Religious Minorities Under Islamic Rule
''Hindus have majority in India; therefore it has adopted secularism which gives equal rights to all religions. If the Muslims had majority here, India would have been a theocratic (Islamic) state, where the followers of other religions would be treated as second class citizens, and they would also be forced for conversion''. What is your response?
Such questions are raised out of total misunderstanding about Islam existing among the people. The assumption that all countries, where Muslims have majority, are theocratic Islamic states is not correct. The Islamic states are only countries where the Islamic system of life is adopted. As the contemporary Muslim countries do not put it into practise, no model Islamic state is seen anywhere in the world. Some countries have partially implemented the Islamic system, and they are Islamic only to that extent.
The non - Muslim citizens of an Islamic state will have freedom to have their faith and to worship in their own ways and to follow their customs. Islamic faith will not be imposed on anyone, and there will be no compulsion for conversion. Islam has strictly prohibited it. "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error" (2:256)
Say, ''The Truth is from your Lord'': let him who will, believe and let him who will, reject (it)'' (18:29)
The prophets themselves were not allowed to compel anyone for conversion. Allah tells us: ''On their account no responsibility falls on the righteous, but (their duty) is to remind them, that they may (learn to) fear God'' (6:69)
''Therefore do then give admonition, for thou art one to admonish. Then art not one to manage (men's) affairs'' (81: 21, 22)
The first Islamic state of the world was Madeena, with the prophet as its founder. It is very much doubted whether any religious minorities in any theocratic or secular states of the world have ever enjoyed the kind of freedom and other facilities as enjoyed by the minorities in prophet's time. The chart which Madeena declared and accepted runs like this: ''The Jews who come under the boundary of our administrative fraternity will be protected from any ethnically biased treatment and other harms. They will have equal rights with members of the Muslim community for our help and merciful protection. Along with the Muslims they form a nation of uniform structure. Like Muslims they are free to practise their religion''.
Sir Thomas Arnold writes that, ''Muhammad himself had entered into treaty with several Christian tribes, promising them his protection and guaranteeing them the free exercise of their religion and to their clergy undisturbed enjoyment of their old rights and authority.'' (The Preaching of Islam, P P. 48)
Following the prophet's path, all Muslim rulers had adopted the same attitude. Aurangazeb was the most misunderstood and severely criticised of rulers in Indian history. About his religious tolerance Alexander Hamilton wrote that besides complete religious freedom, the Hindus had facilities to observe fasts and other festivals they had practised under the former Hindu kings. In Meerut city alone there had been more than hundred Hindu groups. But there was no dispute among them with regard to prayers and ideologies. Every person had freedom to worship in the manner they liked best. Religious bigotry was unknown'' (Alexander Hamilton, A new Account of the East Indies, Vol. I, PP 1)
Had the Muslim rulers compelled people for religious conversion, Muslims would not have been a minority in India, as India had witnessed several centuries of Muslim rule.
The religious minorities had been granted full freedom of worship under the Islamic rule. Some terms of treaty which the prophet had signed with the Christians from Najran include: "The Christians of Najran and their friends will enjoy God's protection, and the responsibility of protection from Muhammad, the messenger of God. It is meant for the protection of their life, religion, land, wealth and applicable for those who are present among them as well as for those who are not present. The protection is valid for their camels, for people whom they depute and for the churches, cross and other religious symbols. The statusquo will be maintained. None of their rights or religious symbols will be removed. Their priests or servants of the churches will not be removed from their positions''.
The treaty signed by Abubakr, the first Khalif, with the inhabitants of Hira tells that, "their churches and places of worship and their fortresses will not be demolished. The custom of ringing bells and the procession with the crucifies during their festivals will not be abolished''.
The Christians of the Middle East had enjoyed complete religious freedom under the Muslim rule, and they were very contented too. The Islamic rule of five long centuries did not change this situation. This is clear from the statement of Michael the elder who was Jacobite Patriarch of Antokya in the second half of the twelth century. After recounting the persecutions of Heraclius, he writes: 'This is why the God of vengeance who alone is all powerful, and changes the empire of mortals as he wills, giving it to whomsoever he will, and uplifting the humble-beholding the wickedness of the Romans, who, through out their dominions, cruelly plundered our churches and our monasteries and condemned us without pity-brought from the regions of the south the sons of Ishmael, to deliver us through them from the hands of the Romans. And, if in truth, we have suffered some loss, because the catholic churches, that had been taken away from us and given to Chalcedonians, remained in their possession, for when the cities submitted to the Arabs, they assigned to each denomination the churches which they found it to be in possession of; nevertheless it was no slight advantage for us to be delivered from the cruelty of the Romans, their wickedness, their wrath and cruel zeal against us, and to find ourselves at peace (Preaching of Islam PP: 54-55).
Dr. Iswari Prasad wrote that the Muslims allowed the conquered people freedom of worship and treated them with tolerance.
In his last farewell advice to his son Humayun, Emperor Babar asked him to behave most generously with the Hindu brethren. Several scholars including Dr. Rajendra Prasad have quoted the said advice of the emperor. ''India is a land of religious diversity, for which you must thank God. If Allah gives you authority never show any bias based on religion. Don't slaughter cows in such a way that will hurt the feelings of the Hindus. If you do so people will hate you. Don't demolish temples and other places of worship. Create the circumstance in which the rulers and the ruled will love one another. Enrich Islam by the heart of kindness and not by suppression''
Alamgir Nama informs us that ''Aurangazeb built some Hindu temples in Bengal and Assam, and by a royal edict donated huge lands to Bodh Gaya''
Pandit Sundarlal wrote that during the period of Akbar, Jahangir, and Shajahan, and during the period of Aurangazeb and his successors same attitude was adopted towards Hindus and Muslims. Both religions were equally respected, and there was no bias against anyone on the basis of religion. All these emperors had contributed acres of land for temples. Even today many temple priests have the royal edicts carrying Aurangazeb's signature with them. They are souvenirs of Aurangazeb's gift of land and other rewards. In Allahabad there are two such edicts and one of them is with the priest of Somnath temple''.
The Islamic state always and every where was very careful and vigilant for the protection of the places of worship of other religious groups. Once the Christians of the state asked the first Khalif Abubacker to open their newly constructed church, and even suggested that he could do it by offering salat daily prayer of Islam. Abu Backer replied to them thus ''If I do it, after my time people who are ignorant of the fact may say that the place was used for prayer by our Khalif, and they may make a claim for it leading to much trouble". The Christian brethren, who were convinced of the Khalif's concern, did not press him further.
While the second Khalif Omar was visiting Palestine, the time for prayer arrived and the patriarch Safar Niyooz suggested him to offer prayer in the church. However, Umar gratefully declined this offer. The reason he cited was that in future some unthinking Muslims may put a claim and try to convert it into a mosque. Umar was very particular to avoid such a possible situation and hence he offered the prayer outside church in an open place.
Islam has granted full freedom to the non - Muslims to live in accordance with their personal law. It does not permit anyone to rob them of their rights. The prophet tells us: ''Beware! If anyone suppresses the non-Muslim citizens, or impose on them taxes beyond their means, or treat them cruelly or curtail their rights, I will persanally complain against him on the Day of Judgment'' (Abu Dawud).
''Whoever hurts a non-Muslim citizen will not get the scent of heaven'' (Abu Yusuf, Kitabul Kharaj).
In cases related to personal laws such as marriage, divorce and patrimony, the Islamic court will make its judgement based on the religious practices of the parties concerned. The rules of Shariah will not be implemented in their cases. When the cases of the Jews came before the prophet for his verdict, he used to consult the priests of the Jewish seminary ''Baithul Midras'' regarding the verdicts of Tora in similar cases. It was only after such a study that the prophet gave his verdict'' (Ibnu Hisham, Seerathunnabi, Vol. 2)
Sir Thomas Arnold writes ''Further, the non-Muslim communities enjoyed an almost complete autonomy, for the government placed in their hands the independent management of their internal affairs, and their religious leaders exercised judicial functions in cases that concerned their co-religionists only. Their churches and monasteries were, for the most part not interfered with (The Preaching of Islam, Page 65).
There will be no discrimination or injustice in the Islamic state. Exact justice will be implemented irrespective of caste, creed or other factions. ''O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety.'' (5:8)
Punishment will be given in the Islamic state to people who are involved in riots against its non-Muslim citizens. Their murder will be avenged. If their place of worship is demolished, the aggressor will be punished severely and the demolished structure will be re-built. Similarly the life, properties, educational institutions and personal laws of the religious minorities will be very safe and any kind of aggression against these will not be tolerated. Hence, undoubtedly the religious minorities of the Islamic state will enjoy freedom and security, and they will not be the victims of injustice, aggression and ridicule.
Incidentally it must be mentioned that the adivasis and the lower caste people of India are today strongly arguing that they are not part of the Hindu religion. So the questioner's suggestion that majority of the Indians are Hindus, is not correct.