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Book Review
Muslim Minorities

Name of the Book: Muslim Minorities: Fatawa Regarding Muslims Living as Minorities
Authors: Shaykh Ibn Baz and Shaykh Uthaymeen
Publishers: Message of Islam, Hounslow, UK
Year: 1998. Pages: 88. Price: £3.50. ISBN: not mentioned
Reviewed by: Yoginder Sikand

More than a third of the world’s Muslim population live as minorities. Some of these Muslim groups number several millions, as in India, Russia and China. India’s Muslim population is, in fact, the largest in the world after Indonesia. Yet, Islamic scholars seeking to develop new perspectives on Islam in the modern age have devoted but little attention to the question of Muslim minorities. In a sense, this can be seen as a result of an uncritical reliance on the corpus of classical Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), that could hardly envisage the possibility of Muslims living as minorities but as theoretical equals of others in non-Muslim states.

This book, then, is a welcome development, pointing to the growing concern among Muslim scholars of the need to address the whole question of the status and role of Muslim minorities within the broad framework of a new fiqh that seeks to respond to issues of contemporary relevance for which classical fiqh had few answers. The fundamental concern of the authors, both of whom are leading ‘ulama of the Arab world, is the issue of how Muslims living as minorities in non-Muslim states can remain true to their faith in the face of the obvious challenges that being a minority presents. It is in their willingness to address these questions, rather than in the particular prescriptions that they offer, that, to my mind, the most significant contribution of this book lies.

The authors see the preservation and promotion of Islam among Muslim minorities as their most fundamental duty. For this, they argue the need for Muslims living in Muslim countries to extend all possible help, such as sending missionaries, setting up institutions and providing Muslim minorities with Islamic literature. Such assistance could also take the form of Muslim states pressing upon other countries to grant their Muslim citizens freedom to practise their faith. As to how Muslim minorities should relate to non-Muslim communities in whose midst they live, a cautious cordiality is advised. They must, the authors say, ‘become a good model for their enemies around them’ by being ‘a living example of Islam in their behaviour’. Because of this, they say, their ‘enemies’ would see Islam as the true religion, and as enjoining upon Muslims such virtues as justice, compassion, forgiveness, kindness and mercy.
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