Islam is a religion of love, mercy and tolerance and it preaches freedom of belief and faith. It recognizes the rights of non-Muslims living in Islamic State. They are called protected people or zimmies because they lived in peace and tranquility under the protection of the Islamic State.
The messenger of Allah practiced religious tolerance toward non-Muslims and did not use force to compel people of other religion to embrace Islam as it would have been against the commands of the Quran:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion.”(2:256)
Muslims are commanded here not to force Islam on people of the other religions, because belief in any religion depends on faith, and faith cannot be induced by force. In Islam, religious tolerance is so highly recommended that there is no room for any compulsion to accept Islam. The Quran advocates a just and kind treatment for non-Muslims. The Holy Prophet(Peace Be Upon Him) was commanded by Allah to grant asylum to any unbeliever who asked for it.
Muslims believe in all previous messengers and all of them are held in equal esteem. For a Muslim, Allah is none other than the God of Hazrat Musa and Hazrat Isa. The followers of these messengers are called the ‘People of the Book’ in the Quran.
The Holy Prophet(Peace Be Upon Him), therefore, gave them special consideration and status in the Islamic State of Madinah and freedom to practice their religions. He showed immense goodwill and understanding towards them. Their scriptures and places of worship were respected. They enjoy complete security and protection of their lives, property and religion. No synagogue or church was destroyed. They were granted judicial antonomy. In addition, they were allowed to seek justice in a Muslim court, if they so desired. The Muslim authorities were not allowed to interfere with their personal laws. Islam insists on kind treatment of non-Muslims. The Holy Prophet(Peace Be Upon Him) said:
“If anyone wrongs a man to whom a treaty has been granted, or burdens him above his strength, I will advocate against him on the Day of Judgment.”
Hazrat Abu Bakr said:
“If a province or people receive you, make an agreement with them and keep your promise. Let them be governed by their laws and established customs; and make tribute from them as is agreed between you. Leave them in their religion and their land.”
Hazrat Umar treated non-Muslims very kindly and justly. While imposing taxes upon them, he was very careful that enough was left for their maintenance. Even on his deathbed, he left instructions that non-Muslims should be treated justly and not overburdened with taxes. Such were the injunctions of the Holy Prophet(Peace Be Upon Him) and his immediate successors about the rights of non-Muslims.
Thus, systems in the Islamic civilization were not confined only to addressing Muslims and non-Muslims’ affairs in the Islamic state, but were also concerned with organizing relations between Muslims and other peoples and countries. In this regard, it had bases and principles for such relations. This was the case in the state of peace and war. These are the cases in which the glory of Islamic civilization is manifested and its human nature becomes lofty.
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