Respect for religious difference is a foundational ethical teaching in the Qur’an and the Hadith sources of Islamic scripture. This video clip cites several key sources for respect for religious pluralism in Islam.
The lesson prescribes viewing the video “Respect for Religious Minorities in Islam” and discuss what the scholars say about religious minorities under Muslim rule (as minorities or majorities). The series of documents present evidence of Islamic principles and historical precedents regarding treatment of religious minorities (or, in the case of early Islam, majorities of non-Muslims under Muslim rule). Finally, the lesson analyzes a modern document, the Marrakesh Declaration, which calls upon Muslims to restore these principles in the context of modern nation-states.
- View the video and discuss the questions, reading the handouts that contain original sources to which the expert speakers’ statements, refer and including them in the discussion. How strong is the case for tolerance of other religions in Islamic sources? (See questions and answer key below)
- There are several options in the lesson for further exploration of the topic and its connection to religious tolerance in Islam:
- Prophet Muhammad made covenants with “People of the Book” and others: (1) the Constitution of Madinah was an agreement of mutual protection agreed to when Muhammad made the migration from Makkah to Madinah. (See “The Constitution of Madinah and the Mayflower Compact” at pp. 47-52).
- Prophet Muhammad also made agreements with settlements of monks in the Arabian Peninsula. View the document on the Prophet’s Covenant with the Monks of Sinai (handout).
- Part 2 of the lesson focuses on the recent Marrakesh Declaration, one of several statements created by convening international groups of Muslim scholars to respond to Muslim extremists such as ISIS/ISIL who are viewed by the consensus of Muslim scholars as violating Islamic principles—in this case regarding religious minorities. In groups or as a class, assign the 2-page Declaration and use the guiding questions to discuss the content, spirit, and prospects for success of the document.
Video Discussion Questions and Key
Q: What did the crowd of Muslims want the Sultan to do regarding their Christian fellow citizens, and what claim did they make to support their demands?[KEY] they claimed that a mosque had once been on the site of a church used by the Coptic Christians of Egypt. Al-Kamil denied their claim, and in fact, Copts were in Egypt long before Islam came in the 7th century, and the church in question was the holiest site for Copts.
Extension activity: Research modern incidences of contested claims over holy or sacred sites in various religious and cultural traditions[Suggested sites: Jerusalem and the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock & al-Aqsa Mosque; the Babri Mosque and a Hindu Temple; Cordoba Mosque built on Roman site, then mosque, then church; native American burial and sacred places threatened by development, mining, pipelines, and archaeological sensitivities
Q: What is the substance of the experts’ testimony about the status and rights of religious minorities under Muslim rule (See handout)
Part 2: of the lesson on Respect for Religious Minorities: Document Analysis on Religious Minorities in Islam Today
Media reports on hear the persecution of Christians and others today, especially by extremists and in post-conflict situations such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and about the persecution of non-Muslims and Muslims of different sects. The Marrakesh Declaration is a contemporary document that provides evidence that Muslim scholars cite Islamic sources that condemn does not condone acts against discrimination against religious minorities and offer social reforms to minimize such behavior.
- Examine the document called The Marrakesh Declaration of 2016 (http://www.marrakeshdeclaration.org/marrakesh-declaration.html ), which consists of 2 pages of declaration points agreed to by a group of international Muslim scholars. Read the document and analyze it using the following questions as a framework:
Q: Discuss the title: “Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities”; what message does it send to readers?
Who are the signatories and sponsors of the gathering in Morocco that produced this consensus document? [Described as more than 200 scholars and intellectuals from 120 countries, organized by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies at http://peacems.com/?page_id=2973&lang=en ]
Q: Why do the writers of the document call it “necessary”? HINT: look at the passages that begin with the word “whereas”
KEY: due to conditions in Muslim countries; on the occasion of the 1400 year anniversary of the Charter of Medina (See IslamProject.org lesson on the Constitution of Medina); to reaffirm principles governing interfaith relations and responsibilities to Muslims
Q: What points of relationship does the MD make between the Charter of Medina and modern documents outlining human rights and minority rights (UN Charter, Declaration of the Rights of Man, etc.)
Q: Upon whom does the Marrakesh Declaration call in order to fix the problem of violation of minority rights in Muslim countries?
- educated people, artists, civil society
- Muslim scholars called upon to create a “jurisprudence of inclusive citizenship” that takes into account Islamic tradition and global changes (“bound by the same national fabric” i.e. nationalism as a homogenizing force endangers those who don’t fit a certain national mold. Politicians invoking a “state of selective amnesia” (see the incident with the mob and al-Kamil about the church)
- Educational institutions, curriculum and textbooks must get rid of what instigates aggression and extremism
- Politicians and decision-makers to take legal and policy steps to improve relations.
- Analyze the phrase in the MD “it is unconscionable to employ religion for aggression upon the rights of minorities”
- Extension: Research the Common Word interfaith dialogue project (http://www.acommonword.com/) Explain its relationship to the use of this phrase in the Qur’an “Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). (Qur’an, 3:64)
- Extension: Critiques of the Marrakesh Declaration—research the following questions using the suggested links to documents critical of the Marrakesh Declaration that follow. Answer the question: How might this document be criticized, and what actual chance might these scholars’ statements of bringing about change in interfaith relations? What obstacles exist to its implementing these ideas as policy and cultural influence? See Khan, Amjad Mahmod. “The Marrakesh Declaration: Promise and Paralysis.” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, March 2, 2016. http://journal.georgetown.edu/the-marrakesh-declaration-promise-and-paralysis/; Also, Petersen, Marie Juul, and Osama Arbh Moftah. “The Marrakesh Declaration: A Muslim Call for Protection of Religious Minorities or Freedom of Religion?” Religion and the Public Sphere, May 26, 2017. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/religionpublicsphere/2017/05/the-marrakesh-declaration-a-muslim-call-for-protection-of-religious-minorities-or-freedom-of-religion/.
Cited in the Video by Michael Calabria:
“There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejects false deities and believes in Allah has grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.” (Qur’an 2:256)
Cited in the Video by Suleiman Mourad:
“To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah. It is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.” (Qur’an 5:48)
Hadith or Saying of the Prophet Muhammad, Cited by Tareq Algawhary:
Safwan ibn Sulaim reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “No doubt, if anyone wrongs a person protected by a covenant, violates his rights, burdens him with more work than he is able to do, or takes something from him without his consent, then I will be his advocate on the Day of Resurrection.” (Source: Sunan Abu Dawud 3052, at https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2012/08/16/hadith-on-oppression-the-prophet-will-support-the-oppressed-non-muslims-on-the-day-of-judgment/).
Cited in the “Common Word” Interfaith Dialogue Project (http://www.acommonword.com/):
“Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him).” (Qur’an 3:64)
Source: as cited in John Andrew Morrow, The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World (Angelico Press/Sophia Perennis, 2013), pp. 211–12:
“To all whom it may concern this letter is addressed by Muhammad, son of Abdullah, he who proclaims and admonishes men to take knowledge of the promises of God to his creation, in order that men may raise no claim or right against God or against the Prophet, for God is almighty and all-wise. It is written to people of this faith and to all in the world who profess the Christian Religion in East and West, near and far, whether they are Arabs or non-Arabs, unknown or known, as writ which he has issued for their protection. If any person henceforth violates the protection hereby proclaimed, or contravenes it or transgresses the obligations imposed by it, he foregoes the protection of God, breaks his covenant, dishonors his religion and deserves to be accursed, whether he be sultan or any one soever of the faithful of Islam.
If a monk or pilgrim seeks protection, in mountain or valley, in a cave or in tilled fields, in the plain, in the desert, in a church, in such case I am with him, and defend him from everyone who is his enemy—I, my helpers, all men of my faith, and all my followers, for these people are my followers and protégés. I wish to protect them from interference with the supply of victuals [food], which my protégés have procured for themselves, and also from the payment of taxes over and above what they themselves approve. On none of these accounts shall either compulsion or constraint be used against them.
A bishop shall not be removed from his bishopric, nor a monk from his monastery, nor shall a pilgrim be hindered from his pilgrimage. Moreover, no church or chapel shall be destroyed, nor shall the property of their churches be used for the building of mosques or houses for the Muslims. Whoever offends against this rule forfeits God’s protection and is subordinate to his Messenger.
Neither poll-tax nor impost shall be laid on monks, bishops, or hermits, for I wish to extend protection to them, wherever they are, in East or West, in North or South, for they are under my protection, within my covenant, and under my security against every injury. Those who also go to the solitude of mountains, or to the holy places, shall be free of poll tax, and from tithe or duty on whatever they grow for their own use. . . .
They shall not be obligated to serve in war, or to pay the poll-tax; even those for whom an obligation to pay land-tax exists, or who possess resources in land or from trade, shall not have to pay more than 10 dirhams a head a year. On no one shall an unjust tax be imposed, and with these people of the Book there is to be no strife, unless it be over what is for the good. We wish to take them under the wing of our mercy, and the penalty of vexation shall be kept at a distance from them, wherever they are and wherever they may settle.
If a Christian woman enters a Muslim household, she shall be received with kindness, and she shall be give the opportunity to pray in her church; there shall be no dispute between her and a man who loves her religion. Whoever contravenes God’s protection and acts to the contrary is a rebel against his covenant and his Messenger. These people shall be assisted in the improvement of their churches and religious dwellings; thus they will be aided in their faith and kept true to their allegiance. None of them shall be compelled to bear arms, but the Muslims shall defend them; and they shall not contravene this promise of protection until the hour comes and the last day breaks upon the world.
As witnesses to this letter of protection, written by Muhammad, son of Abdullah, God’s Messenger, and as sureties for the fulfillment of all that is prescribed herein, the following persons set their hands.
Ali the son of Abu Taleb, Homar the son of Hattavi, Ziphir the son of Abuan, Saith the son of Maat, Thavitt the son . . . Ambtullak the son of Omar.
This promise of protection was written in his own hand by Ali bin Abu Talib in the Mosque of the Prophet on the third of Muharram in the year 2 of the Prophet’s Hegira. . . . Praise be to all you abide by its contents, and cursed be all who do not observe it.”
MARRAKESH DECLARATION (http://www.marrakeshdeclaration.org/marrakesh-declaration.html )
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate
Executive Summary of the Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities
25th-27th January 2016
WHEREAS, conditions in various parts of the Muslim World have deteriorated dangerously due to the use of violence and armed struggle as a tool for settling conflicts and imposing one’s point of view;
WHEREAS, this situation has also weakened the authority of legitimate governments and enabled criminal groups to issue edicts attributed to Islam, but which, in fact, alarmingly distort its fundamental principles and goals in ways that have seriously harmed the population as a whole;
WHEREAS, this year marks the 1,400th anniversary of the Charter of Medina, a constitutional contract between the Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, and the people of Medina, which guaranteed the religious liberty of all, regardless of faith;
WHEREAS, hundreds of Muslim scholars and intellectuals from over 120 countries, along with representatives of Islamic and international organizations, as well as leaders from diverse religious groups and nationalities, gathered in Marrakesh on this date to reaffirm the principles of the Charter of Medina at a major conference;
WHEREAS, this conference was held under the auspices of His Majesty, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and organized jointly by the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs in the Kingdom of Morocco and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies based in the United Arab Emirates;
AND NOTING the gravity of this situation afflicting Muslims as well as peoples of other faiths throughout the world, and after thorough deliberation and discussion, the convened Muslim scholars and intellectuals:
DECLARE HEREBY our firm commitment to the principles articulated in the Charter of Medina, whose provisions contained a number of the principles of constitutional contractual citizenship, such as freedom of movement, property ownership, mutual solidarity and defense, as well as principles of justice and equality before the law; and that,
The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are in harmony with the Charter of Medina, including consideration for public order.
NOTING FURTHER that deep reflection upon the various crises afflicting humanity underscores the inevitable and urgent need for cooperation among all religious groups, we
AFFIRM HEREBY that such cooperation must be based on a “Common Word,” requiring that such cooperation must go beyond mutual tolerance and respect, to providing full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups in a civilized manner that eschews coercion, bias, and arrogance.
BASED ON ALL OF THE ABOVE, we hereby:
Call upon Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world to develop a jurisprudence of the concept of “citizenship” which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global changes.
Urge Muslim educational institutions and authorities to conduct a courageous review of educational curricula that addesses honestly and effectively any material that instigates aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruction of our shared societies;
Call upon politicians and decision makers to take the political and legal steps necessary to establish a constitutional contractual relationship among its citizens, and to support all formulations and initiatives that aim to fortify relations and understanding among the various religious groups in the Muslim World;
Call upon the educated, artistic, and creative members of our societies, as well as organizations of civil society, to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorites in Muslim countries and to raise awareness as to their rights, and to work together to ensure the success of these efforts.
Call upon the various religious groups bound by the same national fabric to address their mutual state of selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared living on the same land; we call upon them to rebuild the past by reviving this tradition of conviviality, and restoring our shared trust that has been eroded by extremists using acts of terror and aggression;
Call upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, vilification, and denigration of what people hold sacred, as well as all speech that promote hatred and bigotry; AND FINALLY,
AFFIRM that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.
January 27, 2016