Thursday, March 29, 2012

Islam (or Sharia) on relations between Non-Muslims and Muslims; and Dhimmah

There is no shortage of Muslim spokesmen esp. living in Non-Muslim majority nations swearing by trite cliches  - one of them being Islam (or Sharia) teaches tolerance and respect  towards all faiths, which unfortunately has many takers among politicians and media people. Encompassing this line is the kind of relations between Non-Muslims and Muslims Islam envisages. So, what does Koran and sayings and traditions of Prophet Mohammad (collectively called Sunna) say about those relations? This is important because Sharia law - constitution of any Islamic state - is derived from these regarding how it should treat Non-Muslims living in Islamic state.

As a word, Sharia In Arabic means PATH or WAY and has roots in the Koranic verse 45:18:
Then We put thee on the (right) Way of Religion: so follow thou that (Way), and follow not the desires of those who know not. (045.018; YUSUFALI) 
Based on this verse, Islamic scholars derived a set of rules based on Koran - which it self is a book of guidance and laws from Allah to Muslims - and sayings and traditions of Prophet Mohammad, which are included in path (Sharia) because Koran says it is necessary for Muslims to obey and follow Prophet Mohammad in numerous verses. And one finds this Sunna in Hadith literature and Sira -written biography of Prophet Mohammad.

Koran even says Prophet Mohammad is a pefect Ideal man and is an example to all Muslims in moral or ethical conduct. This makes centrality of Prophet Mohammad to Islam and Muslims much more important and it can be seen in why Muslim men grow beard even if Koran does not tell them to do and adorn themselves with perfumes. Muslims try their best to imitate Prophet Mohammad in every aspect of their daily life.

So, based on Koran and Sunna Sharia sets out to guide, influence and control political, economic, social and religious apsects of every Muslim individual and also the Islamic state. It is a constitution of any Islamic state and equally a guide book for Muslims in following their religion. Sharia is a total way of life. It tells Muslims even what they should, what clothes they should wear and how they should wear footwear and how they comb.

This coalescing of state and religion in one body is the direct consequence of Prophet Mohammad being the head of state, head of the religion, military general and the judge and also because koran does not distinguish between worship through prayers and obeying a law (verse:9.30). It means any Muslim by obeying a law (other than those made by Allah) made by men is also worshiping men who made those laws thus, setting partners in the worship of Allah(Shirk) and which is in violation of the first pillar of Islam i.e. Muslims reciting there is no god but Allah. Thus, there is never any kind of separation of state and religion in Islam. Present day secularism of separation of state and religion – result of The Christianity’s "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" - invaled in Islam.

Note: Shirk in Islam means worshipping others besides Allah and Shirk is also the worst (or heinous) crime(or sin) which will never be pardoned by Allah (verses 4:48 and 4:116).

The Muslims never shy away from claiming superiority of Sharia over man made constitutions in of infidel nations by pointing out that while Sharia is from the God and constitutions are made by men. The argument continues, since God is superior to men in all aspects, Sharia is superior to man made laws. Late Syed Qutb , an Egyptian Islamic scholar and revolutionary, says people following man made laws is injustice and aim of Jihad is to remove this injustice.

As Sharia guides all apsects of Muslims, Sharia also contains set of relations that exist between Non-Muslims and Muslims.  Here, there is no distinction between how Sharia, i.e. as a constitution of any Islamic state, treats Non-Muslims and the kind of relations between Muslims and Non-Muslims Islam envisages because all the strictures regarding Non-Muslims in Sharia have theological roots in Koran and Sunna.

In the year 2006, A Saudi Grand Mufti answering to claim of Islam being spread by sword said, “Prophet has never chosen war as his first option. Prophet gave three options. Either accept Islam or surrender and pay tax and they will be allowed to remain in their land, observing their religion under the protection of Muslims”. (here)

In plain words, Non-Muslim populations of lands conquered by Muslims have 3 choices: Death or Conversion to Islam or pay Jizya tax and live in abasement. A Non-Muslim under Islamic law at any time has these 3 choices. When Non-Muslims agree to ‘pay Jizya and live in abasement’, they are called Dhimmi, meaning protected.

But, what does it mean to be “allowed to remain in their land”? What does it mean “to live in abasement”? What follows after surrender, apart from taxes? What does it mean to live as a non-Muslim under Islamic rule or law?

After the surrender, Non-Muslims –apart from agreeing to paying taxes- are subjected to a pact called Dhimma. This covenant of Dhimma defines what is ‘to live in abasement’. This Dhimma pact defines the place of Non-Muslims (Dhimmis) in social, legal, political and economic aspects.

My point in this post being ‘how Sharia treats Non-Muslims’, how do this Dhiimmi and Dhimma fit in to Sharia? They fit in to Sharia because all this is based on a Koranic verse i.e 9:29 meaning concept of Dhimmi and Dhimma has theological roots in basic foundations of Islam, Koran and Sunna. The verse 9:29 (taken from translation of Yusuf Ali):
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
This how Ibn Kathir, a classical Islam scholar- whose ork is very popular among Muslims , explains this verse (I am only referring to part in italics, but those interested in reading complete explaination can read from here and here):

(until they pay the Jizyah), if they do not choose to embrace Islam,

(with willing submission), in defeat and subservience,

(and feel themselves subdued.) disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated.

The actual word used in the verse is saghiroon which Yusuf Ali translates as ‘feel themselves as subdued’. But its real meaning is ‘in abasement’ which is close to translation of Ibn Kathir’s exegesis.

Yet again, what kind of conditions in Dhimmah make Non-Muslims feel disgraced and humiliated? How does any one draw the line here, OK. sufficient are these conditions for humiliating Non-Muslims? Because one can always find more conditions for humiliating Non-Muslims!

Yet again, Koran and Sunna provide the answer to an extent. (What Koran says on Non-Muslims can be read from here)

From Sunna, we can see prophet Mohammad setting a rule by saying:  “Do not initiate the Salam to the Jews and Christians, and if you meet any of them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley.” Similarly, the conditions imposed on Jews of Khaybar by Prophet Mohammad also found their way in to Dhimmah.
Broadly speaking, the strictures in Dhimmah are outlined below:

1. Non-Muslims should pay special tax called Jizya.
2. Non-Muslims should not construct any new places of their worship of their religion.
3. Non-Muslims should neither repair nor renovate existing places of their worship.
4. Non-Muslims should not construct their houses taller than the houses of Muslims.
5. Non-Muslims should not display their symbols of their religion neither publicly nor on places of worship.
6. Non-Muslims will not celebrate their festivals publicly.
7. Non-Muslims will not engage in proselytizing.
8. Non-Muslims will not stop any Non-Muslim from converting to Islam.
9. Non-Muslim men will nither make approaches to Muslim women nor marry Muslim women; but Muslim men can marry Non-Muslim women and their offspring will only be Muslims.
10. Non-Muslims will not read Koran.
11. Non-Muslims will not speak any ill of Allah, Prophet Mohammad, Koran and Sharia.
12. Non-Muslims will neither criticize any Muslim ruler nor swear towards any Muslim, but Muslims are free to criticize Non-Islamic faiths.
13. Testimony of Non-Muslims will not be accepted in any Islamic court esp.  Against Muslims.
14. When in public Non-Muslims should wear special clothes or symbols so that Muslims can identify them.
15. The value of life of a Non-Muslim is less than that of a Muslim i.e. incase of injuries, when a Muslim causes some physical damage to Non-Muslim, compensation paid to Non-Muslim will be less than compensation paid to when victim is a Muslim.
16. If a Muslim kills a Muslim, then punishment can be death. When a Muslim kills a Non-Muslim, punishment can never be death.
17. Non-Muslims will respect Muslims and move from the places if Muslims sit in or if they choose to sit in them.

If any Non-Muslim breaks this dhimmah by not paying Jizya or by breaching any of above set of conditions, the protection status will be cancelled and any Muslim is free to kill such Non-Muslim. It is not unknown in Islamic history to punish the whole community of Non-Muslims even if one Non-Muslim violates Dhimmah.

All of the above stated conditions laid in Dhimmah – for humiliating Non-Muslims and ensuring their continued misery - may not have been adopted by every school of thought of Islam, some schools might lay more burdened conditions or some schools might have less conditions and also be less in severity.

As I mentioned earlier, strictures of dhimmah made way to Sharia because Dhimmah and Jihad have theological basis in Koran and Sunna thus, relations between Muslims and Non-Muslims as laid in Sharia become a part of Islamic beliefs which has its own potency. This Dhimmah greatly influences the way Muslims feel and behave towards Non-Muslims.

In fact, Dhimmah or what Sharia says with regard ro Non-Muslims under its protection can only lead to disappearence of Non-Muslims along with their culture. One Islamic critic puts, “The story of dhimmi communities under Islamic rule is a sad history of dispossession and decline, which can be referred to as a ‘ong slide into demographic  insignificance’. However this was the intended outcome of the institution of the dhimma, a system designed to attract conversions to Islam, and to promote the gradual diminishment of all non-Muslim faiths under Sharia conditions.”

P.S. For additional reading:

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