Protection Of Non-Muslims: Places Of Worship
ISLAM establishes a relationship with the people of different faith on the basis of tolerance, justice, benevolence, and mercy. The basis of this relationship is Allah’s saying in the Qur’an: “Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity. It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are the Zalimun (wrongdoers – those who disobey Allah).” (Al-Mumtahanah: 8- 9)
According to the Qur’an, Muslims are required to deal with all people kindly and justly as long as they do not oppose or oppress Muslims or place obstacles in the way of spreading Islam.
Of non-Muslims, Islam gives special consideration for the People of the Book, that is, Jews and Christians, whether they reside in a Muslim society or not.
Being a divine religion revealed to guide all mankind, Islam tackles all aspects of man’s life, regardless of whether he believes in it or not. That is why we see it granting many rights and privileges to non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic state. Muslims are ordered to show full consideration to this injunction and give due respect to non-Muslims’ places of worship, which are part and parcel of their property enjoying full protection in Islam.
Protection of property
The Islamic government is bound to protect the properties of non-Muslims. In his book Al-Kharaj, Abu Yusuf sheds light on the Prophet’s contract with the people of Najran: “Najran and its neighboring area are in the security of Allah, the Almighty, and His Messenger. The property, religions and churches of the inhabitants, as well as properties, whether much or little, are under the protection of the Prophet.”
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, in his letter to Abu Ubaydah Ibn Al-Jarrah, may Allah be pleased with them both, wrote: “Prevent Muslims from wronging or causing harm to them (non-Muslims) or taking their property illegally.”
Freedom of worship
This means the freedom to practice any religion or ideology and not to be forced to adopt a certain faith or compelled to convert to Islam. This is based on the verse:
“There is no compulsion in religion: Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.” (Al-Baqarah: 256)
Commenting on the verse, the famous exegete Ibn Katheer states: “Don’t force anyone to embrace Islam as it is clear and self-evident in its proofs and realities and does not need to exert force to be accepted.”
Islam protects the places of worship of non-Muslims, and allows them to observe their religious ceremonies.
In the reign of `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, the religious freedom of the citizens of Ilya (Jerusalem) and the sanctity of their synagogues and places of worship were confirmed: “This is the protection which the slave-servant of Allah, `Umar, the Commander of the Believers, extends to the people of Ilya: The safeguarding of their lives, properties, churches, crosses, and of their entire community. Their churches cannot be occupied, demolished, or damaged, nor are their crosses or anything belonging to them to be touched. They will never be forced to abandon their religion, nor will they be oppressed. None of the Jews will live with them in Ilya.” (At-Tabari, Tarikh, Vol III, p. 609, ed. Dar Al-Ma`arif, Egypt.)
Khalid Ibn Al-Waleed, in his covenant with the People of `Anat, wrote: “They are allowed to ring the bells at any time of the day or night, except in the time of the Islamic prayer times. They are allowed to bear their crosses in their festivals” (Abu Yusuf, Al-Kharaj, p. 146)
Muslims not only allowed non-Muslims to enjoy the freedom of their faith, but also let them follow their way even though some of their practices might conflict with the religion of the majority. Actually, this is the highest degree of tolerance. Muslims tolerated the religious practices of their minorities by not prohibiting even those practices which were contrary to the state ideology.
History bears witness to the fact that Muslims accepted and applied the Islamic laws to an extent that has no parallel in the history of mankind. The fair and tolerant approach they show to other faiths are no secret.
Asserting the tolerance of Muslims, Tritton says: “Muslim rulers frequently went beyond what was required of them in their relations with non-Muslims. The best example of this is the presence of churches and other (non-Muslim) places of worship in purely Arab (Muslim) cities. Government departments always had Christians and Jewish officials who were sometimes given very sensitive and influential posts. Some non-Muslims thus acquired great wealth. In addition, Muslims were accustomed to sharing with Christian their festivals.” (Khartubali, Hasan Ali, Islam and Ahl Adh-Dhimmah, p. 256)