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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES
Building bridges of harmony - ii
By Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri

As for the fear of how the Muslims of India will react if after India wins independence an outside Muslim power attacks the country, I must say that if the Muslims of the country are satisfied with any agreement that they enter into with their non-Muslim compatriots and are not made the victim of the majority, their reaction will be the same as that of a person whose house is attacked, even if the attacker belongs to his own religion and community. An even more important point is that if the Muslims are bound by any agreement with the non-Muslims of the country and the agreement is just and is properly enforced, no outside Muslim power has the religious legitimacy to attempt to breach this pact. Rather, it is binding on such a power to fully respect such an agreement. As the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah's blessings be upon him] says: 'The promise and duty of the Muslims are one. If even the least among them makes an agreement, others are bound to respect it'. 

This is a short summary of the historical pact of the Holy Prophet [may peace arid Allah's blessings be upon him]... My intention in raising these issues is to...help Muslims know how they can, by exhibiting a certain degree of broad-mindedness and tolerance, enter into a just agreement with their compatriots. As I said earlier, these two communities [Hindus and Muslims] have to live in India and India is the country of both. 

[Here, in a footnote, Maulana Kashmiri adds: "A well-known incident in early Islamic history well exemplifies this principle. In the war of Persia, a Persian general [presumably a Zoroastrian- y.s.] disguised himself and sought refuge with a Muslim soldier. When his identity was discovered and the matter of his punishment arose, the general of the Muslim army, Hazrat Abu Ubaida ibn Al-Jarrah, heard that a Muslim soldier had given him shelter. He saved the life of the Persian because to respect the promise of a Muslim is a duty for all other Muslims].

I assure my [non-Muslim] countrymen that if they enter into a just and fair pact with the Muslims, and implement it sincerely and do not resort to political viles, they will find the Muslims fully loyal and good-intentioned neighbours, because the Muslims, in accordance with the commandments of the Holy Qur’an, are duty-bound to fulfill their agreements. The Holy Qur’an says that Muslims must honour all pacts that they have entered into with the non-Muslims till the term of those treaties is over, provided the latter, too, abide by the terms of the treaties and do not assist anyone against the Muslims. And Allah says [in the Holy Qur’an] that if the non-Muslims deal fairly with the Muslims, the latter, too, must deal fairly with them. Undoubtedly [the Holy Qur’an says], God is the friend of those who practice forbearance.

Respected ‘ulama! On this occasion there is another issue which one must consider, one that is often the cause of much misunderstanding. This relates to the rules of the Shari'at. These rules are of three types: those that concern 'the abode of Islam' (dar ul-Islam); those related to 'the abode of peace' (dar ul-aman); and those related to 'the abode of war' (dar ul-harb). We need to consider in which one of these three categories India today finds herself. As far as the principles of the Shari'at are concerned, at best India can be considered to be 'the abode of peace' because [at present] there appears to be no possibility of enforcing the rules of 'the abode of Islam' here. Our revered Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh Hazrat Maulana Shah ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi [a leading eighteenth century ‘alim of Delhi] has said that under the present circumstances India cannot be considered to be an 'abode of Islam'...

...In the event of India not being an 'abode of Islam' today, our duty is to search the books of [our] religion to see which rules apply for 'the abode of peace', and in the light of those commandments fulfill our duty of guiding the Muslims of India. Although in this short speech I cannot elaborate on all the commandments that apply to 'the abode of peace', it is necessary that I should make some suggestions. In this regard, it is best that I draw your attention to some sections of the pact that the last prophet of Allah, Hazrat Muhammad [may peace and Allah's blessing be upon him] entered into with the Jews of Medina after he migrated there. By studying those sections of the treaty you will be able to understand what sort of agreement Muslims can enter into with non-Muslims in 'the abode of peace' or 'the abode of war'.

The Pact Between the Holy Prophet Muhammad [may peace and Allah's blessings be upon him] and the Jews of Medina

As the treaty is very lengthy, I shall simply present those sections of it that are related to the point I wish to make.

'In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. This is a treaty of Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah [may peace and Allah's blessings be upon him] and the Muslims and those people who have entered into an agreement with them as allies. All parties to this agreement [Muslims from Mecca and Medina and those Jews who have signed the treaty] will be considered as one party (jama'at) and one community (qaum) as against other non-Muslims and those who have not entered into this agreement... It is binding on the Muslims that they should oppose those who try to create strife (fitna, fasad) and oppress and persecute the creatures of God. All Muslims must unite and act against such people, even though the latter may be their own sons...

‘It is binding on the Muslims that they should help those Jews who have entered into this agreement with us and behave kindly with them and save them from oppression and not help any oppressor against them... It is their Islamic duty for Muslims to remain true to their pledge and exhibit the highest standards of morality possible... The Jews of the tribe of Banu Awf are allies of the Muslims and have entered into a treaty with them. The Jews will be free to practise their own religion, and the Muslims will be free to practise theirs. In matters other than religion, the Jews of the tribe of Banu Awf and the Muslims will be considered one party, and those who resort to oppression, violate this treaty or commit any crime will be liable for punishment. (After this, the Holy Prophet Muhammad [may peace and Allah's blessings be upon him] mentioned the names of various other Jewish tribes who had also entered into the treaty, such as the tribes of Banu al-Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa'idah, Banu Jusham and Banu Al-Aws, and stated that they would have rights similar to those of the Banu Awf). If any third party should declare war on the Jews and the Muslims, all the treaty partners should fight unitedly. The Muslim and the Jewish armies will be responsible for their own expenses... It is binding on the treaty partners that they should behave with piety and good intentions with each other. They must refrain from oppression and injustice and should help the persecuted. Consider your neighbour as valuable as your own life, provided he abides by his word and the rules of morality and commits no crime".*

This is a short summary of the historical pact of the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah's blessings be upon him]... My intention in raising these issues is to...help Muslims know how they can, by exhibiting a certain degree of broad-mindedness and tolerance, enter into a just agreement with their compatriots. As I said earlier, these two communities [Hindus and Muslims] have to live in India and India is the country of both. Therefore, it is the duty of every Indian to try to create such a climate in the country that the daily strife and killings are stopped so that everyone can lead a life of peace and contentment". (Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand). [*This is a summary, for full Arabic text see Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyah, ed. Mustafa Al-Saqqa et al, 2nd ed, Cairo, 1955, I, 501-4; English text in The Life of Muhammad, tr. A Guillaume, Oxford UP, Karachi, 1978, pp. 231-3. Muhammad Hamidullah has compiled it in his The First Written Constitution in the World (Lahore 1968) - ed.].
(Concluded)

See Also: Building Bridges of Harmony - i  

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