Rights of Non-Muslim citizens/Religious minorities in Islam

Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him)  was able to establish a multiethnic and a multicultural society which he administered as the head of state. He created an atmosphere which recognised rights for the freedom of religion and culture, with minorities being granted rights to practice their own religion.His teachings eradicated economic exploitation and at the same time established the rights of women and the poor.At the practical level, democracy was revived by the Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him) who established local governance in Medina.If we are to revive peace in our world today we have to revive the concept of multiculturalism; we must accept diversity in the world. In the article below we are presenting few traditions related to rights of Religious minorities/Non-Muslim citizens in Islam.

Freedom of Religion for Non-Muslims

An entire chapter of the Quran which guarantees man’s religious freedom even if it is contrary to Muslim beliefs demonstrates the highest possible form of religious tolerance.The Quran states in the chapter of al-Kafirun (the disbelievers):
Say: ‘O disbelievers! I do not worship that which you worship. Nor do you worship Whom I worship. And I shall never worship that which you worship. Nor will you worship Whom I worship. (So) you have your dÏn (religion), and I have my Din (Religion).’ ►{Quran 109:1–6}

The Quran also states:
There is no compulsion in DÏn (Religion).►{Surah Al-Baqarah Chapter 2: Verse 256}

Ibn Kathir explained the Qur’anic verse : “There is no compulsion in Din(Religion).”  in the following words : ” Do not coerce anyone to embrace the religion of Islam,for its proofs and evidences are clear, obvious and manifest.There is no need for everyone to be coerced into embracing it.”►{ Ibn Kathir , Tafsir al Qur’an al-Azim 1:310}

A Muslim cannot enforce a person or compel others to their way: forced conversions have no place in this pure religion. Compelling others to embrace Islam is against Islam and the teachings of the Quran.Everybody has a right to practice his/her own religion; rather Islam has enjoined Muslim rulers to protect the places of worship of non-Muslims.

Protection to Religious Places of Worship belonging to Non-Muslims

It is the responsibility of Islamic state to provide protection to the places of worship belonging to the Non-Muslims, despite religious differences. The position maintained by Ibn Abbas(RA) is : “When a territory becomes a territory of the Muslims, no church , sanctuary or Zorostrian temple that was there before should be demolished.” { Ahkam al-Quran 5:83}

When Hadrat Umar b. Abd al-AzÏz(RA) took over as Caliph, the Christians complained to him about al-Walid’s forcible occupation of Church land. He ordered the official to get that part of the Mosque demolished,which had been constructed on the land of Church,and return it to Christians. So the same was done. ► {Futuh al-Buldan, p. 150.}

Guarantee of Legal Justice for Non-Muslims

Another guarantee provided by Islam through the Holy Quran and through the Holy Prophet(peace be upon him), was the guarantee of legal justice.

Almighty Allah says in the Quran :
“O believers! Become tenaciously firm on justice, bearing witness (merely) for the sake of Allah even if (the witness) is against your own selves or (your) parents or (your) relatives.” ►{Quran 4:135}

And when you judge matters among people, give judgment with justice. ► {Quran 4:58}

This guarantee of legal equality and justice is an absolute statement of the Qur’an and there is no mentioning of faith or religion. Thus, it is a universal right for the whole of mankind. Likewise, it is stated:

Surely, Allah commands you to entrust the belongings to those who are worthy of them. {Quran 4:58}

This is a general commandment that states whenever you are appointed or given an authority to adjudicate a matter you are required to administer justice fairly regardless of the person’s religion.The guarantee of a hearing and a free-trial was given to every person and nobody would be punished without a proper, independent hearing, this also included the right of defence.

According to Abd al-Rahman b. al-Baylamani, a man from the Muslims killed a man from the People of the Book. The case was presented to the Prophet(peace be upon him) and he said, “I am most responsible of all for fulfilling the rights of those under my care [i.e., non-Muslim citizens].” Then he ordered [the killing of the Muslim killer by way of retribution] and he was killed. ► {Set forth by •Abu Nuaym in Musnad AbÏ HanÏfa, p.104; •al-BayhaqÏ in al-Sunan al-Kubra, 8:30 §15696; and cited by •al-ShafiÏ in al-Musnad, p. 343, al-ShaybanÏ in al-Mabsut, 4:488}

Protection of Life and Property of Non-Muslim citizens

The amount of importance and respect given to minorities in Islam is unimaginable when we read these following words of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), these words are so strong that If Muslims do not follow them then there is a chance of them having total loss in their own faith.

Hadrat Abd Allah b. Amr(Radiyallahu Anhu) related that Allah’s Messenger(peace be upon him) said:” Anyone who kills a non-Muslim citizen will not smell the fragrance of Paradise,while its fragrance can be smelt at a distance of forty years.” ► { An-Nasai in al-Sunan 8:25, Chapter on “Gravity of Killing Non Muslim citizen”, Hadith #4750;Ibn Majah in Al-Sunan Kitab al-Diyat 2:896 , Hadith #2686;al-Bazzar in al-Musnad Hadith #2383}

Hadrat Khalid bin Walid(Radiyallahu Anhu) reported Prophet(peace be upon him) said :” Beware! I forbid you to take wealth of the Non-Muslim citizens unjustly.” ► { al-Tabarani in al-Mu’jam al-Kabir 4:111 Hadith #3828}

Asim b. Kulayb(Radiyallahu Anhu) narrated on the authority of his father that one of the Ansar related : ” We set out on a journey with Allah’s Messenger(peace be upon him). The people were suffering hunger and were in need, so they forcibly took some goats and slaughtered them. The pots were boiling when the Prophet(peace be upon him) came over , holding his bow , and he started turning our pans upside down with the bow and mixing the meat with the soil.Then he said , ” Eating stolen food is not less unlawful than eating carrion.” or he said:” Carrion is not more unlawful than plunder!” {Sunan Abu Dawud Kitab al-Jihad , 3:66 Hadith #2705; al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra 9:61 Hadith #17789}