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May 2007
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Religion

Justice and Equality in Islam
By Dr. Zakir Naik



In Islam, equality and justice carry immense significance. In these lie the peaceful co-existence and success of individuals as well as communities. Hence, Islam often encourages its followers to be just. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Be on your guard against committing oppression, for oppression is darkness on the day of Resurrection” 1. Islam commands its followers to be just amongst themselves as well as with those who are outside the fold of Islam.


The Glorious Qur’an says: “And do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah” 2.


In Islam, it is commanded to deal justly with non-Muslims staying in an Islamic state. It is forbidden to commit oppression upon them. Allah says regarding the Jews living in Madina with the prophet (pbuh), “If they come to you (O Muhammad), judge between them or turn away from them. Never will they (be able to) harm you at all. And if you judge, judge between them with justice. Indeed Allah loves those who act justly” 3.


Some scholars have deduced from the above-mentioned verse that if in an Islamic state, the Non Muslims wish to refer their disputes to the head of state, then it would be optional for the head of state to solve their dispute or not to. However, if he chooses to solve the matter, then he will have to do that based on the laws of Allah, and not based on the laws of false religions. If the dispute is likely to disrupt peace in general, in which the consequences of the matter would not be confined only to the people involved in committing the crime, then it will be mandatory upon the head of state to interfere in the matter and solve it according to Islamic Shariah (law).


Ibne Khuwaiz Mandad says that if non-Muslims have hostility amongst themselves, then the head of state should not interfere nor should he summon them in his court of law unless the matters are related to spreading mischief in the land, killing and assassinations or looting people etc. However, in matters, such as Talaq (divorce) etc; he should solve their matters if they are willing to get them solved through him, in fact he would have option either to solve those matters or ask them to solve themselves. In case of disruption of peace, they will be forced to accept the rules of Islamic Shariah, as we do not have agreement with regards to spreading mischief in the land. It would be vital to eliminate the root cause of such mischief or trouble, regardless whether the trouble causing elements are Muslims or non-Muslims, if this, involves the safety of their lives and wealth as well. It is possible that in some matters, their religion would permit them to carry out certain things, which would disrupt peace in our community. Therefore we forbid selling of intoxicating drinks, alcohol, liquor etc; and prohibit adultery and fornication to ensure that ignorant people may not be affected by these things. Regarding matters which are related and confined to their faith(s), such as laws of marriage and divorce, they are not required to follow the Islamic Law, as it would be regarded as interference in their matters of faith and their rights. However, the matters of transactions, debts and loans, etc. are considered different so as to remove tumult, oppression and mischief 4.


As a result of this guidance, the prophet (pbuh) and the rightly guided caliphs used to stress upon the rights of the non-Muslims in their era. And whenever they came to know about any incidence of oppression anywhere, they would settle the accounts and would give the rights to those who were oppressed.


Narrated Abdullah Bin Amr (RA): The prophet (pbuh) said,” Whoever killed a person having a treaty with the Muslims, shall not smell the smell of paradise though its smell is smelled from a distance of forty years” 5.


Safwan reported from a number of companions of the Prophet (pbuh) on the authority of their fathers who were relatives of each other. The Prophet (pbuh) said: Beware, if anyone wrongs a contracting man, or diminishes his right, or forces him to work beyond his capacity, or takes from him anything without his consent, I shall plead for him on the Day of Judgement 6.


As a result of the teachings of Islam, the rightly guided caliphs treated the non-Muslims kindly. We find many such instances in the biography of Umar (RA). Once a non-Muslim man came to Umar to complain to him about his governor, but when he saw Umar (RA) in his plain attire, he wondered how would he have his due rights delivered through Umar (RA). However, after listening to the problem of the man, Umar (RA) wrote a letter to the governor asking him to give the person his due rights or else he would send someone who would avenge for it. As soon as the governor read the letter he began to return the person his due rights. When the oppressed person saw this, he exclaimed, “By Allah, he is the king, not the one who was with us”.


Because of the kind treatment they received from the Muslim authorities, Non-Muslims liked Islamic rule more than their own rule and lived happily and voluntarily in Muslim lands. History bears witness to this fact. Those who study history without any bias and prejudice will surely acknowledge the fact that the rights Islam gave to non-Muslims for over 1400 years, are not given today by the most advanced countries of the world even to their own people.


Footnotes:

1. Sahih Muslim, Vol. 4, Hadith No. 6248
2. Surah Maida, Ch. 5, V. 8
3. Surah Maida, Ch. 5, V. 42
4. Tafseer-e-Qurtubi, Vol.6, Pg. No. 120 & 121
5. Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 4, Hadith No. 3166
6. Sunan Abu Dawood, Vol. 2, Hadith No. 3046

Indian Muslims and the “mainstream” media
By Yoginder Sikand



A complaint often heard in Muslim circles is that the mainstream Indian media has a vested interest in painting Muslims in a particular light, tarring them all with the same brush as unrepentant obscurantists, fanatically wedded to violence, vociferously opposed to modernity and so on. Some Muslims even argue that the mainstream media is wholly anti-Muslim and is engaged in a grand conspiracy to defame Islam, being allegedly in league with a host of enemies of Islam, such as the West and Zionist forces.


Although this tendency to generalize about the media is disconcerting, there is no denying that there is some merit in the basic argument about bias against Muslims in large sections of the mainstream Indian media. This media is owned and controlled largely by upper caste, middle-class Hindus. The vast majority of the editors and staff of mainstream Indian newspapers and media houses are of this caste-class background. This obviously shapes the way in which they look at and project Muslims as well as other non upper caste Hindu communities. This fact about the caste/class background and interests of those who control the mainstream Indian media is basic to understanding why it is that Muslims, as well as other marginalized communities, such as Adivasis, Dalits and Other Backward Classes, who together form the overwhelming majority of the Indian population, are often ignored or stigmatized in large sections of the mainstream media. Negative portrayals of Muslims in the mainstream media reflect, to a large extent, the widely-held assumption that Indian nationalism is somehow synonymous with Brahminical Hinduism, the bedrock of the world-view of the upper castes. And today, with the Indian ruling classes, largely upper caste Hindu in composition, slavishly toeing the American line, it is hardly surprising that the tendency to stigmatise Muslims and generalise about them has been given a new, powerful impetus by the mainstream.


With the mainstream media taking isolated Islamist ideologues or ulama as somehow authentic spokesmen of Islam and of Muslims in general, counter-voices that struggle to be heard in the great Muslim debate are often marginalized and silenced in media discourses about Muslims. These voices are sometimes represented in the Urdu press, but few mainstream papers ever report on the happenings in the Urdu media, which has been reduced to the status of a marginalized and ignored Muslim ghetto. Some non-Urdu papers have a weekly section that summarises ongoing debates in the Urdu press, but these hardly do justice to the range of issues that are passionately debated by Muslims writing in Urdu papers.


It is not just the mainstream media that is to blame, however. Influential sections of the Urdu media are just as sensationalist as the mainstream press, operating within a framework defined by a narrow understanding of religion and Muslim community interests. Communalism is just as rife in the Urdu press as it is in the Hindi press or, sometimes in more subtle ways, in the English media. The need for Muslims to introspect and to stop blaming others for all their ills is echoed only faintly in large sections of the Urdu media. Instead, there is a marked tendency in much of the Urdu media to blame all Muslim ills on what are routinely described as enemies of Islam and to ignore cases of non-Muslim suffering, whether at the hands of Muslims or others. Many Urdu papers and magazines are controlled or staffed by maulvis and madrasa graduates who have little knowledge of the complexities of the contemporary world, viewing the world through a narrow religious lens. Most of the scores of Muslim publishing houses in India specialize simply in Islamic texts, and hardly any of them produce literature on Muslim social, educational, political and economic conditions or on general issues that concern people irrespective of religion. Likewise, most Muslim-owned magazines, notable exceptions apart, deal almost wholly with religious issues or with issues that relate simply to Muslims alone and almost all their readers are Muslims. The new Muslim-owned television channels that have been launched in India in recent years are no different, concerned simply with Islam and Islamic instruction alone. Like most Muslim publishing houses and magazines, they cater to an almost entirely Muslim audience. This narrow focus on Muslim and Islamic concerns thus makes it difficult for any real dialogue with the non-Muslim media to take place. For their part, organizations run by Muslims, too, mainly focus on Muslim religious and communitarian concerns. By and large, they lack any effective media policy and have made few serious efforts to seriously dialogue with the non-Muslim media. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that their views and concerns are not represented or reflected in mainstream media discourses about Muslims.


All in all, then, a pretty sordid state of affairs, hardly conducive to promoting sensible discourse on Muslim-related matters.