Islamic Perspectives

Plural society and Muslims

By Nazneen O. Sherwala

A true Muslim would never compromise on religion. He strongly believes in Namaz, Zakat, Siyam, Haj and Qur’an. He cannot remain aloof in matters of his faith. At the same time, he has to be in touch with people in this plural society. Plural society means co-existence of people from different castes, creeds, colours. Plurality is a product of certain irresistible developments in modern world.

Plural society existed even at the time of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). People from Persia and Abyssinia lived in Madinah. Christians, Jews and various sects of Arabs lived all over Arabia. Our Prophet (pbuh) taught Muslims to be generous, kind and just to people and this is why Islam spread all over the world. Muslims absorbed good features of other societies. It was necessary to exist.

Is it possible for Muslims to live in a plural society in this modern world? There are elements among Muslims who create misunderstanding. There are enemies outside the world of Islam who want to spread hatred and misunderstanding. Today, people have certain doubts regarding the intentions of Muslims. Certain people believe that Muslims love violence!

Information technology has made each and every aspect of one’s life accessible to the world. A Muslim’s belief, speech, aspirations and goal of life have become subject to close monitoring and scrutiny by others. It is not easy to live in a plural society but it is not impossible either. Patience and tolerance can make our life smooth with fragrance of character. The Qur’an brings out quite forcefully the fact that all human beings have been created by One Allah and therefore identical in origin. The Qur’an says, “Men! Fear your Lord Who created you from a single being and out of it created its mate” (4:1).

People who believe in division and those who fight over trivial matters must understand that Allah is The Most Benevolent and The Most Merciful. It is the religious obligation of the Islamic community to strive to change the mindset of the people so that they are persuaded to reorder their life as guided by the Qur’an. The way to such a change lies through knowledge, gentle persuasion, debate and determination.

Islamic values encompass the whole of mankind. They are universal in nature. Islam abhors practices that restrict goodness to one or other section of the people. Oppression, tyranny and exploitation are against Islamic law. The Qur’an says, “Allah does not love the unjust.” (3:57)

It is true that multi-cultural interaction has not always been smooth. People of dominant communities frequently dislike to live in the neighbourhood of alien or weak communities. Discrimination is a common feature in today’s society.

But kindness pays. We must co-operate with state activities to eradicate poverty and hunger. We must give full support to the removal of illiteracy. continuous efforts can be fruitful. We must spread the message of brotherhood by the grace of Allah. We can live in a plural society.