By: JAMAAL AL-DIN ZARABOZO
Muslims and non-Muslims together form a society and although they follow different paths they can live together if they practice tolerance and respect each other. A Muslim’s life revolves entirely around the belief in One God. His attitude toward others is likewise determined by the others’ attitude toward God. However, a Muslim must deal with non-Muslims on the basis of just principles.
One of the basic principles of behavior toward non-belligerent non-Muslims is found in the following verse of the Qur’an:
“Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes — from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. (Qur’an 60:8)
A Muslim can interact with non-Muslims, buying, selling or renting from them, for example. Even on a social level, there can be interaction, such as coming together for meals and the like. However, such interactions are, by nature, going to be limited, due to differences in societal practices and customs. Perhaps one could say that the Muslim’s ultimate goal in his relations with non-Muslims is to bring them to Islam, thereby opening the door for there to be a complete relationship of love and brotherhood between them. Even if the non-Muslim is antagonistic and impolite, the Muslim knows that he should repel his evil with goodness. God says:
“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel the evil with a deed that is better. If you do that then verily he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend” (Qur’an 41:34)
Noted scholar ibn Baaz wrote:
“It is obligatory upon Muslims to deal with disbelievers in an Islamic fashion with proper behavior, as long as they are not fighting the Muslims. One must fulfill one’s trusts to them, must not deceive them, must not betray them or lie to them. If there is a discussion or debate between them, one must argue with them in the best manner and be just with them in the dispute. This is in obedience to God’s command.”
“And argue not with the People of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) unless it be in a way that is better, except with such of them as do wrong.” (Qur’an 29:46)
It is sanctioned for the Muslim to invite them to the good, to advise them and to be patient with them at the same time being neighborly and polite with them. This is so because God has stated:
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom (of the Qur’an) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better” (Qur’an 16:125)
God has also said:
“…Speak good to people…” (Qur’an 2:83)
Living in a non-Muslim society
When a Muslim accepts to live in a certain society, he is, in essence, making a pact with that country that he will abide by the laws of that state. He does not have the right to violate the laws of that state simply because he is a Muslim and the state is not an Islamic state. Thus, all the principles of proper behavior that have been described in this chapter apply to a Muslim living wherever he may be living. In most countries today, many things may be legal that are forbidden to a Muslim. These legal things a Muslim simply avoids. He should also demand his legal rights to ensure that he is not forced to do anything forbidden in Islam. Overall though, he should be from among the law-abiding citizens.
In addition to that, a Muslim should be beneficial to the society he is living in. He should be a model citizen in many ways. As described earlier, he should be a good neighbor. He has the obligation to encourage what is good and prevent evil wherever he may be living. Finally, he must be just and fair in all of his dealings with the other members of society.
Islam recognizes the fact that it is natural for an individual to love his country and to have an affinity for that land in which he grew up. When the Muslims were forced to migrate from Makkah, which was under the control of the polytheists, many of them expressed their love for Makkah. Hence, it is natural for Muslims to develop a love for whatever land they happen to be in, even if the country is not an Islamic state. It is also natural for Muslims to desire what is best for their homeland. But, again, unfortunately, their idea as to what is best may not be shared or appreciated by others. For example, the Muslims may wish to see an end to gambling, prostitution and pornography. However, many non-Muslims will not share this feeling.
Theoretically speaking, though, in contemporary “free” societies, this should not be a problem. Muslims should be able to hold on to their values and customs — without bringing harm to others — while the others follow the dominant culture in non-Muslim lands. If the “free” countries are not willing to give the Muslims that much, it means that they are not willing to live up to their own ideals.
Even in pluralistic societies, Islamic teachings contribute to societal cohesion. First, the major stumbling block to such cohesion, racism and prejudice, is removed. Second, a strong love and bond is created between those of the Islamic faith. Third, clear and decisive instructions of just and proper behavior are given for treatment of those outside the bond of faith. Fourth, a Muslim understands his responsibility toward those around him and therefore contributes to the good of all, further enhancing good feelings and cohesion within society.