Islam & Pluralism A Contemporary Approach
By Shah Abdul Halim
To every knowledgeable person it is clear that Muslim countries put together are no match to US--not to speak of the West as a whole. Muslim countries are backward in the field of education. Technologically Muslim countries are far behind the West. The Muslim countries jointly or singly cannot challenge the US let alone the West. Why then the West is suspicious of the Muslim Ummah (nation)? This question needs to be addressed afresh from an academic point of view to erase misgiving of the West towards the Muslim world for nobody can hope for a peaceful future in the world unless the mistrust between the Muslims and Judeo-Christian West is removed. One must not overlook the fact that Western o rientalist scholars frequently quote from the text, from the revealed verses of the Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him (pbuh)--sometimes out of context to justify their contention. It cannot however be denied that our earlier scholars sometimes did interpret texts in a way that as if it was the only valid explanation and that the prevailing situation of their time was the last situation. As newer conditions surfaced afterwards, a need for a new interpretation--the of revealed text of the Quran and sayings and practices of the noble Prophet (pbuh) and what he had endorsed by remaining silent when certain things happened before him and he did not oppose them—was demanded. Orienatlist scholars chose some medieval opinions and propagated them as sealed components of Islam. The goal was to show that Islam is rather intolerant. And now orientalist scholars and Western media are making concentrated propaganda to prove that Muslims do not believe in pluralism and there is no question of living with them peacefully and no hope of coexistence with them.
The core of Islam is that its followers, the Muslims, submit if new truth is established through ijtihad (research and investigation). The Muslims therefore always change their position if more appropriate and correct conclusions are arrived after careful and meticulous use of reasoning. Islam therefore is a dynamic religion which is able to match with the ever changing milieu. The West however intentionally repeats some of the old ijtihad made by some of scholars and intellectuals of the earlier generation of Muslims. One example is that it repeats the thousand years old ijtihad which had divided the world into dar al Islam (the abode of peace) and dar al harb (the abode of war). The contemporary Muslim scholars and jurists have however divided the world into two realms: dar al ijabah (the land of acceptance, land whose people have accepted Islam and Islamic values are practiced) and dar al dawah (the land of invitation, land to which dawah has been presented and its people are invited to Islamic values and practices) (1). Dr. Alwani, president of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and also a member of Jeddah based International Academy of Fiqh, pointed out in an interview with the ‘Islamic Horizons' that an “example of misguided rulings is the fatwa that countries like the United States are dar al kufr and dar al harb, where Muslims have the right to circumvent their laws and regulations” (2).Dr. Alwani pointed out: “We are living in North America as a small minority among non-Muslims in a pluralistic, multicultural and multi-ethnic society. Muslims have the facility of opting to live their lives as Muslims according to the Islamic Shariah and Fiqh. We need a lot of understanding from our Fuquha and Ulema in the North American environment, and if they issue Fatwa without studying this environment, they will be doing a great disservice to the North American Muslim community. Indeed their rulings, or rather their misinterpretations, will have a serious effect on the future of Islam in this continent” (3).
Dr. Alwani also identified that “in the past, scholars were unanimous in their view that the entire earth was the land of Allah and did not divide it into such spheres. Instead, some scholars like Imam al Razi considered the earth to consist of dar al ijaba, which replaces the term dar al Islam, and dar ad dawah, which replaces the term dar al harb. Dar ad dawah means a land for dialogue and inter-faith communication, a land where people are not classified, but all human being are considered one family. This family has two parts. One is identified as ummat al ijaba, instead of ummat al Muslim, and other as ummat ad dawah, instead of kuffar or harbiyun. This part of our heritage and legacy represents Islam more correctly than the other part, because the whole earth has been created by Allah as humanity's home. The Prophet (saws) told us that the entire earth is a masjid and pure. The only difference is that in dar al ijaba, the message of Islam has been established, and in dar ad dawah the message has to be spread. We all know what the nuances of performing dawah are, and certainly that misguided dar al harb / dar al kufr ruling is not among the instruments of dawah” (4). “The famous 5th Hijra century Imam al Mawardy, in fact said that even if we have one Muslim family living in a non-Muslim state, their home will be the home of Islam. The reality is that wherever Muslims find the freedom to practice Islam, that place will be dar al Islam for them, and there is no need for them to migrate to some other dar al Islam for this purpose” .
Lebanese jurist and professor at T.C Williams School of Law, University of Richmond, USA Dr. Azizah al Hibri while addressing a selected gathering in Dhaka preferred to divide the world in to land and people where dawah , the message of Islam has been presented on the one and where dawah, the call and guidance of Islam has not been presented or yet to be present on the other rather than dar al Islam (the abode of peace) and dar al harb (the abode of war). Yet other scholars grouped lands and people dar al sulh (the abode of peaceful coexistence or on contractual peace). There can be further classification of states in the light of the spirit of the Quran and the Sunnah, the Traditions of the Prophet (pbuh).
The West also repeats the old ijtihad of the Muslim scholars that non-Muslims living in Muslim countries have to pay jiziah tax even though contemporary jurists have ruled that paying of jiziah is not compulsory and binding. In fact the second rightly guided caliph Omar bin Khattab reviewed the jiziah policy (tax imposed on the non-Muslims) and abrogated the jiziah imposed on old people, children, orphans and unsupported women (5). Omar even ordered to pay monthly allowance to a Jew when he saw him begging door to door. As long as non-Muslims pay some taxes as a mark of their obedience to the Muslim state, there is no need for a special tax only to be paid by the non-Muslims. The renowned Islamic jurist Dr. Yusuf Al Qaradawi is his book ‘Fiqh-uz-Zakat' (the Jurisprudence of Alms) mentioned that Caliph Omar bin Khattab dropped jiziah on the Christian of Banu Taglib tribe on their request and imposed another tax. Dr. Qaradawi opined that it is not necessary that non-Muslims pay jiziah. It is enough if the non-Muslims pay a tax equal to zakat (6). Eminent Arab economist Dr. Monzer Kahf currently working with Islamic Development Bank (IDB) opined that jiziah can be charged only from the subjects of the conquered lands (7). Moulana Maududi also holds the same view. Moulana argued that Pakistan not being a conquered land the question of imposing jiziah on the non Muslims citizens of Pakistan does not arise (8).The day of colonization is over. Modern states have been established by the joint struggle of both Muslims and non-Muslims. The imposition of jiziah has therefore become irrelevant and impractical. In fact Islam makes no difference between Muslims and non-Muslims as far as the basic necessities are concerned (Al Quran Chapter 2: verse 126).
Pluralism and Freedom Islam: The Pluralistic Nature and History
Chairman of Islamic Information Bureau--Bangladesh
(1) Fakhr al Din Al Razi quoted by Dr. Taha Jabir al Alwani in 'Globalization: Centralization not Globalism', The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, IIIT.US. Vol. 15. No. 3. Fall 1998, p. vii
(2) 'Muslims in the West need contemporary fatwa'. Available in www.witness-pioneer.org
(5) Dr. Hassan Al Alkim in 'Islam & Democracy: Mutually Reinforcing OR Incompatible'. Article contributed in Dr. Azzam Tamimi ed. 'Power-Sharing Islam'. Liberty for Muslim World Publications: UK. 1993, p. 87.
(6) Dr. Yusuf Al Qaradawi, 'Fiqh-uz-Zakat'. Bengali Edition. 1982, Vol. I, pp 144-152.
(7) Quoted in 'Zakat and the Tax System'by Shah Abdul Hannan, Unpublished work.
(8) 'Rasail Wa Masail'(letters and Issues). Bengali Edition. 1999. Vol. IV, p 158.