The Rights of Non-Muslims in an Islamic State

Friday, July 30, 2010

The following are several excerpts from a long and comprehensive article entitled, Rights of Non-Muslims in an Islamic State, by Samuel Shahid.

FOREWORD

Recently a few books have been written about the rights of non-Muslims who are subjugated to the rule of the Islamic law. Most of these books presented the Islamic view in a favorable fashion, without unveiling the negative facet inherited in these laws.

This brief study attempts to examine these laws as they are stated by the Four Schools of the Fiqh (jurisprudence). It aims at revealing to the reader the negative implications of these laws without ignoring the more tolerant views of modern reformers.

Our ardent hope that this study will reveal to our readers the bare truth in its both positive and negative facets.

Concept of "Islamic State"

"An Islamic state is essentially an ideological state, and is thus radically different from a national state." This statement made by Mawdudi lays the basic foundation for the political, economical, social, and religious system of all Islamic countries which impose the Islamic law. This ideological system intentionally discriminates between people according to their religious affiliations. Mawdudi, a prominent Pakistani Muslim scholar, summarizes the basic differences between Islamic and secular states as follows:

1) An Islamic state is ideological. People who reside in it are divided into Muslims, who believe in its ideology and non-Muslims who do not believe.

2) Responsibility for policy and administration of such a state "should rest primarily with those who believe in the Islamic ideology." Non-Muslims, therefore, cannot be asked to undertake or be entrusted with the responsibility of policymaking.

3) An Islamic state is bound to distinguish (i.e. discriminates) between Muslims and non-Muslims. However the Islamic law "Shari`a" guarantees to non-Muslims "certain specifically stated rights beyond which they are not permitted to meddle in the affairs of the state because they do not subscribe to its ideology." Once they embrace the Islamic faith, they "become equal participants in all matters concerning the state and the government."

Classification of Non-Muslims:

In his article, "The Ordinances of the People of the Covenant and the Minorities in an Islamic State," Sheikh Najih Ibrahim Ibn Abdullah remarks that legists classify non-Muslims or infidels into two categories: Dar-ul-Harb or the household of War, which refers to non-Muslims who are not bound by a peace treaty, or covenant, and whose blood and property are not protected by the law of vendetta or retaliation; and Dar-us-Salam or the household of Peace, which refers to those who fall into three classifications:

1) Zimmis (those in custody) are non-Muslim subjects who live in Muslim countries and agree to pay the Jizya (tribute) in exchange for protection and safety, and to be subject to Islamic law. These enjoy a permanent covenant.

2) People of the Hudna (truce) are those who sign a peace treaty with Muslims after being defeated in war. They agree to reside in their own land, yet to be subject to the legal jurisprudence of Islam like Zimmis, provided they do not wage war against Muslims.

3) Musta'min (protected one) are persons who come to an Islamic country as messengers, merchants, visitors, or student wanting to learn about Islam. A Musta'min should not wage war against Muslims and he is not obliged to pay Jizya, but he would be urged to embrace Islam. If a Musta'min does not accept Islam, he is allowed to return safely to his own country. Muslims are forbidden to hurt him in any way. When he is back in his own homeland, he is treated as one who belongs to the Household of War.

Zimmis and Religious Practices

According to Muslim jurists, the following legal ordinances must be enforced on Zimmis (Christians and Jews alike) who reside among Muslims:

1) Zimmis are not allowed to build new churches, temples, or synagogues. They are allowed to renovate old churches or houses of worship provided they do not allow to add any new construction. "Old churches" are those which existed prior to Islamic conquests and are included in a peace accord by Muslims. Construction of any church, temple, or synagogue in the Arab Peninsula (Saudi Arabia) is prohibited. It is the land of the Prophet and only Islam should prevail there. Yet, Muslims, if they wish, are permitted to demolish all non-Muslim houses of worship in any land they conquer.

2) Zimmis are not allowed to pray or read their sacred books out loud at home or in churches, lest Muslims hear their prayers.

3) Zimmis are not allowed to print their religious books or sell them in public places and markets. They are allowed to publish and sell them among their own people, in their churches and temples.

4) Zimmis are not allowed to install the cross on their houses or churches since it is a symbol of infidelity.

5) Zimmis are not permitted to broadcast or display their ceremonial religious rituals on radio or television or to use the media or to publish any picture of their religious ceremonies in newspaper and magazines.

6) Zimmis are not allowed to congregate in the streets during their religious festivals; rather, each must quietly make his way to his church or temple.

7) Zimmis are not allowed to join the army unless there is indispensable need for them in which case they are not allowed to assume leadership positions but are considered mercenaries.

Freedom of Expression

Mawdudi, who is more lenient than most Muslim scholars, presents a revolutionary opinion when he emphasizes that in an Islamic state:

"all non-Muslims will have the freedom of conscience, opinion, expression, and association as the one enjoyed by Muslims themselves, subject to the same limitations as are imposed by law on Muslims."

Mawdudi's views are not accepted by most Islamic schools of law, especially in regard to freedom of expression like criticism of Islam and the government. Even in a country like Pakistan, the homeland of Mawdudi, it is illegal to criticize the government or the head of state. Many political prisoners are confined to jails in Pakistan and most other Islamic countries. Through the course of history. except in rare cases, not even Muslims have been given freedom to criticize Islam without being persecuted or sentenced to death. It is far less likely for a Zimmi to get away with criticizing Islam.

In Mawdudi's statement, the term "limitations" is vaguely defined. If it were explicitly defined, you would find, in the final analysis, that it curbs any type of criticism against the Islamic faith and government.

Moreover, how can the Zimmis express the positive aspects of their religion when they are not allowed to use the media or advertise them on radio or TV? Perhaps Mawdudi meant by his proposals to allow such freedom to Zimmis only among themselves. Otherwise, they would be subject to penalty. Yet, Muslims are allowed, according to the Shari`a (law) to propagate their faith among all religious sects without any limitations.

Read the whole article: Rights of Non-Muslims in an Islamic State.

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