When one studies the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), one will see that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a great example and role model when it came to tolerance of other people belonging to different faiths.
His example of tolerance is important, as there are many people today that make the claim that Islam is an intolerant faith towards others, when the reality is quite the opposite. His example of tolerance is also an important lesson for Muslims in how they should carry themselves in their dealings-attitudes towards people of different faiths, as sadly it must be said that there are many Muslims who do hold intolerant views towards people of different faiths, views that run contrary to the actions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself.
In this article, we shall highlight three examples of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) tolerance towards others, 3 examples out of many others that could be shown.
- The Constitution-Treaty of Madinah
The first example of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) tolerance towards others comes from what is known as the constitution, or treaty of Madinah. The constitution of Madinah was written out after the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) arrived in the city of Madinah from the city of Mecca. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had been placed as the leader of the Muslim community once he had arrived in Madinah, it was a sizeable Muslim community as well, and the first official Islamic-Muslim state for the Muslims.
The city of Madinah was inhabitant by many other groups and tribes when the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) arrived, including a sizeable Jewish community who had settled in the city. So with the establishment of a large Muslim community, and the presence of a large Jewish community, Madinah was well and truly a multicultural and multireligious society.
So in light of this, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) set about in establishing a constitution-treaty between the newly established Muslim community, with that of the Jewish community, and hence the constitution of Madinah was established:
In the name of Allah, the compassionate Rahman. This is a writing of Muhammad, the Prophet, between the believers and the Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib and those who follow them and are attached to them, and who fight together with them in war.
1. They are one community to the exclusion of [other] people.
2. The muhajirun of Quraysh [remain] in their condition. They pay jointly blood-wite and ransom their captives. [This is carried out] in an upright and just [manner] among the believers.
3. Banu ‘Awf [remain] in their condition; they pay jointly their previous blood-wite. Every group ransoms their captives. [This is carried out] in an upright and just [manner] among the believers.
4. Banu al-Harith [remain] in their condition, etc. as section 3.
5. Banu Sa‘idah ….(as section 3).
6. Banu Jusham …(as section 3).
7. Banu al-Najjar…(as section 3).
8. Banu ‘Amr ibn ‘Awf…(as section 3).
9. Banu al-Nabit… (as section 3).
10. And Banu al-Aws … (as section 3).
11. The believers shall not fail to give just assistance to a debtor among them for redemption money or blood-wite.
12. No believer shall enter into alliance with the client of a believer without the latter’s consent.
13. The God-fearing believers act [act] against those of them who cause an act of injustice or fraud or hostility or harm among the believers. Their hands are all against him even if he is the son of one of them.
14. No believer shall kill a believer on account of an unbeliever; neither shall he help an unbeliever against a believer.
15. The protection of Allah is one; the protection granted by the least of them is binding on all. The believers protect each other to the exclusion of [other] people.
16. Whoever of the Jews follow us [receive] help and support without being wronged and without the one helping the other against them.
17. The peace of the believers is one. No peace shall be made with a believer apart from an[other] believer when there is fighting in the way of Allah. However, [peace must be concluded] on the basis of mutual equality and justice.
18. In every expedition made with us the parties shall take turns with one another.
19. The believers exact vengeance for the blood of one another [that is shed] in the way of Allah.
20. The God-fearing believers are under the best and most correct guidance. No polytheist may grant protection to the property or person of Quraysh; neither shall he protect him against a believer.
21. When evidence has been given that someone killed a believer then he is killed in retaliation for him unless the person entitled to revenge is satisfied [with blood-wite]. The believers are against him as one man. They must take action only against him.
22. No believer who understands what is said in this document and who believes in Allah and the last day shall give assistance to a wrongdoer or to give him shelter. If anyone helps him or shelters such a person, upon him be the curse and wrath of Allah on the day of resurrection. No price or substitute shall be accepted from him.
23. Whenever you differ about anything it is to be referred to Allah and Muhammad.
24. The Jews pay a share of the expenses of the believers so long as they are at war. [Same as section 38]
25. The Jews of the Banu ‘Awf are one community with the believers. To the Jews their religion and to the Muslims their religion. [This applies] to their clients and to themselves with the exception of anyone who has done wrong or committed treachery, for he harms only himself and his family.
26. To the Jews of Banu al-Najjar [applies] the like of what does to the Jews of Banu ‘Awf.
27. To the Jews of Banu al-Harith … (as section 26).
28. To the Jews of Banu Sa’idah … (as section 26).
29. To the Jews of Banu Jusham … ( as section 26).
30. To the Jews of Banu al-Aws … (as section 26).
31. To the Jews of Banu Tha’labah … (as section 26). With the exception of anyone who has done wrong or committed treachery, he harms only himself and his family.
32. Jafnah are a subdivision of Tha‘labah. They are like them.
33. To Banu al-shutbah [applies] the like of what does to the Jews of Banu ‘Awf. Honesty without treachery [is demanded].
34. The clients of the Tha‘labah are like them.
35. The friends of the Jews are like them.
36. No one of them shall go out [to war] without Muhammad’s consent. But no one shall be prevented from taking vengeance for wounds. Whoever acts on his own account [involves] himself and his family, except him who has been wronged. Allah is the truest [fulfiller] of this [document].
37. The Jews must bear their expense and the Muslims must bear their expenses. They help one another against those who make war against the people of this document. Between them is good understanding, honourable dealing, and honesty, not treachery. No one is responsible for his confederate. Help [is to be given] to whoever is wronged.
38. The Jews pay a share of the expenses of the believers so long as they are at war. (A repeat of 24)
39. The Valley of Yathrib is sacred for the people of this document.
40. The guest is as his host except he who causes harm or acts treacherously.
41. No woman can be treated as a guest except with the consent of her family.
42. Whenever there is disagreement among the people of this document and trouble to t be anticipated, the matter is to be referred to Allah and Muhammad. Allah is the most scrupulous and truest [fulfiller] of this document.
43. No protection is to be given to the Quraysh or to those who help them.
44. They help one another against those who attack Yathrib.
45. Whenever they are summoned to conclude and to accept a peace treaty, then they shall conclude and accept it. And whenever they [the believers] summon to the like of that, then they have the right for this vis-à-vis the believers except whoever makes war on account of religion. Everyone has his share from their side which is directed towards him.
46. The Jews of al-Aws, their clients and they themselves, have the same rights as the people of this document, in pure honesty on the part of the people of this document. Honesty without treachery [is demanded].
47. Every person who becomes guilty loads the guilt only upon himself. Allah is the most just and truest [fulfiller] of the contents of this document. This writing does not protect him who practices evil or treachery. He who goes out as well as he who remains is safe in the city except he who does wrong or acts treacherously. Allah is a protector of whoever is good and faithful, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.
This treaty is a great example of tolerance, as we read, according to the treaty, the Muslims and the Jewish community of Madinah are one, and that both the Muslims and the Jewish community would be required to help each other during times of conflict. So if a Jewish community was to come under threat or attack by another group, it would be the duty of the Muslims to come to their aid, and to fight for the Jewish community in protecting them.
The treaty also makes clear that the Muslims will have their faith, and the Jews will have their faith, being allowed to practice it, and with no restrictions upon them and their faith in doing so.
So the constitution of Madinah is a great example of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) tolerance towards others, and is an example all Muslims should strive for.
- The Christian delegation from Najran
During the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) he received a delegation of Christians while he was in Madinah; this delegation of Christians came from an area known as Najran. Amongst the Christian delegation were their main chiefs and leaders, and they stayed with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) for 3 days.
During this time, the chiefs of the Christians held discussions and debates with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the prophet’s mosque, they discussed the topic of Jesus and whether he was really God, the divine son of God, or a prophet as Islam teaches.
A large part of the 3rd chapter in the Quran, Surah Al-Imran, that talks about Jesus and his mother, were revealed in relation to the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) discussion with the Christians.
Not only did the Christians debate with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in his own mosque, saying such things as Jesus was God, and the son of God, they were also allowed to pray in his mosque as we read:
When the delegation of Najrani Christians came to the Prophet at Madinah, they entered his mosque in the afternoon to meet him. It was their prayer time, so they began to perform their prayer in the mosque. Some Muslims were about to prevent them from doing so, but the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said, ‘Let them pray.’ So they faced eastward and performed their prayer.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had allowed these Christians to pray in his very own mosque, a great sign of tolerance.
The Christians eventually didn’t come to an agreement with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) concerning matters of faith, they held to their Christian beliefs, but a treaty was made with the Muslims, in which the Christians of Najran would be protected under the Muslims and would be free to practice their faith in peace and safety.
- The Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) letter to Christian Monks of St. Catherine Monastery in the Mount Sinai
This letter that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sent to this group of Christians is another act and example of his tolerance. In the letter the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) promises their protection and their right to practice their Christian faith:
This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who profess Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily the servants, the helpers, my followers, and I defend them, because Christians are my citizens, and, by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are you to remove their judges from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they’re my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it can’t take place without her approval. No one is to prevent her from visiting her church to pray. You shall respect their churches. You shall neither prevent them from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey this covenant until the Last Day (end of the world).
So not only are Christians to be protected and allowed to practice their faith, the letter even says Muslims are to fight for the Christian community should they be under threat.
In conclusion we have seen 3 great examples of the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) tolerance towards people of other faiths, and indeed there are many more examples we could show. What these examples show is that contrary to what some may say, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was accepting and tolerant of people of other faiths, that he did not compel or force Islam unto them, and that he did not ban or bar them from practicing their faith.
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