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Islam and Pluralism ( 2 Jan 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pluralistic Dimensions Of Islamic Ideologies


By Ghulam Ghaus, New Age Islam

2 Jan 2012     


All the prophets of God came up with one heavenly religion aimed at human happiness in the world and the hereafter. Allah called this heavenly religion Islam. Religion is essentially based on the three foundations: faith, law, and ethics. There is proper similarity among the prophets and messengers regarding total belief and morality. The variable is related to religious laws as per the different conditions of nations and peoples to whom the message of Allah was sent.


However, the concept and the elements of faith are the same in accordance with all the prophets and messengers. Except this heavenly religion named Islam there is no other heavenly religion. Allah says: “The religion before God is Islam (submission to his will) (Ale-Imran 19). Since its inception till the doomsday this divine religion is favoured by God to all creatures.


He says: “Today I completed your religion for you, and completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion” (Maidah: 3). Allah will not accept any religion except Islam as religion that is absolute surrender to all commands and prohibitions of God. He says: “The one who seeks a religion other than Islam will not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good). (Ale-Imran: 85).


We find this fact in the Qur'an very clear, “The same religion has he established for you as that which he enjoined on Noah that which we have sent by inspiration to thee and that which we enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein” (Al-Shura: 13).


All Ahl-e-Kitab are Muslim in the eyes of God


This is the only one heavenly religion namely Islam, to which all the messengers of Allah Almighty guided the way. It has the same truths of the faith i.e. belief in the existence of the lord of the entire universe who has no partner deserving absolute and impeccable perfection, faith in the Day of Judgment, faith in all the prophets and messengers of God Almighty, faith in all the pure angels, and all the books revealed through the messengers.


God says: “It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards east or west. But it is righteousness to believe in God, the day of judgment, the angels, the book, and the messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God fearing.  (Al-Baqarah: 177).


No difference between prophets and their followers


To this concept the Quran also cautioned all the believers “Say ye: we believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ismail Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them: and we bow to God (in Islam). (Al-Baqarah: [Verse: 136).


So the Quran has given the one name “Muslim” to all the prophets and all their truthful followers.


      And to these facts the Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh) pointed:

“My position in relation to the prophets who came before me can be explained by the following example: A man erected a building and adorned this edifice with great beauty, but he left an empty niche in the corner where just one brick was missing. People looked around the building and marvelled at its beauty. They wondered why a brick was missing from that niche. I am like unto that one missing brick and I am the last in the line of the Prophets". (Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Tirmizi, Musnad Abu Dawud).


Originality of humans in Islam


After all the canons of the former prophets, Allah the Almighty finally concluded his command with the canon of the last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) including faith, law, morality, and named his religion Islam. He announced that all people are created from a single soul. As the Quran with full explanation describes this fact and lays great emphasis on the unity of human origin.


“O mankind fear your guardian Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women” ( Surah Al-nisa   1). So they are brothers of one father and one mother.


This human origin gives every member of the human family the rights of human dignity, without exception or discrimination as mentioned in the Quran “we have honoured the sons of Adam”. So the five fixed rights are for every human being, i.e. the right to life, the right to food, the right to drink, the right to dress, the right to housing, security and freedom.


Then God made a difference in human colours, races and languages. It indicates his greatness. He says: “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are signs for those who know”.  (Rum: 22).


Allah the Almighty says that this difference should not be taken as a means to disrupt the human family and persecute each other. Rather, it must be a means of human cooperation, dating and meeting on the good, the interest of human.


He mentions the immortal humanitarian principle in the Quran “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other)” (Al-Hajarat 13)


People are equal in terms of humanity. However, they are distinguished more or less due to their devotions and duties and what they offer for the pleasure of the mankind. “Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things.)”(Al-Hajaraat: 13]


Therefore the Quran differentiated between the men who follow the heavenly message calling to the faith, goodness and happiness of humanity, and those who refuse the heavenly message i.e. faith, science, peace and goodness of mankind. This variation is strictly regardless of colour, sex and region. Allah says: “It is he who has created you; and of you are some that are unbelievers, and some that are believers: and God sees well all that ye do. (Taghabun: 2).


A Muslim in the light of the Quran is one whose face, heart and  whole life is just for the pleasure of God and who follows his command, and believes in the day of Judgment, the angels,  the books, and messengers  without exception or discrimination, whereas a non-Muslim is one who is out of this heavenly balance.


Qur'anic standpoint about previous religions


The holy Quran addressed the people of the previous heavenly religions i.e. Jews and Christians with beautiful words as always “O People of the Book” approximately 31 times. There is a great respect in this speech as Allah Almighty’s such calling was made in the holy Quran about thirty times.


If we review the holy Quran, we find it talk about two groups of Ahle-Kitab: one of them follows the right path, believes in it, and pursues the footsteps of all the Prophets even the last Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon them). The other group of people is reported to be ignorant of the facts and violating the approach of the prophets.


This classification comes out as a result of pondering over the Qur’anic verses: “Not all of them are alike: 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: they believe in God and the last day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten (in emulation) in (all) good works: they are in the ranks of the righteous ( Al Imran: 113, 114).


The Quran praised those who followed the truth and bowed in humility to Allah as mentioned in the Quran “And there are, certainly, among the people of the book, those who believe in God, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing to God” (Al-Imran: 199), and then the holy Quran called the scholars of Ahle Kitab following the right path that they are well-grounded.


He says: “But those among them who are well grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: (NISA: 162) and Qur'an told us about humble people of the book, tenderness of their hearts and their submission to the right path brought by the prophet Mohammed (pbuh).


Allah says: “Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, we are Christians: because among them are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant, and when they listen to the revelation received by the apostle, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth: they pray: our lord we believe; write us down among the witnesses. (Maidah, 82, 83).


Constitution of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims


The Quran established a base believed to be the original constitution in the treatment of Muslims to other people: “God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves those who are just”. (Mumtahina: 8).


The verse is very clear in the report of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is a relationship which is based on something greater than justice - which is to give the deserving man his due. This relationship gets elevated to the stage of kindness. The verse has provided the word of righteousness over the word of justice. The most wonderful point of the verse is to make relationship based on righteousness and kindness. Islam called non-Muslims within its society (Ahl-Zimma) i.e. the people of the covenant, security and safety, because for them there is the covenant from God, ensuring of his messenger, and their safety from group of Muslims to live in the protection of Islam and under the banner of the Islamic community. (See: Badaa'i wa Sanai7/110) and Al-Muganni (8/496).


However, we are fed up with some people who regard the label “Ahle-Zimmah” in a way where there is something like inferiority. This is unacceptable in Islam. The one who knows Arabic is well-acquainted with the meaning of the words “أنت في ذمتي ’’ that means “you are under my protection and care. Further, I will neither hurt you nor will I allow anyone else to trouble you” (see :Ahkamal Zimmin wal Mustaminin 65) They  are really citizens like other members of the Muslim community.


Islamic rights to non-Muslims within the Muslim community:


The scholars of the Islamic law consolidated the relationship between Muslims and others in the Muslim community in the light of the holy Quran and Hadith. There is saying “the one who treats you like himself is supposed to be good for you”. It means that whatever rights, freedoms, and justice we deserve should also be for others. This regulation has been interpreted as follows.


Provision of protection from external aggression is the responsibility of the Islamic community for non-Muslims. In addition to that,  the internal protection insurance for non-Muslims includes the protection of blood, body, dignity and funds, ensuring the house money, public freedoms like the freedom of belief,  practice, the maintenance of places of worship, thought and learning, in short freedom at all levels: political, social, cultural, economic and religious.


After all, it must also be pointed out that if an event throughout the history of relations between Muslims and others happened negative in deal, and cruelty in friction, and if the gravity of situation reached the limit of spear, we must certainly relate it to the other factors rather than to the essence of Islam, and the fact of its message. If some Muslim rulers have made errors throughout history and intensified the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, it cannot be produced as an argument against Islamic standpoint regarding Non-Muslims.


There have also been some periods of history that some ordinary Muslims attacked some churches and temples in Egypt and the Syria. But Muslim rulers at that time opposed to it and provided necessary assistance to non-Muslims. As a reaction to it some non- Muslims burnt the mosques and houses. (See Qissatul Iztihad Addini 154)


The reality is that Islam gave absolute respect and prestige to non-Muslims. Despite that if someone opposes to it in the opinion and belief, Muslims must have patience with the saying of Allah “for you your religion and for me my religion” ( Kafiroon 6). Also Allah says “To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way, if God had so willed, he would have made you a single people, but (his plan is) to test you in what he hath given you” (Maidah 48).


Ghulam Ghaus is an Alim & Fazil. He holds a two-year specialization in Quranic Sciences from Islamic D’awah centre Jamia Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, New Delhi.