Shariah and non-Muslim rights

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The Spirit Of Islam

Khalid Baig

IT was a result of the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), who warned his followers, “Whoever wronged a mustamin (a non-Muslim under protection of a treaty) or burdened him beyond his capacity or took anything from him without the latter’s will, I will be his accuser on the Day of Judgment.” Similarly the Treaty of Najran, which the Prophet (PBUH), concluded with the Christians of Najran in 8 AH was the prototype for all subsequent treaties. It included the following terms:
(1) They will be defended against enemy attack. (2) They will not be intimidated to convert to Islam. (3) They will not have to go to the tax collector to pay their jizya; he will come to them. (4) Their lives, properties, businesses, and lands will be protected. (5) Their priests and clerics will not be removed from office. (6) Their crosses and statues will not be destroyed. Such guarantees for personal and religious freedom were unthinkable in the tribal pre-Islamic Jahiliya society. Once introduced by Islam, they were so internalised by its followers that they determined Islamic treatment of non-Muslims throughout history.
It is one thing to make pious pronouncements about equality. It is another to really consider everyone’s life to be of equal worth and take the difficult decisions that may be dictated by this principle. It is in the latter test where Islamic record rises above that of others. During the time of Sayyidna Umar ibn Khattab (RA), when a Muslim from the Bakr tribe killed a Christian of Hira, his verdict was that the killer be handed over to the heir of the deceased who could either accept blood money or kill him. The heir decided to take his revenge and the Muslim was killed. Obviously because of the deterrence such incidents were rare.
However when a similar incident happened in the time of Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, the fate of the killer was the same. The unequivocal legal Islamic verdict was that the life of a zimmi was equal to the life of a Muslim and so was his blood money. Sayyidna Ali (RA) spelled out this principle: “Whoever has accepted our protection (zimma) his blood is like our blood and his blood money is like our blood money.” This was not a sound byte meant for the media. It was the law of the land.
A Jew or a Christian could bring out a lawsuit against any Muslim, even the highest office in the land and his testimony was as admissible as that of anyone else. When a Jew filed a claim for the coat of mail of Sayyidna Ali (RA), who was the khalifa at that time, Sayyidna Ali (RA), appeared before the qazi as an ordinary defendant. Similarly, when a Christian filed a property claim against Hisham ibn Abdul Malik (who later became a khalifah) in the court of Umar ibn Abdul Aziz, the latter ordered Hisham to appear personally in the court. Based on the evidence the case was decided against Hisham.
The extreme care to ensure the protection of Christian places of worship can be seen in the actions of Sayyidna Umar ibn Khattab (RA). It is well known that during his trip to Jerusalem, the Asr prayer time came when he was visiting a church. But he refused to pray inside the church despite the offer of the patriarch. Instead he prayed on the stairs. He was concerned that if he prayed inside it might lead some later Muslims to try to take the church. To further pre-empt any possibility of a future misappropriation, he on his own accord, gave the church authorities a written proclamation that Muslims could not offer prayer in congregation even on the stairs. Nor could they call azhan from it. — Courtesy: Albalagh.com