SHAFAQNA- The general policy in Islam is to guarantee full rights to non- Muslim populations and therefore people subscribing to other religions were granted full civic rights by the virtue of the Quran and through the application of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
The Prophet of Islam (PBUH) was prepared to live in peace with the followers of other monotheistic religions, especially Judaism and Christianity. Even the letters that the Prophet (PBUH) wrote to the rulers of various countries and nations around Arabia are interesting documents for our discussion. In none of the letters does the Prophet (PBUH) threaten them of a military aggression if they did not accept the message of Islam.
The letter to the Christian King of Abyssinia ends with the words: “I have conveyed the message and now it is up to you to accept it. Once again, peace be upon him who follows the true guidance.”
When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) migrated to Medina, he found that besides those who hid accepted Islam, there was a large Jewish community in that city but this did not bother him. He did not contemplate on forcing them into the fold of Islam, instead, he made a peace agreement with them and called them ahlul kitab—the people of the Scripture. This was indeed the supreme example of tolerance shown towards the followers of other religions.
Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be upon him) peaceful manner towards the opponents encouraged many individuals, groups, and religious bodies to freely immigrate to Medina.
The best example of the tolerance shown by the Prophet (PBUH) to other religions was the Covenant of Medina, called the ‘Saheefah’ by early historians. When the Prophet (PBUH) migrated to Medina, his role as a mere religious leader ended: he was now the political leader of a state, governed by the precepts of Islam. This situation demanded that clear laws of governance be laid out, to ensure harmony and stability in a society once distraught by decades of war, that must ensure the peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Jews, Christians and polytheists.
Due to this, the Prophet (PBUH) laid down a ‘constitution’ detailing the responsibilities of all parties residing in Medina, their obligations towards each other, and certain restrictions which were placed on each. All parties were to obey what was mentioned therein, and any breach of its articles was regarded as an act of treachery.
We have an interesting historical document with us from our fourth Imam, Ali Zaynul Abidin (A.S). This document is entitled as Risalatu ‘l huquq which means “The Charter of Rights”.
In this Risalah, the Imam has mentioned rights related to various issues and people in human society, the last part is on the rights of non-Muslims in a Muslim society. Among other things, it says: “And there must be a barrier keeping you from doing any injustice to them, from depriving them of the protection provided by God, and from flaunting the commitments of God and His Messenger concerning them.
Because we have been told that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whosoever does injustice to a protected non- Muslim, then I will be his enemy (on the Day of Judgement),” In a letter which Imam Ali wrote for his governor in Egypt, he says, “Sensitive your heart to mercy for the subjects, and to affection and kindness for them. Do not stand over them like greedy beasts who feel it is enough to devour them, for they are of two kinds; either your brother in faith or like you in Creation.” (Nahju ‘l-Balagha, letter 53).
-Religious Tolerance in Islam, Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
-Towards a Definition of Terrorism, Ayatullah Shaykh Muhammad ‘Ali Taskhiri