Skip navigation

Religious Plurality vs. Social Plurality

Let there be no compulsion (force) in religion (way of life),
Truth stands clear from error/falsehood

Al-Baqara (2):256


Compulsion is contrary to the meaning and purpose of religion, which essentially is an appeal to beings endowed with free choice to affirm and worship their Creator. Intention and volition are necessary bases of all actions, attitudes, and thoughts for which the individual is religiously accountable. Without that basis, accountability has no meaning. According to Islâm, actions are not considered religiously acceptable or valid unless they are done with the appropriate intentions. Compulsion also contradicts the religious-legal principle that actions are to be judged only by intentions. Prophet ﷺ communicated as revealed to him by Allâh:

O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself
and have made it forbidden amongst you,
so do not oppress one another.

Hadith Qudsi, 17

Islâm does not allow Muslims to be coerced into fulfilling its rites and obligations, or non-Muslims to be forced into accepting Islâm. Belief is a matter of heart and conscience, both of which are beyond force, therefore compulsion, in absolute sense, is impossible. It is also the duty of the Muslim to keep this state of freedom, and restore it when it is taken away. When tolerance and letting-be is replaced with persecution and coercion, Muslim is called upon to apply means necessary to restore the balance of freedom until and up till the time that the persecution, coercion is removed and free choice of the people are restored. [2] Islamic Law ensures equality for all citizens, regardless of language, color, class, race, religion or sex. [3]

O humankind, We have created you from a male and a female
and have made you into nations and tribes for you to know one another.
Truly, the noblest of you with God is the most pious.
Truly, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware

Al-Hujurat (49):13

The Prophet ﷺ sent a message to the monks of Saint Catherine in Mount Sinai:

“This is a message written by Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, far and near, we are behind them. Verily, I defend them by myself, the servants, the helpers, and my followers, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be changed from their jobs, nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they (Christians) are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, this is not to take place without her own wish. She is not to be prevented from going to her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation is to disobey this covenant till the Day of Judgment and the end of the world.”

Thus, social pluralism is the bedrock of Islâm, in fact the most tolerant and functional system up until its day and even beyond. Where minorities not only were free to practice their religions, customs, and cultures, protected by the Muslims, they also had their very own court systems, unless the cases included a Muslim, in which case the Islâmic law didn’t care about ones religion, race or rank but it cared solely for the deliverance of justice, and history bares witness to such cases. Though “religious pluralism”, as some define it, “validity of all religions” does not exists in the understanding of Islâm;

And unto thee (O Messenger) have We vouchsafed this Divine writ,
(Qur’ân) setting forth the truth,
confirming the truth of whatever there still remains of earlier revelations
and determining what is true therein (guarding it).
Judge, then, between them with what Allâh has bestowed from on high,
and do not follow their errant views, forsaking the truth that has come unto thee.
Unto every one of you (communities via their messengers)
have We appointed a law and way of life.
And if Allâh had so willed,
He could surely have made you all one single community:
but (He willed it otherwise) in order to test you
by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you.
Strive, then, with one another in doing good works.
Unto God you all must return;
and then He will make you truly understand
(the truth) about what you have differed on

Al-Mâ’idah (5):48

Allâh ﷻ sent His prophetic messengers عليه سلم, who were trustworthy, intelligent, truthful, and fully conveyed their messages. He protected them from sin, and from every physical trait unbecoming to them, though as human beings, they ate, drank, slept, and married. They were the best of all created beings and were sent for specific peoples at specific times; and the highest of them was him whom Allâh ﷻ chose to be the final seal of prophet hood, Prophet Muĥammad ﷺ and vouchsafed his message and completed His ﷻ favor for all and until the day of judgment.[1]

This day I have perfected for you your religion,
completed My favor upon you and I have chosen Islâm
(Submission to God’s will, rules, commandments, universality)
as your Deen (religion/way of life)

Al-Mâ’idah (5):3

Though the Sacred Law of the Prophet ﷺ superseded all previously valid religious laws, it was identical with them in beliefs, such as tawhîd or “oneness of God”, and so on, a fact that the Prophet ﷺ emphasized by saying, “Let none of you say I am superior to Jonah” (Bukhari, 4.193: 3412), for the illumination of Jonah’s tawhîd عليه سلم , under the darkness of the storm, the darkness of the sea, and the darkness of the belly of the fish, was not less than the illumination of the Prophet’s tawhîd at the zenith of his success as the spiritual leader of all Arabia ﷺ. Allâh ﷻ in the Holy Qur’ân says,

We do not differentiate between any of His messengers

Al-Baqara (2):285

Showing that previous religions originally were the same in beliefs, valid for their locality. Now, only Islâm is valid and acceptable now that Allâh ﷻ has sent it to all men, for the Prophet ﷺ has said, “By Him in whose hand is the soul of Muĥammad, any person of this Community, any Jew, or any Christian who hears of me and dies without believing in what I have been sent with will be an inhabitant of hell”

Whoever seeks a religion other than Surrender (to God’s Will, Islâm)
will never have it accepted from him, (as in Luke 22:42)
and shall be of those who have truly failed in the next life

Al-‘Imrân (3):85

Thus, Islâm is the only remaining valid or acceptable religion is necessarily known as part of our religion, and to believe anything other than this is unbelief (kufr) that places a person outside of Islâm, as Imam Nawawi notes: “Someone who does not believe that whoever follows another religion besides Islâm is an unbeliever (like Christians), or doubts that such a person is an unbeliever, or considers their sect to be valid, is himself an unbeliever (kâfir) even if he manifests Islâm and believes in it” (Rawda al-talibin, 10.70)

Those who believe, those who are Jews, Christians, and Sabaeans,
all who believe in God and the Last Day
and act rightly will have their reward with their Lord.
They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow

Al-Baqara (2):62

The Prophet ﷺ also said: I am the adversary of those who wrong the dhimmis (protected subjects with guaranteed rights) or burden them with a load they cannot carry.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ allowed the Jews to become a party to the Constitution of Madinah signed with the Aws and Khazraj clans, which permitted them to continue living as a separate religious community. He said: “The Jews of Banu Awf (non-Muslim minorities) are a community along with the believers. To the Jews their religion, and to the Muslim their religion.”

Unto you be your Deen (way, moral law, system, path, religion) , and unto me mine

Al-Kâfirûn (109):6

Beginning at the time of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, there has always been freedom of religion in Muslim-ruled lands. Articles guaranteeing the protection of monasteries and churches have been important parts of all agreements signed between Muslims and the People of the Book. Historical documents reveal that many Muslims visited monasteries to rest for the night, to enjoy a meal, or even to have a civilized conversation during their travels or campaigns. Under Islamic rule, the People of the Book have always celebrated their religious festivities as they pleased. From time to time, the Muslim leadership even attended them. A letter by the Nestorian Patriarch Isho’yab III (650-60) reveals the Muslim leaders’ compassion and acceptance toward the People of the Book: “They [Abbasids] have not attacked the Christian religion, but rather they have commended our faith, honored our priests… and conferred benefits on churches and monasteries.”

These historical facts reveal that, contrary to much of what we read today, Islam is a religion of peace and acceptance. Christians and Jews lived freely under Muslim rule and enjoyed the freedoms of religious belief and thought. During the first few centuries of the Christian era, Jews oppressed Christians; as the latter became more powerful, they began to oppress Jews and even fellow Christians belonging to other sects. The Middle Ages were dominated by the Catholic church’s oppression of all Jews and Christians who did not agree with its teachings. Some non-Catholics sought refuge with the Muslims. The oppression and violence directed by Byzantium against the Egyptian Monophysite and the Jacobean Christians, the horrors endured by those Jews and Orthodox Christians who found themselves in the path of the Catholic Crusaders, and the persecution endured by the Jews of Europe, as well as by the Muslims and Jews in Spain after the reconquista, have never occurred on Muslim soil. Jews escaping Spanish tyranny found the peace and security they sought on Ottoman soil. Driven out of Spain and faced with more hardship in other countries where they sought refuge, many died of hunger and thirst at the gates of towns and cities they were not permitted to enter. Jews who boarded Genoese ships were either exploited or sold to pirates. Sultan Bayazid welcomed the Jews into his empire and demanded that the people show them the respect and acceptance to which they were entitled. The order proclaimed not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially. 4 Sultan Bayazid is known to history as a religious man, and his hospitality and acceptance were based on the Qur’an’s morality.

Under Ottoman government who took over the lands of Byzantium, the Church was not extinguished nor was its canonical and hierarchical organization significantly disrupted. Its administration continued to function. One of the first things that Mehmet the Conqueror did was to allow the Church to elect a new patriarch, Gennadius Scholarius.

Living under the Islamic rule, the People of the Book took part in the bustling cultural life. Muslim leaders extended their cultural patronage to the lands they conquered and imported them to Baghdad, capital of the empire, where they would be studied by Muslim, Christian, and Jewish scientists. Each of them in turn, could teach their works based on these studies alongside their own religious beliefs. At a time when Muslims supported science and freedom of thought, Europe, the center of Christianity, had Inquisition courts that burned people at the stake for their heretical, meaning non-Catholic, thoughts or religious beliefs.

The Muslim leaders’ sense of justice led many Christians and Jews to bring their cases to Islamic courts, even though they had their own courts with their own laws. At one time, the Nestorian patriarch Mar Timothee I (780-825) even circulated a decree to counteract the ever-increasing number of Christians taking their cases to Islamic courts.

This is the very essence of the recently much misunderstood and abused concept of jihâd, literally meaning “struggle” or “exertion” which is all-encompassing concept to fulfill the Adamic duty of vicegerancy to reach the maximum human potential in all levels. Whether it be personal or social, spiritual or material, Muslims are commanded to purify their souls and establish and guard justice in the world and to allow all people to enjoy this justice as individuals, as members of society, as citizens of a nation, and as members of the international community which is the only way Islâm can thrive. Jihâd al-nafs (aka, struggles against the carnal, lower self, greatest jihâd etc.) is training the self, heart, eyes, ears, tongue, stomach and the organs, against the ego, unbridled passions, the devil, being worldly, evil ideas, desires and powers of lust, anger, and insatiable imagination placing all of them under the dictates of reason and faith in obedience to Allâh’s commands, and finally, purging all satanic ideas and influences from one’s soul. Jihâd is doing the good for the sake of Allâh, in spite of the ability of doing wrong incited by inner promptings and is by far the most difficult and important of the struggles as Prophet ﷺ said: The best jihad is by the one who strives against his own self for Allâh. Islamic ethical teachings indicate that the one who succeeds in this struggle can rise above and beyond the level of angels, and one who fails in this struggle will descend to a level lower than the level of animals, and may even be grouped among the legions of the devil. Just as without gravity, our muscle structure would disintegrate and working-out enhances our physical structure, without going through struggle, our souls would not grow into their full and impressive potential bestowed upon humankind by Allâh.

Jihâd of the material effort and means include learning, teaching, thinking, articulating, discussing, writing using the tools provided by Allâh to keep the Islamic knowledge alive, accurate and well within the society, and make it accessible for all. (with the Qur’ân, Al-Furqân(25):52; with your provisions, Al-Anfal(8):72, Al-‘Imrân(3):134) as well as working for the betterment of society, paying charity, in general doing good for the sake of Allâh.

The cultivation of patience or patient forbearance (sabr) is also an important aspect of jihâd, (Al-Baqara(2):45,153; Al-‘Imrân(3):186,200; Hûd(11):115) as clearly evident from the Qur’ân and the early period (aka. Meccan period, 610-622 CE) while Muslims were not given permission by the Qur’ân to physically retaliate against the pagan Meccans who persecuted them heavily for their beliefs.

Believers, be upholders and standard-bearers of justice,
bearing witness to the truth for Allâh’s sake,
even though it be against your own selves, or parents or kindred.
Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, Allâh is nearer and worthier.
So do not follow your own desires lest you swerve from justice.
If you pervert it or neglect it then know that Allâh is fully aware of all that you do.

An-Nisâ’ (4): 135
(also see An-Nisâ’(4):58, An-Nahl (16):90)

Islâm, being a complete, sensible and applicable way of life, also recognizes the inevitability of conflict that arise in human societies and prescribes the most complete way of restoring and maintaining justice and peace by rejecting and condemning incorrect motives such as conquest, plunder, quench of lust for revenge, material advantage or racists persuasions and setting limits of conduct of relations before, during and after conflict such as, do not betray any agreements you have entered into, do not plunder, do not commit injustices or use torture, do not touch the children, the womenfolk, the elderly, or other non-combatants of the enemy, do not destroy orchards or tilled lands, do not kill livestock, treat with respect the religious persons who live in hermitages or convents and spare their edifices, always be ready and open to peace treaties etc. (also see: Al-Mâida(5):2, 8, 32; Al-Furqân(25):68-69; An-Nisâ’(4):112,135; An-Nahl(16):90; At-Taĥreem(76):7-9; Al-Anfal(8):70-71 and Hadith Bukhari v59 b59 #628, v4 b52 #257,258; Muslim b19 #4319, #4320; Dawud b8 #2663…)

Prophet ﷺ said:

I advise you ten things Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person.
Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place.
Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food.
Do not burn bees and do not scatter them.
Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly

The Qur’an clarifies the position of Islam;

And in it (The Torah) We prescribed for them (The Jews):
“Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear,
tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.”
But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity,
that is an expiation/atonement for him.
And if any who do not judge by what Allâh has revealed,
they are the unjust/evildoers.

Al-Mâ’idah (5):45

Thus, even though just retaliation is a right it is not a must, and believers are encouraged to forgive and are forbidden to go beyond their limits by exceeding their rights, and abusing the rights of others.

We will set up the Scales of justice on the Day of Resurrection,
and no soul will be wronged in the least.
Even so much as the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring out,
We are Sufficient for reckoning and none can take account as We do.

Al-Anbiya (21):47
(also see An-Nisâ’ (4):123-124)

Thus, Muslims are sternly warned against abusing the rights of others even to the smallest degree. While non-Islamic lands were etching their anger and vileness in history by oppressing, torturing, persecuting not only who oppose their beliefs but also their own for centuries by unthinkable means and in great volumes, Muslims have set an example in the history of humanity by excelling in fair treatment of societies following the prescriptions of the Qur’ân. One would be hard-pressed to find innovative torture techniques or stories of horrific captivity rooms in history for Muslims unlike some other traditions of the past. Thus Islâmic view of jihâd can not be associated by any oppression or usurping of the rights of any creature let alone humans, as its very reason for existence is to be a perfect tool to remove injustice by sustaining and transforming the human being to be truly God-conscious being. Historically attested by many, the rule of Muslims in were preferred over the rule of co-religionists and co-nationals due to the justice and freedoms rewarded to conquered people by the Muslim rulers in contrast to persecution, oppression and tortures inflicted by their past rulers. Muslims actively removed persecution and oppression and provided order.

They fulfill (their) vows, dreading a day whose ill is impending
And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent (poor), the orphan, and the captive
(Saying), “We feed you For the sake of Allah alone:
No reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.”

Al-Insân (76):7-9

Muslims are therefore given the honorable duty of restoring, establishing and maintain justice, freedom, and peace on earth, not only for themselves but for others as well, whether under direct attack, to protect life, or to save people from persecution and oppression, especially that of religion, which can not be forced, Muslims can with correct intentions and while obeying the limits set by Allâh and exemplified by the Final Messenger ﷺ, use their means to restore these basic rights.

O humankind! The messenger has come unto you with the truth from your Lord.
Therefore believe; (it is) better for you. But if you disbelieve, still, lo!
unto Allâh belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth,
and Allâh is the all-knowing, the wise. O people of the scripture,
do not exaggerate in your religion
nor utter aught concerning Allâh save the truth.
The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary was only a messenger of Allâh
and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him.
So believe in Allâh and His messengers, and say not “three.”
Desist, (it is) better for you.
Verily Allah is one God. Far exalted is He above having a son.
His is all that is in the heavens and the Earth,
and suffice in Allâh as a Trustee.
The Messiah will never scorn to be the slave of Allâh,
nor will the favored angels.
Whoso scorneth His service and is proud,
all such will He assemble unto Him;
Then, as for those who believed and did good works,
unto them will He pay their rewards in full
and He will add unto them from His bounty.
And as for those who were scornful and proud,
them will he punish with a painful torture
and they will not find for themselves
any other than Allâh as a friend or a supporter

Al-Nisâ’ (4):170-173

O People of the Scripture! Why do you argue about Abraham,
when the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him?
Have you then no sense?
Verily! you are those who argue about that which you have some knowledge:
Why then do you argue concerning that which you have no knowledge?
Allâh knows and you know not. Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian;
but he was an upright “Muslim” (he surrendered to Allâh),
and he did not worship other than Allâh. Verily!
Those of mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him,
and this Prophet (Muhammad) and those who believe;
and Allâh is the Protecting Friend of the believers

Al-‘Imrân (3):65-68


2 Questions and Answers about Faith by Fethullah Gülen
3 Islâm, Beliefs and Teachings by Ghulam Sarwar

also see.

The Qur’ân with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English by Ali Ünal
The Cross and The Crescent by Richard Fletcher
Struggle To Surrender by Jeffrey Lang
Islam in Focus by Hammudah Abdalati
Islam & Jihad Prejeduce vs. Reality by A G Noorani
The Heart of Islam by Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Religion of Islam by Mualana Muhammad Ali

Heart to Heart Part 15 – Islâmic Civilization in History and its Significance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: