IN THE NAME OF ALLAH THE MOST GRACIOUS THE MOST MERCIFUL

 

 

 

 

Rays of light from the life of prophet Muhammad

(peace and blessings upon him)

 

Followed by

 

The historical position of Women from a Muslim and a non Muslim perspective, a brief summary

 

 

Prepared by: Dr. Ibrahim Abu Mohammad

 

 

Translated by: Keysar Trad


In the name of Allah the Most Gracious the Most Merciful

 

Glimpses into the life of prophet Muhammad

 

When we speak about Muhammad the messenger of Allah peace and blessings upon him, we in fact speak about the lives of all preceding prophets of God.  Muhammad came to build on top of their foundations and to add to their moral, ethical and spiritual values.

 

The Qur`an states:  He has established for you in religion what He enjoined upon Noah and what We revealed to you and what We enjoined upon Abraham, Moses and Jesus, that you establish religion and not to be divided over it, grave is that which you call them to.  Allah chooses to Himself whom He wills and guides to Himself those who turn to Him. (42:13)[1].

 

We sent revelations to you as We did send revelations to Noah and the prophets after him and We sent revelations to Ibrahim, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, the tribes, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron and Solomon and We gave David the Psalms.” (4:163).

 

Speaking about Muhammad peace and blessings upon him is like speaking about all the previous prophetic missions, mentioning him, exalting him and praising him is like doing so to all the prophets of Allah from Adam all the way to the final prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon them all.

 

Muhammad did not separate or segregate his message from that of the preceding prophets in human history, he insisted that his message was a part that completes and perfects the great moral structure that has been contributed to by all the messengers of Allah and their divine messages.  He stated as narrated by Abu Huraira:  “My example and that of the prophets before me is like that of a man who built a structure, he beautified it and decorated it except for the place of one brick in one of its corners.  The people would walk around this structure and marvel at it and say: only if a brick would be put in this place?  I am that brick and I am the seal of the prophets” narrated in Sahih Muslim, Nawawy Exgesis.

 

As speaking about the messenger Muhammad means speaking about all the preceding prophets, it also is a reference to the complete system of Islam or surrender to God.  It is not possible to speak about Islam without speaking about its prophet Muhammad peace and blessings upon him, similarly, it is not possible to speak about the messenger Muhammad without speaking about Islam itself.  I hope to introduce you to his attributes and traits on this blessed evening.

 

Aicha, may Allah be pleased with her, narrated:  “The prophet peace and blessing upon him was not given to excess or obscenities, neither would he resort to tumultuous behavior in the markets nor did he reward evil with evil, he in fact would forgo and forgive.”[2]

 

The son of Abi Hala described him as: “He was always cheerful, easy going, good natured, he was not rough nor abrasive nor tumultuous in the markets, he was not given to excess nor undue praise, he would ignore his own desires and people who seek him for assistance would not be given cause to despair.”

 

Anas narrates: “I was with the prophet peace and blessings upon him on an occasion when he was wearing a thick rough garment, a desert Arab grabbed his garment in a very rough manner that it left a mark on his neck, then he said: Muhammad, load my camels with the provisions that Allah gave you, they are not your provisions nor the provisions of your father.  The prophet was quiet for a short while then he said:  The provisions belong to Allah and I am His slave, but we must bring you to account for your actions.  The man said: no you will not.  The prophet said:  why not, the Arab said:  You are a man who never repays evil with evil, the prophet peace and blessings upon him laughed and then had one of the man’s camels loaded with Barley and the other with dates.” [3].

 

There are numerous examples from his life of magnanimity and generosity towards his neighbours, business contacts, fellow citizens, wayfarers, even towards his persecutors for whose guidance he would constantly pray.

 

His humility was such that he said:  Do not honour me over Jonah nor distinguish between the prophets nor treat me better than Moses, and we have just as great a right to seek the truth as Abraham.

 

The books of Hadith and Seerah (his traditions and his biography) provide many examples of his great love to the prophets and messengers who preceded him.  They show his keenness to follow their example even in the way he would overlook some of life’s necessities – in emulation of them and in love for His Lord so that affluence does not distract him from praying to Allah in like manner to his preceding prophets and messengers.

 

Aicha said:  The belly of the prophet peace and blessings upon him was never filled, yet he never complained to any one, being poor was dearer to him than wealth, he would crunch his body out of hunger all night and still fast the next day.  Had he wished, he could have asked His Lord for all the treasures of the earth and its fruits and comforts.  I used to weep for him out of compassion for his condition, I would run my hand over his stomach when I see him hungry and I would say:  I would ransom you with my soul, would you take from this world your sustenance?  He would say:  O Aicha, what would I want from this world, my brothers, the resolute messengers persevered through what was more strenuous than this, they continued in that condition until they met their Lord, He honoured them and increased their reward, I fear that if I give my self any luxury that I may fall short of their standard, I would love nothing more than to follow my brethren and my beloved, Aicha said: He lived for one month after this and then died.[4]

 

Ali may Allah be pleased with him said: “I asked the prophet peace and blessings upon him about his life philosophy, he said: knowledge is my principal, intelligence is the basis of my religion, love is my foundation, longing is my vehicle, the remembrance of Allah is my familiarity, trust is my treasure, sorrow is my companion, knowledge is my weapon, patience is my coat, contentment is my booty, debility is my pride, asceticism is my profession, certainty is my sustenance, truth is my advocate, obedience is my goal and the fruit of my heart is in the remembrance of my Lord, my concern is for my community, my longing is for my Lord Exalted and Praised and I find the coolness of my eye in prayer.”[5]

 

Glimpses into the overflowing mercy of the prophet

Humanity before his birth and mission

 

His mission was a rescue for humanity from heathenism because it introduced people to their Lord through a most truthful path and with the strongest of evidence.

 

The world has not known anyone like Muhammad to direct the human mind towards knowledge of Allah and to fill the human heart with awe of Allah.  He established a science to explain existence and the role of the human being in a manner that explains their foundations of love, life, truth and beauty.  This is the first aspect of mercy in which the man with the great message was sent.

 

Actions and behaviour

 

Muhammad brought to humanity a faith that commands decency and forbids vice, permitting what is good and wholesome and prohibiting what is harmful, he released people from their heavy burdens and their yokes which bound them.

 

The manner of his dealings with people

 

The system of human interactions revealed by Allah for people is reflected in the great compassion that is exhibited in the prophet’s dealings with others.  Even though people issued from two parents, they differ in their talents and social circumstances, this is very testing for people.

 

This is explained in the verse of the Noble Qur`an:  “We made you as a test for one another, will you patiently persevere? Your Lord is Ever Watchful.” (25:20).  A society is constituted of the knowledgeable and the ignorant, the strong and the weak, the tall and the short, the black and the white, how are relations to be established amongst all these?

 

The basis for human relations

 

Money and status will win a person no honour with Allah if this person withholds the benefits of his learning and wealth from others.  On the other hand, when a person is encouraged to grow without holding a grudge or looking down on others, issues of class and societal conflicts will be resolved.

 

The prophet said:  “He is not one of us who does not respect the old, does not show compassion to the young and is discourteous to the learned.”

 

Islam looks at people as forming branches of the same tree, the basis of their connection is cooperation and familiarity.  The prophet peace and blessings upon him stood with parents to ensure that their children are kind and loyal to them and stood with children to make sure that their parents guarantee them a good life and sound upbringing, he stood with the oppressed until their oppression is stopped, he stood with the ill until they are cured and he stood with the lost and confused to ensure that they find the path of guidance.  Islam reminds people of the importance of mercy and compassion, he reminds people of the importance of being kind and forgiving and he rejects claims of faithfulness by hard-hearted non-forgiving people.

 

Islam places great emphasis on compassion not just towards people, but also towards animals, a prostitute was forgiven and would enter paradise because she gave drink to a thirsty dog.  Mercy towards an animal received such a great reward, imagine the manifold increase when one alleviates the concerns and addresses the needs of fellow human beings.

 

The prophet peace and blessings upon him said: The weak is the prince of the procession.  He would say, leave me with those who are weak and needy.  He would also say:  Do you think that your provisions and victory come for any other reason than to champion those who are weak in your society.

 

The most beloved people to Allah

 

He was asked as to who were the most beloved people to Allah, he said: the most beloved is the one who is most beneficial to others.

 

The most beloved action to Allah is one that brings happiness to a Muslim (or a fellow citizen), that you alleviate his suffering, or repay his debt or repel his hunger.  He said:  To walk with my brother (in humanity) so as  to fulfill his need is more dear to me than a month of worship at this mosque.

 

He also said: if a person suppresses his vengeance when he is able to execute it, Allah will fill his heart with contentment on the day of resurrection, a person who walks with his brother to help him complete a task, Allah will give him a firm foothold on the day when the footholds of people are shaky.

 

The spiritual bond between believers.

 

Love and compassion represented the spiritual bond in human society, they united the human spirit and produced the same sentiments in the differing individuals, any pain to one was felt by all and all would rise to allay that pain and bring happiness to him.  The mainspring of this noble teaching is the heart of the messenger Muhammad peace and blessings upon him.

 

Pure hearts love Muhammad peace and blessings upon him

 

It is not strange to find an increase in the number of people who love the prophet Muhammad peace and blessings upon him, this love is in fact a tenet indicating the truthfulness of one’s faith, the more it increases, the more a believer is blessed with abundance and compassion from Allah.  “If you love Allah, follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you your sins, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (3:31)

 

In delivering his comprehensive message, the prophet Muhammad is incomparable, not only did he lead an exemplary life, but he also persevered along the road to perfection and paved it for others to follow, providing a comprehensive explanation bearing his suffering with great patience so that we can receive delivery of his message.

 

Only those who study his life will understand his greatness

 

We only begin to have a brief glimpse of the greatness of the prophet Muhammad when we start looking into the writings of moral, social and political reformers and study the lives of great personalities; statesmen, military leaders, authors of cultural models and founders of nations.  Once such a person completes his research and begins to compare his notes he will find other greats dwarfed by the life and achievements of prophet Muhammad and the guidance that he has provided, the inspiration and spirituality that he brought which enlighten and fill the hearts with peace and tranquility.

 

Praise for the messenger of Allah peace and blessings upon him

 

Praise for this great messenger springs from our gratitude to the Creator for providing us with such a distinguished personality who made sacrifices and endured great suffering for us.  Celebrating the life of prophet Muhammad is not like celebrating the life of any other.  When we celebrate the achievement of historical greats, we do so for the legacies they left behind which attest to their genius and to those aspects of their lives that deserve praise.  However, when it comes to the messenger, there is something else altogether.

 

The spiritual and intellectual leader

 

He was both a spiritual and an intellectual leader, his life example is a role model for all believers throughout history bringing purity to heart from sin and protection to the mind from superstition.

 

He is referred to constantly

 

The name Muhammad is not just remembered once a year on his birthday, his name is in fact cited in every call to prayer and even during every prayer where people stand before their Lord, in humility and sincere devotion to Allah witnessing His Oneness and the message of His messenger.

 

The messenger and role model

 

Muhammad is a permanent role model to his followers, his is a beautiful example to those who love Allah and hope for His mercy.  You have a beautiful example in the messenger of Allah for those who hope for Allah and the final day and who remember Allah much.”(32:21).

 

The position of the prophet with respect to plurality and acknowledgement of the Other.

 

The Muslim learns from Muhammad peace and blessings upon him that plurality and respect for others is not just a matter of personal choice, it is in fact a religious obligation.  Plurality and differences in race, language, colour and religion are a fact of life, Unity is for God, everything else is plural and different, this is one of the miracles of creation.  Whilst this appeals to the sentiments of observers, it carries a special significance to the learned who are able to marvel at the beauty and diversity in this universe, it is a great indication of the Omnipotence of the Creator:  “Amongst His signs is the creation of the Heavens and earth, the differences in your tongues (languages) and colours, in that are signs for the learned.” (30:22)

 

As diversity is a law of existence, there is no sense or necessity in forcing people to carry one creed, the Qur`an states:  “Had your Lord willed, everyone on earth, all of them would have believed, so would you compel people (against their will) to believe!” (10: 99)

 

“Had your Lord willed, he would have made people one community, however, they continue to be diverse.” (11:118).

 

The position of Islam in relation to other faiths

 

Islam did not come to demolish what the previous prophets had built, it came to complete the structure.  Faith is not complete for any Muslim unless he believes in all the messengers and prophets preceding Muhammad.  Historically, Muhammad brings together the purpose of all his predecessors into one era without discrimination between one prophet and another.  He calls on his followers to believe in all of them without distinction, the foremost of these believers is Muhammad peace and blessings upon him.  The Qur`an states:  “The messenger believes in what was revealed to Him from His Lord, as do the believers, all believe in Allah, His angels, His books and His messengers, we make no distinction between any of His messengers, they say: We hear and we obey, Your forgiveness Our Lord, to you is the (final) destination.”  (2:285)

 

“Say (you all): We believe in Allah and what He revealed to us and what he revealed to Abraham and Ismail and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets by their Lord, we make no distinction between any of them, to Him (God) we are Muslims.” (2:136)

 

“Say (you all): We believe in Allah and what He revealed to us and what he revealed to Abraham and Ismail and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes and what was given to Moses and Jesus and the prophets by their Lord, we make no distinction between any of them, to Him (God) we are Muslims.” (3:84)

 

“We sent revelations to you as We did send revelations to Noah and the prophets after him and We sent revelations to Ibrahim, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, the tribes, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron and Solomon and We gave David the Psalms.” (4:163).

 

The source of inspired revelations is One, the source of religious law is One even if some aspects of it may differ in accordance with time, place and the condition of the people.  The Qur`an states:

 

“He has established for you in religion what He enjoined upon Noah and what We revealed to you and what We enjoined upon Abraham, Moses and Jesus, that you establish religion and not to be divided over it, grave is that which you call them towards.  Allah chooses to Himself whom He wills and guides to Himself those who turn to Him.” (42:13).

 

“We took from the prophets their pledge and from you and from Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus the son of Mary, we took from them a solemn pledge.” (33:7)

 

Geographically, he brings together aspects of place uniting people and nations, making believers in the divine messages and messengers as one community regardless of their ethnic differences.  The Qur`an states after mentioning a large number of prophets and messengers amongst whom Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Lot, David, Solomon, Job, Jonah, Zachariah, John and Mary the mother of Christ in Chapter 22 verses 69 to 92:  “This, your community, is one community and I am your Lord, worship Me.”

 

The position of Christ and Mary with Muslims

 

Islam and the prophet Muhammad peace and blessings upon him taught believers to look towards Mary with respect, honour and reverence and to see her as a pure and holy woman.  Her honour precedes that of the mother of prophet Muhammad.  She is also to be loved more than his own mother, father, family and tribe.  It is a rite of worship for Muslims to declare our love and praise for Mary and her son the Messiah, peace and blessings upon them.  Allah Most High declares in the Qur`an:  “Behold! The angels said: O Mary, Allah has chosen you, purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.” (3:42).

 

“Behold! The angels said: O Mary, Allah gives you glad tidings of a word from Him, his name is Jesus son of Mary, honourable in this world and in the final world and will be of those who are near (to God)”.  (3:45)

 

“Behold! Allah said: O Jesus, I will take you and raise you to Me and clear you (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow you superior to those who reject faith to the day of resurrection: then shall you all return to Me and I will judge between you on the matters wherein you dispute.” (3:54)

 

“When Jesus came with the clear signs, he said: I have come to you with wisdom and in order to make clear to you some of the issues which you dispute, fear Allah and obey me.” (43: 63)

 

“We sent in their footsteps Jesus the son of Mary, confirming what is between his hands of the Taura and we gave him the Gospel, in it is guidance and light, confirming what is between his hands from the Taura and a guidance and advice to the God-fearing.” (5:46)

 

“Behold! Allah said: O Jesus the son of Mary, remember my bounty over you and over your mother, I supported you with the Holy Spirit, you would speak to people in the cradle and in maturity, I taught you the book and wisdom and the Taura and the Gospel.  You create from clay the shape of a bird with My permission, you blow into it, it becomes a bird with My permission.  You cure the blind and the leper with My permission, you bring up the dead with My permission, I restrained the descendents of Israel from (causing violence against) you when you came to them with clear signs, those who rejected amongst them said:  This is magic manifest.” (5:110)

 

“Behold! The disciples said: O Jesus, son of Mary, can your Lord bring down to us a table (set with viands) from heaven.  He said: Fear Allah if you are truly believers.” (5:112)

 

“Jesus the son of Mary said:  O Allah, send down to us a table (set with viands) from heaven to be a cause for celebration to our first and last and a sign from You, provide for us, You are indeed the best of providers.” (5:114).

 

“And Zachariah, John, Jesus, Elias, all were righteous.” (6:85).

 

“Then we sent in their footsteps our messengers, and in their footsteps, Jesus the son of Mary and We revealed to him the Gospel, We placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of those who followed him, but they adopted celibacy (monasticism), We did not prescribe it for them, (they did so) seeking the pleasure of Allah.” (57:27)

 

“Behold! Jesus the son of Mary said: O children of Israeli, I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what is before my hands of the Taura and giving glad tidings of a messenger who will come after me, his name shall be Ahmad, yet when he brought them the clear signs, they said: This is magic manifest.” (61:6).

 

“Believers, be supporters of Allah as Jesus the son of Mary said to the disciples: Who are my supporters to Allah?  The disciples said:  We are the supporters of Allah, a group believed from the children of Israel and a group rejected.  We supported those who believed over their enemy and they prevailed.”  (61:14).

 

This is the position of Islam in relation to religious plurality and the recognition of the other divine faiths, it also shows the position Islam takes to other earlier religious law culminating with its position in relation to Mary and Christ.  We will next go on to look at Islam’s position in relation to non-Muslims in general.

 

Islam’s position towards non Muslims in general

 

Now that we have explored the position of Islam in relation to the divine faiths, a position of respect and complete confirmation for the truths that the messengers were sent with, it is not strange to see Islam establishing a standard of just dealings with the followers of other faiths who live in Muslim countries.

 

Internecine, tribal, and civil wars find no sanction or justification in the Islamic teachings.  Muslims have been taught by Islam and by the direction of prophet Muhammad to treat others with kindness and as good neighbours.  In general matters of life, Islam has dictated to its followers to exercise respect towards those who differ with its teachings.  It does not subject them to Islamic law, it guarantees their complete rights, it does not force them to change their beliefs, it respects their life, property and honour.  Islam left others to choose their own creeds.  Islam never seeks to impose itself as the only global faith, the prophet Muhammad is the first to know and understand that any attempt to impose a global faith will fail because such an attempt is at odds with human nature and is contrary to the Will of the Creator who said:  “Had your Lord willed, he would have made people one community, however, they continue to be diverse.”  (11:118).

 

“Lo! Most people, no matter how hard you try, will not be faithful.” (12:103)

 

“Had your Lord willed, everyone on earth, all of them would have believed, so would you compel people (against their will) to believe!” (10: 99)

 

From this arises the conclusive Islamic principle in relation to freedom of belief:  “Let there be no compulsion in religion, truth is clear and distinct from falsehood.” (2:256).

 

Islam teaches that true faith is the fruit of a free will, a person who is deprived of freedom is under no obligations.  A person who acts under duress cannot be made responsible for the effects of such acts because the acts were not of their own volition but a result of force and threats.  In like manner, a person who is forced to embrace a faith cannot be treated as a believer even if this person goes through all the motions.  Islam is not satisfied with just this passive or some may say negative position, which is its refusal to compel people to accept it, Islam in fact goes a step further and designs for us positive steps to honour the humanity of the non Muslim, even if this non Muslim was a heathen or an idolater, something far removed from Islam.  If you would turn to Chapter 9 of the Qur`an and read verse 5: “If one of the polytheists was to seek your protection, protect him and give him the chance to hear the words of Allah, then deliver him to safety.”  Islam is saying that it is not enough to give them protection and board, it is not satisfied that we just show them the path to guidance and goodness, it in fact orders the believers to protect them and look after them whilst they are transported to a safe place.  Can one see anything more just, merciful, protective of human rights and the unity of humanity than this?  Islam does not only give them protection for their person, wealth and honour and guarantees their freedom of movement and access to justice to the same level as Muslims, it says:  They have the same rights as we do and are subject to the same legal protections.

 

The rights of non Muslims in Muslim society

 

The right to protection

 

The right to protection relates to their lives, wealth, honour, property and freedom to practice the tenets of their faiths, their rituals of worship and much more than the limited space of this brief treatise. This right can be divided into two: the right to protection inside and the right to protection outside as I will illustrate.

 

The right to protection inside

 

Despite the fact that all human societies require minorities to live by the laws imposed by the majority, Islam has given non Muslim minorities greater rights, even though they are a minority.  Islam has raised the position of a minority to that of a nation and entered into an agreement or treaty with them under the Islamic code for international relations.  Islam chose a curious title to this treaty referring to it as “The treaty of conscience”.  One may ask: the conscience of whom to be exact, is it the conscience of the mayor? Or is it the conscience of the minister for multicultural affairs?  Is it the conscience of the Premier or the Prime Minister?

 

Islam has given rights to minorities that Muslims must observe, it did not make it a mere contract like other ordinary contracts where the judge would seek to enforce its written clauses.  It in fact gave sacredness to this treaty, not just in the conscience of the ruler, but also the conscience of Allah and His messenger thus granting the non-believer the highest level of respect and loyalty.  We find many verses and traditions in this regard.  This in turn was reflected in the behaviour of Muslims throughout most of human history both in practice and principle thus embodying the highest degrees of adherence, care, support, generosity and magnanimity.  Allah commands his devotees to be just and kind.  Islam does not ask the Muslim to just set aside the emotions of love and hate when doing so, it goes further to demand that the Muslim exert the greatest effort to seek absolute justice, a Muslim has no right to follow a whim or deviate on the basis of a personal enmity.

 

Allah Most High said:  “Believers, be upright in justice, witnesses to Allah even if it be against your selves or your parents and near kin, if he be wealthy or poor, Allah can best protect both, do not follow a whim away from justice, if you turn or refuse, Allah is well aware of what you do.” (4:135).

 

He also said:  “Believers, be upright for Allah, witnesses in justice, do not allow enmity towards some people to turn you away from being just, be just, this is closer to piety, fear Allah, Allah knows well what you do.” (5:8).

 

The collectors of Hadith, Abu Dawood and Bayhaqy narrate a statement by the prophet peace and blessings upon him: “whoever commits a wrong against a person with a treaty, or short changes him or imposes on him an unjust burden, or takes from him something without his consent; on the day of judgment, I will be an advocate against him to the favour of the person with the treaty.”[6]

 

He also said:  “any one who causes harm to a person who is held in conscience has in fact caused harm to me.  Any person who causes harm to me has committed a wrong against Allah[7].

 

His magnanimity was to the extent that not only did he host a group of Christians from Najran in his own mosque and that he stayed with them for a few days but when it came time for them to pray and it was a festival day for them and they wanted to leave the mosque to pray outside, he asked them:  Why do you want to leave the mosque?  They said: we wish to pray O Prophet of Allah, today is a special day for us.  The prophet peace and blessings upon him said:  You can pray right here, the delegation turned towards the east and prayed in their own manner inside his mosque, he then made a treaty with them.  This treaty remains an example of magnanimity, protection and upholding of human rights to this day.

 

Abu Yusuf writes in Alkharraj at pp 72 and 73 that the prophet made a treaty with the people of Najran which included the following:  “Najran and its precincts have the protection of Allah and the conscience of prophet Muhammad the messenger of Allah in relation to their money, faith, trade and everything they possess whether little or much and that none of them would be tried for the crime of another.”

 

Their lives, wealth and honour are protected through a number of verses in the Qur`an and the Hadith, protecting them becomes an act of worship for a Muslim.

 

The messenger said:  “Any one who kills a person with a treaty will not smell the scent of paradise even though its scent reaches a distance that would take forty years to travel.”[8]

 

Islam guarantees for non Muslims, under the requirements of the treaty of conscience rights over us as long as they are within our protection and under our conscience and the conscience of Allah Most High, that of His messenger and that of Islam.  Ibn Abideen said:  Under the treaty of conscience, they will have the same rights as we do, therefore, where it is sinful to slander a Muslim, it is also sinful to slander a non Muslim, in fact, jurists say that slandering a person of conscience is even more sinful[9].

 

There are many traditions and juristic rulings that assert the protection of non Muslims, their right to freedom of religion and the protection of their places of worship and their sanctities.  This is also illustrated in the pledge which Omar Ibnul Khattab made to the people of Ilya (the holy land) which included:

 

“This is what the slave of Allah, Umar the prince of the believers pledges to the people of Ilya with respect to security:  He guarantees their personal security, the security of their wealth, their churches, crucifixes and their properties.  Their churches are never to be obfuscated, confiscated or demolished, nothing is to be expropriated from their churches or the church properties, nor from their crucifixes nor any part of their wealth.  That they not be harassed in their faith nor any of their members harmed and that no Jew would be permitted to take up residence on the land of the Christians.[10]

 

The right to protection against foreign attacks

 

This right means that the Muslim nation would guarantee the protection of non Muslims from foreign aggression and from internal oppression so that they can have stability and security.  Their protection against external aggression is based on the principle: “to them is what is ours and on them is what is on us.”

 

Based on this principle, the leader or ruler must ensure sufficient military or police resources to ensure that the minorities have all the means to be protected because this is part of the ruler’s religious obligations imposed on him as ruler.  The Hanbali school of jurisprudence has ruled in a book titled Oulinnuha that the ruler must protect the people of conscience and must stop anyone from causing harm to them, he must ensure that their prisoners are ransomed and given their freedom as he would his own citizens.  He must also fight off any who intend to cause them harm as long as they do not live within the boundaries of a state at war with the Muslims.  Even if they live as scattered individuals rather than communities, their pledge of conscience is permanent and they are entitled to all the rights that Muslims are entitled to.” Vol. 2, pp 602-603.

 

Imam Qarafy, a Maliki scholar states in his book, Alforook, quoting Imam Ibn Hazm Alzahiry’s Marateb Al Ijma: If we are invaded by another nation seeking the arrest of a person with a treaty of conscience, we would be morally obliged to defend him and fight them off with all our might and even die in his defence in honour of the conscience of Allah Most High and that of His messenger.  Handing such a person over without a fight would be negligence in relation to the treaty of conscience.” Vol 3. p14.

 

Imam Qarafy continued: “This may lead to great expenditure and loss of life in order to honour the pledge and protect the members of the minorities.”

 

Has history seen a level of magnanimity and protection for minorities as what Islam accords to non Muslims?

 

Just and fair testimonials

 

We now move to the fair and objective testimony of Western writers and intellectuals so that the reader will appreciate that truths do not just get frozen and washed away with wild accusations.  The day always comes where the sun will melt away the ice and the tide will wash away the sand barriers from the shores of truth.

 

The Nestorian Patriarch Joshua Baf III wrote to Semaan, the head of the Persian priests a letter wherein he stated:  The Arabs whom Allah had given worldly authority see what you are doing, they are amongst you as you well know, despite that, they do not fight the Christian creed, on the contrary, they sympathise with our faith and they honour our clergy and are generous with the churches and monasteries.”

 

Sir Thomas Arnold writes: “Christian communities found comfort and forbearance that they had not enjoyed for centuries because of Jacobite and Nestorian differences.  Islam allowed them to fulfill the rituals of their faith without anyone questioning them.  Limits and anti-incitement provisions were put in place that stopped conflicts between competing groups, this is a fundamental protection for freedom.” [11]

 

The contemporary Christian historian Dr. Philip Hitti writes: “The people with a treaty/pledge of conscience enjoyed great religious tolerance under Islamic rule where Muslim rulers allowed them to refer civil and legal matters to their own religious rules.”[12]

 

Arnold is reported in the book/letter of Michael the elder, the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch who lived in the second half of the twelfth century after mentioning a long list of Roman oppressions:

 

“I see the hand of God in the victories of the Arabs, when God saw the evils of the Romans who had resorted to force and robbed our churches and monasteries throughout their dominions and punished us without mercy or compassion, He sent the children of Ismael from the South to save us at their hands from the Yoke of the Romans, when the cities surrendered to the Arabs, they gave each church its resources.  It was not easy to be rid of the harshness of the Romans and their oppression and violent zeal against us.  We finally find ourselves living in peace and security.”[13]

 

We ask again, has the world or has recorded history known such magnanimity, generosity and protection of minorities anywhere other than Muslim societies.

 

The reality shows very clearly and history bears witness that humanity; since it touted the praises of modernity and civilization, has not been able to secure the same care, rights and integrity that minorities were given under Islamic rule.  Whilst the humanity of the twentieth century boasts about its theoretical protections that guarantee human rights through laws, articles and conventions as they label them and these were documented by the United Nations, we find that humanity, since its appearance on this planet, has not experienced so much bitterness, humiliation and indignity as it has in this age.  These laws and conventions seem like nothing more than ink on paper that the strong resort to when they wish to punish the weak if they dare differ with them or refuse to be treated like a herd, particularly if they are Muslims.  In such cases, we find these laws applied to their fullest extent with unprecedented prejudice and harshness.  The same articles and conventions are thrown against the wall, even if the perpetrator was to breach every letter.  When the breach is one of the lucky few, he becomes above the law, even if he was to destroy the entire infrastructure of a nation and burn its cities and towns, destroying hospitals with his fighter jets and cannons, blowing up ambulances and driving his tanks over the bodies of the victims.  The humanity of the twentieth century has witnessed the worst violations of human rights in the history of this planet, all this within full view of the United Nations.

 

Further, the United Nations itself has been used as a tool to achieve the goals of neo-imperialism, we see double standards the sanctioning of disproportionate retaliation.  Modern Earthly justice has donned a thousand ugly faces repelling balanced individuals and creating doubts for people even if they had half a brain.  These laws remain as nothing more than theories that have no real application in reality, people, under these man-made laws have no feeling of safety or security.

 


The historical position of Women from a Muslim and a non Muslim perspective – A brief summary

 

Prepared by: Dr. Ibrahim Abu Mohammad

Translated by: Keysar Trad

 

In 586, the French held a conference to determine whether women were human beings or not, they decided that women were human beings created for the sole purpose of serving man.

 

In England in the middle ages, the position of women was raised a little, knights would serenade women with prose.  However, women remained without any right to deal with personal wealth unless they had permission from their husbands or their fathers.

 

Until 1805, English law permitted a man to sell his wife and the price for a wife was six pence.  In 1931, an English man sold his wife for 500 pounds, his legal counsel raised the defence that English law in 1801 set the price at 6 pence provided the wife approved.  The court’s reply was that this law had been repealed.

 

Whilst the French revolution at the end of the 12th century banned slavery, this ban did not include women, the law stated that women were not fit to enter into contracts without the consent of their legal guardians if they were unmarried.  This law stated that minors were: young boys, the insane and women.

 

In Pre-Islamic Arabia, the situation of women was not much different to their situation in the previous ages.  Women did not have the right to deal with money, they had no control over their own fate, they did not have the right to inherit, divorce did not free women from their bond to their husbands and there was no limit to the number of wives a man may take.  Further, women did not have the right to choose their own husbands.  If a man was to die leaving behind a wife and children from another wife, the eldest child would regard his stepmother(s) as part of his inheritance just like all the other property.  The birth of a female was also treated as a bad omen.

 

Until 1922, women in many parts of the non/Muslim world were treated like chattels, many being bought and sold like ordinary goods.  Many parts of London displayed women chained and manacled as slaves waiting to be sold.  A law was passed in the same year prohibiting the sale of a woman for less than 12 pence[14].

 

When Muhammad peace and blessings upon Him was appointed by Allah as His final messenger, his message elevated woman to a position where she was equal to man in substance and she was granted her natural rights as a human being.  This message came to a society that used to take pride in the birth of males and felt shamed when a female was born.  Islam changed this, it treated the birth of a female as being more blessed than the birth of a male.  Muslim scholars convened seminars with respect to who holds the greater blessing, they found the birth of females to be more blessed, the reason for this is found in the Qur`anic verse that starts with females:  “He grants to whom He wills females and grants to whom He wills males…”.  Thus, the female was more blessed because Allah commenced the verse with her and Allah always commences with what is more important.  Hence Islam regards women as the honour of society.

 

Islam referred to women in a number of different situations, as a mother, we are told that paradise is under her feet and that she must be honoured and treated with kindness and respect.  The prophet peace and blessings upon him enjoined on children their duty to their mother as being three folds that of the father, looking after one’s mother is second in importance to devotion to Allah.  As a wife, Islam stated that the people who will have the best position with Allah are those who are best to and most gentle with their wives[15].  Islam made it an obligation on the husband to spend on all his wife’s needs in accordance with his own standard of living.

 

As a daughter, Islam regarded good nurturing or raising a daughter as one of the means of earning the grace of Allah and entry to Heaven.

 

Islam gave women a collection of material as well as non-material rights:

 

1 – The right to being treated as equal to man in substance[16], they are created from the same soul[17].

 

2 – She is charged with the same religious duties as man, she is required to practice the same rituals of worship as man.

 

3 – She is entitled to the same spiritual reward for her actions as man.

 

4 – She is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect in the same manner as man.

 

Some of the material rights include:

 

1 – The right to own property in her own name.

 

2 – The right to deal with her own property as she chooses, including the right to enter into contracts and gain employment including the right to work as a judge[18].

 

3 – The right to inherit from the estate of either of her parents, her husband, her brother or her children.  In addition to this right, she does not carry the obligation to spend on anyone.

 

4 – The right or freedom to choose her own husband, she cannot be forced to marry against her will.

 

5 – The right to seek annulment of her marriage if her husband does not treat her properly.

 

6 – The right to vote, the prophet Muhammad peace and blessings upon him used to receive pledges of support from both men and women[19].

 

7 – The right to nominate for parliament[20].

 

8 – The right to question or advise the ruler.

 

 

Replying to some of the accusations against Islam in relation to women:

 

1 – Islam is accused of only giving women half the share of men in inheritance.  In Islam, inheritance is not dispersed on the basis of gender, the share is determined on the basis of the heir’s relation to the deceased and on the financial obligations that each person will bear as a result.  Women have 26 categories of inheritance, in one only of these categories, the woman takes half the share of the male, this is the situation where a parent passes away and he has male and female children.  In this situation, she takes half as much as her brother, she will not be required to spend on herself nor on her remaining parent, she will not be required to spend on her children either.  She is not required to furnish a home nor to pay a dowry.  She in fact has no financial obligation.  Her brother, if she is single, will be required to spend on her from his share.

 

There are four situations where the female’s share is greater than that of the male.  These situations are either unknown to the accusers or are ignored by them.  In the remaining 21 situations or categories, the female’s share is equal to that of the male.  Hence, the share is not based on gender, it is based on rights and obligations.

 

2 – They also accuse Islam of treating two women as equal to one male witness.  This accusation is completely inaccurate.  There are in fact circumstances where the evidence of men is not accepted and only evidence from women will be admitted.  Can we allege that men are being mistreated in these cases?  On issues of parentage, breastfeeding and chastity, only the women’s testimony will be admissible and the man’s evidence will be rejected.  Again, this is not an issue of gender but an issue of who is in a better position to know.  There are situations where justice cannot be realized by the evidence of women alone, this is not based on a deficiency, but rather as an issue of care for her emotions and feelings (these relate to crime and financial transactions).  On all other issues, the testimony of women is completely equal to that of men.

 

3 – They also accuse Islam of denying women the right to education.  The right to education falls under the right to equality.  As women are equal to men, they have the same abilities to learn and teach as men.  This accusation betrays an ignorance of Islamic history which shows many brilliant learned women scholars and educators.  The Hadith shows that women used to go to the mosque of the messenger to learn. 

 

Amongst these prominent women are:

 

1 – Aisha Bint Abu Bakr, the mother of the believers, she has narrated more than 2200 Hadith and half the religious teachings were taught by her.  Her sister Asma narrated 56 Hadith.

2 – Hafsa Bint Umar, another mother of the believers, Hafsa was known as a highly proficient calligrapher.

3 – Umm Aldarda` was described by Imam Nawawy as a woman famous for her intelligence, jurisprudence and understanding.

4 – Karima Alharuria and another named Attanukhia taught Imam Bukhary who learnt many Ahadith from them.

5 – Aisha Bint Ahmad, a prominent linguist and poet.

6 – Ulayya Bint Almahdy, a prominent poet, author and teacher of Jurisprudence and language.

7 – Wallada Alruwa`iya, a poet, contemporary of Ibn Zaydoun.

8 – Zaynab Ummul Mu`ayyed, a teacher of history and Hadith.

9 – Nafisa Bint Abi Muhammad, taught in Egypt, one of her students was Imam Shafi.

10 – Mu`nisa Al Ayyubia, taught language and Qur`an interpretation, Ibn Hayyan was one of her students.

11 – Shahda Bint Alabry, author and Hadith scholar, Ibn Dawood learnt Sahih Bukhary from her.

12 – Ibn Asaker, the renowned scholar had over 80 female teachers who taught him Hadith.

13 – Zaynab, doctor of Bani Awad, eye surgeon.

 

These are only some examples and there are many more.  Some regard Islam as the best love letter to women since eve and will remain so until the end of the world.  The Noble Qur`an has named an entire chapter after women but has not done so for men.

 

Islam has placed all issues relating to women from birth to old age, in a chapter named Nour, or (light).


About the author:

 

Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad.

Born in Egypt.

Memorised the Holy Qur`an in his childhood.

Received his Degree from AlAzhar in 1974, and was appointed as a sub-editor of the AlAzhar magazine in 1976.

Received his Masters Degree from the College of Usuluddin in AlAzhar University in 1983 .

His Phd thesis was in relation to 'the way Islam makes peace a reality'. This thesis earned him a high distinction, as the top of his class in the college of Usuluddin in AlAzhar University in 1987.

Has several works that have been published, of these are: 'Man And The Environment', 'The Culture And The Diary Of History', 'Between Freedom Of Thought And Freedom to Destroy', 'A Letter to the Sane', 'The Man And The sycophant, 'Mental Striving, Its Fields, And Its Heights', and 'The Pure Melody And The Immoral Melody'.

Has recently published the second edition of his book "Invitation to Contemplate" which has been translated to both English and French.

His book, "A call for thinking" has been translated into three languages, English, French and Kurdish.

Has participated in many specialist international conferences and seminars.

His latest books: "Who are you?" and "The Human Being Between Revival and Downfall" are now available.

His book "Education and the Revivalist Role of Said Nursy is ready for publication.

 

 

About Keysar Trad

 

Keysar Trad has served the Muslim community for over fifteen years in various capacities and on the committees of various organizations.  He regularly represents Islam on diverse issues and in a variety of forums.  He has written a book about Islam and translated several others as well as writing numerous articles.  He is the founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia and is presently a trustee with the Australian Islamic Educational Trust and an advocate of human rights and dialogue, friendship and cooperation.



[1] Please note that the appearance of emboldened text followed by parenthesis with numbers inside them, indicates that this is a quote from the Holy Qur`an, the first number represents the chapter number and the second is the verse number.

[2] Sharh al Shifa Fi Shama`el AlMustafa, Imam Nourudeen Alqary, annotated by the former Mufty of Egypt Sh. Hasanayn M. Makhlouf, vol. 2, p.80

[3] Ibid, pp 30-31.

[4] Ibid Vol. 2, pp 193-197.

[5] Ibid pp 212-213

[6] Bayhaqi, Alsunan al kubra, vol 5 p 205.

[7] Narrated in Tabarani in Al Awsat

[8] Narrated by Ahmad and Bukhary under the section for Jizya and by Ibn Majah and Nasa`i in the section dealing with compensation.

[9] Radd Almukhtar alal dar Almukhtar, exegesis of Tanweer Alabsar for Khatimat Almuhaqiqeen Muhammad Ameen who is known as Ibn Abideen, explained and commented on by Sh. Adel Ahmad Abdulmawjood, Sh. Ali M. Muawwad, Dar Alkutub Al Ilmiya, Beirut, Lebanon, first print, 1994, vol.1 p 282.

[10] Tareekh Al Tabary, Darul Ma’aref, Egypt, Vol. 3, p609.

[11] Futuh Albuldan, Albakazry p143.

[12] Translated from a translation quoted by Dr. Abdul Jaleel Shalaby in his book, Rad Muftarayat Alal Islam, Darul Qalam, 1982, taken from the book: Tareekh Al Arab by Mabrouk, p289.

[13] Translated from a translation from the book: Rooh Aldeen Al Islamy, p288 Afif Tabbarah, 1988, Dar Al Ilm Lilmalayeen, Beirut, Lebanon.

[14] Woman, between Law and Jurisprudence, Dr. M. Sibai, 5th edition, 1962, Darul Qalam, Beirut.

[15] Tirmizy reports that the messenger of Allah peace and blessings upon him stated:  “The most perfect amongst the believers in faith and the one who is closest to me is the one who is most gentle to his wife.”

[16] Ahmad in his Musnad reports that the messenger of Allah peace and blessings upon him said:  “Women are equal (Shaqa`eq) to men, they are honoured by noble people and only abused by base people.”

[17]The Holy Qur`an 4:1 “People, be conscious of your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul.”

[18]Almawardy and Tabary both assert the permissibility of giving women the right to work as judges and they base this opinion on the fact that working as a Judge is in the same category as issuing a Fatwa or religious ruling.  Hence, as she has the ability to make a binding Fatwa, she also has the ability to work as a judge and pass judgment.  Refer Almawardy, the Etiquettes of Judges, Vol. 1, 264, Fathul Bary, Ibn Hajr Alasqalany, Part 13, page 44.  Buty, Women, Darul Fikr Almuaser, Beirut, 1996.

[19]Bukhary, vol 8.  According to Aisha:  The messenger of Allah peace and blessings upon him used to take verbal pledges of support from women.

 [20] Buty, Women, p73, Darul Fikr Almuaser, Beirut, 1996