Peaceful coexistence between believing societies and other societies

By His Eminence, the late Religious Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra)

There exists an essential rule that governs the state of coexistence between the Muslim community and other communities; the way of dealing with the reality in life that imposes the existence of other forces that might differ with Islam at the level of the thought, Shariah, and daily life. It also imposes the inevitability of dealing with such communities, even if for the existing phase that might be long or short; i.e. its duration is determined according to the movement of Islam in life. Actually, this renders peaceful coexistence a vital issue necessary for the survival and stability of the Muslim community, as well as its security and reality on the ground…

The reason is that the issues of struggle in all life aspects in terms of the message and the thought have objective circumstances that have no room for war or for attaining the practical conclusive results through war. This necessitates seeking results for the problems related to the movement of the doctrine or reality within the other communities with which we might agree on the general principles, although we might differ with them horizontally and vertically. Moreover, we might even agree with them on the general interests concerned with the unity of the country in which we dwell or the unity of the objective circumstances that govern our course in life…

Thus, we cannot but notice how the practical dealing of Islam with the atheists at the beginning of the Call differ from that at its end, which is evident in the stand that Islam took with regard to the People of the Book and how it differentiated between the Christians and Jews through the way each party dealt with the Islamic call, as mentioned in the following Ayah: “Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly. And when they hear what has been revealed to the messenger you will see their eyes overflowing with tears on account of the truth that they recognize; they say: Our Lord! We believe, so write us down with the witnesses (of truth).” (05:82-83).

Moreover, some Quranic Ayahs make a distinction between the two parties according to the peaceful or aggressive attitude each adopts when dealing with Islam, for Allah says: “It may be that Allah will bring about friendship between you and those whom you hold to be your enemies among them; and Allah is Powerful; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of (your) religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely Allah loves the doers of justice. Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of (your) religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up (others) in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust.” (60: 07-09).

This Ayah clarifies the way Islam calls for dealing with the evenhanded atheists who do not commit any aggressive act against Muslims, whether directly or indirectly; which is that Muslims are encouraged to make friends with them, which does not conform to adopting war as a basis for the general relation with them… Actually, in this respect, it must be noted that any way of dealing is subjected, first and foremost, to the considerations of the supreme Islamic interest in terms of war or peace, or the general plan for the movement of belief in the face of disbelief…

To sum up, Islam accredits peaceful coexistence with the other religions or doctrines according to the needs of the reality, in a way that does not affect its continuous pursuit to control the system of life, on the one hand, and does not violate its general concepts, on the other hand. Thus, the ways of peaceful coexistence in the Islamic legislation and as practically applied by Prophet Muhammad (p.) - whose biography represents a legislation to the Muslims in their practical reality - represent an exemplar to flexibility and embodies the wisdom which constitutes the basis of the call, whether in terms of delivering the Message or the changing reality Islam came to teach people how to deal with.

[Extracted from the book “General Islamic concepts”] 

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