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In this paper, we contend that if we truly aim at protecting and promoting the Human Rights of Muslim minorities living in the non-Muslim countries, we need to ensure that the non-Muslim citizens living in the Muslim majority countries are accorded the same rights and privileges that we Muslims seek to achieve in the non-Muslim nations.
In order to achieve this, I would like to offer concrete solutions and final recommendations derived from the Madina Charter of Human Rights (Misaq-e-Madina)—the first ever written constitution of the world formulated by the Muhammad (peace be upon him)……. First Written Charter of Human Rights—Misaq-e-Madina. It is noteworthy that the constitution of Madina also known as Misaq-e-Madina was compiled when the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and his companions migrated to Madina as an oppressed minority. It was the first social contract to be written ever in the history of mankind.
Muslims and the non-Muslims lived under this covenant which organized the public affairs and governed the relations between them and their neighbors, Ibn-Ishaq reported: “The Holy Prophet (pbuh) wrote a document between the Emigrants [from Makkah] and the Ansar [the natives of Madina], and in it he made a treaty and covenant with the Jews, establishing them in their religion and possessions, and assigning to them rights and
The Madina constitution focused on two pivotal issues in the field of governance:
1) Justice, 2) Organizing the Judiciary. This is because the Holy Prophet (SAWS) realized very well the importance of these two cornerstones in any sound society. It reads: “In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful. This is a document from Muhammad, the Holy Prophet , governing the relation between the believers from among the Qurayshites (i.e., emigrants from Makkah) and Yathribites (i.e., the residents of Madina) and those who followed them and joined them and struggled with them. They form one and the same community as against the rest of men…. A believer shall not kill a believer in retaliation of an unbeliever, nor shall he help an unbeliever against a believer. Whosoever among the Jews follows us shall have help and equality; they shall not be injured nor shall any enemy be aided against them…. No separate peace will be made when the believers are fighting in the way of Allah…. The believers shall avenge the blood of one another shed in the way of Allah ….Whosoever kills a believer wrongfully shall be liable to retaliation; all the believers shall be against him as one man and they are bound to take action against him. The Jews shall contribute (to the cost of war)
with the believers so long as they are at war with a common enemy.…”
(Source: Sunan Al-Bayhaqi, no. 16808 and see the whole constitution in Ibn Katheer’s biorgraphy, part 2, page 321, and Ibn Hisham’s, part 1, page 501.)
The concept of Ummah or a “nation” through the terms of the Madina constitution clearly states that the Muslims or non-Muslims whether from Makkah or Madina are one community. It states clearly:
“They form one and the same community as against the rest of men!”
This Islamic principle recognized the “nation” for the first time in the history as a one indivisible unit, moving from the individual or the tribal life to the life of the single nation. It is not characterized by any particular religion, racism or tribalism.
Human Rights and Duties
The Madina charter of human rights ensured “equal rights and duties” between its parties and by this it ended racism and segregation in one go. It stated: “The Jews shall be responsible for their expenses and the Believers for theirs… The Jews shall maintain their own religion and the Muslims theirs. Loyalty is a protection against treachery… The Jews of Banu Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Sa’idah, Banu Jusham, Banu al-Aws, Banu Tha’labah, Jafnah, and Banu al-Shutaybah enjoy the same rights and privileges as the Jews of Banu Aws…”
Thus, the Madina constitution affirmed the full bonding between the Muslims and non-Muslims based on justice and equity. This equality is based on the common value which is called “human dignity” as Allah the Almighty said:
“We have honored the children of Adam, and have borne them on the land and the sea, given them for sustenance things which are good and pure; and exalted them above many of Our creatures.” (Qur’an 17:70).
It also stated that its terms apply on those who have signed it and those who shall follow them later and fight with them (whether Muslims or non-Muslim) and by this it is the first treaty in the history that acknowledges the principle of joining treaties even after they are signed (Madina Treaty – Context and Significance” by Ahmad Al-Shuweibi, issue 110 from the Al-Ummah Book issued by Al-Awqaf Minstry, Qatar).
After the Holy Prophet (PBUH) departed, his companions followed his footsteps and so Umar Ibnul-Khattab signed a treaty with the people of Illia called “The Omarian Covenant” which stated among its articles: “In the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful. This is the security that Omar gives to the people of Illia. He gives them security for themselves, their monies, their churches, their crosses, their sick and ailing, and all their peoples. Their churches won’t be taken over, won’t be destroyed, won’t be reduced in size, neither will their crosses, their wealth, neither will they be persecuted because of their faith nor will any of them be prejudiced…“(Taareekh Al-Tabari, 436/4)
A great number of companions were witnesses to this covenant like; Khaled Ibnul-Walid, Amr Ibnul-Aas, Abul Rahman Ibn-Awf and others; which means that they all accepted the content of the covenant. Same thing was done by the Holy Prophet ‘s companion, Hazrat Amr Ibn A’as with the people of Egypt, Utba Ibn-Farqad (appointed by Hazrat Umar Ibnul-Khattab) with the people of Azerbaijan, as Al-Tabari wrote in his encyclopedia of history. Not only Muslims, even all non-Muslims living in Madina state of the (pbuh) were accorded full protection of life, religious freed and democratic rights. A clause in Misaq-e-Madina was stipulated in these words of Holy Holy Prophet (Hadith): “I shall dispute with any Muslim who oppresses anyone from among the non-Muslims, or infringes on his right, or puts a responsibility on him which is beyond his capacity or takes something from him against his will.” (Reported by Abu Dawood)
In the 10th year of Hijrah, a delegation of 14 Christian chieftains and bishops from Najran came to Medina to enter into a treaty with the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Holy Holy Prophet (pbuh) not only welcomed them with open arms but also permitted them to pray in his mosque, the Masjid-e Nabawi. The Christian delegation prayed in the Holy Prophet’s mosque, turning towards the east, their Qibla or direction of prayer. This glorious instance of the Holy Prophet’s religious tolerance cannot be discarded by any Muslim sect, as it has been authenticated by numerous erudite Islamic scholars of great repute, including Imam al-Qurtubi (in his Tafseer Jame’ Li Ahkamil Quran), Imam Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jauziya (in his book Zadul Ma’ad), and Imam Ibn Kathir (in his Tafseer Ibn-e Kathir).
Similarly, a Christian delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery came to the Holy Holy Prophet (pbuh), requesting his protection. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) granted them a Charter of Human Rights, which is recorded in the Islamic history as the first written document for the protection of minority human rights and respect for their faiths. Turkey’s Historical Role in Protecting the Holy Prophet’s Sacred Tradition Turkey has been blessed by the Almighty Allah to follow the sacred tradition (Sunnah) of the beloved Holy Prophet (pbuh). Remarkably, the monastery which was under the protection of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself later came under the protection of the Turkish leaders.
According to authentic sources, the Turkish Sultan Saleem I (in AD 1517) took the original letter of protection for safekeeping to the royal treasury in Constantinople. However, he confirmed the monastery’s prerogatives and granted certified copies of this document to the monastery, each depicting the hand print of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) in token of his having touched the original.
This historical document of the Islam’s message of protecting human rights of the religious minorities is still preserved in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Here is the letter of protection of human rights addressed by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to the religious leaders of Saint Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai who sought the protection: “This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who follow Christianity, near and far, we are with them (We stand by them). Verily I, the servants of God, the helpers, and my followers defend them, 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 removed 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 Allah’s covenant and disobey His Holy 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, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting 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. None of Muslims is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day.”
From several ancient and modern rolls preserved in the monastery’s library, it has been authenticated that the Covenant of the Holy Holy Prophet (pbuh) played great role in the protection of special privileges for the Christian monks. This is precisely why it remains safe and intact even today. The historical Fatimid mosque built next to the Orthodox Church is still serving a glaring example of religious co-existence.
The Sinai holy sites, which have also been mentioned in the Qur’an, are of paramount historical importance and authenticity. According to the historical records preserved at Sinai, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) not only knew but also visited the Sinai priests. It is recorded that when the delegation from Sinai requested a letter of protection from the Holy Prophet (pbuh) in 626 AD, he granted and authorized the covenant by placing his hand upon it. Ground Perspective of World Muslim Minorities.
In order to delve deeper into the subject of the world Muslim Minorities in the historical perspective and to brainstorm an effective way to look for a brighter future for them, we need to explore these two questions, first and foremost:
(1) What are the challenges faced by Muslim minority communities and their host countries?
(2) What are the debates surrounding the place of the Muslim minorities in secular societies?
Recent political shifts in Muslim majority countries have put Muslim minorities in the spotlight and have impacted upon their relationship with their host countries. This is an about time to consider Muslim minority communities comparatively, within both western and non-western contexts. We need to explore the varieties of religious interpretations and practices that have resulted in issues and challenges. They are arising uniquely within different Muslim minority communities. Their key issues are related to Ethnicity, Gender, Islamaphobia, Radicalisation, Law, History, Civil society etc.
We also need to explore the development of government policies in non-Muslim countries towards Muslim minority communities, from the colonial era to the present day, focusing the non-Muslim majority countries particularly USA, UK, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, and Singapore. In addition, we need a methodological expertise to apply to the study of other Muslim minorities in different geographic locations living under different jurisdictions. Case of Muslim minority in India: A brief historical perspective As for the Muslim minority in India—the country I hail from— Islam emerged here through two different groups—Muslim traders and Arab invaders. Before emerging in other parts of North India, the South Indian region witnessed Islam’s first advent through completely peaceful means—trade and travel. While North India was introduced to Islam by the Sufi saints and Muslim mystics like Hazrat Khwaja Gharib Nawaz (r.a), South India had the bliss of Islam in the lifetime of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through his direct companions (Sahabis). As evidenced in the historical records, Islam blossomed in India, with the Holy Prophet ’s noble companions reaching the coastal areas of Malabar for their trade. This has gone down well in history.
Current state of affairs Today’s minority Muslims are living in a democratic system of governance in India. They espouse the democratic values and secular ethos by intermingling with other citizens including the Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and adherents of other faith traditions. Thus, they find themselves inclined towards an inclusivist religious narrative focused on a spiritual synergy with the people of all faiths and creeds. But this greatly worries the radical and extremist religious ideologues who try to purge the beautiful Islamic tradition of its age-old tradition of pluralism, universalism and egalitarianism.
On the other hand, sadly enough, politics of hate and communal polarization has played havoc across the country. But still the Muslim minority is trying to tackle it with great caution. However, the fire of communalism and radicalism is being fanned often times, and if it continues to do so, it will create irreparable damage to the social and communal harmony, not only in particular states, but in the entire country.
An Outlook for the Future Deplorably for minority Muslims in India, they are marching on the roads and streets in an attempt to ‘protect the religion’. But they will better protect their religion, if they properly practice the Qur’an, Shariat and the Islamic commandments at homes, rather than taking out outside processions.
Unfortunately, while the rest of the world is pondering on the human habitation on the moon, we are still engaged with fighting on the Mandir-Masjid issue. Nobody is interested in caring about them protection and progression of human life. While other developing countries focus on their scientific progression and overalll development, we should rise above these useless issues and think only about how we can productively contribute towards the regeneration of our society based on the country’s Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (harmonious culture) which is facing serious jeopardy today.