Peaceful Coexistence In Islam: A Middle Path Between Al-Wala And Al-Bara?

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi

(Allah –beginning with the name of- the most merciful and the most gracious)

The middle path between al-wala/muwalat [bearing love and affection for all what is pleasing to Allah Almighty] and al-bara/tabarra [withdrawing from all that is displeasing to Allah Almighty] is known as mujarrd-e-muamalat i.e. peaceful coexistence. Islam does not prevent Muslims from promoting peaceful relations with non-Muslims including Christians, Jews, Hindus or people of any religion. Practically ensuring their rights as humans, neighbours, citizens and treating them with just and fair is not forbidden in Islam.

But some people appear to demolish this middle path between al-wala/muwalat and al-bara/tabarra. They believe that there is no middle way between al-wala and al-bara and hence peaceful coexistence (mujarrd-e-muamalat) with disbelievers and polytheists is not allowed in any case. They quote the following verses of the Quran, in order to support their standpoint;

(O People who believe! Whoever of you turns away from his Din [religion], so Allah will soon bring a people [in their place] who are His beloved ones and Allah is their beloved, lenient with the Muslims and stern towards disbelievers – they will strive in Allah’s cause, and not fear the criticism of any accuser; this is Allah’s munificence, He may give to whomever He wills; and Allah is the Most Capable, the All Knowing. (54) You do not have any friends except Allah and His Noble Messenger and the believers who establish the prayer and pay the charity, and are bowed down before Allah. (55) And whoever takes Allah and His Noble Messenger and the Muslims as friends – so undoubtedly only the party of Allah is victorious. (56) O People who believe! Those who have made your religion a mockery and a sport, and those who received the Book before you, and the disbelievers – do not befriend any of them; and keep fearing Allah, if you have faith. (57)) (Surah Maidah: 54-57)

Based upon the above mentioned verses, they forcefully claim that al-wala/muwalat also includes “mujarrd-e-muamalat” i.e. peaceful coexistence; hence, according to them it is not allowed to make peace with disbelievers.

I would like to say here this is merely the result of their sheer ignorance and confusion between al-wala/muwalat and mujarrd-e- muamalat. The true interpretation of such verses of the Quran is possible only when we are capable of understanding that both muwalat and mujarrd-e- muamalat hugely differ from each other.

The Arabic word ‘muwalat’/’tawalla’/al-wala means ‘bearing love and affection’. In the Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) terminology, it means doing all that is pleasing to Allah Almighty. According to the above mentioned verses, muwalat/al-wala in matters of Deen [Islam] is only with Allah Almighty, His messenger and the believers. It is also very clear from the verses above that muwalat/al-wala is forbidden with those who make fun of your religion and with those who reject your faith. Such forbiddance is known as al-bara i.e. withdrawing from all that is displeasing to Allah Almighty. Of course, ‘muwalat’ mentioned in the Quran is only with Allah, His messenger and the believers and is not allowed with disbelievers. But it does not mean that these verses prevent you from making peaceful coexistence [mujarrd-e- muamalat] with disbelievers and polytheists, while this does not harm you and your religion.

Islam vehemently promotes peaceful coexistence [mujarrd-e-muamalat] more especially with those disbelievers who are living under your protection [dhimmah] and those who have made a system of peace or any equally peaceful constitution with you. For example, we are living in India under a constitution of peace, where a peace-treaty has been established between Muslims and disbelievers, in this state it is forbidden to violate such promises and create unwanted fighting.

A great jurist of Islam, Imam Ahmad Raza [May Allah be pleased with him] also known as ‘Ala Hazrat has made a middle path between al-wala and al-bara and proved that muamalat [peaceful coexistence] with disbelievers is allowed as long as it does not harm your religion. In his book “Al-Mahajjah al-Mu’taminah fi Ayat al-Mumtahinah, (The Safe haven: in the verse of Mumtahinah)”, promoting the concept of peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims under the subject of Muwalat and Muamalat, Imam Ahmad Raza [may Allah be pleased with him] writes, taking into account the above mentioned and other relevant verses of the Quran:

“Muwaalat (bearing Love and affection) is entirely different from Muaamalat (giving consideration and conducting transactions with someone and making peaceful coexistence). The difference between the two is like the distance between the sky and the earth. It is permissible to conduct transactions and have dealings with anyone, except with apostates like Wahabis and Deobandis (The terms “Wahabis” and “Deobandis” here do not include all those people in our times who call themselves Wahabis and Deobandis but they are unfamiliar with their elders, so all Wahabis in our times cannot be ruled as apostates, Allah knows the best) in worldly matters, and [matters] in which there is no harm for religious obligations.

“The Dhimmi is similar to a Muslim in all such dealings. “They shall have the same rights and obligations as us”- (لهم ما لنا وعليهم ما علينا). It is permissible to conduct transactions even with non-dhimmis. Transactions like buying and selling, leasing and renting, giving and accepting gifts (upon the condition that these gifts are permitted by the Shariah); and to purchase anything from them, when such goods are of benefit for Muslims; and to sell them anything except weapons or such things that may be (mis)used to insult Islam.

“So also, it is permitted to employ them to do things that are not contrary to the Shariah; and to accept employment of non-Muslims in permissible activities that are not humiliating [to Muslims]; so also is hiring them and getting hired by them. It is permissible to give them gifts as goodwill (Maslehat-e-Shariah) as long as such gifts do not honour the rituals and religious customs of infidels, and to accept their gifts as long as such gifts do not contravene or criticise Islam. It is even permissible to marry a Christian or Jewish woman. As long as they make peace with us, we shall be inclined towards them [in amity] – as long as such treaties do not force us to make Halal (the permissible) as Haram (the forbidden) and vice versa. So also, [it is allowed] to have contracts with them, and have covenants with them to a certain extent and when such a permissible covenant is made, it is obligatory to fulfil it and it is forbidden to betray or renege from such promises.”

(Al-Mahajjah al-Mu’taminah fi Ayat al-Mumtahinah, -The Safe haven: in the verse of Mumtahinah by Imam Ahmad Raza)

In a nutshell, whether in Muslim countries or not, promoting peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims including Christians, Jews and Hindus etc was never forbidden in worldly matters. However, this does not mean that Muslims should compromise on religious obligations or placate non-Muslims by embracing their religious practices and traditions that disagree with Islamic Shariah. The above quoted writings of Ala Hazrat Imam Ahmed Raza give us a very balanced treatise on living in harmony with others and at the same time it calls us to maintain our religion with steadfastness, firmness and patience. (Extractedfromnewageislam)

Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background, Writer, Analyst and English-Arabic-Urdu-Hindi Translator.

 

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