The Outlook of Islam on the People of the Book
Another important topic that has been on the agenda with the acts of terrorism against the United States is the relation between the Western and Islamic world. As is known, by the 90s, some intellectuals were falsely suggesting that a struggle would take place between the West and Islamic world in the near future. This is the basic theme of Samuel Huntington's well-known thesis "The Clash of Civilisations". However, this thesis – better called as "Clash of Ignorance" by Edward W. Said – rests on an imaginary scenario generated by the exaggeration of the influence of some radical and ignorant factions to be found in these two civilisations. Actually, there can be no clash between the Western civilisation and the Islamic civilisation, because the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity, the tenets upon which Western civilisation is based, are in perfect harmony with Islam.
In the Qur'an, Jews and Christians are called the "People of the Book". This is because the members of these two religions abide by the Divine Books revealed by Allah. The outlook of Islam on the People of the Book is extremely just and compassionate.
This attitude towards the People of the Book developed during the years of the birth of Islam. At that time, Muslims were a minority, struggling to protect their faith and suffering oppression and torture from the pagans of the city of Mecca. Due to this persecution, some Muslims decided to flee Mecca and shelter in a safe country with a just ruler. The Prophet Muhammad (saas) told them to take refuge the Christian king of Ethiopia. The Muslims who went to Ethiopia found a very fair administration that embraced them with love and respect. The King refused the demands of the pagan messengers who had travelled to Ethiopia and asked him to surrender the Muslims to them, and announced that Muslims could live freely in his country.
These Christian attitudes of compassion, mercy, and justice, are referred to in a verse of the Qur'an which states:
… You will find the people most affectionate to those who believe are those who say, "We are Christians." That is because some of them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 82)
Common Beliefs and Values Shared by Muslims and the People of the Book
Christian and Muslim beliefs have many aspects in common. Judaism too shares many beliefs with Islam. In the Qur'an, Allah relates that Muslims share the same faith with the People of the Book and that they say to them "We have faith in what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to you. Our Allah and your Allah are one and we submit to Him." (Surat al-‘Ankabut, 46)
All true adherents of these three great religions:
In one verse, that Muslims make no distinction among prophets is related as follows:
The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him by his Lord, and so do the believers. Each one believes in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers. We do not differentiate between any of His Messengers. They say, "We hear and we obey. Forgive us, our Lord! You are our journey's end." (Surat al-Baqara, 285)
The beliefs of the People of the Book are in harmony with Muslims, not only in terms of faith-related issues, but also of moral values. Today, in a world where such immoralities as adultery, homosexuality, drug addiction and a model of egoism and self-seeking cruelty have grown widespread, the People of the Book and Muslims share the same virtues: Honour, chastity, humility, self-sacrifice, honesty, compassion, mercy and unconditional love.
The Common Opponents of the Muslims and the People of the Book
Another important fact that draws Christianity, Judaism and Islam together is the atheist philosophies that are so influential in our time.
Among the best-known and most harmful philosophies of our age can be cited materialism, communism, fascism, anarchism, racism, nihilism and existentialism. Many people who believed in the false diagnoses, deceptive descriptions and explanations of these ideas on the universe, society and man, have lost their faith or doubted it. What is more, these ideologies have dragged people, societies and nations into great crises, conflicts and wars. Their share of the blame for the pain and troubles that humanity suffers from today is immense.
While they deny Allah and creation, all the above-mentioned ideologies are based on a common framework, a so-called scientific basis; Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Darwinism constitutes the basis of atheist philosophies. This theory briefly claims –without having any scientific basis- that living beings have evolved as a result of coincidences and by means of a struggle for life. Therefore, Darwinism sends this deceptive message to people:
"You are not responsible to anyone, you owe your life to coincidences, you need to struggle, and if necessary to oppress others to succeed. This world is one of conflict and self-interest".
The social messages put across by Darwinist concepts such as "Natural selection", "struggle for life", "survival of the fittest" are a means of dangerous indoctrination. This evil morality advises people to be egoistical, self-seeking, cruel and oppressive. It destroys such virtues as mercy, compassion, self-sacrifice and humility, the moral values of the three great monotheistic religions and presents this as if it is a necessity of "the rules of life."
This Darwinist indoctrination is just the opposite of the beliefs of the People of the Book and the morality of the Qur'an. Consequently, the Darwinist indoctrination constitutes the foundation of a world which inherently opposes all the three divine religions.
This being the case, it is necessary for the People of the Book and Muslims to co-operate, since they believe in Allah and accept the morality that He teaches. The followers of these three religions should expose to the world the fallacy of Darwinism, which has no scientific basis, but which people are trying to preserve for the sake of materialist philosophy. They should co-operatively carry out an intellectual struggle against all other deceptive ideas (communism, fascism, racism) that serve atheism. Once this is realized, the world will, in a very short time, embrace peace, tranquillity and justice.
Antisemitism is a Racism Totally Contrary to Islam
In our times, antisemitism is an ideology which threatens world peace and targets the well-being and security of innocent people. This is racist hatred felt by some for the Jews.
In the 20th century, antisemitism signed its name to great disasters, one of the most horrible being the cruelty and murder inflicted on the Jews by the Nazis. In addition to this, in many countries authoritarian regimes have targeted Jews and subjected them to cruel treatment. Fascist organisations have harassed Jews and carried out bloody attacks against them.
So how should a Muslim regard antisemitism?
The answer is obvious. Every Muslim must oppose anti-Semitism as he would oppose every other racist ideology. He must fight this hateful ideology and protect the rights of Jews, as of everyone else in the world. Every Muslim must recognize and defend the rights of all Jews in the world, be they in Israel or the diaspora, to live and worship in freedom, to protect their own identity and to self-expression.
Muslims justly condemn some aggressive policies of the State of Israel. But innocent Jews cannot, of course, be criticized on these grounds.
However, criticising official atheist Zionist ideology has nothing to do with antisemitism, since to object to Godless Zionism is to object to an intense form of racism. There are many Jews who also criticise the racist policies of atheist Zionism, and to label them as being anti-Semitic would be absurd.
Never subjecting a community to a blanket criticism is a command stated in the Qur'an, there is a need to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, the cruel ones and the innocent. In the Qur'an the moral perfection displayed by sincere Jews and Christians is stated as follows:
[However] They are not all alike. Among the People of the Book there is an upright community who recite the revelation of Allah during the night and fall prostrate before Him. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, and vie with one another in good works. They are of the righteous. And whatever good they do, its reward will not be denied them. Allah knows those who fear [Him]. (Surah Al 'Imran, 113-115)
Antisemitism is an anti-religion ideology that has its roots in neo-paganism. Therefore, it is unthinkable that a Muslim would espouse antisemitism or feel sympathy for this ideology. Anti-Semites have no respect for the Prophet Abraham (as), the Prophet Moses (as) or the Prophet David (as) who were blessed prophets chosen by Allah to be examples for humanity.
Antisemitism and other kinds of racism (eg. prejudice against blacks) have no place in true religion; they are perversions arising from various ideologies and superstitions.
Furthermore, when we examine antisemitism and other forms of racism, we see clearly that they promote ideas and a model of society that is totally contrary to the moral teachings of the Qur'an, for example, at the root of antisemitism lie hatred, violence, and lack of compassion. An anti-Semite may be so cruel as to support the murder of Jewish people, men, women, children and the aged, and condone their being subjected to torture. However, the moral teaching of the Qur'an enjoins love, compassion and mercy for all people. It also commands Muslims to show justice and be forgiving even to their enemies.
On the other hand, anti-Semites and other kinds of racists are opposed to living together in peace with people of a different race or creed. (eg. German racists (Nazis) were opposed to Germans and Jews living together) However, in the Qur'an, there is not the slightest distinction between races; the Qur'an advises that people of different faiths live together in the same society in peace and happiness.
According to the Qur'an, Muslims, Jews and Christians Must Live in Friendship
In the Qur'an, there is a significant difference between the People of the Book and those who have no belief in Allah. This is especially emphasised in the area of social life. For example, it is said concerning those who associate others with Allah: "(they) are unclean, so after this year they should not come near the Sacred Mosque." (Surat at-Tawba, 28) Those who associate others with Allah are people who know no divine law, have no moral precepts and who can commit every kind of degrading and perverse deed without hesitation.
But the People of the Book, while they rely basically on Allah's revelation, have moral precepts and know what is lawful and what is not. In the same way, permission has been given to a Muslim man to marry a woman from among the People of the Book. On this subject Allah commands:
Today all good things have been made lawful for you. And the food of those given the Book is also lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. So are chaste women from among the believers and chaste women of those given the Book before you, once you have given them their dowries in marriage, not in fornication or taking them as lovers. But as for anyone who disbelieves, his actions will come to nothing and in the hereafter he will be among the losers. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 5)
These commands show that bonds of kinship may be established as a result of the marriage of a Muslim with a woman from the People of the Book and that those on each side of the union can accept an invitation to a meal. These are the fundamentals that will ensure the establishment of equitable human relationships and a happy communal life. Since the Qur'an enjoins this equitable and compassionate attitude, it is unthinkable that a Muslim could take an opposing view.
The just and compassionate practices of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) towards the people of the Book set very good examples to Muslims. In the contract made with the Christians of Najran, who lived in the south of Arabia, the Prophet Muhammad (saas) demonstrates one of the best examples of compassion and justice. The contract included the following article:
By means of such contracts, the Messenger of Allah (saas) secured a social order for Muslims and the People of the Book alike, which was marked by peace and security. This order was a total manifestation of the following verse:
Those who believe, those who are Jews, and the Christians and Sabaeans, all who believe in Allah and the Last Day and act rightly, will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Surat al-Baqara, 62)
The Constitution of Madinah is the most important contract that secured justice and peace among Christians, Jews and pagan communities.
The Constitution of Madinah was prepared under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (saas) 1,400 years ago, that is in 622 AD, to meet the needs of people of different beliefs, and was put into practice as a written legal contract. Different communities of different religions and races that had harboured deep-seated enmity towards one another for 120 years became parties to this legal contract. By means of this contract, the Prophet Muhammad (saas) showed that conflicts between those societies, who had been enemies and quite unable to reach any form of compromise, could come to an end, and they could actually live side by side.
According to the Constitution of Madinah, everyone was free to adhere to any belief or religion or to make any political or philosophical choice. People sharing the same views could come together and form a community. Everyone was free to exercise his own justice system. However, anyone who committed a crime would be protected by no one. The parties to the contract would engage in co-operation with one another, provide support for each other, and would remain under the protection of the Prophet Muhammad (saas). Conflicts between the parties would be brought to the Messenger of Allah (saas).
This contract was in force from 622 to 632 AD. Through this document, the tribal structures which had formerly been based on blood and kinship were abolished, and people of different cultural, ethnical and geographical backgrounds came together and formed a social unity. The Constitution of Madinah secured absolute religious freedom.
Monasteries, Churches and Synagogues must be Respected
Another important fact we learn from the Qur'an is that Muslims must respect Jewish and Christian places of worship. In the Qur'an, the places of worship of the People of the Book, ie. monasteries, churches and synagogues, are mentioned as places of worship protected by Allah.
… if Allah had not driven some people back by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where Allah's name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. Allah will certainly help those who help Him – Allah is All-Strong, Almighty. (Surat al-Hajj, 40 )
This verse shows every Muslim the importance of respecting and protecting the holy places of the People of the Book.
Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad (saas) also made contracts with pagans as well as the people of the Book. Pagans were always treated with justice, and when they asked to be taken under protection, their requests were readily accepted by Muhammad (saas). This meant that these communities sought the protection of the Messenger of Allah (saas) in the face of an attack or a wrongful accusation. Throughout his life, many non-Muslims and pagans requested protection from the Prophet Muhammad (saas), and he took them under his protection and ensured their security. In Sura Tawba, Allah advises that requests of pagans seeking protection be accepted by believers. Of this, Allah says the following:
If any of the idolaters ask you for protection, give them protection until they have heard the words of Allah. Then convey them to a place where they are safe... (Surat at-Tawba, 6)
Jews and Christians, due to their shared commonalities with Muslims are much closer to Muslims than those who have no faith in Allah. Each of these religions has its book, that is, they are subject to a book sent down by Allah. They know what is right and what is wrong, what is lawful and what is unlawful according to their scriptures, and all revere the prophets and messengers that accompanied them. They all believe in a hereafter, and afterlife where they will have to give an account to Allah for all their actions. So, there is a shared foundation from where we all can unite upon.
Rallying to a Common Formula
Concerning the People of the Book, Allah gives Muslims a command in the Qur'an; to rally to a common formula:
Say, "O People of the Book! Let us rally to a common formula to be binding on both us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah." (Surah Al 'Imran, 64)
This is indeed our call to Christians and Jews: As people who believe in Allah and follow His revelations, let us rally to a common formula – "faith". Let us love Allah, Who is our Creator and Lord, and follow His commands. And let us pray to Allah to lead us to an even straighter path.
All Believers Must Pray For One Another And Be At Unity
When Muslims, Christians and Jews rally to a common formula this way; when they understand that they are friends not enemies, when they see that the real enemy is the rejection of Allah, then the world will become a very different place. The wars in many parts of the world, enmities, fears and terrorist attacks will come to an end, and a new civilisation based on love, respect and peace will be established upon this "common formula".
There are important facts to consider for Muslims. What Allah teaches us in the Qur'an about different peoples and creeds is clear:
It is evident that some of the Jews who lived in the past have committed many errors which are stated and criticized in the Qur'an. But all this must not be taken by Muslims as a cause to feel hostility against all Jews. The crime committed by some Jews because of atheist ideologies cannot be ascribed to Judaism and the Jewish nation.
Again a basic vantage point prescribed in the Qur'an is not to make judgements about people just because they belong to a particular race, nation or religion. In every community, there are good people as well as wicked people. This differentiation is stated in the Qur'an. For instance, right after mentioning the rebellious nature – against Allah and His religion – of some people among Jews and Christians, there is reference to an exception and, said thus:
[However] They are not all alike. Among the People of the Book there is an upright community who recite the revelation of Allah during the night and fall prostrate before Him. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, and vie with one another in good works. They are of the righteous and whatever good they do, its reward will not be denied them. Allah knows those who fear [Him]. (Surah Al'Imran, 113-115)
In another verse, Allah commands:
We sent a Messenger among every people saying: "Worship Allah and keep clear of all false gods." Among them were some whom Allah guided but others received the misguidance they deserved. Travel about the earth and see the final fate of the deniers. (Surat an-Nahl, 36)
Allah revealed to all messengers that He is the Unique and that there is no one but Him Whom people must worship, serve and obey. The divine message, conveyed to the people by Allah through His messengers, has been communicated to people since the creation of man. Some societies have accepted the message and followed the right path while others have denied and swerved from it. This also holds true for the present day. Some people will side with the righteous, whereas some others will plunge into mischief. This is the law of Allah. Those who believe should also adopt such an outlook and never forget that there may be sincere, pious people who have fear of Allah among the members of all religions as well as those who are far removed from the religious tenets.
Our hope is that a world will be established in which people will be able to live together in peace, no matter what race or religion they belong to, in which every racist perversion will be rejected, everyone's rights will be safeguarded and everyone will be respected. The struggle that will have to take place on intellectual grounds against all anti-religious ideologies will hopefully establish the peace that has been longed for. Of this Allah relates the following in the Qur'an:
Those who disbelieve are the friends and protectors of one another. If you do not act in this way (be friends and protectors of one another) there will be turmoil in the land and great corruption. (Surat al-Anfal, 73)
Would that there had been more people with a vestige of good among the generations of those who came before you, who forbade corruption in the earth, other than the few among them whom We saved. Those who did wrong gladly pursued the life of luxury that they were given and were evildoers. (Surah Hud, 116)
Those who perform good actions will receive better than them ...