“You have indeed in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern of conduct
for anyone whose hope is God and the Final Day.”
Sura Al-Ahzab 33:21
As true Muslims we are suppose to be following the example set by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). So why aren’t we? Sadly, many Muslims today like to simply pay lip service to this command but they don’t really do it. Even more sadly most Muslims have at least one copy of the Holy Qur’an in their homes but the problem is it is never read so they don’t know what God’s Word teaches and what it does not. The same can be said about Christians and their Bibles and the Jews and their Torah. The Holy Books just lay around collecting dust as they are never opened and never read or studied. This is ignorance! As believers we certainly should study our holy writs and know what they say and what they do not say. Depending on some religious leader (Imam, Priest, or Rabbi) to simply tell us what our holy book says is foolish. We, ourselves, should know what they say and what they do not say!
That said, as Muslims we are suppose to be following in the footsteps of the Servant of Allah, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). We are suppose to use him as our ideal in our own lives and model our lives after him. Unfortunately some Muslims don’t seem to know much about the example set by him although we should know.
When it comes to interfaith issues and dealing with non-Muslims, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) set some very clear examples in how we are suppose to deal with them. Those examples are contrary to what we see in the world today when it comes to Muslim treatment of non-Muslims. Let us now look at a few of those examples and at two letters issued by the Prophet concerning Christians.
When Islam first began some of the first Muslims found safety and refuge in the Christian Kingdom of what is now Ethiopia. They were fleeing from the Meccans who were pursuing them and wanting to kill them. The Christian king gave them asylum and he refused to hand them over to the Meccans when they demanded he do so. The Christian king gave the Muslims protection and asylum and thus began a long relationships between Muslims and Christians. A relationship of mutual tolerance, mutual respect, and mutual protection. Where is that today?
Another example. The Grand Mosque in Damascus, Syria was not always a mosque. In fact it began as a Christian church. When the Muslims first entered into Damascus they had no mosque in which to praise and worship Allah. The Chrstians had a large church there that was also used by the Jews on Saturdays for their worship and praise of God. So it came to pass that the Chrisitians used the church for worship on Sundays, the Jews used it for their worship on Saturdays, and the Muslims used it for their worship on Fridays. All three majore faiths used the same facility as Church, Synagogue, and Mosque! The Jews eventually built their own synagogue and the Christians built a new church and sold the old church to the Muslims who then turned it into the first mosque in Damascus. Again, here is a shinning example of cooperation and brotherhood between Muslim, Christian, and Jew. Where is that SAME spirit of cooperation and brotherhood today?
The Qur’an makes it clear that Muslims are not to destroy churches, mosques, or synagogues as they are all places in which Allah is remembered and worshiped. So why are some Muslims today destroying churches and synagogues? We are to respect these places of worship and even protect them when necessary as the Qur’an makes clear. So why aren’t we doing that now?
In 628 C.E. our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) issued a Charter of Privileges to the Monks of the Monastery of St Catherine which is on Mt Sinai. It pertained to human rights, freedom of worship, and the protection of Christians, et al. Under this charter Christians were exempted form military service and were given the right to protection during war. Keep in mind this charter was issued by the Prophet himself and, thus, is yet another example of him that as true Muslims we are all SUPPOSE to be emulating in our own lives today. Here is the text of that letter to the St Catherine Monks:
“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 servants, 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 (church), to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ 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 to be respected. 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).”
Notice the charter says clearly that Muslims are to fight for Christians who are in need of protection and not against them? Notice Muslims are suppose to respect the churches of the Christians? And notice if anyone from the Ummah (community of believers) disobeys the Prophet’s commands they will answer for their disobedience come Judgment Day?
The second letter issued by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was given to the Assyrian Christians. Here is what is says:
“God has told me in a vision what to do, and I confirm His command by giving my solemn promise to keep this agreement.
To the followers of the Islam I say: Carry out my command, protect and help the Nazarene (Christian) nation in this country of ours in their own land. Leave their places of worship in peace; help and assist their chief and their priests when in need of help, be it in the mountains, in the desert, on the sea, or at home. Leave all their possessions alone, be it houses or other property, do not destroy anything of their belongings, the followers of Islam shall not harm or molest any of this nation, because the Nazarenes are my subjects, pay tribute to me and will help the Muslims. No tribute, but what is agreed upon, shall be collected from them, their church buildings shall be left as they are, they shall not be altered, their priests shall be permitted to teach and worship in their own way-the Nazarenes have full liberty of worship in their churches and homes. None of their churches shall be torn down, or altered into a mosque, except by the consent and free will of the Nazarenes. If any one disobeys this command, the anger of God and His Prophet shall be upon him.
The tribute paid the Nazarenes shall be used to promote the teachings of Islam and shall be deposited at the treasury of Beth Almal. A common man shall pay one denar (piece of money), but the merchants and people who own mines of gold and silver and are rich shall pay twelve denars. Strangers and people who have no houses or other settled property shall not have taxes levied upon them. If a man inherits property he shall pay a settled sum to the Baitulmal treasury. The Christians are not obliged to make war on the enemies of Islam, but if an enemy attacks the Christians, the Muslims shall not deny their help, but give them horses and weapons, if they need them, and protect them from evils from outside and keep the peace with them. The Christians are not obliged to turn Muslims, until God’s will makes them believers.
The Muslims shall not force Christian women to accept Islam, but if they themselves wish to embrace it, the Muslims shall be kind to them.
If a Christian woman is married to a Muslim and does not want to embrace Islam, she has liberty to worship at her own church according to her own religious belief, and her husband must not treat her unkindly on account of her religion. If any one disobeys this command, he disobeys God and his prophet and will be guilty of a great offense.
If the Nazarenes wish to build a church, their Muslim neighbors shall help them. This shall be done, because the Christians have obeyed us and have come to us and pleaded for peace and mercy.
If there be among the Christians a great and learned man the Muslims shall honor him and not be envious of his greatness.
If any one is unjust and unkind to the Christians he will be guilty of disobeying the Prophet of God.
The Christians should not shelter an enemy of Islam or give him horse, weapon or any other help. If a Muslim is in need the Christian shall for three days and nights be his host and shelter him from his enemies. The Christians shall, furthermore, protect the Mohammedan women and children and not deliver them up to the enemy or expose them to view. If the Nazarenes fail to fulfil these conditions, they have forfeited their right to protection, and the agreement is null and void.
This document shall be entrusted to the Christian chief and head of their church for safe keeping.”
Again here is another example of the Prophet and a very specific one about how as Muslims we are to respect non-Muslims, in this case Christians. So why aren’t we following the example today? Most IMPORTANT notice near the end of the letter the Prophet states clearly:
“IF ANY ONE IS UNJUST AND UNKIND TO THE CHRISTIANS HE WILL BE GUILTY OF DISOBEYING THE PROPHET OF GOD.”
I think there are a number of Muslims today who’d better start to reconsider their behavior of intolerance and hatred towards Christians and other non-Muslims. That is unless they wish to answer before Allah on Judgment Day for disobeying the Prophet of Allah! I for one am not willing to answer for such so I do exactly what the Prophet’s example and words instruct me to do. I respect Christians and their churches as so should you.
Finally, here is something VERY IMPORTANT that the Holy Qur’an instructs ALL MUSLIMS to do:
“And obey Allah and the Apostle, that you may be shown mercy.
Hasten to forgiveness from your Lord,
and a Garden, the extensiveness of which is as the heavens and earth, is prepared for those who
guard against evil.
Those who spend benevolently in ease as well as in straitness,
and for those who restrain their anger and pardon men;
Allah loves the doers of good to others.”
As Muslims we are suppose to follow the example of the Prophet and restrain our anger and pardon (forgive) others. Are we doing that? Or are we engaging in vengence and acts of violence instead?
The great Muslim Sultan Salah-ad-Din (Saladin) is someone whom I greatly admire and one reason is because he patterned his own life after that of the Prophet. He showed mercy just as we are instructed to do by the Servant of Allah. Case in point? When the Christian Crusaders captured Jerusalem they killed everyone in the city. However, when Saladin captured the city he allowed everyone inside the city to go free unmolested and under Muslim guard. Those who wished to remain in the city, he allowed them to remain. Saladin was so admired that even his enemy, King Richard the Lionheart, expressed great admiration for him. Saladin was a man of honor, of intelligence, and of compassion. The reason he was such a man was because he followed the pattern and example set for ALL Muslims by the Prophet Muhammad!! So why aren’t we doing the same today in the modern world?
Read the Qur’an! Read the examples and patterns set by the Prophet and emulate them in your own lives! Obey Allah and obey the teachings and examples of the Prophet! If you don’t do this then you can make no claim to being a true Muslim except in name only. Do the same if you are a Christian as you are suppose to be following the pattern and example in your own life set by Jesus the Christ! And if you are a Jew you are suppose to be following the examples set by Abraham and the Patriarchs! It’s time to cut threw the CRAP and stop just paying our faith LIP SERVICE. It’s time to put our faith into ACTION via our own PERSONAL examples!! If we do not then we are nothing more than mere hypocrites!