SHAFAQNA – Social Pluralism
As far as social pluralism is concerned, Islām seeks for peaceful co-existence and mutual tolerance between the people of different religions and cultures. Among the three Abrahāmic religions, it is only Islām which has accorded recognition to Judaism and Christianity. Judaism does not recognize Jesus as the awaited Messiah or the Prophet; and Christianity does not recognize Muhammad (S) as the true Prophet and Messenger of God.
In the Islāmic worldview, God sent many prophets and messengers to guide mankind; the number given in the Ĥadīth is 124,000 prophets. The first prophet was Ādam and the last Prophet was Muhammad – the Prophet of Islām (S). However, not all the 124,000 prophets were of the same rank and status.
Five of these prophets are given the highest rank in the spiritual hierarchy: and they are Nūh (Noah), Ibrāhīm (Abraham), Mūsā (Moses), `Isā (Jesus), and Muhammad (as). Almighty Allāh says in the Qur’ān:
وَإِذْ أَخَذْنَا مِنَ النَّبِيِّينَ مِيثَاقَهُمْ وَمِنْكَ وَمِنْ نُوحٍ وَإِبْرَاهِيمَ وَمُوسَى وَعِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ.
“And when We made a covenant with the prophets: with you, with Nūh, Ibrāhīm, Mūsā and `Isā, son of Mariam…”
A Muslim is required to believe in all the prophets, otherwise he cannot be considered a “Muslim”. If a person, for instance, says that I believe in Muhammad, `Isā, Ibrāhīm and Nūh but not in Mūsā as one of the prophets of God, then he cannot be accepted as a Muslim; similarly, if a person believes in all the prophets but refuses to accept `Isā as one of the prophets and messengers of God, then he is not a Muslim.
That is why Islām considers the Christian and the Jewish communities as “the People of the Book” or “the People of Scripture” (Ahlul Kitāb). Islām has even allowed a Muslim man to marry a Christian or Jewish woman, but not those from the other faiths.
What is noteworthy is that Islām accorded this recognition to the Ahlul Kitāb fourteen centuries ago when there was absolutely no talk of tolerance among people of different faiths or an ecumenical movement among religions.
On a socio-political level, a Muslim government would readily sign an agreement with its Christian and Jewish minorities. Imām `Alī Zaīnul `Ābidīn, the great-grandson of the Prophet, writes:
“It is the right of the non-Muslims living in a Muslim country that you should accept what Allāh has accepted from them and fulfill the responsibilities which Allāh has accorded them… And there must be a barrier keeping you from doing any injustice to them, from depriving them of the protection of Allāh, and from flaunting the commitments of Allāh and His Messenger concerning them. Because we have been told that the Holy Prophet said, ‘Whosoever does injustice to a protected non-Muslim, I will be his enemy (on the Day of Judgement).’”
Although Islām does not accord to followers of other religions the same recognition that it has accorded to Jews and Christians, it believes in peaceful co-existence with them. One of the earliest messages of peaceful co-existence given by the Prophet Muhammad (S) to the idol-worshippers of Mecca is reflected in Chapter 109 of the Qur’ān:
قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا الْكَافِرُونَ. لاَ أَعْبُدُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ. وَلاَ أَنْـتُمْ عَابِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ. وَلاَ أَنَا عَابِدٌ مَا عَبَدتُّمْ. وَلاَ أَنْـتُمْ عَابِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ. لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ
Say: “O unbelievers! Neither do I worship what you worship; nor do you worship what I worship. Neither am I going to worship what you worship; nor are you going to worship what I worship. To you shall be your religion and to me shall be my religion.”
(From the historical perspective, the treatment that Muslim societies have given to the minorities under their rule, especially the Christians and the Jews, is comparatively better than the way minorities were treated in Christian Europe.)
By Ayatullah Murtadha Mutahhari