Allah the Almighty created people and made earth their place of residence where they all should live, work, and seek sustenance. This requires that they engage and have relationships with each other. In this way, it becomes clear that “relationships, no matter how harmonious or tumultuous, are intrinsic to human existence. It matters that we matter to others, and that others matter to us.”[i] The Qur’an, Muslim’s divine scripture and first source of legislation, clearly underlines that such engagement and mutual relationships is one of the objectives of Islam. The Almighty Allah says, “O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may ˹get to˺ know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you. Allah is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.”[ii] (The Qur’an, Al-Hujarāt, 49: 13) From this verse, it becomes apparent that differences among humankind have been created for the explicit purpose, namely, human beings might establish particular relationships so they might know one another.[iii] Therefore, if every human being would live alone, dissociating himself from others, then this objective of getting to know one another would not be achieved.
In his Islam First[iv], the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Prof. Ahmad Al-Tayeb states that according to the Glorious Qur’an, there are three interrelated facts with regard to Islam’s view of humanity:
The first fact is that it is out of Allah’s Will that people are created different in religion, creed, color, language and gender. Moreover, such differences never change or vanish;
The second fact comes as a consequence of the first which is that it is inevitable that the relationship between different tribes and nations be based on “taʿāruf”, meaning: mutual cooperation. The Qur’an states this clearly in 49:13.
The third fact that brings together the aforementioned two facts is the right to freedom of belief as safeguarded by Islam.
That said, Islam sets rules and regulations for Muslims when dealing with non-Muslims in order to keep the mutual relationships and respect among followers of divine religions, non-divine religions and even among all people, even if they do not believe any religion, as long as they do not belittle religions.
These rules and regulations can be summarized in the following points:
- Every human being has the freedom to faith. Accordingly, no one can be forced to leave his religion or faith. Islam does not aim at forcibly converting people so that it becomes the only religion on earth, as it believes that coercion is of no value whatsoever in this respect. Every human being will be held accountable before Allah for all what he does, so one is responsible for one’s one actions. Muslims’ responsibility is only to present to people the true, pure teachings of Islam.
- Equality before Allah and before law. Allah the Almighty does not give a group of people supremacy over others. Rather, all people are equal before Allah the Almighty. Likewise, people, under Islam, are all equal before law. This means that a Muslim is not favored over a non-Muslim and every human being is subject to the rule of law.
- Non-Muslims have the right to be governed by their own religious laws. They are not forced to follow the Islamic laws.
- Muslims are obliged to deal with others fairly and justly. Based on the fact that we all are the created beings of Allah, and Allah is the All Just, we are obliged to deal with each other in justice. Even if there is a sort of discords with others, a person is not permitted to neglect this rule. The Qur’an stipulates this rule clearly when saying, “You who believe, be steadfast in your devotion to God and bear witness impartially: do not let hatred of others lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is closer to righteous.” (Qur’an 5: 8)
- As equal citizens in the same country, non-Muslims have the right to security of their lives, property and houses of worship. This right is extended also to any non-Muslim, even if he is not a citizen. Such protection is offered also to the non-Muslim visitors.
- In case of telling non-Muslims about Islam, a Muslim is ordered to argue with them in the best manner and to keep good ties with them even when they refuse to accept Islam, as long as they do not fight or harm Muslim.
It is crystal clear from the above-mentioned regulations that Islam is keen on establishing harmonious community, where all of its members respect each other and shoulder the responsibility of achieving prosperity and progress for the community at large, and humanity as a whole. This, in turn, leads to establishing peaceful community free of all aspects of extremism and terrorism.
[i] Nuraan Davids and Yusef Waghid, Ethical Dimensions of Muslim Education, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, p. 131.
[iv] Ahmad Al-Tayeb, Islam First, 1st ed., Cairo: Dar al-Quds al-Arabi, 2019, pp. 10-11.