Rules Pertaining to the Relationship of Muslims With Other Faith Communities – Part I

By Muhammad Taqi Uthmani/ Translated by: Shameen S Desin (Jeddah)

Islam orders Muslims to deal with followers of other faiths with respect and regard for their feelings, on the basis that all human beings are equal before God, and the only thing that may raise one above others is the God-consciousness in the heart and obedience to Him, and this is a thing which only God can determine. Islam does not allow Muslims to transgress against other communities, or cause them any harm in any way, whether physically or emotionally, except during a state of hostilities.

A ll praise belongs to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, Lord of the worlds, and peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, the trustworthy Messenger, and on his family and companions, and all those who follow in their footsteps until the Day of Resurrection.

This humble discussion is aimed at clarifying the rules of the Shari`ah regarding the relationships of Muslims with non-Muslims, specifically those connected to international relations. There is no doubt about the fact that the religion of Islam invites mankind to the belief in the oneness of Allah, the Almighty, and the belief in all the righteous prophets and noble messengers chosen from among humankind by Allah to convey the message to all people, regardless of their skin color, language or financial status. Islam also calls to belief in the Day of Resurrection and the accountability of each and every human being to his Creator, and the belief in the Hell-Fire and the Gardens of Paradise. Islam urges its followers to abide by the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah (i.e. the way of life of the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) – or what is known as the Shariah – in all aspects of life. In Islam, Allah has provided us with a complete code of life, so we should adhere to the subtle teachings of our religion. No one is compelled to obey Allah and His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Instead, Islam uses other methods to win the hearts of its followers and convince them of the truth of its message. For instance, by bringing proofs and overcoming doubts, the truth becomes clear to anyone who is seeking it. Allah, the Exalted, say:

      “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.”  (Al-Baqarah: 256)

Similarly, Islam differentiates between faith (Eemaan) and disbelief (Kufr). Eemaan leads to the mercy of Allah, the Exalted, and also to His Good Pleasure and Immense reward that He has prepared for the believers among His slaves in the Hereafter. Disbelief, on the other hand, leads to the Wrath of Allah, the Almighty, and His punishment in the life after death. Since Eeman is beloved to Allah, the Creator, and disbelief is detestable to Him, then, it follows that the believer and disbeliever are not at the same level with Allah. Neither is it correct for believers to take disbelievers as intimate friends. Allah, the Most High says:

       “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as Auliya (supporters, helpers) instead of believers.” (Aal-Imran: 28)

Allah, the Almighty, also says,

      “O you who believe! Take not for Auliya (protectors or helpers or friends) disbelievers instead of believers.” (Nisa’: 144)

In another place in the Holy Quran, Allah, the Exalted, says,

      “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as Auliya (friends, protectors, helpers), they are but Auliya of each other.  And if any amongst you takes them as Auliya, then surely, he is one of them. (Al-Maidah: 51)

However, the most detested of all thing is Kufr (disbelief) or lack of faith, and the deeds that are in conformity with it. It is not disbelievers or non-Muslims who are hated. It is, in fact, the hardness of their hearts which is hated, for when they are invited to accept Islam, they decline. When Muslims endeavor to reform their beliefs and save them from the punishment of Allah, the Almighty, the non-Muslims do not cooperate, and are unwilling to submit to their Lord.

As for the Jews, they reject newcomers to their faith, so they do not strive to call humanity to their religion. In spite of there being no allowance in Islam for sincere and deep friendships with non-Muslims, Islam does not forbid its followers from dealing with people of other faiths in an equitable and just manner. In fact, Islam encourages its followers to form relationships with people who are not Muslims, based on justice, kindness, and cooperation in good things, as well as helping to alleviate evil and oppression, and spreading goodness and piety. Islam also orders Muslims to deal with followers of other faiths with respect and regard for their feelings, on the basis that all human beings are equal in the eyes of Allah, and the only thing that may raise one above others is the fear of Allah in the heart and obedience to Him, and this is a thing which only Allah can determine. Thus, Islam does not allow Muslims to transgress against non-Muslims, or cause them any harm in any way, whether physically or emotionally, except during Jihad or Holy War. Our Islamic scholars, may Allah have mercy on them, say, “If a Muslim addresses a Jew or a Magian as, ‘O Kafir (disbeliever),’ it will be regarded as a sin if it hurts the person or makes him feel miserable.”

Dealing With Non-Muslims Living in Muslim Lands

Those non-Muslims who live in Islamic countries in peace are given their rights as human beings and as citizens, for in Islam, all of mankind are equal, except that those who have strong faith and perform good deeds with good intentions, and implement the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) – such will be given their reward by Allah.

The Messenger of Allah said, “Whoever killed a non-Muslim who pays the Jizyah and lives in peace in the Muslim lands will never smell the fragrance of Paradise, despite the fact that its fragrance can be smelt from a distance of forty years.”

The Messenger of Allah also said, “Whoever killed a non-Muslim living in the Muslim lands who has a pledge with the Muslims to not cause any harm and who pays the Jizya, Allah has made Paradise forbidden to him.”

It has also been reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “Verily whoever oppresses one of those non-Muslims who are protected by the Muslim state on the condition that they pay the Jizyah, or takes revenge from him, or burdens him with more than he can bear, or takes anything from a non-Muslim without his willingness, I will be his adversary on the Day of Resurrection.”

He is also reported to have said, “Whoever annoys a non-Muslim protected by the Muslim state, I will be his adversary, and will dispute with him on the Day of Resurrection.”

Al-Kaasani has stated that the Messenger of Allah said, “If they (i.e. the non-Muslims) accept the contract of security with the Muslims, then let them know that they will have the same rights as given to Muslims and whatever the Muslims are denied, they will be denied, too.”

Although this Hadith is not found in the well-known books of Hadith, its meaning is clear and is accepted by the scholars of our age.

It was the practice of the rightly guided Caliphs, who came after the Messenger of Allah to safeguard the rights of the non-Muslims who accepted the covenant of security and agreed to pay the Jizyah. The second caliph, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, used to take rounds at night when people were asleep, trying to find out who was destitute and required assistance from the Treasury, and also ascertaining that the Muslims were not causing the Ahl-al-Dhimmah (i.e. the non-Muslims living in the Muslim state) any harm. At-Tabari, may Allah have mercy on him, narrated that Umar asked the deputation which was going to Basrah, “Perhaps, the Muslims treat the Ahl al-Dhimmah with harshness?”

They replied, “We have only experienced honesty and loyalty (from them).”

`Umar was very much concerned about discharging his duties towards the non-Muslims residing in the Muslim lands. This is reflected in the advice he gave to the third Khalifa, i.e., Uthman ibn Affan, at the time of his demise. He said, “I advise him to hold sacred the covenant of Allah and His Messenger, and to be faithful to the Ahl al-Dhimmah in the pledge taken from them that they should be treated well as long as they pay the Jizyah and did not harm the Muslims; and those non-Muslims who had not signed a contract with the Muslims could be fought against in Jihad; and the Ahl al-Dhimmah must not be overburdened with more than they can bear.”

It has been reported that `Ali ibn Abi Talib said, “Verily, they (i.e., the Jews and Christians) have accepted the covenant with us (Muslims) so that their wealth and possessions may be (safe) like our wealth and possessions, and in order that their lives may be (held sacred) like our lives.”

These concepts have led the Muslim scholars to declare that Muslims must ward off oppression against the Ahl al-Dhimmah and protect them. Imam Muhammad ibn Al-Hassan Al-Shaybani said, “When the Muslims took the covenant of peace from the non-Muslims they accepted the responsibility of guarding them from oppression, and they become citizens of the Muslim state.”

Throughout the ages, Muslim scholars have urged the rulers to treat well the Ahl al-Dhimmah and to look after their needs. Imam Abu Yusuf advised the Caliph Haroon Al-Rasheed, regarding the non-Muslims thus, “It is desirable, O Ruler of the Believers, may Allah strengthen you, that you should deal gently with those non-Muslims who have taken the pledge with your Prophet and the son of your paternal uncle (cousin) Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and that you should look into their affairs, and ascertain that they are not oppressed, or annoyed, and that they should not be overburdened with more than they have the strength for.”

When the news reached Imam Auza`ee that some of the Ahl al-Dhimmah who resided in Jabal Lebanon, had disobeyed the Muslim Ruler and caused some trouble, and Salih ibn `Ali, the Governor of Sham and one of the leaders of the Abbassid Empire, fought against the entire community of Ahl al-Dhimmah, and disdained them, he (Imam Auza`ee) wrote to Salih ibn `Ali a long letter, criticizing him over the actions he had undertaken. Below is a portion of his letter:

“Surely, some of the best people of the Ahl al-Dhimmah were the people who resided in Jabal Lebanon, and it was not becoming of them to disobey the caliph the way they did, and it was not something done by the majority of them. As a consequence, some of them were killed, and the remainder returned to their dwellings, so how can it be fair to punish all of them for the misdeeds of a minority of them? How can it be just to drive them out of their homes and to force them to leave behind their possessions? It has reached us that it is the judgment of Allah, the Exalted, the majority shall not be chastised for the wrongdoings of the minority of a people ….Whoever holds his own life as sacred, and his property as inviolable, and this is what justice decrees, for these people are not slaves, that they may be subjugated into migrating from one country to another – they are, indeed, free people.”

(To be continued)


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