By Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi
October 15, 2013
The Taliban had denied being involved in the church attack in Peshawar but their calling it a justified act, falling in line with Islamic injunctions, had raised many eyebrows and a general ill-will against Islam. Before I try to explain the religious authenticity of this claim, I want to say that such acts are detrimental for the unity and reputation of Pakistan. Though Pakistan is a Muslim majority country, there are many non-Muslims living here as well, who are as much Pakistanis as Muslims. They have been involved in the creation of the country and are still striving for its progress and development. As far as Islam is concerned, I grew appalled as I delved into the literature about the rights of non-Muslims in an Islamic State. If their rights do not supersede, they are not even inferior to the rights of any Muslim.
Just like any Muslim the protection of the life, property and honor of the non-Muslims is the responsibility of the state. In many of the covenants Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) signed with the Christians of Nigran, he pledged to protect their lives, property and honor. He had been quoted saying on several occasions that their religion, their lands, their property, their caravans, their messengers and their idols were in Allah’s, protection and the prophet guaranteed their safety as well. On another occasion he said that their blood and their property were as sacred as of Muslims. Similarly he said that on the Day of Judgment he would stand by that non-Muslim who would have been hurt or his property damaged by a Muslim during the lifetime.
The concept of blood money applies to the non-Muslim as well. Just as there is a retribution for a Muslim, it is obligatory in the case of a non-Muslim as well. Similarly the punishment of theft, chopping off hands, is applied indiscriminately. There is no duality in the sacredness of the property of a Muslim or a non-Muslim. And of all the rights, the right to religion, to worship is far sacred. Islam does not believe in enforcing faith on others.
“There is no compulsion in faith”. (256:2)
When Prophet (PBUH) came to Medina he helped signed several agreement among the pagans, Christians and Jews, wherein he made it explicitly clear that each one of them would be free to practice their religion and go to their places of worship. So much so that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had permitted to the Christians of Nigran visiting him to use a part of Masjid-e-Nabwi for prayers.
Omer bin Abdul Aziz had instructed his governors not to destroy any church or temple. When Khalid bin Waleed, conquered Damascus, he signed an agreement, under the oath of four witnesses in which beside other things protection was granted to 14 churches. (Al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya: 7). On the occasion of Egypt’s conquest, the pledge to protect churches was duly granted. When Ameer Muawya, wanted to use the land of a church to expend an under-construction mosque, he shelved the idea when the Christians protested. Similarly Omer bin Abdul Aziz had to forgo such a plan during his reign, and instructed his governor to return any land to the Christians that belonged to the church. Umer bin Khatab had relived the senior non-Muslim citizens from giving taxes instead issued them monthly stipend from the state’s treasury.
Quran and the tradition of Prophet Muhammad are clear on the right of the non-Muslims. Even we are forbidden from giving bad names to the gods of non-Muslims. Then how can we justify killing them or destroying their places of worship.
Muslim history is rife with stories when the leaders of Islamic state never tried to influence the non-Muslims. Hazrat Umar’s servant remained Christian all his life. When the Tatars invaded Iraq, and held Jews, Christian and Muslims hostage, Ibne-e-Tammya during his negotiation with the Tatars was offered to take away the Muslims leaving behind the Christians and Jews. Ibn-e-Tammya refused and insisted that unless the Christians and Jews were released he would not take the Muslims either. I cannot miss mentioning here the sermon that Hazrat Umer gave when he conquered Bait ul-Muqaddas:
“Umer the leader of the faithful and the humble servant of Allah promises to the dwellers of the mosque that their property, honor, cross, their cities, their elders and their patients would all be protected. No one could either destroy or take over their churches. Every inch of their land would be defended and protected. No one would compel them to convert. They would keep receiving the bounty from the treasury as was the practice before. (Tibree)
The attack on the church in Peshawar has been condemned world over. What we need is to distinguish between acts that are according to the teaching of Islam and those which are pursued in self-interest. It is not appropriate to label anything Islamic without proper investigation. All Pakistan Ulema Council has given the verdict that those who are involved in the killing of non-Muslims have nothing to do with Islam. Their claim that non-Muslims are liable to death is wrong, irrelevant and un-Islamic. It is the responsibility of the Islamic State to protect the life, property and honor of the non-Muslims.
By Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi is the Chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council