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chapter nine

Relations With Non-Muslims

It is universally recognized that Islam is a democratic religion; but there is an equally prevalent notion that this democracy is limited to the believers only. It is thought that Islam tends to create an armed community of equal and free partners in hostility to the rest of the world. But there could be no greater misunderstanding. Islam insists upon nothing less than the brotherhood of man. The following verse will reinforce this statement:

“All men are a single nation.” (II: 213)

The interests of humanity are the same. Once the world realizes this great truth, there will remain no ‘clash of interests’. No narrow patriotism of race, country or religion will stand in the way of the millennium of universal peace.

But variety and pride prevent men from understanding the essential unity of humanity. Is the white Englishman- the conqueror of the universe- the same as the black Negro who blacks his boots without a murmur? Or the American millionaire whose wealth knows no bounds like the sweating Chinaman who works in the mines and does not know what it is to have more than one meal a day? How can my lord the Duke whose blood is the bluest of the blue realize that the despised groom of his stables is not much different from him? The Quran tries to cut at the root of this notion by saying:

“O you men! Surely we have created you of a male and a female and made you tribes and families that you may know one another; surely the most honourable of you with Allah is the one among you most careful (of his duty); surely Allah is Knowing, Aware.” (XLIX: 13)

Thus no pride in birth or rank is to be a hindrance in the prevalence of full equality; for is not every man born of a man and a woman? If there is to be any aristocracy among mankind, it is to be the aristocracy of good deeds. And who will grudge this aristocracy its honor? Except the people who will be naturally respected for their good deeds, and whose honor will not bring harm to the world, none is to enjoy an exalted position. The honor of good deeds even carries no privileges against the rest of humanity, and much less can any Muslim refuse to act justly to his fellow-beings simply on account of belonging to a particular religion. Nor can a believer in the equality of mankind be hostile to any section of it except the persecutors and the unjust whose deeds militate against this high ideal.

But Islam nowhere stops at mere platitudes. It lays down definite rules as to how a Muslim should deal with his brethren of other faiths. The utmost that he is allowed to do against non-Muslims is to repel the attacks of his persecutors with the minimum amount of violence necessary for self-preservation. This will have become clear from the verses quoted in the chapter regarding jihad. A Muslim, under those verses can use violence, but the best thing is to forget and forgive:

“And the recompense of evil is punishment like it, but whoever forgives and makes peace, he shall have his reward from Allah, surely He does not love the unjust.” (XLII: 40)

A more vigorous teaching is the following:

“Repel evil by good.” (XXIII: 96)


“And not alike are the good and the evil. Repel (evil) with what is best, when lo! He between whom and you was enmity would be as if he were a warm friend.” (XLI: 34)

Ibni Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) is reported to say that the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained this verse by saying that the ‘repelling of evil with what is best’ means to be patient when angry and to forgive when injured. He who follows this will be able to convert his enemies into close and intimate friends.

Thus hatred is to be conquered by love; but the Muslim is to do more. He should give his brother no cause to be offended and thus harbour ill feelings. He must abstain from doing any harm and should not even use harsh language:

“And say to My servants that they speak that which is best.” (XVII: 53)

He should not behave insolently towards other people:

“And do not go about in the land exultingly; for you cannot cut through the earth nor reach the mountains in height. All this- the evil of it- is hateful in the sight of you Lord.” (XVII: 37, 38)

Good behavior towards one’s fellow-beings is so important in the eyes of the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that he is reported to have said:

“I have been sent to perfect good behavior and politeness.” (Mishkat: Abu Huraira)

“The man with the most perfect faith is one who is the most polite.” (Mishkat: Abu Huraira)

“God has sent me to teach good manners and goods deeds.” (Jabir)

“Ill-natured habits spoil good deeds as vinegar spoils honey.” (Kanzul Amal: Ali)

“Goodness is good behavior and badness is to think of something which, if it becomes known to him whom it concerns, would annoy him.” (Ibn Omar).

“Nothing is heavier in the scales of deeds than good behavior.”

“I love the man most whose behavior is the best.” (Mishkat)

The above traditions are difficult to translate because the Arabic word for ‘behavior’ in the original really means a man’s whole dealings with his fellow-beings, not merely politeness which may be superficial. What the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  really meant to convey is that there should be genuine love and regard for each other. The following traditions will make this clear:

“He who loves his brother simply for the sake of Allah (unselfishly) and tells him that he loves him, then they will both enter paradise; and he who loves more unselfishly will be higher in rank than his friend.” (Abdullah Bin Omar)

“If two men love each other, the one who loves more is the greater.” (Ihya-ul-ulum)

“By the Being in whose hands is Muhammad’s (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  life, none can be a Muslim until he wishes the same for his brother as he wishes for himself.” (Mishkat)

“They will be nearer to me on the Day of Judgement whose behavior is best and whose hearts are soft for others and who love others and are loved by others.” (Ihya-ul-ulum)

      “A Muslim loves others and is loved by others. One who neither loves, nor is loved is worthless.” (Ihya-ul-ulum)

“He is not a Muslim who satisfies his hunger by taking food, while his neighbor remains hungry.” (Mishkat: Ibni Zubair)

“Exchange gifts with one another so that it may create love.” (Adabul Mufrad)

“Give refuge to him who asks for it; give alms to a man begging in the name of Allah; accept invitations; and repay the good done to you. If you cannot do this, pray for the man.” (Ibni Omar: Khairul Mowaiz)

“Those who console the afflicted shall be rewarded.” (Mishkat: Abdullah bin Mas’ud)

“He will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not immune from evil from him.” (Mishkat: Abu Huraira)

When Imam Husain (Allah be pleased with him)- the great martyr- was asked as to who was a neighbor, he replied. “Every one who lives in any of the forty houses adjoining your house is your neighbor.”

The caliph ‘Umar is reported to have said:

“There should not be trouble in your love or death in your enmity. When you love another, do not trouble him like a child; when you are hostile to another, do not tolerate his destruction.”

These traditions will show that Islam teaches the love of one’s fellow beings as a primary virtue. But one may entertain the doubt that all of these teachings are to be observed in relations with Muslims only; but this would be a totally wrong interpretation, as there is made no such distinction in them. Abdullah )RAA), the son of Umar (RAA), would not eat the meat of a goat slaughtered for him until he had sent some to his neighbor-who was a Jew, as he thought it his duty to share his meals with all his neighbors in the light of the above traditions.

Next to love, comes the virtue of forbearance. In this respect as well, Islam is equally emphatic. Says the Holy Quran:

“And hasten to forgiveness from your Lord and a garden, the extensiveness of which is (as) the heavens and the earth; it is prepared for those who guard (against evil);- Those who spend (benevolently) in ease as well as in straitness, and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good to others.” (III: 132, 133)

Commenting upon this Moulana Muhammad Ali says:-

“The verse has on many occasions inspired the noblest thoughts of toleration and charitableness. Hasan’s servant having on one occasion thrown a boiling hot dish on his master obtained his liberty with monetary help by reciting this verse. Thinking he would be punished for his fault, he repeated the words:- “Those who restrain their anger.” Hasan said he was not angry. “And pardon men,” added the servant. Hasan said, “I pardon you.” “And loves the doers of good” concluded the offending servant. “I give you liberty and four hundred pieces of silver” was the response. “A noble instance of moderation and generosity” is Sale’s comment upon this incident.”

The Quran repeats the injunction to be patient in so many places that all the verses cannot be quoted here conveniently. Some have already been quoted elsewhere. It would, however, be useful to quote a few sayings of the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):-

“Allah will pardon the man who restrains his anger and pardons others.”

“He who restrains his anger while he can take revenge will be greatly rewarded by Allah.”

“Allah never degrades a man because of his patience and forbearance.” (Mishkat).

“If a man strikes any one without justice, he shall be punished on the Day of Judgment.”

“Do not even point at your brother with arms. Who knows that Satan may stretch your hand and you may fall into the fire of Hell?” (Mishkat: Abu Huraira).

“If a man even points at his brother with an iron arm, angels curse him till he puts it away, even though he be his father’s son.” (Mishkat: Abu Huraira).

“Escape from prejudice which is false; do not pry into the affairs of others; do not act as a spy against your brother; do not buy simply to increase its price; do not bear enmity or hatred. O servants of Allah! become brethren.” (Mishkat: Abu Huraira)

Addressing Shaik Bin Qais the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  said, “Allah loves two qualities in thee; forbearance and thinking before doing a deed.” (Mishkat)

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  has been described as “the Mercy for the two worlds”– a title which he amply justified by his deeds and teachings.

He said:-

“He who does not show mercy shall see no mercy (from his Lord).”

“Allah is not merciful to him who is not merciful to men.”

“Allah is merciful to him who is merciful to His creation”

“Be kind to what is on the Earth, so that Allah may be merciful to you in Heaven.”

 “If you are merciful to anything, even though it be an animal for slaughter, Allah will be merciful to you.”

“Show mercy that you may see mercy; pardon men’s faults so that your faults may be pardoned.”

“Allah says: If you desire My mercy, be merciful to My creation.”

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  once said to his companions, “No one shall enter paradise who is not merciful.” They said, “We are merciful.” He replied, “Be merciful to mankind in general.”

The following are a few of the Prophet’s (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  teachings regarding gentle behavior:-

“Allah is kind and loves kindness and gentleness.”

“He who got a portion from gentleness got a portion from goodness, and he who did not get a portion from gentleness, got no goodness.”

“He who has three qualities will die in peace and go to paradise– gentle behavior towards the weak, affection to one’s parents, and goodness to one’s slaves.”

“Allah hates most the most quarrelsome man.”

Even sarcastic language and hard words are forbidden:-

“And do not abuse even those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest, exceeding the limits, they should accuse Allah out of ignorance.” (VI: 109)

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  said:-

“A man ought not to be sarcastic.”

“Muslims are not sarcastic, harsh, or abusive.”

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  was asked to curse his persecutors; he replied, “I have not been sent to curse, but to be merciful.”

Next to mercy comes justice. If a man is just, his relations with the rest of the mankind cannot be anything but good. There would not be half the ill-will and strife in the world if there were a little more justice. How difficult do we find it to be fair to our adversaries! How ready we are to side with our own nation or country, even if it is unjust! How often do people try to hide the faults- nay, the crimes- of their partisans! And all this leads to undying bitterness and hatred. But the Holy Quran strikes at the very root of this habit in the following verses:-

“Surely Allah commands you to make over trusts to those worthy of them, and that when you judge between people, you judge with justice; surely Allah admonishes you with what is excellent; surely Allah is Seeing, Knowing.” (IV: 58)

A Muslim should not hide the truth when its expression is demanded by the requirements of Justice:-

“And do not conceal testimony, and whoever conceals it, his heart is surely sinful, and Allah knows what you do.” (II: 283).

“O you who believe! be maintainers of justice, bearers of witness for Allah’s sake, though it may be against your own selves or (your) parents or near relatives; if he (who is affected by your testimony) be rich or poor, Allah is most competent to deal with them both, therefore do not follow your low desires, lest you deviate; and if you swerve or turn aside, then surely Allah is aware of what you do.” (IV: 135).

“O you who believe! be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is aware of what you do.” (V: 8)

“And whoever commits a fault or a sin, then accuses of it one innocent, he indeed takes upon himself the burden of calumny and a manifest sin.” (IV: 112).

No Muslim is allowed to cooperate with another in injustice:-

“And help one another in goodness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and in aggression.” (V: 2)

Fair dealing goes hand in hand with justice. The Quran lays full stress upon this as well:-

“And to Midian ( We sent) their brother Shuaib. He said: O my people! serve Allah, you have no God other than Him. Clear proof has indeed come to you from your Lord, therefore give ful1 measure and weight and do not diminish to men their things, and do not make mischief in the land after its reform; this is better for you if you are believers.” (VII: 85)

“And, O my people! give full measure and weigh fairly, and defraud not men of their things, and do not act corruptly in the land, making mischief .” (XI: 85)

“And give full measure when you measure out, and weigh with a true balance; this is fair and better in the end.” (XVII: 35)

“Give a full measure and be not of those who diminish; And weigh things with a right balance; And do not wrong men of their dues, and do not act corruptly making mischief.” (XXVI: 181-183)

“And He made the measure, that you may not be inordinate in respect of the measure; And keep up the balance with equity and do not make the measure deficient.” (LV: 7-9)

“Woe to the defaulters, who, when they take the measure [of their dues] from men, take it fully; But when they measure out to others or weight out for them, they are deficient; Do these think that they shall be raised again for a mighty day, the day on which men shall stand before the Lord of the Worlds?” (LXXXIII: 1-6)

The Holy Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  said:-

“He who sells a thing without telling the buyer its faults incurs the wrath of Allah.”

“Abstain from dishonesty, so that you may not be disgraced on the Day of Judgment.”

“He who hides the dishonesty of the dishonest is like him.”

“All the sins of a martyr are pardoned except his unpaid debts.”

“When a nation takes to dishonesty, Allah creates in the hearts of its members fear and awe (of men); and the nation which does not give full measure suffers from starvation, and the nation which rules against Justice is involved in bloodshed, and the nation breaking its covenants is defeated.” (Mishkat: Ibni Abbas)

“If the buyer and seller speak the truth and wish well to each other, the dealing shall be blessed for the both. But if they hide the faults and lie, it will be totally inauspicious.” (Ahya ul-ulum).

“A false oath may help in selling a commodity, but it destroys the good in the earning therefrom.” (Ahya ul-ulum)

“Do not betray the confidence reposed in you.” (Ahya ul-ulum).

“Do not betray a trust, nor be dishonest even to one who is dishonest to you.” (Abu Huraira)

“A believer could contract any habit except those of falsehood and dishonesty.” (Mishkat: Uns)

“Honesty leads to prosperity, and dishonesty to misery.” (Ali: Kinzul-amal)

“He who is not honest is not a believer, nor he who does not fulfil his promise.” (Mishkat: Ibni Mas’ud)

“The best earning is from ones own labor and from a trade wherein there exists no falsehood or dishonesty.” (Rafi)

“None eats better food than one who lives upon his own labor.”

Anas reports in Mishkat that there was not a single sermon delivered by the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  in which he did not say that he who lacks honesty lacks faith.

Ali (Allah be pleased with him), the son-in-law of the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  related the following incident which took place when Islam was already powerful in the land:- “The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  owed a few dinars to a certain Jew named Falan Jabr who once demanded the payment of his debt. The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  replied that he had nothing at that time to give him. The Jew said, ‘I will not part from you until you pay the debt.’ The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  said, ‘I will remain with you,’ and remained at the Jew’s place and offered his midday, afternoon, sunset, night, and morning prayers there. The companions of the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  did not like this and threatened the Jew. Muhammad (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  came to know of this and asked them, ‘What are you doing?’ They replied, ‘O Prophet! How can we bear to see a Jew imprison you?’ He replied, ‘My God has forbidden me to be unjust to any one whether we have a treaty with his people or not.’ The man was so impressed with the noble character and forbearance of the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  that he accepted Islam.”

This is how a Muslim is to fulfil his obligations, but he should forgive and be patient if others owe anything to him. The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  said, “He who gives some time to the poor or forgives a debt will be relieved of his troubles on the Day of Judgement by Allah.”

“Allah is kind to him who is gentle in buying and selling, and lending and realizing debts.” (Ihya ul-ulum: Wasila).

Charity is one of the cardinal principles of Islam. The institution of Zakat- the Muslim poor tax or capital levy, because it is levied upon the whole wealth and not the annual income of an individual- is a unique testimony to the fact that Islam considers charity to be a pillar of religion. The fact that Zakat is organized charity speaks volumes of the genius of the great Prophet, for every day the world is recognizing the necessity of organized charity. But Islam does not stop there. Zakat is the prescribed minimum which must be exceeded by every one who wants to act in the light of the teachings of the Quran where the injunctions to be charitable are repeated so often that they baffle any attempt at extensive quotation in this small work.

The following verses, taken at random, will give some idea:

“And seek by means of what Allah has given you the future abode and do not neglect your portion of this world and do good (to others) as Allah has done good to you, and do not seek to make mischief in the land; surely Allah does not love the mischief-makers.” (XXVIII: 77)

“Say: O my servants who believe! Be careful of (your duty to) your Lord; for those who do good in this world is good, and Allah’s earth is spacious, only the patient will be paid back their reward in full without measure.” (XXXIX: 10)

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  said:

“Do not consider a charitable act insignificant even though it be but to meet your brother with a smile.”

“The charitable are nearer to Allah, nearer to Paradise, and nearer to men, but farther from the Hell.” (Khairul Mowaiz: Abu Huraira)

“Cursed is he who keeps people away from his generosity, and eats alone, and beats his slave.” (Mishkat: Abi Imama)

“Wealth does not consist in riches, but in generosity.” (Mishkat)

“The rich man who is pious and benevolent is loved by his Lord.” (Mishkat: Sa’d)

A Muslim should on no account interfere with the property of others. The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  said:

“Muslims! Beware! Never oppress anybody. No one’s property is lawful unto you except with his permission.”

“A man who claims what does not rightfully belong to him is not of us.” (Abu Zar)

“Anyone who usurps even a span of ground of others will be obliged to bear the burden of its earth on the Day of Judgment.”

A Muslim cannot even take back the property confiscated by an alien people without justification except with their consent. Ali (Allah be pleased with him), the fourth caliph and an authority upon the Prophet’s (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) teachings, holds with Zahri, Omar bin Omar, and Hasan Basri that if non-Muslims conquer a Muslim country and confiscate the property of Muslim residents, the conquerors become the legal masters of the confiscated property. The learned Qazi Shokani also holds the same in Nelulowtar. The Hidaya, the famous book of Hanafi jurisprudence, also confirms this view.

The root of unfair dealings is greed which is condemned in the following words by the Quran:

“O you who believe! Most surely many of the doctors of law and the monks eat away the property of men falsely, and turn (them) from Allah’s way, and (as for) those who hoard up gold or silver and do not spend in Allah’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement.”

“On the day when it shall be heated in the fire of hell, then their foreheads and their sides, and their backs shall be branded with it: This is what you hoarded up for yourselves, therefore taste what you hoarded.” (IX: 34-35)

“Therefore be careful of (your duty to) Allah as much as you can, and hear and obey and spend (in the way of Allah), it is better for your souls; and whosoever is saved from the greed of his soul, these it is that are the successful.

“If you set apart for Allah a goodly portion, he will double it for you and forgive you; and Allah is the Multiplier (of rewards), Forbearing. The Knower of the unseen and the seen, the Mighty, the Wise.” (LXIV: 16-18)

The following traditions reinforce these verses:

“Save yourselves from greed, because it has destroyed people before you who indulged in bloodshed amongst themselves and did not take even relationship into consideration.”

“Greed and faith cannot remain together in the same heart.”

“Greed spoils the learning of the learned.”

Niggardliness, an outcome of greed is spoken of in the following words:

“Behold! You are those who are called upon to spend in Allah’s way, but among you are those who are niggardly and whoever is niggardly is niggardly against his own soul.” (XLVII: 38)

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“The man who is asked to help in the name of Allah and gives nothing is the worst of mankind.” (Mishkat: Ibni Abbas)

Another thing which stands in the way of good relations is envy. All who have the least knowledge of the problem of class hatred in industrial centers are aware of the fact that half of the bitterness in the heart of the workers comes from envy. The Quran discourages this in the following words:

“And do not covet that by which Allah has made some of you excel others, men shall have the benefit of what they earn and women shall have the benefit of what they earn; and ask Allah of His grace, surely Allah knows all things.” (IV: 32)

“… or do they envy the people for what Allah has given them of His grace?” (IV: 54)

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), reinforced these teachings by saying:

“Abstain from envy, for envy consumes good deeds as fire burns wood.”

“The best of men have no envy.”

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) laid great stress upon sincerity. He said:

“Allah does not look at your appearance or riches, but he cares for your hearts and deeds.” (Kanzul-‘amal: Abu Huraira)

“The sincere are blessed, they are the lamp of guidance, through them are averted the evils of mischief.” (Thuban)

No Muslim can treat a treaty, a covenant, or a promise as “a mere scrap of paper.” The Quran lays down:

“O you who believe! Fulfill your obligations.” (V:1)

“… and fulfill your promise, surely you will be questioned about your promises.” (XVII: 34)

The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

“A covenant is a debt for a Muslim which he must pay.” (Kanzul-‘amal: Ali)

“Do not care if a man prays or fasts exceedingly, but do see whether he speaks the truth and fulfills his trust and is pious in distress.” (Kanz: Omar)

“He who does not abide by his promise is not of me.” (Muslim)

“He who kills an ally without his fault shall not enter Paradise.” (Abu Daud)

There is an interesting anecdote about Amir Muawiya which shows how these teachings affected the immediate disciples of the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):

“There was a treaty between Amir Muawiya and the (Eastern) Romans. When it was about to expire, Muawiya prepared to attack the Empire. (While the army was proceeding) he saw a horseman approach who came before him and exclaimed, “Allah is Great! Allah is Great! One should abide by one’s treaties and should not break them like this.” It was discovered that the horseman was a companion of the Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Omar bin Ahsa. Amir Muawiya enquired as to why he had come. He replied, “The Prophet (, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  told us not to break a treaty before its time expires. If you want to break this treaty, at least inform the other party.” Muawiya was so impressed that he came back and dispersed his army.” (Tirmizi and Abu Daud)

Love, tolerance, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, fair dealing, justice, observation of pacts and treaties, kindness, charity and abstention from greed, envy and usurpation of others’ property are the source of good relations between man and man, and the above will have shown that Islam lays full stress upon them. It does not stop at broadly hinting at the virtue of universal love but goes deep into the matter, and, by its teachings, ensures peace and amity among mankind.