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Virtues Of A Muslim – With Non-Muslims

21 August 2019 8:42 am // Written by Ustaz Muhammad Abdul Mateen Hisham;

The Muslims’ devotion to secure their Deen (religion) calls for different ways from strengthening their faith to safeguarding it from arguable practices depending on how well they understand the religion and view its boundaries. In some instances, these boundaries are left unchecked hence causing the unaware to transgress into risky doctrines and practices derived from foreign concepts that contradict with the religion.

It is clear and undisputable according to the Muslim’s belief how Islam, with the coming of Prophet Muhammad pbuh, is the only religion chosen by Allah swt as seen in some verses mentioned in the Qur’an which resulted into a rigorous tradition to adhere to its teachings:

الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الْإِسْلَامَ دِينًا

Today, I have perfected your religion for you, and have completed My blessing upon you, and chosen Islam as Dīn (religion and a way of life) for you. [1]

وَمَنْ يَبْتَغِ غَيْرَ الإِسْلامِ دِينًا فَلَنْ يُقْبَلَ مِنْهُ

Whoever seeks a faith other than Islam, it will never be accepted from Him [2]

This act of devotion to those foreign in experiencing the faith can often be misunderstood as being in a wrong degree of zealousness and to some extent develop a notion of exclusive values. In truth, Islam sets clear boundaries that favours peaceful co-existence with differences including people of other faiths, thus promoting a strong scent of diversity that pre-dates the modern call for religious pluralism.

The noble values of the Islamic teachings like love and compassion are not only limited to fellow Muslims but is extended to all of humanity at large as well. Islam neither leans to the extreme end of radical exclusivism that does not promote the likes of kindness, respect and proactive social relations with other peaceful religious communities nor to the other extreme end of violating its own boundaries. In the words of Mufti Taqi Uthmani  ( Sunni Hanafi Maturidi Islamic scholar from Pakistan) during his visit to the Cambridge Muslim College; “The need of the hour is the middle path of integration within society; which lies between extremes of isolation and assimilation.

This short article looks to delve into some guided values on a Muslim’s approach to dealing with peaceful Non-Muslims.

The Bond of Humanity

Muslims & Non-Muslims share the same bond of humanity regardless of the differences in ethnicity, culture or religion. All are descendants of Adam and Hawa’. Aside from ancestry, the fundamental bonds within humanity are shared and universal values, with the objective of achieving social peace and the values of love and harmony. [3]

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنْثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify one another. Surely the noblest of you, in Allah’s sight, is the one who is most pious of you. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware. [4]

In other words, Allah swt created mankind from a single origin, the mutual basis of all humanity. This basis is then followed by a set of values that is a practical translation of appreciating human dignity like kindness, justice and mercy. In this very same verse, Allah swt introduced diversity in His perfect design that branches out from that single origin. The action that entails to this diversity is to know one another, a notion that promotes peace and co-existence. Allah swt mentions in the Quran:

إنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِتَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِمَا أَرَاكَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَلَا تَكُن لِّلْخَائِنِينَ خَصِيمًا

Surely, We have revealed to you the Book with the truth, so that you may judge between people according to what Allah has shown you. Do not be an advocate for those who breach trust. [5]

The verse above was directed to people in general rather than specifying it to Muslims. The event where the verse was sent down,  took place in Madinah when a group of Muslims accused a Jew of theft. They later found the Jew to be innocent and that the perpetrator was a fellow Muslim instead. If this truth were to be exposed, he would be prosecuted. This truth was then intended to be hidden to protect the Muslim thief from being punished accordingly, leaving the Jew to be prosecuted instead. The verse exposed the defect of blind affiliation or fanaticism to falsehood and unethical values while affirming the rights of the falsely accused non-Muslim to Justice, freedom and Security. [6]

Hence Islam as a bond that binds the perpetrator with the Muslim community together has been cut off when his unjust and oppressive action contradicts with the teachings of the religion. In other words, religion as a bond that connects a Muslim with his brother in faith should neither be an excuse to cut the bonds of humanity (ethical values) nor the bonds of citizenship (society). [7]

Kindness & Justice

 لا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُمْ مِنْ دِيَارِكُمْ أَنْ تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ

Allah does not forbid you as regards those who did not fight you on account of faith, and did not expel you from your homes, that you do good to them, and deal justly with them. Surely Allah loves those who maintain justice. [8]

In this verse Allah swt encourages Muslims to treat Non-Muslims that do not preach animosity with Muslims because of their religion per-se, with Kindness & Justice. A step further than just respecting the presence and space of the religious other. Throughout the years, the religious communities in Singapore have embraced religious diversity and despite some regretful events, these communities showed maturity to rise above resentments of hate for the greater good of harmony. This includes expressing joy in the pleasure of others like congratulating them for their festive celebrations without celebrating it or offering condolences and standing in solidarity for their loss.

In a 2014 study, the US-based Pew Research Centre named Singapore the most religiously diverse country in the world, and the Asia-Pacific the most religiously diverse region. The racial and religious harmony in Singapore today did not happen by chance, but by deliberate choices, policies and the collective will of our people. [9]

In this very same verse Allah swt shows us that the moral obligations of a Muslim are not exclusively applied to his fellow brother in faith but also to his equal in humanity. To be more precise, the bond between Muslims with one another is like a single body that involves a notion of attachment with each other while the bond between Muslims with Non-Muslims are of an equally mutual relationship that negates any form of social prejudice.

Rahmah

Unlike Prophet Muhammad pbuh, the previous prophets that came before carried the message specifically for their people. The Prophet of mercy pbuh mentioned the universality of the message he carried in a hadith:

وَكَانَ النَّبِيُّ يُبْعَثُ إِلَى قَوْمِهِ خَاصَّةً وَبُعِثْتُ إِلَى النَّاسِ عَامَّةً

Each of the Prophets that came before me was sent to a specific nation whereas I have been sent (as a prophet) to all nations [10]

In addition to that, the Qur’an mentioned how the Prophet pbuh is sent as a mercy to all the worlds. This includes everyone and everything. From that note, it is clear how Mercy is an emphasised virtue within the religion. Derived from one of the attributes of Allah swt The Most Merciful, Muslims strive to reflect mercy to all Allah’s creations. In a hadith narrated by Al-Imam Al Bayhaqi, the Prophet pbuh said:

“وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ، لَا يَضَعُ اللَّهُ رَحْمَتَهُ إِلَّا عَلَى رَحِيمٍ”، قالوا: “كُلُّنَا يَرحَمُ”

“قَالَ : “لَيْسَ بِرَحْمَةِ أَحَدِكُمْ فِي خَاصَّةِ صَاحِبِهِ حَتَّى يَرْحَمَ النَّاسَ كَافَّةً

“By Him in Whose Hand my life is, Allah does not send down His mercy except to the merciful.” They responded: “we are all merciful.” The Prophet replied: “The merciful has not become one just by showing it to his people, until he extends mercy to all of mankind.” [11]

Even after the departure of the Beloved Prophet pbuh, Muslims continued to be excellent models of the virtue. One notable example was during the era of Sayyiduna Umar ibn Al-Khattab ra. During his time as Caliph, Non-Muslims enjoyed full religious freedom and civil liberties. They had the full right of practicing their own religious rituals and rights. As for the issue of enforcing conversion to Islam, Caliph ‘Umar and his administrators never adopted such policies and they always maintained the Quranic principle that there is no compulsion in religion. [12]

Non-Muslims were granted protection from hostile forces outside and within. This meant that it came to a point where non-Muslims of the time even preferred to live under Caliph Umar’s sovereignty than to live under any other rulers. This treatment of minorities introduced to the world the value of appreciating diversity.

Rights of Neighbours

وَاعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَلَا تُشْرِكُوا بِهِ شَيْئًا ۖ وَبِالْوَالِدَيْنِ إِحْسَانًا وَبِذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْجَارِ ذِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْجَارِ الْجُنُبِ وَالصَّاحِبِ بِالْجَنبِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ مَن كَانَ مُخْتَالًا فَخُورًا

Worship Allah, and do not associate with Him anything, and be good to parents and to kinsmen and orphans and the needy and the close neighbour and the distant neighbour and the companion at your side and the wayfarer and to those (slaves who are) owned by you. Surely, Allah does not like those who are arrogant, proud [13]

In this verse, Allah swt puts an emphasis for Muslims to be good and kind to the mentioned groups of people. One of which are our neighbours. Al-Imam Al-Qurtubi commented in his tafsir citing Nauf Asy-Syami’s interpretation of ‘close neighbour’ to be Muslim neighbours while ‘distant neighbour’ to be Jews and Christians. Al-Qurtubi then determined from that opinion that the command to be good with neighbours applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims.

This verse displays how our neighbours regardless of religion or ethnicity are meant to be given certain rights. The rights of neighbours and respecting them are strongly emphasised in Islam which can be seen in a lot of Ahadith mentioned by Prophet Muhammad pbuh such as the constant reminders from Jibril AS to take care of neighbours.

مَا زَالَ جِبْرِيلُ يُوصِينِي بِالْجَارِ حَتَّى ظَنَنْتُ أَنَّهُ سَيُوَرِّثُهُ

Jibril kept reminding me of the neighbour’s right, until I thought he was going to appoint a share of the inheritance for a neighbour [14]

The rights of neighbours are many such that the following examples would suffice to paint the right picture of social harmony; To constantly ask for their well-being. To always be willing to help when needed. Give respect. To visit and provide them financial aid when in need. To be considerate. Never spread rumours about your neighbour. Never incite disharmony with fellow neighbours. In a hadith, The Prophet strongly cautioned Muslims against creating uneasiness around their neighbourhood.

‏ “وَاللهِ لَا يُؤْمِنُ، وَاللهِ لَا يُؤْمِنُ، وَاللهِ لَا يُؤْمِنُ‏!‏‏”‏ قِيلَ‏:‏ مَنْ يَا رَسُولَ الله‏ِ؟‏ قَالَ‏:‏ ‏”‏الَّذِي لَا يأمنُ جَارَهُ بِوَائِقِهِ‏!‏”‏

“By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer.” It was asked, “Who is that, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “One whose neighbour does not feel safe from his harm” [15]

The hopes for Muslims to be religiously devout does not compel one to be seclusive from society but instead it is encouraged to be contributive while being religiously resilient in order to participate in enriching virtues to society. Temporal seclusion is necessary to evaluate one’s faith and approach with the intention to continue interact with reality effectively. While today our society enjoys peaceful interactions between various communities, we hope in continuously developing a good understanding between diversely religious communities will further nurture peaceful prospects in the future. Allah knows best.

 

References:

[1] 5:3 , Al-Ma’idah Verse 3

[2] 3:85 , Al-Imran Verse 85

[3] Fiqh Hubb El-Hayaah, Shaykh Ali Gomaa

[4] 49:13 , Al-Hujurat Verse 13

[5] 4:105 , An-Nisaa’ Verse 105

[6] Fiqh Hubb El-Hayaah, Shaykh Ali Gomaa

[7] ibid

[8] 60:8 , Al-Mumtahanah Verse 8

[9] Guarding Singapore’s unique religious harmony, Barry Desker for The Straits Times

[10] Sahih Al-Bukhari, Al-Imam Al-Bukhari

[11] Syu’ab Al-Iman, Al-Imam Al-Baihaqy

[12] The Second Caliph ‘Umar & Extending Civil Liberties to Non-Muslims, Dar Al-Ifta’ Al-Misriyyah

[13] 4:36 , An-Nisa Verse 36

[14] Sahih Muslim, Al-Imam Muslim

[15] ibid

MUSLIM LIFE


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