Social relations with people of other faiths
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
It is an unfounded accusation that Islam is against establishing relations with non-Muslims. Islamic teachings clearly contradict this false assumption. Islam promotes and supports a pluralistic society where people of different faiths and ideologies peacefully co-exist and prosper. Islamic Law fully protects the rights of non-Muslims in an Islamic state, and teaches Muslims to protect their values and stand for their rights in a non-Islamic state. It is a moral obligation for Muslims to be kind, courteous, polite, cooperative and respectful to their fellow human beings irrespective of their cast, creed, color or language. However, Islam strictly forbids assimilation of Muslims at the cost of their religious identity. It is our privilege and distinction to belong to the best community. This distinction must be maintained. Allah (SWT) says in Aayah 110 of Surah Al’Imran:
“[Believers], you are the best community singled out of people: you [recommend] order what is right and forbid what is wrong, and believe in Allah…”
Islam is belief and action at the same time. It is a perfect code of conduct encompassing all aspects of our personal and social life. It is man’s natural religion and is good for all times to come. It is not a dry, soulless creed, dogma, or tenet shrouded in mystery. It is a simple, straightforward and easy to understand Faith. It is a religion which was preached and practiced by all Prophets and Messengers. It envisages a scheme of life based on eternal Truth. A Truth told by none other than the Creator to the created. And this Truth, this Divine Guidance is preserved in its pristine beauty and in the original language ever since it was revealed. Objective study of Islam in the East and the West is bringing a new era of understanding. Its simplicity, applicability and universality are going to be recognized sooner or later. Despite deliberate misinterpretation and distortion of its image by the ignorant and misguided, possibilities are on the horizon that understanding of Islam by both scholars and the common man will bring a new era of appreciation of this Abrahamic Faith. Even a cursory glance at Islam helps understand the purpose of man’s transient life, the right of the Creator, the rights of the self, the rights of fellow human beings and the rights of all creatures. Understanding and practicing these rights ensures an environment of peace and harmony.
Islam draws a clear distinction between darkness of ignorance and the light of wisdom.
Aayah 257 of Surah Al-Baqarah says:
“Allah is the ally of those who believe: He brings them out of the depth of darkness and into the light.”
Ignorance knows no difference between what Allah (SWT) has made permissible and what He has forbidden, what He has recommended and what He has disapproved, what He has defined moral and what He has called immoral, what He has made legal and what He has classed as illegal and the deeds He has distinguished as virtue against those He has condemned as vice and sinful. One is for the ultimate good and the other leads to nothing but darkness and doom.
Islam demands from us to become its true follower. Aayah 208 of Surah Al-Baqarah says: “You, who believe, enter wholeheartedly into submission to Allah.”
And Aayah 138 of Surah Al-Baqarah reads: “[Our life] takes its color from Allah, and who give a better color than Allah? It is Him we worship.” Color of Allah means to adopt Allah’s way and unconditionally submit to His Supreme Law. The word “color” has a far deeper meaning for the mystics.
Islamic principles apply to our individual as well as collective life. It set rules for our relationship with our parents, our children, relatives, friends, colleagues, co-workers, supervisors and subordinates whether they are Muslims or non Muslims. Islam’s message is for the entire humanity. Aayah 158 of Surah Aa’raaf says:
“Say [Ya Rasul Allah], ‘People, I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, from Him who has control over the heavens and the earth. There is no Allah but Him; He gives life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered prophet who believes in Allah and His words, and follow him so that you may find guidance.”
Islamic Jurisprudence, Traditions of Prophet (SAW), and history have a treasure of information and guidance about relations of Muslims with non-Muslims. Interpersonal relations, social interaction, trade or business partnership, and all other aspects of social interdependence have been discussed and clarified. Due respect is to be given to non-Muslims according to their status and rank. Islam does not teach hatred, prejudice, bias and discrimination against non-Muslims. In fact the life of Prophet (SAW), and his companions (Allah be pleased with them) teaches us to be extra careful for their feelings and always make efforts to make a soft corner in their hearts by good behavior and a positive winning attitude. The Arabic term Taaleef-e-Qalb defines this effort. This effort has brought millions to the fold of Islam. It was not the sword, but the character and knowledge which triumphed. None forced Islam on anyone, but the entire population embraced Allah’s Deen after Prophet (SAW)’s return to Makkah as mentioned in Aayah 2 or Surah An-Nasr:
“[Rasul Allah}, when you see people embracing Allah’s faith in crowds, celebrate the praise of your Lord and ask His forgiveness.” There are many such examples. Not a single soldier ever set his foot in Southeast Asia, but that region has countries with predominant Muslim population.
Ibn-e-Arabi Maliki writes in Ahkaam-ul-Qur’an that a (dhimmi) a non-Muslim subject came to see Qadhi Ismail bin Ishaque, who treated him with respect to the displeasure of members of his assembly. Qadhi Ismail referred to Aayah 8 of Surah Mumtahina, which clarifies that Qur’an encourages to pay due respect to non-Muslims and those who are not in a state of war with Muslims.
One can supplicate and wish well for a non-Muslim according to the situation he may be in. This is again a display of courtesy, kind heartedness and mutual respect taught by Islam. We are taught that the person who sneezes says: “Alhamdu Lillah”. The person who hears the sneeze should say: “Yerhamakullah,” which means Allah may bless you! When a non-Muslim sneezed in the audience of Prophet (SAW), he (SAW) used to wish him in these words: “Yahdeekumullahu wa Yusleh Balakum”, which means: “May Allah guide you and reform your condition.” [Abu Dawood].
Anas (RA) relates that a Jewish boy used to attend Prophet (SAW). Once he fell sick and Prophet (SAW) went to visit him and asked him to embrace Islam. The boy looked at his father, who said to obey what Prophet (SAW) had advised. Prophet (SAW) said: “Thanks to Allah (SWT), Who saved the boy from Hell Fire. [Bukhari].
Such traditions guide us to inquire into the well being of non-Muslims, and visit them when they are sick. One can imagine how important it should be to have concerns for fellow Muslims.
If a non-Muslim blood relative dies, than it is alright to participate in his funeral. It is known that Prophet (SAW) had attended the funeral of his non-Muslim uncle, Abu Talib, but didn’t pray for him. According to one source, Ali (Karam Allah wajhu) had performed his burial on the advice of Prophet (SAW). While attending the funeral of a non-Muslim, one must not compromise his religious identity to please others.
We must not isolate ourselves from the society we live in, and should not live like an island unto ourselves. We however, should guard our faith, our culture, our traditions, our values. In certain societies and culture drinking alcohol, gambling, eating pork, and free mixing of the men and women, hugging and kissing is fair, but we live by different code of conduct and our rules are designed for us by Allah (SWT) and explained to us by His Prophet (SAW). Our faith demands us to keep ourselves clean and pure from such sinful acts. Alcohol is totally forbidden in Islam and so is pork. Its use, sale, business, promotion is Haraam (forbidden). Even accepting it or giving it as a gift is a sin. Islamic jurisprudence dictates that one should not warrant the displeasure of the Creator to please the created. If such a situation does arise, one should politely and with wisdom and tact explain his religious or dietary rules. This will educate non-Muslims about Islam and Muslims. A sensible person will not take an offense and appreciate to learn and respect beliefs other than his own. We American Muslims are proud to be a part of a multicultural and multi-ethnic rainbow nation, where diversity is appreciated and respected.
Children who are born or raised in non-Muslim societies are not at fault. It is our fault for not having introduced Islam to them from early childhood. It becomes hard for them to distinguish right from wrong when they grow up. Unfortunately many grown ups take pride in aping non-Islamic customs and behavior. Hollywood and Bollywood films have played a great role in de-sensitizing many of us towards immodest customs, behaviors and dress. The have dulled our moral sensors. A Muslim boy reaching adulthood should not wear shorts even before his mother not to speak other female family members.
Islam has mandates a dignified dress for a woman and gives her an equal status with man in their respective roles. She deserves a rightful place and a just status in society. Unfortunately she has been robbed of her grace and is being treated as a commercial commodity. She is being displayed semi-naked on posters and bill- boards to promote sale of consumer goods.
We are the custodian of Allah (SWT)’s last and final Message, we are responsible to invite towards what is good and help others to abstain from what is bad. As parents it is our responsibility to educate our children as true representatives of our faith and upholders of our values. It is challenge and we seek Allah (SWT)s’ help to meet this challenge.
The Friday Khutbahs are published to enhance your knowledge of Islam. The references of Quran and Hadith are the approximate translation of the Arabic text. The editors have not verified the accuracy of the the English translation. The scholarly reader is encouraged to refer to the original Arabic script if there is any doubt. Kindly notify us if the translation can be enhanced.