With a war on terror present worldwide, an invisible divide has occurred between the Islamic world and others. Unresolved long-standing issues, unjust political patronage and media hype fan irrelevant hatred, adding to everybody’s confusion.
Peace is every human being’s right and must be the order of the day. But we see otherwise around us today. In this challenging and dangerous situation, it is difficult to understand our own as well as other’s rights. However, we can learn the code of conduct drawn out for every Muslim for optimum benefits of the society in light of Quran and Sunnah:
1. Tool of ‘Dawah’ (invitation to Islam)
There is an old folk saying: ‘You can draw more flies with honey, than with vinegar.’ Prophet Muhammad (sa) with a pleasant and just demeanor was able to reach out and touch people’s hearts. Countless people entered into the folds of Islam. Even those who did not convert to Islam always attested to his truth and magnanimity.
When Allah’s Messenger (sa) sent Muath Ibn Jabal and Abu Musa Al-Ashari to Yemen, he advised them: “Be lenient and not strict and bring glad tidings and do not repel people.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
This is precisely because our actions speak louder than our words. At times we are negligent of the fact that we as Muslims are ambassadors of Islam. One questionable act or word from us brings the credibility of Islam in the line of fire. Conversely, our graceful conduct can win many friends and cause foes to think twice.
2. Tolerance, an integral part of Islam
Islam urges Muslims to exercise benevolence with non-Muslims. Believers are encouraged to give gifts, money and visit non-Muslims. This will educate the non-Muslims of social relations in Islam. Quran states, tolerant people will be rewarded with “a garden whose width is like the width of the heavens and earth.” (Al-Hadid 57:21)
Similarly it is not considered in good taste to ridicule other beliefs. Prophet Muhammad (sa) always gave a fair chance to all his opponents to explain their case explicitly. He never interrupted their speech nor did he abuse them verbally or physically. He made friends to enforce Allah’s Deen and waged wars to defend Islam. There was never a shade of personal ego attached to any of his actions or words.
Today there is a place in Kuala Lumpur that is a symbol of religious tolerance. Here a mosque, a temple and a church share a common boundary and their respective worshippers freely practice their beliefs with no fear.
3. Charity and aid
It is certainly permissible to help poor non-Muslims, unless one knows that they are actively hostile to Islam. It is reported that Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (rta) saw an elderly Christian man begging. He inquired about his circumstances and when he was told that the man was a Christian, he ordered that he should be given help from the treasury of the Muslim state. His reasons were that the man paid taxes imposed on non-Muslims when he was able to earn. Therefore, he was entitled to help when he lost that source of his income.
Besides that, voluntary alms in the form of Sadaqah can be given to destitute non-Muslims to uplift their conditions.
4. Relations with neighbours
A neighbour’s rights are of prime importance in Islam regardless of which belief he belongs to. Muslims are encouraged to abide by decent and courteous civic laws and actively participate in community service. For starters, they can begin with their own neighbourhood and ensure their neighbour’s are never placed in a hurtful or awkward position.
Abdullah Ibn Amr (rta) slaughtered a sheep and he said: “Have you presented a gift from it to my neighbour, the Jew, for I heard the Messenger of Allah (sa) say, ‘(the angel) Gabriel kept on commending the neighbour to me until I thought he would make him an heir?” (Abu Dawood)
5. Familial relations
Asma Bint Abi Bakr (rta) once asked Allah’s Apostle (sa), if it was permissible for her polytheist mother to visit her and enter her house. He said to her: “Yes, be in touch with your mother.” (Agreed upon)
It is also narrated that Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (rta) presented his polytheist brother with a silk dress as a gift, which the Prophet Muhammad (sa), had given to Umar (rta). (Bukhari)
Safiyya (rta), one of the wives of Prophet Muhammad (sa), endowed her Jewish brother with part of her fortune to show him how much she cared and kept good relations with him. (Baihaqi)
Conversely Allah also states: “O you who believe, do not take your fathers and your brothers as friends if they prefer unbelief over faith…” (At-Taubah 9:23) Any relative who deliberately attempts to jeopardize a believer’s faith, is not considered to be a friend. A Muslims’ foremost sincerity belongs to Allah and His Apostle (sa).
6. Quran as a gift to non-Muslims
Some scholars state that if we are certain that our non-Muslim friends will be able to treat our gift of Quran to them with respect and dignity, there is no harm in doing so. The Prophet Muhammad (sa) sent messages to rulers of neighbouring states and included in his letters verses from the Quran, knowing that those rulers were not believers.
Another valid logic that must be remembered is that Quran is applicable to all mankind and we have to make it known to them. It is our duty to convey the message to them and to invite them towards Allah’s final revelation.
Therefore, if we know that a non-believer wants to read Quran to understand and learn, we should encourage him to read Quran, which is the best source of knowledge.
7. Supplication for Non-Muslims
The best supplication for non-believers is to pray for their guidance. Abu Hurairah (rta) reported that Tufayl Ibn Amr Al-Dawsi and his companions came to Prophet Muhammad (sa) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, the Daws (Tufayl’s tribe) have rebelled and disobeyed, so invoke Allah’s wrath against them.” People said: “Now Daws is doomed!” Allah’s Messenger (sa) prayed: “O Allah, guide the Daws and bring them here.” (Bukhari) Allah is the One who can open hearts to the call of Islam. Another great example is of Umar (rta) for whom Prophet (sa) had prayed to Allah to enter him into the folds of Islam and strengthen it. Allah heard his supplication and Umar (rta) not only embraced Islam but proved to be one of the most competent and successful Caliphs.
8. Non-Islamic celebrations
There are two schools of thought here. Some scholars state that it is not permissible to congratulate non-Muslims on their religious festivals since it encourages them to move further on to the road of disbelief. Other scholars are of the view that when diverse religious communities live peacefully together, it is courteous to greet each other in their respective festivities. It is also not forbidden to partake of their food unless we know that they slaughter their animals in a way, which Islam forbids, or use an ingredient that is not Tayyab (pure).
It is not permitted for Muslims to celebrate other religious festivals. The restraint is set in place because such celebrations impact life style and thought processes too. The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever assimilates to a people, becomes one of them.” (Ahmad) By over indulgence there may be a danger of either adapting other religious beliefs or innovating new festivities.
9. Employing expertise
Prophet Muhammad (sa) never hesitated employing expertise of non-Muslims whenever he deemed necessary. In the tenth year of Prophethood, while Allah’s Messenger (sa) was returning from Taif, he rested in Hira Cave. He was unable to enter Makkah due to a grave threat to his life. It was at this stage that a polytheist Al-Mutim Ibn Adi who was also a notable in Makkah provided shelter to Prophet Muhammad (sa). Allah’s Messenger (sa) never forgot Mutim’s favour. Years afterwards, at the conclusion of battle of Badar He said: “If Mutim Ibn Adi were living and had asked for the release of these rotten people, then I would have given them to him.” (Bukhari)
Similarly in the fourteenth year of Prophet hood, Prophet (sa) was commanded to immigrate from Makkah to Medina. For three days he seeked refuge in Cave Thaur, with Abu Bakar (rta) while Quraish continued their frantic search for them. Then Abdullah Ibn Uraiqit, who had not yet embraced Islam, was hired as a guide to take them to Medina by a safe route.
10. Balance in relationship
Islam refuses to compromise its doctrines by either behaving like a doormat to others or like an evil tyrant meant to crush all other ideologies. It wants to set a balance in all its relations.
The Quran states: “O you who believe, do not take as friends those who take your religion as a joke and an amusement from among the ones who were given the Scripture before you and the disbelievers. And be mindful of Allah if you are believers.” (Al-Maidah 5:57)
Likewise Allah’s Apostle (sa) said: “O people, accept presents so long as they remain presents, but when ….the presents are given for the religion of one of you, then leave them alone.” (Abu Dawood)
There is a difference between being allied with someone, confiding in him and taking him as a friend to the exclusion of Muslims and dealing righteously, being just and keeping good relations with him. Once this is clear, we are free to treat non-Muslims with respect and kindness depending on their ability to respect and accept our identity as Muslims.