|V Conclusion: A New Basis for Relations with Non-Muslims
It is evident from the forgoing discussion that in order to make the reward and punishment that is going to take place in the Hereafter an observable reality in this world, the Almighty selects certain personalities called Messengers to elucidate and explain the basic truths to their respective peoples. With the special help and assistance of the Almighty, they remove misconceptions that surround these concepts and vehemently remind people that if they do not accept these truths they shall be doomed in this world and in the Hereafter. Messengers give glad tidings of success both in this world and in the next to those who profess faith in them. People who deliberately deny these truths are punished in various degrees so that this whole episode can become an argument for the reward and punishment that is to take place on similar grounds in the Hereafter.
As a consequence of this fundamental premise what needs to be understood is that some directives of Islam are specific to the age of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) and cannot be extended to later periods. The reason for this, as pointed out many times before in this article, is that a Muslim preacher cannot unveil the basic truths in their ultimate form as a Messenger is able to. Nor can he know whether a non-Muslim is knowingly denying it or not. Only the Almighty knows this. In the age of Messengers, He chose to reveal this judgement through His appointees, while in the second period of history He has not chosen to do so. Consequently, it is imperative that Muslims study the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet (sws), which are replete with the details of this divine scheme in the proper perspective.
If all these premises are strue, then the attitude of Muslims towards non-Muslims should drastically change. Instead of showing an antagonistic behaviour towards them by threatening to subdue them, they should try to present the teachings of Islam in a lucid and articulate manner. They should think of ways and means to communicate the true message of Islam and refrain from policing and threatening non-Muslims. Like true preachers, they should invest their time in thinking of ways and means to earnestly call people to the truth. Their preaching should have a humble tone in it and they should deal very affectionately and amicably with non-Muslims. Muslims should consider them as their potential addressees to whom they can present the teachings of Islam through character and good deeds. Being antagonistic and hostile to them is a totally uncalled for attitude. Moreover when Muslims settle in non-Muslim countries, they are bound in a contract of citizenship. They must always honour this contract while living in such areas. They should respect the laws and live peacefully. They must never break these laws and if a situation comes when, owing to some law, they are not able to follow a directive of their religion which seems imperative to them, then instead of violating the law they should migrate from that country. They must remember that honouring a contract is a sacred duty and people who break their promises are disliked by the Almighty.
In this regard, for Muslims, the personality of the Prophet (sws) is a model in another sphere -- a sphere in which he expended all his efforts in the propagation phase to preach, educate and influence people in favour of Islam. In the words of Ghamidi:
All the Prophets of Allah adopted the method of convincing and urging people to accept the message they brought. In every period of time, whenever they were sent to their people, they vigilantly stuck to this methodology. True that many a time was their message rejected, they were exiled from their territories and many a time they were even killed, but they never changed this modus operandi. The Almighty always bade them to remain steadfast on this cause for this is their real duty. They have to reform and educate the society. Consequently, it is a historical fact that whenever the Prophets have been able to convince people about the basic truths, it was done in this manner. It is through this way that the mission of the Prophet Moses (sws) was accomplished and it is by adopting this course that the rulers of the Prophet Jonah’s (sws) nation accepted faith. Above all, the first Islamic state was founded in Madinah by the Prophet Muhammad (sws) by working along these lines.42Today, the non-Muslim world has severe apprehensions about the Muslim bloc. To them Muslims pose a great threat to their freedom and liberty. John L. Esposito of the Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA, writes:
According to many Western commentators, Islam and the West are on a collision course. Islam is a triple threat: political, demographic, and socioreligious. For some, the nature of the Islamic threat is intensified by the linkage of the political and the demographic. Thus Patrick Buchanan could write that while the west finds itself ‘negotiating for hostages with Shiite radicals who hate and detest us,’43 their Muslim brothers are populating Western countries. The Muslim threat is as global in nature as Muslims in Europe. The Soviet Union, and America proliferate and prosper. Other observers such as Charles Krauthammer, in the midst of the unraveling of the Soviet Union, spoke of a global Islamic uprising, a vision of Muslims in the heartland and on the periphery of the Muslim world rising up in revolt: a "new ‘arc of crisis’ … another great movement is going on as well, unnoticed but just as portentous: a global intifada"44.45
In recent times, many non-Muslim scholars have paved the way for a meaningful dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims. They have tried to pinpoint the areas of mutual agreement. William Montgomery Watt, professor emeritus of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Edinburgh University, writes:
The most important requirement is to admit that religious and moral systems other than Islam, even if they are far from perfect in Muslim eyes, may contain a large measure of truth. Muslims would, of course, continue to hold that Islam is religiously and morally superior, but they would also have to recognize that the adherent of any moral and religious system normally thinks that his system is superior to others. Since there is no generally accepted criterion to distinguish between the truth and falsehood of such systems, co-operation between the adherents of different systems requires that all should admit that the others are true at least up to a point, and it is usually unnecessary to specify in what respects each is true. In other words, Muslims are required to accept a pluralism of religions and moralities, and to see themselves as one community within a pluralistic world. A corollary would be that they might possibly have something to learn from some of the other systems.
It is in the application of moral values to social and political life that co-operation would appear to present fewest problems, at least intellectually. The relation of morality to religion is a difficult question because, though we may speak of Christian ethics and Buddhist ethics, morality is to a great extent independent of religion, and is based rather on the nature of human beings. At the same time, however, religion helps individuals to live more in accordance with their moral beliefs. The life of all human communities is based, among other values, on those implicit in the fifth to the ninth of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, which may be stated positively as respect for parents, for life, for marriage and for property, and truthfulness in public statements. Recognition of these values is also assumed as part of the basis of the United Nations and other global institutions, though there is still much to do before all international political activity is based on moral principles. Since these values are all upheld by the Shari’ah, Muslims should have no difficulty in co-operating with others who are working for a fuller incorporation of moral values into the life of human beings at all levels.46If, in the opinion of Professor Watt, morality is the most common factor among various religions, then one great moral value is upholding the truth. Conversely, denying what one is convinced of is a grave sin. Muhammad (sws) and his preaching mission must always continue to be thought provoking to Non-Muslims since it poses a threat to them in the Hereafter if they deny him in spite of being convinced of his Prophethood. They must keep in mind that as per the Qur’an, the Almighty has played His role in elucidating this fact. Only a legitimate excuse on their part can now save them on the Day of Judgement from His wrath.
|42. Ghamidi, Burhan, 2nd
ed., (Lahore: Danish Sara, 2000), p. 260
43. Patrick J. Buchanan, Rising Islam May Overwhelm the West, New Hampshire Sunday News, August 20, 1989.
44. Charles Krauthammar, The Crescent of Crisis: Global Inifada, Washington Post, October 29, 1991.
45. John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat, Myth or Reality, 1st ed., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 175
46. W. Montgomery Watt, Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity, 1st ed., (London: Routeledge, 1988), pp. 104-5