There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error”. This verse expresses religious freedom given to non-Muslims. They enjoyed peaceful and prosperous life and were guaranteed security for both their lives and property. The Quran has referred Prophet (PBUH) as mercy to all mankind, as in Q.21: 107: “And We have not sent you [O Muhammad (PBUH)], except as a mercy to the worlds”.
The basic guidelines which were laid by the Prophet (PBUH) in the early stage in Medinan city state and this formed the blue print for later Muslim rulers how they should deal with Christians and Jews (known as Ahl-i-Kitab/ ‘People of the Book’). Granting minority rights to different religious groups through pledges, documents, and mutual agreements succeeded in creating a healthy atmosphere for development of both spiritual and material growth of different religious groups living under the Islamic state.
In order to achieve and grant full rights to different religious minorities living in Madinah, the Prophet (PBUH) initiated an historical charter which is known as ‘Mithaq al-Madinah’ (the Charter/ Constitution of the Madinah). The Prophet (PBUH) wrote this document concerning the emigrants and the helpers in which he made a friendly agreement with the Jews and established them in their religion and their property and stated reciprocal obligations. By the virtue of this Charter, preventive measures were taken to avoid blood feuds and crimes among different Arabian tribes composed of all creeds the universality of the Islamic creed was meant for the totally of the human beings and this necessitated fair treatment and full equality to those who chose not to subscribe to the Islamic view of life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made a historical move of abolishing religious and social inequality. The Prophet (PBUH) gave Christians a Charter which provided that Christians were not to be unfairly taxed, that no bishop was to be expelled from the monasteries, that no Christian was to be retained from the performance of pilgrimage, that no Christian churches were to be pulled down, and that where a Christian woman was married to a Muslim she could retain her religion even after marriage.
Muslims were prohibited under severe penalties from violating and abusing the provisions of Charter. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was adamant to secure religious freedom to non–Muslims across the Islamic state. The Churches and Sanctuaries could not be pulled down and replaced by mosques and houses for Muslims. Prophet (PBUH) was keen to grant religious minorities sufficient judicial autonomy which was a basic characteristic of the Islamic legal system. Through granting religious freedom to non-Muslims, the Prophet (PBUH) meant to set guidelines on how Muslims should treat each other fairly which leads to prevention of bloodshed and wars among nations. Prophet (PBUH), throughout his life, was constructive in his approach for the purpose of establishing peace among nations through signing different pacts, and treaties to ensure peaceful coexistence and security to all people.
Eradicating injustice and ill treatment to different social and religious groups was not meant as bait to lure new converts into Islam but actually was meant to rectify the crooked way of looking and thinking of other human beings who do not happen to share the same social status or religious affiliation. Once a group of Christians came to visit the Prophet (PBUH), in his mosque at Madinah, to discuss the merits of true religion, but during their stay they couldn’t find a church to offer their prayers so the Prophet (PBUH) offered them his mosque to pray in it. On another occasion, there was a delegation from the tribe of Thaqif visiting Prophet (PBUH), so a tent was fixed up for them within the premises of Masjid-e-Nabwi.
The pinnacle of religious tolerance and clemency was provided by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) upon his victorious entry to Makkah (Fath-i-Makkah) after long years of suffering and persecution by the non-Muslim Makkans. The Prophet(PBUH) and his companions’ endured ridicule and scorn poured on them by the Makkans who had implacable hatred and enmity against Muslims. The long years of bitter, cruel and sustained persecution, all the fighting, the hardship and suffering and loss of dear and devoted companions, all these laid aside at the moment to triumph, banished from mind forgiven in the name of the Lord. The clemency of the Prophet (PBUH) was unparalleled in the history of mankind for accused were told that they were free. Giving a pledge to this effect, the Prophet (PBUH) informed the Makkans they were free and there was no reproof against them. The glorious act of unconditional forgiving has no similar act available on records. There occurred no retaliation, no dispossession, no enslavement, no execution, no looting and no kidnaping and dishonoring of women by the conquerors.
In the subsequent years, Prophet (PBUH) established an independent judiciary system, free from external influences, which guaranteed the protection of the interest of the citizens and securing justice for all regardless of their color and creed. The scrupulous observation and literal adherence of the Muslims to the terms of the pacts, treaties, alliances, and agreements with the non-Muslims was the foundational step into establishing an effective system of international law. Thus, it is apt to mention that ‘What Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) achieved was not less than opening a new chapter of tolerance and justice in world history’.
The world is passing through moral bankruptcy, social disintegration, and parochial loyalties—which are major reasons in inciting wars and increasing the weight of the roaring voices calling for the enmity and hatred. The Prophet’s (pbuh) message sanctified the life of all human beings, irrespective of their racial origin or religious affiliations.
The author holds a PG in Islamic Studies from IUST, Awantipora, and is presently working as a Teacher in Central School Dubai. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org