PROTECTION OF MINORITIES - DR.SHAROM AHMAT
AFTER years of suffering, persecution, exile and wars, Muslims finally began to rule the Arabian Peninsula by the year 10 (AH) – a year before the demise of the Prophet.
On the Prophet’s order, letters were written to kings and emperors in faraway lands inviting them to Islam.
Many delegations arrived in Medina. Among them was a delegation of 60 Christians from the territory of Najran, near Yemen, 720km south of Medina.
On arrival they were received in the Prophet’s mosque where they were allowed to pray facing east.
After many hours of discussion with the Prophet about the nature of God and that of Prophet Jesus, no agreement was reached, but the Najran delegation asked for a peace treaty which the Prophet offered the next day.
The signed treaty comprised the following provisions:
> Although Prophet Muhammad had authority over all the fruits, gold, silver, crops and slaves of Najran, he asked only for 2,000 hullas a year (each hulla is equivalent to four dirhams);
> The Najrans were required to provide accommodation and expenses for the Prophet’s emissaries for up to 20 days but no more than a month. They were also required to loan the emissaries 30 shields, 30 horses and 30 camels in case of any disorder or treachery in Yemen. If any of the items were lost they remained owing by the emissaries until repaid;
> The Najrans had the protection of God and the pledges of the Prophet, to protect their lives, faith, lands, properties, their clans and allies;
> The Najrans need not change anything of their past customs. No right of theirs or their religion shall be altered. No bishop, monk or church guard shall be removed from their position; and
> Whatever they had was theirs.They were not held in suspicion and they should suffer no vengeance killing.They were not required to be mobilised and no army should trespass their land.
It is clear that this treaty provided religious and administrative autonomy not only for Christians but also any non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic state.
And for centuries, all sincere Muslim rulers adhered to the founding principles of this treaty in managing the affairs of their non-Muslim subjects.
Another example of Prophet Muhammad’s concern to draw the attention of his followers and Muslim rulers that non-Islamic religious institutions must not be harmed is revealed in his letter to the religious leaders of Saint Catherine in Mount Sinai who had sought the protection of the Muslims.
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
“Verily I, the servant, the helpers and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God 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 Muslim’s houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey his Prophet.
“Verily, they 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 declared to be protected.
“They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
“No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
It is evident from this letter that all important aspects of human rights, including the protection of minorities living under Islamic rule, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judged and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service and the right to protection in war, are clearly spelt out and have to be obeyed by the Muslim rulers.
Today, we have to ask if current Muslim rulers and leaders, wherever they may be, aware of what the Prophet Muhammad had wanted them to promise and practise?