Prophet Muhammad’s Multi-Religious Medina

Medina-Masjid-an-Nabawi-in-foreground

Mosque of Medina, first built by the Prophet Muhammad in 1 AH

Source: The Navhind Times

Is Islamic State really Islamic? Was the killing of 42 persons at Istanbul international airport on Wednesday an action justified in any way under the laws of Islam given by Prophet Muhammad? The answer is big no.

Islamic State sends three men armed with rifles and suicide bomb vests in a taxi to the airport who open fire and then detonate themselves. The group has not owned the responsibility but the nature of the attack is similar to the mass shooting and suicide bombings at Bataclan concert hall in Paris last November in which 89 people died. Islamic State has a history of airport attacks. In March, it carried out two suicide bombings at the main airport in Brussels, Belgium in which 10 people died. There are valid concerns across the world that Islamic State may carry out similar terror attacks at airports and cities.

Islamic State, by killing innocent people, is bringing a bad name to Islam. The group’s actions – much like the actions of many other groups formed in the name of jihad – only go to reinforce the global misconceptions about Islam being a violent religion. For centuries a myth has persisted that the Quran makes it obligatory for Muslims to carry a sword in one hand and the Quran in another. It is true that Prophet Muhammad as the political and religious leader of Muslims in his times had to fight battles against tribes and forces that carried out acts of aggression against him as the founder and his followers as members of the new faith of Islam in the 7th century Arabian peninsula. Muhammad was driven out of Mecca by anti-Muslim forces and had to seek refuge in Medina where he built a mosque and proclaimed the body of laws, the Constitution of Islam. In that Constitution, and in all his sayings and deeds that were compiled in the Hadith, nowhere does Muhammad ask Muslims to go out with swords in hand and kill people or force them to convert to Islam en masse.

He asks Muslims to fight, but only when they are attacked. The Muslim is never the aggressor. The fight has to be in defence. If Islamic State were truly following the path shown by Muhammad they would not have done what they are doing. Muhammad called upon Muslims to fight back against the forces of religious persecution. Secondly, the Constitution of Islam laid down by Muhammad guaranteed protection not only to Muslims but to Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, polytheists and members of other faiths who were living in Medina. The Constitution guaranteed co-existence and harmony among people of various faiths. The first article of the Constitution was that all the inhabitants of Medina – Muslims as well as Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, polytheists and members of other faiths were “one nation to the exclusion of all others.” All were considered citizens of Medina regardless of religion. People of other faiths were protected from persecution and harm as much as the Muslims: it promised help and equity to them.

Two important things must be noted here: first, Muhammad forbids Muslims to be aggressor, to be first attacker; he only calls upon them to fight to defend their faith and land and waters when they face persecution. The Quran says, “And fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but be not aggressive. Surely Allah loves not the aggressors.” Second, Muhammad’s law is not limited to Muslims. It is applicable and valid for Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, polytheists and members of other faiths as well. It is a uniform law, and fighting is permitted to members of any faith against forces subjecting them to religious persecution. Muhammad wanted Muslims to fight for the protection of members of other faiths who were facing persecution. The political State of Muhammad was based on a social contract between members of different faiths. No member of one faith was permitted to harm members of another faith or to damage or destroy their house of worship or to take away objects from there. Muhammad’s Medina guaranteed religious freedom and protection from religious persecution to every citizen regardless of religion.

The self-styled caliph of Islamic State, Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi is leading his organization according to ways that are totally contrary to the laws laid down by Muhammad. Al-Baghdadi says Islam “was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting.” Is this what Muhammad taught? Baghdadi also wants Muslims to stop “living among Crusaders and Jews” because this is “against the principles of Allah and his Prophet.” Contrast this with the first article of Muhammad’s Constitution: All the inhabitants of Medina – Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and idolaters are “one nation.”

Reference

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