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ISLAM IN A PLURALISTIC SOCIETY - Word For Peace
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ISLAM IN A PLURALISTIC SOCIETY

Word For Peace

Prof. Farida Khanam

Islam gives many principles on how to live in a pluralistic society. For the greater part of his
life, the Prophet of Islam lived in a society where adherents of other religions existed side-
by-side with believers of Islam. The Prophet’s behaviour towards the former was invariably
that of respect and tolerance. At a time when the majority of the denizens of Makkah were
still idolaters, his conduct consistently conveyed his high moral character. On the one hand,
he communicated the message of God to them with love and kindness and, on the other, he
fulfilled all their human rights. That is why the non-Muslims of Makkah had such great
confidence in him, to the point of entrusting their belongings to his care. They continued to
do this right up to the last days of his stay in Makkah.

After the attainment of his prophethood in 610 A.D, the prophet lived in Makkah for a
period of 13 years; later migrating to Madinah, where he lived for ten years until his death
in 632 A.D. For about half of this period in Madinah, he was living among people belonging
to three religions—Muslims, Jews and polytheists. The Prophet devised a Constitution for
these people, known in history as Sahifa-e-Madinah (The Madinah Charter). This charter
expressly mentioned that issues concerning these three groups domiciled in Madinah would
be decided on the basis of their own religious traditions—those of Muslims according to
their Islamic traditions, and those of the polytheists and Jews according to their respective
traditions. This principle of Islam was intended to apply at all places where Muslims lived
along with adherents of other religions. This sunnat, or practice of the Prophet, for a plural
society carries the same moral authority as his other practices. Islam recognizes no
difference between Muslims and non-Muslims from the ethical standpoint. The rights
granted to a Muslim are exactly the same as those granted to a non-Muslim.

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