An Islamic state is governed by Islamic laws and an individual who considers himself/herself above from these laws comes under what is called “non-Muslim” in technical terms. Non-Muslims living in Muslim states as a minority are the discussion of this article. Under Islamic legislation, the non-Muslim minority has gained rights and privileges that no other minority has gained under any law. This is because the relationship between the Muslim community and the non-Muslim minority is governed by the divine rule which is stated in the Quran as: “God does not forbid you from those who did not fight you on account of religion and did not expel you from your homes that you be kind to them and treat them justly, for God loves those who are just” (Al Mumtahinah: 8).
This verse specified the moral and legal basis on which Muslims must deal with others, which is, righteousness and justice for all those who have no enmity with them. Islam has given many rights to minorities, such as:
Right to freedom of belief: The Quran says: “There is no compulsion in religion” (Al-Baqarah: 25). This was embodied in the message of the Prophet (SAW) to the People of the Book from Yemen in which he invited them to Islam and said: “And whoever embraces Islam, whether a Jew or a Christian, then he is one of the believers. He has what is theirs, and he owes what they owe, and whoever is a Jew or a Christian, he will not be tempted from it” (Al-Sira Al- Nabawiyya by Ibn Kathir).
Right to protection from injustice
Islam warned against oppressing minorities or detracting from their rights. According to the Prophet (SAW): “Whoever tyrannises a covenant, or reprimands him as a right, or burdens him beyond his capacity, or takes something from him without his consent, I will plead with him on the Day of Resurrection” (Abu Dawood). And He (SAW) also said: “Whoever kills a covenant will not smell the fragrance of Paradise” (Bukhari).
In this regard a great example has been set by Prophet (SAW). wWhen a Jew was suspected of a killing a Muslim but that could not be proven in the court, the Prophet (SAW) offered his own camel as blood money to the deceased. Here, the Messenger (SAW) did what no one could imagine. He himself took charge of paying the blood money from the money of the Muslims in order to appease the Ansar, and without oppressing the Jews.
Islamic law guarantees the right to protection of the life, honor, dignity, funds of non-Muslims and it is forbidden to take it or to seize it unjustly, such as by stealing, usurping, destroying, or other acts that fall under the category of injustice. Even more wonderful than that is the right of the non-Muslim minority to be sponsored by the Islamic state from the state treasury – the Bait ul Mal – during disability, old age or poverty. This is based on the saying of the Prophet (SAW)L “All of you are shepherds, and every shepherd is responsible for his flock” (Bukhari). On the grounds that non-Muslims are its subjects, just like the Muslims, Islam is responsible for all of them before God Almighty.
In this regard Abu Ubaid narrated on the authority of Saeed bin Al-Musayyab that: “The Messenger of God (SAW) gave alms to the people of a Jewish household, and it is given to them” (Al-Amwal). This expresses the greatness of Islam and the humanity of Islamic civilization. Another incident reported in the books of Hadith is: That when the Prophet (SAW) passed by a funeral procession, he stood up, and it was said to him: He is a Jew. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Is he not a soul?” (Muslim). Such is the respect for non-Muslim minorities in Islam and Islamic civilisation. The Muslim’s duty is to respect every human soul.
For Muslims, there are principles and rules that Islam has laid down for a person, and these rules are the same as for non-Muslims and for non-divine religions, whatever the person’s colour, homeland, beliefs or customs. The first of these principles is that Islam never differentiates between people, nor does it differentiate between colorus, races, languages and tribes. The Almighty said: “O people, indeed we have created you from male and female, and made you peoples and tribes so that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (Al Hujrat: 13). God created all members of the human family from one dust and made their creation in one order (breeding), and they are walking to one destiny (death) and it is necessary for all Muslims and non-Muslims to live together, get to know one another, and benefit from one another. And Allah permitted every people of the community to speak their language, and to read, write and publish. He said: “And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and colours” (Al Rome: 22).
Islam does not pay attention to the (numerical minority) of the population, so no human being should be weakened, despised, humiliated, or violated of rights. In the present political systems that distinguish people on the basis of their difference in colour, language, people, tribe, clan, customs and traditions, the rights of citizens as citizens and what they have and what they owe is not taken into account.
As for the issue of the adherents of other religions, i.e., non-Muslims, they are equal in rights like Muslims, and it is not permissible to harm them, and whoever harms them is punished according to his crime. Because they are protected(dhimmis), Muslims , have to protect them and defend them and preserve their honour, money and lives. We can’t force them to abandon their religion. As for transactions and punishments, they apply to them as they apply to Muslims. They have the same rights in many fields and they are definitely not a religious minority but bearers of the Islamic state like Muslims. Calling them Ahl-u-Dhimma is not a disdain for them but an honour for them because they are in care of Muslims and are protected and preserved.
Religious minorities along with ethnic, national and linguistic minorities have become prominent human rights issues in the modern era, and the reason for this is due to a long history of harassment of minorities and depriving them of their rights. The minorities, whether religious or ethnic, whether in Arab and Islamic countries or in other countries, are mostly subjected to political, social, economic and educational pressures that prevent them from contributing to nation building.
The writer is a research scholar at Department of Arabic, BGSB University, Rajouri. [email protected]