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.
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