As freedom of belief was the most basic and the utmost attained part of secularism in the secular entrepreneur societies, we find it more basic to start with, even before civilian society foundations and separation of state and religious empowerments. Aiming to be more specific, we find it of value to define both religion and freedom of belief before we go on with the Islamic understanding.
In 1993 the Human Rights Committee of the UN, described religion or belief as “theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief.” To the first moment, we might see an internal incoherence of the definition, as it defines professing no religion at all as a religion. On a deeper look, we will find a palatable logic behind it. The English word religion is a derivative of the Latin word religare, which exactly means, to bind to or binds to something or some belief. In accordance with such a meaning, the word religion accommodates non-believers within its boundaries as they bound to atheism as a belief. We have almost a similar case with the Arabic term Aqidah that means a belief and Deen, which means a way or a habit. Therefore, in both languages the religion represents whatever a man adopts as a temporarily or eternally stable ideology and way of life, whether related to supreme deity, human philosophy, or simply a lifestyle.
Defining Freedom of Belief
After ages of human suffering and debates, the UN came to the codification of freedom of belief in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in article no. 18, stating: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his [her] choice.” This definition was later amended in 1966 to be “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [her] choice, and freedom either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his [her] religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching. No one shall be subject to coercion, which would impair his [her] freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [her] choice. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions”. Finally, in 1981 it came to its shape that does exist now with all the details pertaining to its implementation.
UN Declaration of Human Rights-1981
In the most recent international codification about freedom of faith, a declaration of six articles was codified as a reference for freedom of belief after more than 20 years of discussions and debates. For it is the international reference, we shall consider it as a benchmark to measure the degree of compatibility of Islamic concepts to it. Hereunder, we detail the declaration articles, then figuring out the most relevant benchmarking criteria embodied within:
Article 1: Legal Definition.
- Right to thought, conscience, and religion or belief
- Right to have a religion or whatever belief of your choice
- Right either individually or in community with others, in private or public, to manifest a religion or belief through worship, observance, practice and teaching
- Right not to suffer coercion that impairs the freedom to choose a religion or belief
- Right of the State to limit the manifestation of a religion or belief if based in law, and only as necessary to protect public safety, order, health, morals and the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
Article 2: Classification of Discrimination.
Identifies categories of potential discriminators, affirming the right not to be subject to discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief by:
- States (national, regional, local government)
- Institutions (governmental, nongovernmental, religious)
- Groups of persons
Article 3: Link to Other Rights.
Links the 1981 UN Declaration to other international documents.
Article 4: Possible Solutions.
Declares that all States [including all sectors of civil society] shall take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination based on religion or belief through:
- Actions in all fields of civil, economic, political, social, cultural life
- Enacting or rescinding legislation where necessary to prohibit such discrimination
- Taking all appropriate measures to combat intolerance based on religion or belief
Article 5: Parents, Guardians, Children.
At stake in the implementation of this article are the following rights:
- Right of parents or legal guardians to bring the child up in their religion or belief;
- Right of the child to education in religion or belief, in accordance with the wishes of parents, and the right not to be compelled to receive education against their wishes;
- Right of the child to protection from discrimination and to education for tolerance;
- Right of the child’s wishes when not under the care of parents or legal guardians;
- Right of the State to limit practices injurious to child's development or health.
Article 6: Manifesting Religion or Belief.
At stake in the implementation of this article are the following rights:
- Right to worship and assemble, and to establish and maintain places of worship
- Right to establish and maintain appropriate charitable or humanitarian institutions;
- Right to make, acquire and use materials related to rites and customs
- Right to write, issue and disseminate relevant publications in these areas
- Right to teach a religion or belief in places suitable for these purposes
- Right to solicit and receive voluntary financial and other contributions
- Right to train, appoint, elect or designate appropriate leaders
- Right to observe days of rest and celebrate holidays and ceremonies
- Right to establish and maintain communication with individuals and communities at national and international levels.
Article 7: National Legislation.
Declares that all of the rights at stake in the 1981 UN Declaration need to be accorded in national legislation in such a manner that everyone shall be able to avail themselves of such rights and freedoms in practice.
Article 8: Existing Protections.
Specifies that the 1981 UN Declaration is non-binding on States so as to ensure that the Declaration does not negate existing legal protections on freedom of religion or belief. Article 8 states that nothing in the Declaration shall be construed as restricting or negating any right defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenants on Human Rights. End of report abstract
Analyzing the declaration, we can harvest our benchmarking standards in the form of some questions to be answered about Islamic faith. These are,
- Did Islam encourage diversity and tolerance toward other faiths? Did it allow freedom to convert to, or from it?
- Shall Islam allow any religion to be manifested in public in Muslims’ community? Shall worshipping places, charitable institutions, publications, solicitation, and religious holidays be tolerable?
- Did Islam call for any merits or demerits for non- Muslims to motivate them joining Islam in Muslims’ community? Did it encourage its followers to practice any sort of discrimination against non-Muslims? And how tributes payment is justifiable from Islamic standpoint?
Based on these three questions we will dedicate the rest of this chapter to discuss three topics,
- Freedom of belief in Islam as the core of the matter.
- Freedom of worshipping and religion manifestation in Islam, which is equally important.
- Islamic empire, tribute payment and conversion motives which is highly related.
FREEDOM OF BELIEF IN QURAN
We contemplate freedom of belief as a bi-pillar dome. Each of the two pilasters is as valuable as the other to support freedom concept, these pilasters are; profound understanding of diversity and others’ denominational right to adopt whatever beliefs that appeal to them, or not to adopt a belief at all, plus the unconditional freewill transiting to and from any religion as decided by the citizen. Hereunder, we will start studying the Quranic verses supporting freedom of belief relative to these pillars.
Diversity of Belief
We had considerably benefited in this part of from the work of Mr. Hamza Haddad, a Jordanian lawyer who submitted a well-structured paper to the Basic Rights Congress in Saint Jusif University in Lebanon. He saved us the effort required to spot the verses in Quran, so we focused on finding the precise translation and interpretation of these verses. Hereunder, we start with the Quranic proofs supporting diversity of belief and calling Muslims to accept this diversity as a part of God’s will.
"And onto you (O’ Muhammad) have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah has revealed, and follow not their desires away from the righteousness, which has come to you. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed, He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that He has given you. So, vie one with another in good works. To Allah you will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein you disagreed.” (Table Spread: 48)
Them in this verse concerns Jews in Medina, who used to allegorize Quran commandments to what they find in their scriptures. Then advise Muslims about what they find consistent and what they find distinctive from Torah. In this verse, God clarifies Quran to be coherent in its broad message and core with the previous Holy Books, whether Old or New Testaments. In addition, orders the messenger of God to mediate according to Quranic commandments in whatever case he has, clarifying to Muslims that God commandments were common in broad terms, and confirming one another. Yet, for every apostle God had sent-down different details of minor commandments, rituals, and practices to examine followers’ obedience, without indispensably homogenizing these details. Finally, God states the diversity of religious beliefs to be his will, as if his almighty wanted to make people on one way venerating him, he would have done. However, this diversity is part of his challenge to test our diversity acceptance and our degree of obedience.
“And if The Lord had willed, He verily would have made mankind one nation, yet they cease not differing” (Hûd: 118)
“Had Allah willed He could have made you all one nation” (Honeybees: 93)
“And Had Allah willed He could have made them one community” (Counsel: 8)
The three holy verses support the same meaning of the 48th verse of Table Spread. Affirming diversity to be the divine choice of Allah. But does this mean God obliged someone to be Muslim and another to be a Jew by any mean? No, it meant that granting freewill to humankind was God’s choice. As diversity is one symptom of the freewill, it represents the result of his own will. In another terms, God willed humankind to have a freewill, essentially leading to diversified interests and beliefs. While if he wanted us a one venerating nation likes angels, he would have not granted to us the power to will.
“And if the Lord willed, all who are on earth would have believed together. Wouldst youcompel men until they are believers?” (Muhammad) (Jonah: 99)
In this verse, God explained to his messenger the nature of his mission. As on the severe antagonism, Muhammad (pbuh) recurrently felt grief of fruitlessness, fronting vanity and pride of Quraish idolaters as well as untruthfulness of Jews in Medina later on. God the Most Merciful explicates to Muhammad (pbuh) his mission to be limited to delivering God’s word, and he holds no accountability on people response to it, as he is not requested to force them converting to Islam. The question form “Wouldst you compel men until they are believers?” is used in Arabic as in English, to express disagreement and exclamation; the meaning of the question then will be “you are not supposed to compile people converting to Islam”. Here, I expect a question asking “Then if Muhammad was not supposed to compel people converting to his religion, why he used military potency to spread Islam?” This is a major question, and it shall be answered under Islamic Empire and tribute payment subject of this chapter.
“Had God willed, they would not have been idolaters” (Cattle: 107)
“To God belongs the conclusive argument, for had He willed, He could have guided all of you to the right way” (Cattle: 149)
“And had He willed, He would have guided you all” (Honeybees: 9)
“And had we so willed, We could have given every soul its means to the right guidance” (The Prostration: 13)
The four verses here, are all hammering the same idea, that God, the omnipotent, would have guided all humanity to the preferred conviction if he willed, therefore it would have turned to a world without idolatry. It seems like the very same concept that rose very old questions, lasting for ages, same questions that lead many to atheism. If God is omnipotent & benevolent, why he allowed evils in his creation? If God wanted us to worship him, why he did not send-down something like ample granite, on which is engraved the detailed commandments he wanted us to follow, and the detailed rituals he prefers for us to practice? This granite piece would have lasted forever, without debates about meaning of every word in every holy book? Why he formulated the man with the ability to deviate to afflictions? Why he built-in longings inside us and asked us to control? Why he did not make us like Angels if his almighty wanted us to be good? Moreover, knowing that human deviated starting from the generation zero, Adam and Eve, succeeded by another sin in generation one, murder of Abel by Cain’s hand, does this mean we are a sinner species by nature? In this case, why we are asked to perform against our nature?
Seems like bottomless wonders, though the answers might be very simple, the answer can be as short as one statement; it is because human was not intended for that. Man was not endeavored to be a simple worshipper; he was intended to be the evolving creature, and the unprecedented creative one. Taking honeybees as an example, they build their combs for centuries, did we ever seen a triangular or quadrant prototyped honeycomb? Absolutely we did not, because only human can challenge his norms and seek perfection, sometimes even seek innovation only for change if not for faultlessness. This is typically what he was meant to do, a prolific creature, this is his glory, our glory we humankind, is being granted the divine power to create, on much limited scale surely. Yet, it is still there, and this was God’s gift to us.
To be creative, it takes the four powers we mentioned before; mind, freewill, superego and ego. By nature, the mind has its own drifts theologically, the ego has its cravings behaviorally, and it is every man’s choice to decide where he directs his mind? To what extent he indulges his ego? As well, to what level he keeps his superego conscious and has the faith to follow it.
I see man’s mind to be programmed with two interdependent operating systems, first being the cause-result relationship. While second is developing alternatives, comparing, and selecting according to the first system, anticipating outcomes of every action and decision. This is the freewill God granted to empower us for innovation. Therefore, if God had willed, he would have given us no choiceness. Then we would have been always like angels. Nevertheless, this stands against the purpose of our existence.
In the last two paragraphs, I claimed a couple of claims, which had always been controversial in Islamic theology, reason of universe and the freewill matter in the light of Islamic faith. Hereunder I am going to dedicate some space to elaborate more about both.
The Reason the Universe Exists: We see it logical to divide our question about the existence in two, Why God created the Universe? And why God created human? Starting with, why God created the Universe? One question that might take ages to answer, or only one moment. As we do not have the eternal luxury, we will go for the one moment answer. Inevitably, I first should say that answering this question, I am not speaking Islamic theology, but an own opinion and perception. As well, I should admit that our knowledge about God is too scarce to speak about his almighty reasons. Yet, my own perception was always that God created the Universe, as he is the creator. Does this resemble water means water? Let us clarify the matter with a metaphor. Why an amateur painter paints? He invests considerable time and resources in his artistic practice with no expectation of any direct revenues. Some will answer saying he paints for self-actualization, and they are partially true. Psychologists tell us that we need self-esteem among peers to satisfy our egoist pride, but we need self-actualization for self-satisfaction even if we are not surrounded by a society. When it comes to God, we will not call it self-actualization as the word self does not properly applies, we can better express it as Materializing Ability. God created Universe simply because he is the creator, materializing his unlimited ability to create.
This hypothesis is only a perceptive idea, not a real faith. As I can never confirm it, oppose it or disbelief it. Again, it has nothing to do with Islam, and it might be even falling in a very classical trap, in which, conventional writings about his almighty God have fallen, that is resemblance of God to man. However, we see this to be very normal, if learning-to-learn technologies reached a stage in which artificial intelligence inventions turned into a freethinker, the 1st thing it will think about will be its creator, and I will not be surprised if they imagined their creator with a board and processors.
What I would like to emphasize here, and that is not about my own theory, but an Islamic theology fact, is that Islam had never adopted a holy image of the universe or detailed story of genesis. Studying Quran and the coherent Sunnah, and apart from the Jewish scriptures that happen to creep into some ancient Islamic books, we find Islam unique in several aspects regarding the image of Universe; for instance, Quran had never stated Earth or mankind to be the center of Universe. When compared to the eccentricity of humankind in the Old Catholic faith, this should be counted an unbiased attitude. Thus, Islam does not conflict with the modern cosmological concepts. Moreover, and unlike Jewish scriptures, Quran has no timeframes for humanity history, except for Noah’s lifetime; no numbers in this regard were ever mentioned in Quran. Again this gives no conflict to the modern anthropological studies stating human existence on earth in seven digits numbers, compared to the four digits summation we have when we consider the Torah timeframes.
Now, why God created humankind in specific?
Several Muslim priests will link the reason of humanity existence to worshipping Allah. They understand the verse that states, “I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship Me” (Winnowing Winds:45) to be the reason of our existence, stated by God himself, so it is meaningless-according to them- to research other possible reasons. The majority of devout Muslims when asked about the reason they existed will focus on this point, seeing it as enough justification to our existence and to God willingness to create us. Logically, we disagree with this widely popular understanding of the holy verse, and the proper translation as we understand it shall be “I created the jinn and humankind only that they might worship none but me”. Giving a metaphor on what we meant, when a father speaks to his son upon an act of disobedience saying, “Do you think I fathered you to disobey me?” shall this statement means the motive of the father when he decided to have a baby, was only getting an innocent child to enjoy being obeyed and listened-to? Surely, we will not say so. We understand the father’s statement as a remark on his right to be listened-to and respected in return of being his paternal passage to life. In the same way, we understand the verse as a remark that worshipping God is part of his right on human and Jennies as he created both. Needless to mention that worshipping another shall be intrusion of His Almighty genuine rights. Therefore, the verse is a remark on the Divine right of monotheistic worshiping, but not a reason for Human and Jennies’ creation.
We believe another verse to be the one revealing the reason behind humankind genesis. The verse wherein God stated “And when The Lord said to the angels, ’I am setting in the earth a viceroy.’ They said, ’What, will You set therein one who will do corruption, and shed blood, while We proclaim Your praise and call You Holy?’ He said, ’assuredly I know that you know not” (Cow:30). Our understanding will rely on our comprehension to the word viceroy that is used to translate the original Arabic word Caliph not in its currently used meaning in English, that almost equalizes to Sultan but in its original Arabic meaning of a successor or a vicegerent.
In what term can humankind be the vicegerent of God?
Maybe another verse will give us more guidance in this regard, it is the verse no. 72 of Clans Surah, “We offered the trust (of being Our representative) unto the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they shrank from bearing it, and were afraid of it. And man took it upon himself”. The trust cited here is the freewill, and now, based on the two verses, we can summarize the givens we have as follows:
- When God decided to create humankind, he informed the angels about his intention to create a vicegerent or a representative on Earth. From this, we understand there must be a degree of similarity or commonality between the intended species and the creator himself. As the words viceroy, vicegerent, representative or the original word Caliph all necessitates a degree of commonality!
- This mission of being God’s vicegerent is stated in another verse to be a heavy mission, which only humankind was entitled-to. Needless to say, the frame the verse in Clans Surah offers, can be a metaphor, of course it does not necessarily mean the trust was offered to all creatures and only humankind accepted. We believe it is more a metaphoric frame to clarify the major load represented in this mission.
- The results of this mission, was perceived by angels to be disastrous in the form of corruption and blood shedding. Yet, it was known by God to have its shining aspects, those the short sight of angels cannot grasp, this could be meant with the words “Assuredly I know that you know not”.
The question then is simplified to be, what is the quality, that only humankind possesses, and that resembles some of God qualities, but to a lesser extent?
Thinking of this question, we find the answer to be a couple of interrelated and interdependent qualities: freewill and creativity. God wanted a species that upholds the choice, and the ability to challenge its norms and seek perfection. God knew granting these qualities to his intended creature was to produce an unprecedented model of God representation on Earth, such a representation that autonomously develops the planet, and produces a unique civilization. This was the quality, which God knew he had built inside us, while the angels did not know. His Almighty willingness was for us to pass the jungle stages commented by angels as corruption and blood shedding status, and reach-through innovation and freewill- to a state of equilibrium, a state wherein no blood is shed, a state wherein no corruption prevails. Over the course of our mission, God ordered us to practice rituals creating a link with our divine origin, to unleash our own abilities and powers. This we believe to be our mission, glory and reason to exist.
Freewill Converting to Islam
“There shall be no compulsion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from the way of error. Hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of the support most unfailing” (The Cow: 256)
“And say: The truth has now come from your Sustainer, let him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it.” (The Cave: 29)
“Verily, all this is an admonition: whoever, then, so wills, may to his Sustainer find a way”(Man: 29)
“God alone do I worship, sincere in my faith in Him alone * and (it is up to you sinners, to) worship whatever you please instead of Him” (The Troops: 14, 15)
“Up to you, your religion, and up to me, mine” (The Disbelievers: 6)
“And so, (O Apostle) exhort them; your task is only to exhort* you has no power over them” (The Overwhelming: 21, 22)
“Has you ever considered the kind of man who sets his own desires to be his deity? Could you then, (O Apostle) be held responsible for him?” (The Criterion: 43)
“Your Sustainer is fully aware of what you are and what you deserve: if He so wills, he will bestow His grace upon you; and if He so wills, He will chastise you. Hence, We have not sent you (to men, O Apostle) with the power to determine their fate” (Night Journey: 54)
In diverse adages and frames, the holy verses magnify the necessity of freewill to convert to Islam, and make it crystal-clear that compulsion is unacceptable in matters of faith and belief. Moreover, the verses frame the role of Apostle and accordingly preachers and jurists afterward, to be gently calling people to devotion and belief. Yet, never to force them to any thoughts, deeds, beliefs or rituals. The verses also clarify the individual responsibility in matters of faith, so that even an apostle will not hold accountable for whoever did not follow him with an absolute freewill and belief.
As for the classical arguments about obliging others in what we know now as the Arabic domain, forcing them to convert to Islam, during the Islamic Empire prosperity, we shall answer it under the disambiguation section of this chapter
Freewill Converting from Islam
Here, I have to say that Muslim clerics themselves were mostly the makers of misperceptions and misunderstandings of their own doctrine allover the world, creating big meaninglessness about converting from Islam. Islamic jurists from their side, spent a great effort trying to justify the penal code related to conversion from Islam or Reddah as known in Islamic terminology. The justifications offered ranged from divisional to referral justifications.
Divisional justifications claims distinguishing between Apostasy that includes not only conversion from Islam, but also hostility against it, and Renunciation that is limited to conversion only, stating that apostasy calls for the death penalty while renunciation does not. Referral justification tried to link penalty to another crime, resembling renunciation to betraying one’s homeland in wartime, and this is why it qualifies for death penalty. We shall answer these propositions under the misperceptions discussion in this chapter. While now, we shall favor to start with the solid proofs Quran gave us, to build evidence on Islamic unlimited respect to freedom of belief,
“Would you, perchance, ask of the Apostle who has been sent to you what was asked aforetime of Moses? But whoever chooses to deny the truth, instead of believing in it, has already strayed from the right path.” (The Cow: 108)
In this holy verse, we notice there is no penal code mentioned or referred to as a destiny to those who “choose to deny the truth”. The verse only states whoever rejects the truth to be deviating from the right path, the one God wanted for him in life.
“Your enemies will not cease to fight against you till they have turned you away from your faith, if they can. But if any of you should turn away from his faith and die as a denier of the truth – these are whose works will go for naught in this world and in the life to come; whose are destined for the hellfire, therein to abide.” (The Cow: 217)
The statement “whose works will go for naught in this world and in the life to come” indicates clearly that whoever will undertake renunciation to idolatry, will have the time to live on earth after it, thus his works will go for naught. Logically if he will be executed for apostasy, he would have no time for any further deeds to go for naught. Does this sound harmonious with who claims we should penalize renunciation or apostasy with execution?
“Behold, as for those who come to believe, and then deny the truth, and again come to believe, and again deny the truth, and thereafter grow stubborn in their denial of the truth – God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them in any way.” (Women: 137)
Here, the verse tells about hesitation of belief, so if we tried to imagine a specific man who goes in the pathway detailed in it, he will follow the following steps,
- The man first had believed.
- Then he denied again the truth of Islam. And denial is surely a degree of apostasy as it is a manifestation of internal disbelief
- Then he has the time to reconsider and be back to Islam.
- Then he undertook renunciation and denial again.
- Again, he has the time to evidence he became stubborn in his denial.
Then, the man has kept his neck intact throughout this hesitation, with the verse stating not a single word on penal code related to this. Does it sound like renunciation or even apostasy qualifies for death penalty in Islam? As the man dies only once, and accordingly he will never have the option of hesitation if the claimed reddah penalty did exist anywhere but in the minds of late jurists, those who engraved their understandings hundreds of years after Messenger of God had deceased. Therefore, genuine Islam has nothing to do with it.
“O’ you who have attained to faith! If you ever abandon your faith, God will- in time- brings forth in your stead people whom He loves and who love Him.” (Table Spread: 54)
Another proof with no single word mentioned on penalties in relation to man’s belief and faith. Overtly saying that Allah has set the human creature in a way, which someday will take him to the real guidance. Therefore, God will replace the denier with millions of those who follow the true guidance and the lights God allotted in their hearts, those who love Allah and who Allah loves them.
“Verily, as for those who are bent on denying the truth after having attained to it, and then grow ever more stubborn in their refusal to acknowledge the truth, their repentance [for sins other than denial] shall not be accepted: for it is they who have truly gone astray.” (The Emrans: 90)
Again, the verse affirms those who bent on denying will have time to commit sins after their renunciation, and states that God will never accept their repentance for their sins. It is indicating an afterlife penalty that will be guided by God’s judgment, but not a life one that is dominated by the human defective judgment.
“And Muhammad is only an apostle; all the other apostles have passed away before him: if, then, he dies or is slain, will you renunciate backward? But he that renunciates backward can in no wise harm God, whereas God will requite all who are grateful to Him.” (The Emrans: 144)
The sixth verse that mentions desertion, linked here to apostle’s death. We might not go so far if we said the verse anticipated what should happen upon Muhammad’s death, the mass renunciation that took place after his death as a form of tribal rebellion against the central authority in Medina, and against what was thought-of as Quraish domination over other tribes based on the honor of prophecy. Such a thing that called many tribal leaders to claim prophecies, and encouraged their tribes to follow their falsehoods. This form of narrow tribal loyalty was best expressed by an apostate, once asked if he really believe the prophecy claimer from his tribe, he then replied, “a liar from my own clan is better than a true apostle from Quraish”. What takes our attention here, is the indicativeness of this verse, having called for no action from the believers against the apostates, it stands as a proof supporting what is known in history as Apostasy Wars to be more about temporal action to secure the Muslims nation more than a divine war to secure Islam itself. It was a Rebellion War if we wanted to call it with its real name.
FREEDOM OF BELIEF IN APOSTLE’S TEACHINGS
All the murmurs about reddah penalty in Islam are based on two verbal teachings of Apostle Muhammad (pbuh). Here, before we elaborate these two teachings, we will go through selected cases and events that took place during apostle’s life in Medina, and we shall see how it contradicts the idea of penalizing who commit apostasy, and the idea that Apostle of God ordered this to be applied.
Ibn Salul Case
Abdullah ibn-Salul, the man known as the chief of hypocrites in Islamic treatise. He was one day, a man about to be crowned as King of Medina, as the two major tribes there agreed on his leadership, aiming to ensure applying peace settlement they had after years of unceasing wars. It was then, when Muhammad (pbuh) came to an agreement with Medina people to receive him and harbor his Message. Then, possessing the leadership of a prophet in Medina, the royal plans of ibn-Salul had gone with the winds. During the first two years after Muhammad (pbuh) arrival to Medina, ibn-Salul with around 700 fellows of him, adhered to their former believes. Later, after Badr combat, when Muslims prevailed over Quraish, and when the man felt Islam to be dominating his city, he announced himself as a devout Muslim. Yet, he had never abided by this announcement.
To give an idea about the forgiveness he was granted from Muhammad (pbuh) and Muslims, let us count how many acts he conducted against the faith and the apostle, plus being known as a hypocrite,
- He was the man who undermined Apostle’s wife Aisha in what is known in Islamic history as The Narration of Falsehood, he was ibn-Salul who accused Aisha to commit adultery with Safwan.
- He was ibn-Salul too, who separated from Muslims’ army with his followers, whom in total counted for almost 30% of the army. He returned to Medina, and later on, he asked apostle for mercy, and we find it amazing that he got it.
- In Bani Mostalak battle, and only before swords start to gallop, he managed to create a conflict between Medina people and originally Meccan Muslims, rapidly it was turning into an internal fight. It was then when apostle was agitated telling them all: “you are now following the ethics of paganism while I am among you! Do not follow sedition for its stinking”
- Finally, he was the man who commented-on an incident of conflict between Medina men and Meccans saying “I swore once we are back to Medina, whose powerful will clear it from whose powerless” of course meaning Muslims to be the powerless and claiming himself and his followers to be the powerful. Yet, he just said but did not try to do, as he knew he is powerless compared to the Muslims majority in Medina.
Then, what the apostle did to him?
Simply nothing, not even a minor humiliation he suffered, leaving alone the claimed death penalty. On one of his major attacks on Islam and Muslims, repeating his heresies in public and calling people to renunciate from Islam, Muslims were angry and asked Muhammad (pbuh) to allow them killing the man. The apostle did not allow it, and when these talks arrived to ears of ibn-Salul’s son, Abdullah, who was –on the contrary to his father- a devout Muslim, he came to apostle saying “O’ Apostle, if you shall shed his blood, please order me to do it myself. I am afraid if any other man did it, I might tend to revenge killing him, then I am a looser killing a devout for a hypocrite” the apostle answered the faithful son and devout Muslim saying “O’ Abdullah, I shall not do this, he will stay safe and well treated as far as he is here in Medina”.
Later on, when the man was dying, his son asked the prophet to give him a piece of his clothes so he use as a shroud for his father. The son was trying to decrease his father’s expected suffering in afterlife, with a cloth belonging to Muhammad (pbuh). When ibn-Salul the father died, Muhammad (pbuh) led the funeral prayer blessing his sole. Afterward, God revelation came instructing Muhammad (pbuh) not to repeat this prayer for any other hypocrite. God only blamed his Apostle for praying in his funeral, but no other blame on the overall management of the case and the treatment ibn-Salul received came with it. Which proved apostolic treatment of the case was coherent with revelation.
Treaty of Hudaybiah
One of the articles in Hudaybiah treaty that prophet has signed with his traditional enemies in Quraish for ten years timed ceasefire, stated, “Whoever from Quraish comes to Muhammad as a Muslim, he shall not allow him to Medina, while whoever from Muslims comes to Quraish renunciating out of Islam, Quraish can allow him to Mecca”.
Some of the apostle’s followers were very agitated because of such an article, as it was unjust and intruding into Medina’s power within its domain. Yet the apostle accepted it. What interests us here, is the indirect evidence. Shall the renunciation be a sin that exposes to persecution, would the apostle have given this divine right up to Meccans? Would he have approved to allow re-converters to Mecca? Surely, he would have not. However, as it was a matter of conflict management strategies, that harms and violates no major role in Islam, he accepted it. In addition, Muslims objection was not on allowing whoever wants to apostate to go back to Mecca, they objected mainly the idea of rejecting a Muslim from Quraish heading to Medina.
Furthermore, it is mentioned in some Islamic references, yet denied in others, that twelve Muslims has re-converted to paganism after Hudaybiah treaty, then moved to Mecca according to its conditions. Later on, when Muhammad (pbuh) conquered Meccans and had access to these twelve, he applied no harm to them and they joined Islam back voluntarily.
The Revelation-Writers’ Renunciation
Bukhary and Muslim, the two widely accepted hadieth collectors, both supported the story of a man, who was a new converter Muslim, and being a literal man, apostle assigned him to write the revealed Quran for him among other writers, as literacy was quite uncommon in that time in Hejaz. Later on, the man converted to Christianity and moved to join a Christian tribe, where he attacked Muhammad (pbuh), saying: “He Knows Nothing but what I was writing for him”. Here we have a man who converted and attacked the apostle and undermined his faith.
Did the apostle order his followers to get him beheaded for his overt apostasy?
No, the man went untouched after it, and we know from Bukhary he has died on his bed in peace, simply because Islam has always supported freedom of faith and Muhammad (pbuh) has always knew that, and has always behaved and judged accordingly.
Also a second writer who was a Meccan, named Abdullah ibn-Abi-Sarh re-converted after Islam and went to Mecca, wherein he kept undermining the apostle of Islam, then, when Muhammad (pbuh) captured Mecca, he ordered his army to give peace to all its inhabitants but three men, ibn-Abi-Sarh was one of them. Othman ibn- Affan who was one of Muhammad (pbuh) closest followers and a relative to ibn-Abi-Sarh in the same time, asked Muhammad (pbuh) to dismiss his relative, and the Apostle responded positively. Shall reddah penalty be a divine order? apostle would have never accepted to dismiss ibn-Abi-Sarh even after his dear relative support. Yet, as it was a matter of temporal decisions, not a divine one, the Apostle could forgive.
One of the early Muslims who traveled to Ethiopia in the first Islamic migration, then converted to Christianity and stayed in Ethiopia when others traveled back to Hegaz. Again, the apostle has never mentioned him or referred to him as an apostate. Neither he asked any of the Muslims who were in Ethiopia to assassinate the man, who lived for 9 years after his conversion and died in the peace of his bed. Moreover, knowing that his wife Ramla remained a Muslim and she settled with him after his conversion, and knowing that after his death, upon the news came to Muhammad (pbuh) that she became a widowed, lonely, helpless and stranger in Ethiopia, the Messenger mailed to the Ethiopian king to transmit his marriage proposal to here. Yes, she is Ramla who was named om Habiba after the first baby she mothered for ibn-Gahsh. Accordingly, the widow of the apostate became the Mother of Muslims when she married to the apostle. Do you find this historical reality carrying any of the sensitivity and agitation we hold against converters today?
The Christian Sons of a Muslim Disciple
Two sons of one of Medina Muslims converted to Christianity in the life of the apostle. Their father went to Muhammad (pbuh) saying, “O’ Apostle, shall I leave my sons converting to another religion?” it was then when Apostle answered him with nothing but the holy verse “There shall be no compulsion in matters of faith. Distinctive has now become the right way from the way of error.” (The Cow: 256)
SOURCES OF MISCONCEPTIONS
If the matter of freedom converting to and from Islam was as clear as we explained, then why the widely popular idea even among Muslims, that Islam necessitated executing converters? Moreover, why the other popular idea among non-Muslims that Islam achieved spread by power? There must be rather strong reasons that justify these points of view and keep it dominant for ages?
While we admit there are few supporting scriptures and events to the point of view claiming execution to be the destiny of converters from Islam, we have to highlight that it was not about evidences that this view became popular. It has only something to do with the political applications of this belief that was attractive enough to motivate many jurists to adapt it. It was the protecting shield of the traditional Asharites’ understanding of religion. As those who benefited from the retardation of Islamic ideology have extended this penalty to whomever seems to be against Islam in the way they perceived it. Accordingly, they used it as a sword against modern jurists even more than its use against real converters. Zandaqa was the term they created to be the synonym of the Catholic Heresies and they accused all their opponents with it.
As for the other part of misperception, that Muslims obliged conquered nations to convert to Islam, It is majorly originating from the behavior of some Muslims and Muslim leaders in the countries dominated by Arabs, and more frequently and severely in the countries dominated by Turks. It has nothing to do with Islam itself, and we should never blame a faith for the individual or even mass behavior of its followers, as individuals have their own objectives and masses are frequently mislead. Otherwise, we will question Christianity for the massacres committed by the Church in the medieval, and we will question Judaism about Israeli attacks on Qana and Deir Yassin. It is all unrelated to faiths but to a very human greed and vanity hiding behind a fake divine mask sometimes. Hereunder in the graph, we display our plan to disambiguate the different sources of misconceptions in both regards.
Table. 3. 02
Apostasy Verbal Traditions
Before all, I have to admit here that I do not owe the honor of rejection to the verbal traditions related to renunciating from Islam, as several modern jurists did. I can recall out of them; Professor Jamal Al-Banna and Professor Muhammad Selim El-Awwa. So, I say what a national Egyptian leader once said “it is an accusation that I do not deny and an honor I can not claim”. Yet, the analysis to the claimed apostolic teachings I did here, I can claim as a second step in their direction tried by myself.
The verbal traditions in this regard comes in two directly and one indirectly related hadieths, we start with the directly related then follow it with the third that is usually linked and mentioned as a proof on reddah penalty, though we see it unrelated to it.
Hadieth of Faith Conversion:
The claimed hadieth is narrated by Ikrema, fellow of ibn-Abbas, claiming ibn-Abbas said on a specific event: "I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Messenger : Kill whoever changes his religion".
Before you get astonished from the simplicity of the hadieth that is supposed to be the cornerstone for reddah execution claims, or from the vague general statement his religion that includes even converters to Islam, as they changed their faith by the end of the day, we need to make a point. Ikrema who narrated the hadieth, is a controversial man regarding integrity of his narrations. While Bukhary accepted his narrations, both Muslim and Malik ibn-Anas rejected all of what he narrated, as they did not find him trustable enough. Needless to say they were esteemed references, not less than Bukhary by any mean. Moreover, the hadieth is mono-narrated, which means there is no other Muslim man narrated it but the non-trustable Ikrema. Mono-narrated hadieths are nearly agreed among many scholars never to be a proof in major beliefs, reddah being one, while they consider mono-narrated teachings whenever it shows coherence with Quran and other reputed teachings in its content, they are reluctant to rely on it if it establishes a new concept afar from Quran.
Hadieth of Execution Penalty:
Narrated ibn-Masoud, Messenger of God has said “a Muslim man who confesses no deity but God and me as the messenger of God, you can only shed his blood in one of three cases; as a penalty of murder, adultery by a married person or apostasy and separation from Muslims’ group”
We should say first, the hadieth is well supported narration-wise, from different roots. Yet, as we stated in the first chapter, the narration verification can be a very good negative test, which cuts down a lot of effort, but not a good positive one. The integrity of hadieth narrators does not exclude the possibility of mistakes, misperceptions and confusion among them. In this hadieth for instance, we find a well-supported narrations and a content that contradicts with several religious facts,
- Direct conflict of meaning with all the verses we detailed about freedom of belief.
- The hadieth comes in exclusive fashion. Stating the primary pool to be Muslim men who confess there is no deity but God and Muhammad is their messenger, then excludes out of them those who commit “apostasy and separation from Muslims’ group”. This is a language as well as logical discrepancy. You cannot say, “I shall eat all the apples but the orange” as it confuses your audiences and delivers no clear meaning. It is an expression mistake very unlikely to come from Muhammad (pbuh), considering what we know about his superb expressive capabilities.
- Most importantly, if these three cases are exclusively the cases whereby Muslim’s blood can be shed, where is the law of terrorism clearly stated in Quran to be death penalty, limbs amputation or crucifixion? Yes, Quran had a clear penal for those who terrorize civilians, violent robbers, kidnapers and terrorists; it is known in Fiqh as the Penal of Militias. Fanatics surely do not deny this fact, but they shed fewer lights on it, may be motivated by knowing, it can be first used against their militias and semi-militias. This missing cause for death penalty proves only one thing; this hadieth is modified. Shall the apostle teach a hadieth about reasons for death penalty; he was to list the three reasons of murder, adultery by a married man witnessed by four, and finally terrorism, and if the claimed reddah penalty was true, then it will become four causes.
Did fanatics replace terrorism penal, which works against them with apostasy penalty that works for them? In other terms, did they deliberately fake this hadieth?
No wonder, fanaticism in Islam started very early after Muhammad (pbuh) death and before hadieth collection efforts. Groups like Khawarej who were as terrorism oriented as today fanatics will love to have a hadieth supporting their assassination crimes, including murder of Muhammad (pbuh) cousin and the philosopher of Islam Ali ibn-Abi-Talib claiming he committed apostasy when he accepted arbitration with Muawia! After all, this remains as an assumption. What is solid enough is the fact of the three discrepancies altering this hadieth qualification to be a source of proper interpretation, as it creates cloudy doubts about its genuine relatedness to Muhammad (pbuh). Accordingly, we can discredit it.
Hadieth of “Arina “ Terrorists:
Narrated Anas: "Men from Arina clan came to the messenger of God in Medina, and converted to Islam. After a while they suffered a morbidity, the apostle advised them tripping to desert area (seeking dry climate maybe), accompanying his camelherd so they can benefit from camel milk (traditional medicine by this era among bedouins). In the desert, the Arinans murdered, blinded and maimed the sinless camelherd, stole the herd then vanished in desert. When caught and brought back to the capital, apostle ordered them to be maimed and blinded as literal retaliation according to Mosaic Law (Islamic penal law was not revealed yet) then left to die".
I believe this hadieth has nothing to do with apostasy, we mention it here as execution penalty advocates usually use it as a proof of apostle’s deeds. We see it irrelevant to their claim for several reasons,
- The sin committed here was murder and mutilation of an innocent victim, which we consider as terrorism according to our contemporary terms. Accordingly, we see a man like bin Laden more eligible to such penalty than apostates.
- Nothing mentioned in hadieth related to apostasy, whether directly or indirectly. Do we consider any murderer and every robber an apostate? Or it is the emptiness of reddah advocates tries to grasp evidence from everything.
- Including the hadieth under apostasy tags in traditional books supports the conspiracy theory we talked about earlier. Fanaticism was trying to find a way to kill civilians who argue fanatic dogmas, butting this hadieth away from its logical category, under militia penalty or retaliation of wounds, is a ring in the chain that aimed to mislead Muslims in the wrong directions.
Here, we have an example of generalizing what is specific and broadening what is limited, usually by wrong understanding of the Holy Scriptures. The holy Surah, starts talking about the Headquarters of Islam in Hejaz, where Mecca and Medina are based. In accordance with a former agreement with Muslims, pagans were granted access to Mecca. Some of the pagan tribes were honestly abiding by their commitments in the treaties, while others were not. This Surah was revealed to release Muslims from their commitment to those who did not keep their word, as well as preventing any other treaties in the future enabling paganism to access Mecca. However, the holy verses gave a probation period of 4 months, after which, pagan tribes will not be eligible to be in Mecca. The probation period was rather fair approach to give a grace interval changing the treaty and its attributes, and informing the concerned tribes. Moreover, the four months after the timing of verses revelation were of a special nature. It is a period wherein Muslims must not take any military actions except when directly attacked by an enemy.
The first two verses stated: “Freedom from obligation is proclaimed from Allah and His messenger toward those of the pagans with whom you made a treaty * Travel freely in the land for four months, and know that you cannot escape Allah, and that Allah will confound the disbelievers * And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the pagans, and so is His messenger. So, if you repent, it will be better for you; but if you are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah”. Therefore, besides the probation period, the Surah affirmed the extension of treaties with tribes who abided by their agreement, to be fulfilled without any deviation until the period of treaty is completed. God stated in the verses after “Excepting those of the pagans with whom you (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. As for these, fulfill their treaty to them until their term. Allah loves those who keep their duty” with this verse, God extended probation of treaties respected by pagans until the end of whatever agreed-on period. This shows how Islam encouraged commitment even if it leads temporarily to pagan practices within the headquarters of Islam in Mecca.
Then comes the most misperceived verse in the entire Quran comes, the fifth verse of Repentance. That is claimed among fanatics to be a divine order, killing non-Muslims whenever a Muslim can do! They claimed this verse to cancel and supersede all previous verses in Quran, including all the verses affirming freedom of faith, freedom of worshipping, and freedom of apostasy. Moreover, claimed it to abrogate all verses encouraging Muslims to socialize in good terms with the community of non-Muslims! Great deception, through which, they motivate their followers to kill human beings, and then claim it as Divine orders. The verse as a continuation of the previous subject, narrates “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the pagans wherever you find them (within Mecca), take them, and besiege them”. Claiming the verse to be a general order to kill all non-Muslims, ignores what is before and after it in Quran. As we explained before, the verses before it, essentially relate the orders to those who will not respect the prohibition of Muslim HQs, after the probation is over, and/or whenever the treaties were over. After it, the verses continue “And if anyone of the idolaters sleeked protection, then protect him so that he may hear the word of God, and afterward convey him to his place in safety. That is because they are a folk who know not” Therefore, the order to kill was not general! Muslims and Muhammad (pbuh) were requested to grant protection for whoever pagan asks for it. So, what is about the former order to kill?
Knowing the degree of sacredness that Mecca and Ka’aba hold in Islam, and comparing it to Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, in terms of sacredness, we can understand the prohibition of other cults to worship within this area. Freedom of worshipping does not mean eroding the right of each religion having its holy places, whether it limits access to it or not. In addition, it was not only Islam who limited non-followers’ access to its sacred-most places, from ancient Egyptians to 16th century Buddhist Tibetans, it was a common role. In the 18th verse, the Surah directly explains the reasons of restricting pagans from Mecca “He only shall tend Allah’s sanctuaries who believes in Allah and the Last Day and observes proper worship, pays alms to poor and fears none save Allah. For such is it possible that they can be of the rightly guided”
Leaving aside anyone with bias toward baseless hostility, any sane understanding of the words will be limited to prohibition of paganism and pagans’ existence in Muslims’ headquarters in Mecca. However, drifting the verse to cancel all the verses in Quran encouraging diversity tolerance, besides being illogical, it carries two mistakes from Fiqh standpoint:
- It isolates the holy verse from the verses before and after it, intentionally, to abstract a false meaning. Resembling the famous example of the holy verse “Do not intend praying while drunk” when a man stops narration at “Do not intend praying” and use it to claim prayer is prohibited!
- According to Quran, against each verse God willed to abrogate, he inspired a better or equivalent verse in its stead. The verse in this regard recites “Nothing of our revelation even a single verse do we abrogate or cause be forgotten, but we reveal one better or the like thereof. Knows you not that Allah is omnipotent?”
Accordingly, we understand a verse to replace another, but not a verse to abrogate more than 28 verses in different Surahs of Quran! This is as false as the claim that verses of freedom of belief were abrogated by reddah hadieths, as the scripture was clear stating the verse can exclusively be replaced by another.
II- FREEDOM of RELIGIOUS MANIFESTATIONS
Did Islam condition the construction and/or re-construction of worshipping places of other religions? Did Islam encourage transformation of Churches or Synagogues to Mosques? Is it prohibited to manifest other religions in public in Muslims’ societies? And did Islam encourage destruction of ancient monuments related to pagan deities?
To answer these questions, we would like to go in a reverse fashion this time, listing some events that lead to misperception, then giving models for the real Islamic attitude, where worshipping is secured to all citizens and where diversity tolerance is maximal.
The Secular Hatti Humayoun
In 1856, an Ottoman’s decree was issued, reforming the Millet systems in the Ottomans’ empire, where Millet stood for the religious minorities other than Sunnites Muslims (the official religion of Ottoman Empire). This law was a wide step towards freedom of faith and worshipping in Ottomans’ period. It was named Hatti Humayoun and one of its articles entitled Jews and Christians of different streams to build their own worshipping places, only after approval of civil authorities in the state, which is a normal procedure for any building whether for worshipping or not! This decree also entitled them to have their own courts to judge according to their religious civil laws whenever wanted, as far as both sides follow the same faith. Moreover, this decree abolished the tributes paid by other religions’ followers, out of understanding the link of tribute to power proofing, which became needless with the ultimate power of Ottomans in their golden era. Somehow, this law was abused overtime, only to be reversely applied in countries previously pertained to Ottomans e.g. Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Wherein, building a church or a mosque needed a presidential decree on case-by-case basis!!! And while some presidents electively delegated this right to the hierarch head of each stream, others adopted centralized approach as a mean of stress for hidden agendas, Sadat of Egypt being one of those who used it in the worse way during his conflict with the Coptic Pope Shenouda III.
Does Islam have anything to do with this? Are there any verses or hadieths referring to this subject?
The answer is a big NO. Islam has typically nothing to do with neither construction nor re-construction of worshipping places. On the contrary, as we shall see later on, the tradition we have from the apostle’s deeds and from the second Caliph Omar, gave a model of freedom of worshipping and a care for other faiths and its related sanctuaries and charities.
The original name was Hagia Sophia Church, and it means divine wisdom in Greek. Built by Emperor Justinian I in 537 AD to be the biggest Church in Christendom for one millennium until San Peter’s Basilica was constructed in Vatican to exceed it. Upon conquering the Byzantines and capturing Constantinople in 1435 AD, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror proclaimed it a Mosque. Later on, and during his anti-theistic campaigns in 1935, Ataturk considering the cultural value of Ayasofya have set it as a museum, , and it remained so until today.
Knowing it was perceived as one of the greatest buildings in the world, I could understand the motive of Mehmet the Conqueror to convert it into a mosque, celebrating victory over Byzantium. Especially when I consider his decision, settling the Patriarch of the Roman Orthodox as a governor of the city, and the other arrangements he did stabilizing the cosmopolitan Constantinople, I find it difficult to depict him as a fanatic veteran who wanted to depersonalize Constantinople from its identity. I would rather think of him as a conqueror symbolizing his triumph. This does not mean I agree to his behavior converting the church, as it conflicts with cultural values as well as apostolic teachings. I am only trying to be fair to the man based on his overall deeds.
Ayasofya conversion to a mosque is commonly used as a proof of Islam intolerance to Christianity. Yet, we disagree to this based on the fact of worshipping places conversion to be practiced allover the world, from and to a wide variety of religions. How many Mosques were converted into Churches in Cordoba, Seville, and allover Spain after being recaptured from Muslims? The Roman Catholic cathedral of Cordoba built within the Gamea’a Mosque of Cordoba being one, keeping its Islamic name as the common name of it is still Mezquita, which is the modification of Mosque in its Arabic form. It has always been a ceremony to announce domination of one religion over another. Even sometimes, it happened as a normal consequence of one faith growth on the expense of another. Like the cases of Roman and Egyptian temples converted to Churches in Italy, France, Greece and Egypt. Now we realized such a behavior to be stupid, but we cannot judge historical acts according to what we know now. As we said earlier, history needs to be fair in this specific point with Mehmet apart from all the crimes against humanity, those Ottomans had committed toward Greeks, Armenians and others.
Buddha of Bamyan
I cannot deny a fact here, as a Muslim, I feel terribly bad when I look at the images of these hilarious cultural heritage destroyed by Taliban savages in Afghanistan. I do cordially know that Islam has definitely nothing to do about it. However, this still leaves me with a bad feeling, knowing how they transmitted a terrible and unfair image of my faith to the entire world.
in the 12th century by a couple of fanatic Muslim kings of Afghanistan, first was Mahmud Ghaznawi and the 2nd was Nadir Shah who targeted the statues with cannons, destroying the faces and good portions of the body of one, probably under the very same claim of Taliban today!
In 2001, and against their former commitments not to touch these statues, Taliban decided to pull down the two great statues of Buddha, which represented a valuable humanity heritage, leave alone its value to Buddhists around the globe. It was then when ten Muslim clerics from different countries had visited Afghanistan, trying to protest the decision, but it was finally pulled down by Dynamite in March 2001!
Again, does Islam have anything to do with this? Did Islam order believers to destroy statues and images of cultural, religious or artistic value?
To answer this question, we need to cover two points. First, is the freedom of worshipping for other faiths and we covered it in earlier parts of this chapter. Second is the general concept of imagery in Islam, and if it is prohibited generally, or only when worshipped as a deity?
Unlike several references in ancient Islamic heritage, we find prohibition limited to imagery for worshipping as deities, when it is contemporarily worshipped, which we understand and expect of course from any monotheistic faith. However, for imagery other than idols, being fine arts that support the superego power of man, and accordingly support his divine mission, we find no reason to call for its prohibition. Proofs are numerous, out of which we select the following,
- From apostle’s verbal teachings, we have a narration from Aisha, from which we understand the apostle has exempted imagery on clothes (usually came to Arabia from Egypt, Syria and India) from the imagery prohibition. When we think what people in Arabia had as imagery by this time, we find a possibility it was limited to imported clothes and domestic idols. Exempting clothes here stands to defend all imagery other than idols, because we have no proof that any imaging art was practiced in Arabia, and needless to mention a nomadic tribe in the 7th century shall not import fine arts from neighborhood countries. Then, when the only possible imagery, those on clothes was exempted, it means all but idols were exempted.
- From a variety of narrations from Aisha, we understand she used imagery-containing carpets, until one day the prophet told here “take this away from me, whenever I see it I recall daily life”. From this, we don’t understand prohibition, otherwise, Muhammad (pbuh) would have asked his wife to get it out of his home. Nevertheless, he only asked her to get it away of him, as it seems it was distractive, or maybe simply the prophet did not like it.
- In all apostolic teachings about imagery makers, we find it difficult to distinguish, whether it meant imagery in general or idolatry imageries only. However, from its depiction as a great sin, and stating it qualifies a man to be the most tortured in hellfire if he created it, we tend to link it more to a man, who makes icons or idols for paganism. As we find it difficult to mean a kid who paints a dog or a cat for instance !!
- When Muslims captured Egypt, Syria and Iraq, it was crowded with its statues, those used previously for worshipping, needless to mention that none of the early four Caliphs of Islam, nor their army leaders ordered humiliation or attack against these antiquities.
- Imam Abu Hanifa in Iraq, where Assyrian and Caldanian monuments existed, was asked about it once, and stated its acceptance as far as it is not worshipped. Similar question and answer took place in Egypt by Imam Shafei. Here we talk about two out of four of the most widely accepted Islamic jurists stating the tolerance of imagery, even if it was worshipped in the past.
- Quran tells us about Solomon and states he owed statues, and rich decorated buildings. Solomon is an apostolic and royal character who will not be linked to imagery in Quran for no reason. It stands as an eternal proof of Islam acceptance to fine arts including imagery. Knowing the apostle Solomon was caring about it, even gives an encouraging sound toward it.
- Finally, even if any of Muhammad (pbuh) teachings meant prevention of imagery in general, we understand the temporal motive behind it. In the Arabic peninsula around the seventh century, it was very wise to prevent statues, even if entirely. Due to common illiteracy and lack of historical records, drifting to paganism was a much-feared future, as in two or three generations the oral traditions might be loosened and the statues become worshipped again. This does not apply to the known world today.
From one of Muhammad’s direct disciples, we can learn something or two about freedom of worshipping and respect to prayer houses. When Omar, entered to Jerusalem to sign the peace treaty with its bishop, he was visiting The Church of Jerusalem when noon prayer time was about to due, the bishop offered him to say his prayer inside the church. Omar replied, “No, if I do so, Muslims may one day make this an excuse for taking over the church”. The Caliph said his prayer on the steps outside. Even though, he gave writing to bishop of Jerusalem stating the steps shall not be proclaimed by Muslims based on his prayer. In his peace treaty to Jerusalem people, Omar stated, “From the servant of Allah and the Commander of the Muslims, Omar: The inhabitants of Jerusalem are granted security of life and property. Their churches and crosses shall be secure. This treaty applies to all people of the city. Their places of worship shall remain intact. These shall neither be taken over nor pulled down. People shall be free to follow their religion. They shall not be put to any trouble due to their beliefs” This treaty as well as Caliph’s behavior we perceive as the righteous understanding of Islam, and the righteous behavior with other faiths and its worshipping places.
III- ISLAM ESTEEMING OTHER FAITHS
Jerome Nathanson once said “The price of the democratic way of life is a growing appreciation of people's differences, not merely as tolerable, but as the essence of a rich and rewarding human experience” and in this term of tolerance, Islam, to the amazement of many, has genuinely excelled. Its tolerance-related teachings included not only tolerance in day-to-day life relations, but exceeded to esteem some of other religions’ followers, Islam had never perceived others as gentiles who belong to a lower class of humanity. Therefore, over the forthcoming pages, we shall explore together how Islam esteemed others and encouraged diversity. Then discuss the reasons of misperceptions about diversity tolerance, which is widely common among averagely educated Muslims and subsequently among others.
Esteeming Diversity of Faith:
As Islam was a continuation of the previous Abrahamic faith-line, Quran necessarily has criticized some doctrines and beliefs of the previous two faiths, which are seen to be unrelated to Abrahamic faith from Islamic standpoint; we give here some examples of these criticizing verses,
- Some of the verses were directed to Jews with blames, mainly about their compliance to commandments and their treatment to God apostles. For example: “And We gave to Moses the Book (Torah), and after him revealed to succeeding Messengers; then we supported Jesus son of Mary with the distinctive miracles, and the Holy Spirit; but whomsoever came to you as a Messenger with what your egos had not desire, you become arrogant, and some cry lies to, and some you slay?” (The Emrans: 113).
- Some other blames were to both Judaism and Christianity followers, blaming their intolerance to each other and to Islam, “And Jews said Christians follow nothing true, and Christians said Jews follow nothing true; yet both are readers of Holy Scripture. Even thus, speak those who know not. Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that wherein they argued”. (Cow:113)
While we understand any new religion criticism to the ones preceding it, we also should admire some Quran recitations esteeming the previous Abrahamic faiths, specifically some of its followers, wherein Islam avoided the commonest human mistake, which is prototyping and generalizing. In many verses, Quran admitted the goodness of some Christians and Jews, the verses reciting these meanings were numerous in Quran, and hereunder I list some examples,
“They are not all alike; out of the Holy book followers those who stand For rightness, rehearse the verses of God all night long, and prostrate themselves in adoration” (The Emrans: 113).
The verse affirmed that whatever criticism in Quran, it applies not to all Christians and Jews as usually depicted by fanatics. Because out of them, there are the devout believers in God who follows his way of righteousness.
“And there are, certainly, among the Holy book followers, those who believe in God, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in subordination to God: They will never give-up God verses for gains! They shall be waged from God” (The Emrans: 119)
“But those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, them We shall admit to heavens underneath which rivers flow, therein dwelling forever; God’s promise is truth; and who is truer than God? * It is not your fancies (O’ Muslims), nor the fancies of Holy book followers, whosoever does evil shall be recompensed for it” (Women: 122,123).
Here, Allah replies to whomever of any religion, claim that afterlife is granted exclusively to his faith followers, informing us, these are the fancies of humans, as God had never committed the right of afterlife judgment to whomever but himself. The verse stated overtly that afterlife will be linked to man’s deeds and behavior despite all the claims of priests on Earth, claiming to have an exclusive agency agreement with God!
“And let the followers of Bible judge according to what God revealed in it, whosoever judges not according to what God has revealed, they are the ungodly ” (Table Spread: 47).
If Islam had really claimed the entire Old Testament and New Testament to be fake, shall God refer to it several times in Quran? We surely know, as well as the enlightened Christians and Jews, that over ages, and due to the several translations, we should not expect all what lies in the Holy Book pages to be divine. This has been discussed among jurists and theologists for ages. Yet, it does not mean it is all unrelated to God, or that we shall not get inspirations from it as Muslims, who are required to believe in it. It means we need to believe in it with caution to what might be misperceived, misinterpreted and mistranslated.
“Those to whom We have given the Book and who recite it with true recitation, they believe in it” (The Cow: 121).
This confirms that at least some of the Holy Book followers still properly understand it. My own understanding to these “some” in our times is the so-called “Liberal Christians”. Nevertheless, definitely this personal interpretation is unrelated to Quran or Islam by any mean. I only build my assumption on the diversity tolerant nature of the liberal Christianity.
“O devout Muslims, believe in God and His Messenger and the Book He has revealed to His Messenger and the Book he revealed before.” (Women: 136)
“Surely the devout Muslims, the Jews, the Christians and the Sabians, whoso believes in God and Last Day, and works righteousness, their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow” (The Cow: 62).
This confirmation of link between moral values and deeds from one side, and afterlife destiny from the other, apart from the followed rituals, is claimed by the fanaticism to be overruled. Together with all verses related to freedom of faith, with one verse in “Repentance” Surah as we clarified earlier in this chapter. Needless to mention their claims is simply baseless.
“Surely the believers (of Muslims), the Jewry, the Sabians, and the Christians whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness, no fear shall be on them; neither shall they sorrow” (Table Spread: 69).
It was not by mere chance, or for no intended reason, that Almighty God had confirmed almost the same verse in two Surahs; the message of affirmation is clear and sound. We find the meaning God wanted to highlight very clear, it is the essential relation of afterlife heavens to good deeds and sound behavior in this life. It is a matter of integrity, not only a belief as far as we believe in one God, who is the God of Abraham as expressed in Quran.
Who were the Sabians mentioned in the verse? Moreover, why linked frequently to the three Abrahamic religions?
This group is somehow controversial. However, they are widely believed to be the followers of Saint John the Baptist, as the origin of their cult started shortly before Jesus, also their basic ritual is baptizing in flowing water. They called every river Al-Urdon, which means Jordan, standing as another reference to a relation with John the Baptist. They existed before Islam as a monotheistic sect in Iraq and Arabia, and they do exist today in the south of Iraq and knows as Nasareans and Sabians. Due to the current situation in Iraq, some news was published about genocidal attacks against them, reducing their no. from 40,000 souls before Iraq war in 2003 to 10,000 in 2006.
Social Tolerance to Diversity:
Islam encouraged the relations and rapport between Muslims and others in their society, from a meal sharing and up to marriage; again the Quran evidences are numerous,
“And you can share with the Holy Book followers their food, and they can share yours, as well you can marry regarded Muslim women, or regarded women of the Holy Book followers” (Table spread: 5)
“Except for those who did bad to you , Dispute not with the People of the Book save in good manners, to them you say, :We believe in what has been revealed to us, and what has been revealed to you, our God and yours is One, and to Him we have subordinated ” (Spider: 46).
Here, the verse frames the theological discussions and breaching should be in a highly civilized manner, hammering on respect of the other and his faith while offering him the Islamic ideology. Compared to our life today, when we hear statements like “Christians are idolaters and shall burn in hellfire”! as part of the language used by fanatics in their mosques, we find it unrelated to the touching approach, saying “we have one God, and to him we all pray and subordinate”. Accordingly, whoever cannot tolerate the other, and elaborate with him in accordance with this verse, shall not get into a theological discussion. Otherwise, he will be getting into untamed dispute, wherein rudeness and provocative words will be used, and this will present a violation of the divine role, mandating breaching with wisdom.
“God forbids you not, as regards those who have not fought you in religion’s cause, nor expelled you from your habitations, that you should be kindly to them, and act justly towards them; surely God loves the just.” (The Tried: 8)
From previous verses in The Tried Surah, we understand that this verse discusses Muslims manners with pagans and idolaters who follow not the Abrahamic faith. The verse is overtly encouraging civilized manners with them and justice whenever a Muslim holds any judgmental power on them, not necessarily as a judge, but as a boss, an employer, a governor, or even a witness.
“Zakat are for the poor and needy, those who work to collect it and distribute it (as wages), those whose you want to appeal to your brotherhood, the ransoming of slaves, debtors, in preparing for a righteousness warfare, and for poor travelers; so God ordains; God is All-knowing, All-wise.” (Repentance: 60).
It is almost agreed-on among the majority of Muslim jurists, that the terms poor and needy, debtors as well as poor travelers includes all humans whether Muslims or non-Muslims as far as they live in the state. This reflects the secular approach of Islam to the socio-economic affairs, as we will detail in a coming chapter.
“And when you are greeted with a greeting, you either greet with a fairer than it, or return it” (Women: 86).
Despite the simplicity of the matter, whoever lives in Egypt today will notice how silly is it when you greet someone saying “peace be upon you” and find him replying “good evening”, because he is a Christian and rejects using an Islamic greeting. Surely because many Muslims reply to him when he says “Good Morning” saying, “Peace be upon you too”, sounds foolish. Right? Yet, it is ridiculous when you experience it, you feel an immediate barrier due to this awkward reply. If all Muslims and Coptic Christians in Egypt followed the simple model of the verse, this silliness would have not existed. Islam has added a good greeting composed of prayer to God to give the greeted peace, mercy and blessings. Shall this mean a Muslim should not use any other greeting? He can in accordance with this verse just return any sort of greeting as greeted to him, or try even a better and warmer one. A Christian too, can use the peace and mercy greeting, as peace and mercy are universal and were part of Christ faith too.
“You are entitled to marry devout Muslim women and devout Holy Book followers, only after paying their dowry you can consort with them apart from fornication and holding an affair” (Table spread: 5)
Here, the highest degree of diversity tolerance was presented in cross-religion marriage being allowed in Islam, but limited to Jews and Christians, as considered to be much related to Islam. While the verse here state this right to men, and accordingly the majority of jurists perceived marriage of a Muslim woman to a Jew or Christian man to be forbidden, we still have several jurists understood the allowance to be general to both men and women. Stating that the verse directly framed men entitlement as this was the case in hand.
Source of Intolerance:
Causes of misperceptions are numerous. We shall shed some lights on the most important out of it here, to stand as a model for the drifted interpretations and understandings of teachings,
“O believers, take not Jews and Christians as allies; they can be allies of each other. Whoso of you makes them his allies is perceived then as one of them.” (Table spread: 51).
The verse was related to a specific event, when Judaic tribes did not respect the treaty they had with Muslims during the events of Allies attack on Medina. Some of Medina people were obliged not to share in any warfare against the Judaic tribes, based on earlier alliances with them. The verse then asks Muslims to set no alliances with these tribes or similar tribes on the North areas of Arabia (Christian tribes). Due to the possibility of warfare with both based on their attitude against Islam. Unfortunately, the verse was deliberately generalized to ask Muslims not to be friends to Jews and Christians, despite of its conflict then with the verses encouraging table sharing and cross-marriage. A conflict that cannot be sorted-out unless we understand this verse within its temporal framework as a patriot credo, avoiding commitments toward someone, that might alter his commitment to his own nation.
IV- ISLAMIC EMPIRE and the RELATED TRIBUTES
The successive Islamic empires have always presented a major source of misperception, among Muslims as well as non-Muslims. The common claim that Islam was violently spread by sword not by preaching originated mainly from mixing what is divine to what is secular in Islamic history. Here, we will try to brief a concise disambiguation about it.
According to Islamic historians, after Hudaybiah treaty (628 AD), and before Quraish violation of it (630 AD) and the subsequent capture of Mecca, Muhammad (pbuh) decided to make use of time during this temporary peace settlement. He initiated correspondence with seven leaders inside and outside Arab Peninsula, his messages were directed to,
1. Byzantine Caesar
2. Persian Shah-n-shah
3. King of Ethiopia
4. Egyptian Patriarch
5. King of Bahrain
6. King of Oman
7. Prince of Yamama
We have to say, some history scholars refused the idea that Muhammad sent any messages to the neighboring nations. Claiming it to be a myth created after apostle’s death. Yet, we cannot give a final answer to this question as far as the remnants of these messages are not examined to identify the time wherein it was created. On the other hand, we have Mary the Copt, the slave girl gifted from Egypt Patriarch, who later became a wife to Muhammad and the mother of his son Ibrahim, standing as a proof favoring the reality of these messages and we find no opponent incidence favoring that was a myth. Accordingly, we will assume it as reality. However, we will need to clarify some points about these messages, mainly about the way it was explained in Islamic history books, Tabari being one.
Being the head of Eastern Roman Empire, or the Greek-speaking Roman Empire headquartered in Constantinople. This was an area of confusion to Arabs in the 9th century, when some of traditional book writers fall in a historical mistake, mixing it to the Western Roman Empire. Considering the timeframe before (628-630 AD), the recipient of the message must be Heraclius (r. 610–41). Which is matching to Islamic history references too.
Being the leader of Persian Sassanid realm. While we find Islamic chroniclers claim Khosrau II to be the recipient of the apostolic embassy, we find this unfortunately impossible, as Khosrau II was smothered in his palace in 27th of February 628, while Hudaybiah treaty was not held before March of the same year. (Dulkeda of the sixth year after migration). Most probably, the message was dispatched from Medina, addressed to Khosrau II, as the news was not delivered to Arabia. Yet, he had never got it. It must be then received by his son Kavadh II, who put his father to death and came to throne for few months, before he deceases, to be succeeded by his son Ardashir III, who was a seven years old boy, ruled for 18 months after his father. Knowing about the aggressive response the Shah gave to this embassy, as Tabari states he torn-apart the message, he must be an adult man, so he will be Kavadh II.
King of Ethiopia
Negus is the title of Ethiopian kings; in Amharic language, it meant the king, while the old name of today’s Ethiopia and Eritrea was Abyssinia. It worth to say that the story of Negus in Islamic literature was highly linked to the Aksumite Empire, that was extended to northern Sudan, and Yemen plus Ethiopia and Eritrea, with its capital in Axum.
The problematic Mukawkis who is mentioned in the Islamic scriptures as the Patriarch of Alexandria and identified with the name Cyrus. Yet, this person historically is very confusing, mainly having no clear root for the title Mukawkis. The nearest word in Coptic language is Ptokaukise, which means a Caucasian. However, and despite minor discrepancies in years, we see it most probably related to Cyrus, the Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria. Maybe the word Mukawkis was the form of Ptokaukise as he was a foreigner that might be perceived by Copts as a Caucasian.
In the letters to these international leaders, we shall notice the commonality of respect to recipients using name and title of each. While we easily find differences in the style and content of the seven messages according to destination. For instance, in his message to Heraclius of Rum, apostle wrote,
“In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. From Muhammad the slave and messenger of Allah to Heraclius the leader of Rum. Peace be unto he who follows true guidance. Further, I greet you with the greeting of Islam. Calling you to Embrace Islam and yours shall be peace and safety, and God shall double your reward. But if you turn away, then upon you shall be the sin of the Ariusins. Allah said “Say: O followers of holy scriptures, let us consensus on what is common between us, that we shall worship none but Allah, and shall associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. But if they turn away, then say: Bear witness on our submission to God”
These messages represented a trial to extend the boundaries of the new faith beyond Arabia borders. During apostle’s lifetime, Muslims did not fight outside the Arab peninsula; the map in the next page demonstrates locations of battles during Muhammad’s life. As we can see, it was all within the Arab land. The combats with Rum in Tabouk as well as Moa’ata was not Muslims’ initiation. In case of Moa’ata, messenger of God sent a correspondence to the leader of Bosra, his envoy was arrested by the forces of Shurabil bin Amro the Rum buddy and the local ruler in Levant. The messenger was killed to convey a horrifying message to Muslims in Medina, it was then when Muhammad composed an army of 3000 knights to confront Rums in Moa’ata, a contest wherein Muslims were defeated, and where Muhammad has his formerly adopted son as well as his cousin martyred. In Tabouk case, news about a Roman army approaching Arabia from North compelled Muhammad to gather a 30,000 warriors army (though we doubt the number to be collectable only one year after Moa’ata) and lead it to Tabouk in the year 630 AD. Amazingly, they founded Tabouk deserted after the departure of Byzantine armies. Then, the Muslims’ army did not go further in the Byzantine domains.
Accordingly, Apostle Muhammad after uniting Arabia as a secular leader of Arab, started preaching his faith again as an apostle of God. We should never mix what is secular and what is human in apostles’ life. Muhammad’s warfare, as well as Solomon and David warfare were all temporal necessities for the state wherein they lead. This will never make any war a divine one. Surly apostolic wars were all supporting truth and righteousness, therefore we call who dies in it a martyr, and so we call whoever dies defending his land or his nation. In short, we agree it was honorable wars to support righteous purposes, but not divine wars.
After apostle’s death and the enrolment of Abu-Bakr as Caliph, and after controlling what is known as apostasy wars as we discussed earlier, the era of Islamic empire started. To witness its seeds in Abu-Bakr time, accelerate in Omar’s period, then cease during the periods of Othman and Ali due to internal conflicts. The outstanding momentum was restored-back during Umayyad and Abbasid eras. Here, we had many points to highlight;
- The potency of united tribesmen under Islam flag was noticeably provocative to the Arabian fellows of Rum and Persians, Gassanids and Monzirdids respectively. Those, who structured the forearm of the major powers, indirectly dominating Arabia. Accordingly, the growing power of Islamic empire was obliged to face the challenge with these fellow tribes, which was developed into a military conduct with Rum and Persians themselves. Yes, at a certain point of conquest, Muslims had the choice to stop, but since when in humankind history a veteran conqueror decided to stop? The power and domination of any nation calls for more power and more domination.
- It was surely the age of empires, where words like occupation, invasion, peace alteration were not badly perceived at all, Pharaonic Egypt expanded to Sudan, Palestine and Syria, Sassanid Persia expanded to Iraq and Arabia, and same applies to eastern and western Roman empires. Considering this, why shall we blame Arab Muslims to form their empire when they could? We can blame Muslims empires as far as we can blame Great Britain for instance for building its empire of colonies in Africa and Asia.
- Building an empire on religious basis was not uncommon by this time. The nationalist bonds were much weaker compared to religious ones, being related to the minimal degree of religious tolerance dominating the globe at this time. We can remember that Europe in Medieval was frequently called Christendom, so we can imagine in the frame of time and location the idea of Muslimdom will not be odd at all. Especially when we know, that Islam was the major link, in addition to unity of tongue between the desert tribes.
- The empire passed through a transient period during the first four Caliphs who are believed to be the well-guided Caliphs who followed Muhammad’s inspiration to the best of their judgment and capacity. Afterward, during Umayyads and Abbasids periods, the Muslimdom became a very secular empire that undergoes all the lifecycle of an empire.
- While Islamic books insist that Arabic invasion into other countries was as peaceful as to be welcomed from invaded nations! Opponent books write about massacres, rape, and mutilations in relation to it. However, I believe the truth lies somewhere between the two extreme depictions. Muslims had to abide by some roles in their warfare, aspects like bloody treatment for war prisoners, deliberate destructions, as well as mutilations of dead enemies were offending acts in Arabia even before Islam, and Islam furthered its avoidance by incrimination, and this is why I found it very unlikely to happen. While acts like sexual harassments, property adoptions, arrogance and some humiliating behaviors toward individuals from the conquered nation, are all extremely difficult-if not impossible- to control even when you enter a city with an army of monks. Again, I do not see this in its temporal framework as a disregarding behavior from Muslims by any mean. The crusader invasion of Jerusalem witnessed an agonizing amount of what we call today war crimes. Shall we hold Christianity accountable to this? I think no, as the veterans of the crusader campaign behaved with the values of their own time and environment. Very similarly, Muslim armies did.
Logic of Tributes
Even among Muslims, they are numerous who think that Jezia or tributes are still valid until today! Mainly relying on the verse, "Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not follow what God and His apostle have instructed, such men who does not follow the real faith out of the Holy Book followers, only until they pay you a tribute out of hand in humbling” (Repentance: 29).
Before we explain the meaning and logic of the holy verse, we would like to pay attention to the fact that the so-called Islamic Terrorism uses this holy verse, after twisting its meaning to fool their followers. The verse we understood under the temporal condition of its revelation, when Gassanids killed Muslims messenger. This category of cheaters and hostiles were meant in the verse when God said “out of the Holy Book followers”. We find the Arabic letter min equalized in this translation by out of, as a key word that was intentionally ignored by fanaticism to generalize the verse, as min indicates some, but not all of Holy Book followers. Tabuk expedition happened in summer, during a very hot weather, and it was planned against Rums lead by their Caesar in a huge army, said to be of 60,000-100,000 warriors. This was enough to induce a state of reluctance in Medina, and when people did not volunteer to participate in the planned battle. Those verses were revealed to encourage Muslims to face the Byzantine threat courageously.
In the same occasion, tribute was stated for a single time in Quran. Tribute in Islam carried three drivers and justifications that were all temporal,
- Declaration of subordination of the defeated tribe, clan, or whatever group. This was common among Arabs as well as many other societies by that time. Needless to mention, Egypt was paying a tribute to the Byzantines, so did the Gassanids. Paying a tribute was an alternative to admit subordination to a hyperpower while the defeated or controlled nation enjoys a form of autonomy.
- Financial support to warfare, which remained as a common practice until now. French government of the south, paying a tribute to cover the German army expenses in Paris was not the sole example in modern history. The most recent example is the expenses paid by the Gulf monarchies to the US forces in their domains. Apart from the fact the threat of Saddam Hussein is gone now, the forces remained as an occupation. Also remained financed by the Gulf states, Saudi being on top.
- As an exemption fees from military services, as in early Islamic states, the armies were not country-specific, Muslims army in Egypt might move at any time and whenever required to support the Syrian Muslim forces. Then, it was not just to enroll Coptic Christians in the army that sometimes defends countries other than their own homeland. These tributes covered the dividends of the controlled nation in its own protection through warfare economic support in the stead of enrolling their youth in army.
Needless to mention, in modern time, and as the three justifications had become part of history, No role is remained to this term in today’s Islamic terminology.