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Justice to disbelievers from a Quranic perspective

By: Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

  Amongst the Quranic verses on justice is a verse that talks about how to deal with peaceful disbelievers, for disbelievers are of two kinds: those who are in a state of war with Muslims, displacing them and offending them with various aggressive means, and those who are peaceful but differ with the Muslims on the religious/conviction level, for they simply do not believe in Islam, yet they coexist with Muslims just as various groups coexist together in a pluralistic society.

  Concerning the peaceful disbelievers, the Quran confirms that we ought to treat them kindly, by offering them all means of charity and kindness, and treat them with justice. However, concerning the other category, we ought to take a firm stand toward them, for they have declared enmity against Muslims, knowing that Muslims never declare enmity on others or offend them, for Allah has ordained us to use all our means and methods in a way that turns our enemies into our friends, instead of turning friends or ordinary people into our enemies.

  Allah, the Most Exalted, says: “Allah does not forbid you from treating kindly those who have not made war against you on account of (your) religion - those who did not declare war on you just because you are Muslims while they are not, but rather they accepted the religious difference between you and them in an objective and peaceful manner - and have not driven you forth from your homes - meaning that they did not plan, through their political and military power, to drive you out of your homes and displace you from your land, but rather they were peaceful and coexisted with you in one homeland or neighboring homelands, just as one peaceful person coexists with another - that you show them kindness - for kindness reaches out to all the human relations that are based on cooperation, communication, and giving”.

  "And deal with them justly - that is, every person ought to be given his right; thus, you ought to treat them in a just manner for if they have a certain right on you, then you should not deprive them of this right - surely Allah loves the doers of justice” (60:08).

  Therefore, we should realize that we ought to respect all the rights and properties of the peaceful disbelievers, and it is impermissible to usurp the money of a non-Muslim, under the pretext that he is a disbeliever. This is prevalent in some Fatwas that many people who travel to the east or the west make use of, just as what used to happen in Lebanon when people, in times of chaos and turmoil, used to attack and rob a certain bank or store under the pretext that their owners are disbelievers. However, it must be noted that as long as they are peaceful, no one is allowed to usurp their money or violate their honor. Moreover, we used to and still deem illegitimate the acts carried out by a few young immigrants, even in America, Europe, Australia, Canada and elsewhere, such as when someone insures his store at a certain insurance company and later burns it, so as to receive the compensation sum, or when people make use of a few laws that facilitate usurping people's money, so one would go to the bank, borrow some money, and eventually elude, or enters into a supermarket, grab some stuff and run away. All these kinds of acts are impermissible if the offended people living in the society are peaceful and not in a state of war with Muslims, for Allah says: "Allah does not forbid you from treating kindly those who have not made war against you…" but rather: "Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of (your) religion - those who have declared war against you on account of your religion - and drove you forth from your homes - displaced you, just as the Jews had displaced the Palestinians from their lands - and backed up (others) in your expulsion - they helped others to displace you, just as a few states do.

  Moreover, we should differentiate between the state and the people. For example, the American Administration always helps Israel and has occupied Iraq and Afghanistan; however, only a few of the American people approve of that, whereas the majority does not - "that you make friends with them - to support, befriend, and ally with them - and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust", (60:09), the ones who have oppressed themselves and their peoples.

  Therefore, we understand from these two verses that it is impermissible for Muslims to offend peaceful disbelievers, regardless to which religion they belong…

  Moreover, Allah has told about the Jews and how they confiscate the money of non-Jews and how He dispraises them for that, for He says: "And among the followers of the Book there are some such that if you entrust one (of them) with a heap of wealth, he shall pay it back to you - entrustment requires returning what was entrusted to its owner - and among them there are some such that if you entrust one (of them) with a dinar he shall not pay it back to you except so long as you remain firm in demanding it - you should always ask for what is yours. Why? Because they are not trustworthy except with the Jews - this is because they say: There is not upon us in the matter of the unlearned people any way (to reproach)." (03:75). In the Jewish conception, the unlearned people are the non-Jews, especially Arabs, considering that illiteracy was prevalent at that time during which the Arabs had no culture and could not manage to read, so the Jews used to say that they shoulder no responsibility towards the unlearned people; thus, they are entitled to confiscate their money.

  If any of our brothers living in the West has this mentality, then he would be giving others the idea that Muslims can confiscate the money of non-Muslims; thus, the Muslims would lose the trust of people from all other religions in them. Therefore, no one would ever partner with them anymore, or lend them money or cooperate with them, just as when we know that nothing would deter a certain person from confiscating our money, would we partner or even deal with him?

  Actually, these misconceptions harm us and distort the true image of Islam and Muslims; thus, we ought to treat people the way we like to be treated. Therefore, if we want people to treat us with integrity and honesty, we ought to take the initiative and treat them as such in order to be able to coexist with each other (especially that on basis of our religion we can be easily harmonious with all people of different orientations thought wise and otherwise).

  We are in need for this world, and in return, this world is in need for us, especially if we share the same homeland, just as the case in Lebanon, where there exists multiple sects and convictions. If such a society does not enjoy trust on the basis of joint living, then it is impossible to establish a homeland, or achieve any progress and development, neither economically nor security-wise.

  We ought to be aware of this issue in order to reveal the bright image of Islam, for Islam is the religion of justice. Islam is equally just toward the disbeliever and believer, the enemy and friend, and the close ones and distant ones. Therefore, man ought to treat all people justly and not to oppress anyone, for a tradition of the infallible pure holds (a.s.) reports: "Allah enjoined one of His prophets living in a country under the rule of a tyrant: "To go to this tyrant and tell him that I did not make use of you to shed the blood (of the people) and gather wealth. I made use of you to soothe the cries of the wronged, because you should not neglect their plight even if they were disbelievers - even if they were disbelievers, I will avenge their right from their oppressors".

  We conclude that it is impermissible to oppress disbelievers just as it is impermissible to oppress believers, which grants Islam its bright image. Moreover, there is one thing we all ought to understand, especially us, the Shiites who follow the sect of the twelve Imams, which is that we are awaiting the appearance of Imam Al-Mahdi (May Allah hasten his relief), whose message and agenda seeks establishing justice. Imam Al-Mahdi is the one who "will fill out the earth with justice and equity as it has been filled with oppression and tyranny," meaning that his message calls for universal justice in the entire universe, so if we do not act justly, how could we be amongst his supporters?! Unfortunately, some people oppress their wives, mothers, fathers, children, and neighbors, yet they say that when the time comes, they will support the Imam; however, with the oppression they practice, they would actually be on the opposite side!

  Therefore, our nation ought to be that of justice, for our religion is the religion that calls for this humane value, knowing that the results of these issues are directly related to this world and the Hereafter. Therefore, we ought to keep that in mind and open up to the entire reality, whether at the political, social, economic, security, or family levels; for we have a tradition that says: "Make yourself a balance between you and others, love for them what you love for yourself and hate what you hate for yourself."