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Religious Tolerance is Islamic Invention and Practice

'Religious  Tolerance'  is  an  Islamic  Invention 

practiced routinely throughout history

The concept of 'Religious Tolerance' is a purely Original Islamic invention and was practiced by Muslims allover Islamic World (Caliphate) and throughout Islamic history; many of the Caliphs took non-Muslim doctors as their private Court Physicians, without coercing them into Islam.  God Most High says:

"Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands outs clear from Error" . Verse 2:256 of Surat Al-Baqarah (The Cow)

"If they charge you with falsehood, say: 'For me are my deeds and for you are your deeds! You are free from responsibility for what I do, and I for what you do' " . Verse 10:41 of Surat Yunus (Jonah)

"Say, 'The Truth is from your Lord' Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it)' " Verse 18:29 of Surat Al-Kahf (The Cave)

"To you (kafirs or non-believers) be your Way (Religion), and to me mine" . Verse 109:6 of Surat Al-Kafirun (Those who reject Faith)

Such concept of 'Religious Tolerance' is historically connected with Prophet Muhammad himself.

When the resistance of the Makkan pagans becomes more intense, the people of Medina (or Yathrib) sent an embassy to Muhammad, offering to make him their leader. Muhammad (after taking the pledge from them) accepted and left with his followers on the emigration, or hijra, in AD 622; this crucial event marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. Thus the Medinese pagans converted to Islam and the first Islamic State was born; Muhammad was now a political leader as well as a religious leader. The Qur'an like the Torah is among other things a code of conduct and a code of laws; in neither there is a distinction between 'religious' and 'secular' laws.

1. Muhammad guaranteed religious freedom to Medina's Jews in his 'Covenant of Citizenship'  معاقدة المواطنة which represents a foundation stone in State citizenship (irrespective of creed, ethnicity, and racial diversity) and the First milestone of religious tolerance in the world history as embodied in this embryonic Islamic State in the Arabian Peninsula. The covenant also states that Medina citizens should they wish to protect this Islamic State militarily against (the invasion by) Makkan polytheist pagans (of Quraysh), they will then be allowed a share of the war booties' distribution accordingly; but the covenant made it an 'obligatory duty' on all Medina citizens to defend Medina against external invasion and Not to aid or shelter the enemy (or enemies) of this Islamic State. [See Ibn Hisham, Life of Prophet Muhammad, 2nd volume, 452-454 for details of Covenant of Citizenship]

2. The Qur'an affirmed that the Torah and Gospels were divinely inspired scriptures that had been revealed by God through his prophets. While pagans were to be forced to convert, Jews and Christians, as People of the Book (ahl al-kitab), were assured the right to worship. The Qur'an expresses reverence for the main figures of the Jewish and Christian traditions: Moses, David, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and others. It enjoins respect for some of the main elements in Old Testament law: to refrain from pork, practice circumcision, and so on. Many passages in the Qur'an emphasize the common heritage of these faiths, all related to that of the original hanif, Abraham (i.e. the monotheist belief of Abraham). The Qur'an lambastes Christians and Jews who claim that only members of their sect will be admitted to Heavens. The Qur'an makes no such exclusivist claims for Muslims: good Christians and Jews will have their place in Heavens as well:    "Be courteous when you argue with the People of the Book, except with those among them who do evil. Say: 'We believe in that which is revealed to us and which was revealed to you, Our God and your God is one. To Him we surrender ourselves." Verse 29:46 of Surat Al-Ankabut (The Spider)

3. Following the military conquest of Syria, Muslim armies conquered Palestine peacefully; the man in charge of Jerusalem was patriarch Sophranius (a Greek churchman) who considered the appearance of the Arabs a sign of God's anger at the sins of the Christian people. Sophranius insisted that he would surrender the city only to the caliph Umar himself; accordingly caliph Umar bin al-Khattab came in 637 or 638. Umar's agreement that follows represents a major landmark in the history of mankind, and the first cornerstone of religious tolerance in the outside world of Arabian Peninsula, and indeed a great beginning of sound Islamic-Christian relations (inspired by Prophet Muhammad's Covenant of Citizenship) .

The text of Umar's agreement (العـُهدة العـُمريـّة) is as follows:

"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety [aman] which the servant of Allah Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land, on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted. No Jew will live with them in Jerusalem [this prohibition had been a feature of Roman law; and suggests that the Christian negotiators had played a strong hand in excluding Jews as a precondition to the peaceful surrender of the city]. The people of Jerusalem must pay the taxes (jiz'ya) like the people of other cities and must expel the Romans [Byzantines] and the robbers. Those of the people of Jerusalem, who want to leave with the Romans [Byzantines], take their property and abandon their churches and crosses will be safe until they reach their place of refuge. The villagers [ahl al-ardh, who had taken refuge in the city at the time of the conquest] may remain in the city if they wish but must pay taxes like the citizens. Those who wish may go with the Romans [Byzantines] and those who wish may return to their families. Nothing is to be taken from them before their harvest is reaped. If they pay their taxes according to their obligations, then the conditions laid out in this letter are under the covenant of God, are dhimmat [the responsibility] of His Prophet, of the caliphs and of the faithful. The following witnessed this [agreement]: Khalid bin al-Walid, Amr bin al-As and Mu'awiya bin Abi Sufyan [the future caliph]. Written and presented 15 Hijri".

4. After Umar's agreement in Jerusalem and after Islamic conquests of Syria and Egypt, the relationship between Muslims and Christians in the Middle East was said to be superior to the relationship between Christians and fellow Christians in Europe. Many of Caliphs' private court physicians were non-Muslims and they had never been coerced by the Caliphs to convert into Islam.  Indeed, despite mass conversions to Islam, the remaining Christians and Jews of the Islamic World used to distinguish themselves from the European Christians and Jews as the Oriental people of the Book; thus both oriental Christians and Jews along with Muslims were the target of massacres committed by the European Crusaders in medieval ages.

5. Indeed, when Muslims ruled Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal) for nearly 8 centuries, Jews, Christians and Muslims all lived together in total harmony, something so unique in Europe that compelled authors such as Maria Rosa Menocal (2002 by Back Bay Books- Time Warner Book Group) to write a book entitled 'the Ornament of the World –How Muslims, Jews, and Christians created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain'. Muslim rule in Islamic World and particularly in Spain did not only allow for tolerating and accommodating others, but for Jews and Christians proliferation and excellence in poetry, art, architecture, medicine and science in general; the coexistence between Muslims, Jews, and Christian inhabitants (termed convivencia by Spanish historians) led The Jewish Museum in New York in 1992 to produce a volume about this peaceful and productive co-existence (under Muslim rule from AD 711 to AD 1492), entitled 'Convivencia – Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Medieval Spain' [Editors Vivian B Mann, Thomas F Glick, and Jerrilynn D Dodds. published by George Braziller]. It was the so-called Spanish Reconquest and the Roman Catholic Papacy that were responsible for introducing the darkest and the most savage and intolerable Inquisition Tribunals (based on religious discrimination), totally unparalleled and unknown in the history of Mankind. Indeed, the Jewish holocaust had only been committed in Europe; the Muslim World was as always, the only sanctuary in the world for Jews fleeing along with others, from the European persecution.

 

 

 

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