Books and Documents

Islam and Pluralism

The beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever violates the rights of the People of the Book, I will complain against them on the Day of Judgment." Violence against religious minorities should outrage every Muslim with a conscience because such violence is a misrepresentation of our beloved Prophet Muhammad and transgression of the core of our beliefs. We pray that God will help us to stand for what is right and leave all that is evil and promote understanding and harmony amongst each other. Let us work together to stop violence of all forms against all people. -- Imam Mohamed Magid

History stands testimony that power-intoxicated nations in the hour of their victory forced conversion or opened Inquisition Courts. But, let it be recognized, no Muslim ruler was ever known to have burnt Kafir to death on religious grounds. And that is why in the centres of Muslim power for centuries like Delhi, Lucknow, Agra, Bhopal, Hyderabad etc the overwhelming Hindu majority maintained its growth rate. With pronouncing la ikraha fi deen (there is no coercion in your religious affairs) and lakum dinakum walya deen (to you your religion and to me mine) Islam - some 1450 years before - guided humanity to peaceful coexistence, universal brotherhood, tolerance and accommodation.-- Hassan Zainagairee

As international criticism has mounted, an Iranian official has alleged that Nadarkhani is being prosecuted not for his faith but for crimes including rape and extortion. Nadarkhani's attorney, however, says the only charge the pastor has faced is apostasy, and court documents support this assertion. Although Iran's penal code does not include a specific provision for apostasy, judges are given a fairly wide degree of latitude to issue rulings based on their own interpretation of Islamic law. -- Roxana Saberi

They feel it is anti-Hindu bill meant to harass Hindus and as many Dalits use untouchability law against upper caste Hindus this bill will be used by Muslims against Hindus. As Gujarat like riots had not taken place before this bill become necessary. I also told them that I have personally investigated most of these riots in which more than 35 thousand innocent people were killed and found that with few exceptions administration and police were biased.  Not only that I told them how in Hashimpura, Meerut in 1987 the PAC Commandant Tripathi and his cohorts pulled out 54 people from their houses , all between 20 to 25 years old, shot them dead in cold blood and threw their bodies into Hindon canal two of which survived to tell the tale. But not one of them has been so far punished. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Building Multiculturalism
Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

Multiculturalism has come under increasing attack in the last few years in Europe, as societies struggle to make sense of how to bring together communities of diverse backgrounds. Establishing justice is also a priority for all religions, as well as for modern society. If multicultural societies hold the key to realising a more just society, then the only wise option is to harness their vitality. Muslims are inherently connected through the concept of the Ummah, the global multicultural Muslim nation. Future leaders will need to deal with the diversity of its population of 1.6 billion, as well as with the diversity of the entire global community. Furthermore, most Muslim countries have large minority populations, or are themselves significant minorities increasingly taking up leadership positions. -- Shelina Zahra Janmohamed


Through religious programs, TVs are bringing into everyone’s living rooms strict interpretations of religious teachings in a modern context, which could jeopardize pluralism and religious tolerance. The head of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI), Sasa Juarsa Sendjaja, said Indonesian media was generally doing a good job promoting pluralism. “However, there are attempts, here and there, from the majority to dominate the minority,” he said. The majority of people in Indonesia are Muslims. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has often stipulated divisive edicts or fatwa. In 2005, the MUI released an edict stating that pluralism, liberalism and religious secularism were haram.  Since then, a number of Fatwas have been released, including a ban on smoking, women riding on the back motorcycles, hair straightening, hair-dyeing and on taking pre-wedding pictures. “That’s why Islam in Java has rituals such as sekaten… because of the mix of culture,” he said of the ritual welcoming the Islamic New Year. Television is a very important media to promote pluralism, Syafi’I said. Religious leaders in TV programs should use a persuasive method that will give religion a friendly face.  Progressive Islamic scholar Maman Imanulhaq Faqieh who leads the Islamic boarding school Al-Mizan in Yogyakarta said intolerance stemmed from religious leaders applying religious teachings out of context. “Some religious leaders lack wisdom when examining the problems plaguing society,” he said. -- By Prodita Sabarini

These two frames sound and look so unusual and extraordinary because we, as a state and society both, have outsourced our moral and constitutional responsibilities to provide guarantee of freedom of faith and practice for our religious minorities to the murderous militant mullahs. These odious men do not tolerate even a slight difference of view among themselves, let alone other religions. No Muslim society, other than possibly Afghanistan and Somalia, may have shown such callous disregard to its rights and duties, particularly towards religious minorities as we have. The irony is that there seems to be little official or public remorse, resentment or a sense of loss visible anywhere. Conversely, there are completely inconceivable public rallies to support coldblooded unrepentant killers like Mumtaz Qadri and Malik Ishaq. Where on earth do people ever take out support rallies to glorify killers except in our country? How do you explain or condone this sub-human public behaviour and on what religious, ethical or legal grounds? Will any faqih (expert in Islamic jurisprudence), any mufti — the keepers of our public morality — please speak up? -- Mehboob Qadir

Restitution for Minorities
Yasser Latif Hamdani

At its zenith, which came during the period in the 16th century when Suleiman the Magnificent was ruling Turkey, the Ottoman imperial project stretched from Austria to Armenia and down to the Arabian Peninsula. Contrary to the post-hoc imagination of the 20th century Khilafatists, the great Muslim suzerainty over this great mass of land was for the most part secular. The growing intolerance towards minorities, forced or otherwise, sectarian or religious, in Pakistan in recent times underscores on some level the need to revert to the Ottoman Millet System of religious pluralism. Similarly, anti-incitement legislation that targets religious provocation against constitutionally declared non-Muslims should also be introduced as is the constitutional duty of the state under Article 2-A aforesaid. The state needs to also establish special tribunals for the redressal of grievances by the minorities. -- Yasser Latif Hamdani


To allay the fears of secular Tunisians, an Ennahada spokeswoman clarified that the social gains made by Tunisian women would not be threatened by her party. She insisted that her party had no intentions of forcing women to wear the Hijab, or dress in any way they didn’t want to. She also said it was Ennahada’s policy to encourage more women to join the workforce. “Gender equality in the work place is a central plank in our platform”, she pronounced. For our benighted clerics, I have no doubt Ennahada and AK would be considered heretics. Both Tunisia and Turkey are tolerant about alcohol, for example: they realise that a ban would discourage tourism, a major source of foreign exchange. And while more women are seen wearing the headscarf in Turkey than when I first went there, many others dress in revealing Western clothes. Personal choice about what to wear is just not the big deal our clerics make it out to be. The Taliban, of course, take dress and appearance to a whole different level. From their ban on men shaving to women being caned for exposing an inch of their ankles, we have a stone-age group that wants to drag society back to the seventh century. -- Irfan Husain

The majority of those who have an antagonistic attitude and behaviour towards other religions have closed personalities. They are never open to those who are different. They are over-defensive and overprotective of their own superior beliefs. In the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, ‘diversity’ is defined as: “When many different types of things or people are included in something.” Diversity is a gift of God and different research and studies demonstrate that nature encourages diversity and it matters. If we just focus on our bodies we are blessed with different organs and these different organs have different functions. Diversity in bodily organs not only adds beauty to our physical being but also adds to the functionality of the body. We would not have been able to do various jobs if we were given a body with uniform functionality. Each and every part has a significant role to play in the body. In the Quran, God tells humanity: “Behold, we have created you all out of a male and a female and have formed you into tribes and nations so that you may get to know one another” (Surah Al-Hujurat, 49:13). It shows that diversity is God’s will. -- Dilnawaz Qamar

I am happy that finally someone has had the courage to frankly articulate the suppressed hopes and fears of mainstream Muslims in India. Addressing a public meeting of the Sufi Maha Panchayat at Moradabad, Maulana Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kachochavi declared: “Hamey Wahabiyon ki na Immanat kabool hai, na kayadat Kabul (We reject both the belief and politics of the Wahabis”). The gathering attended by thousands of Shia and Sunni Muslims applauded as he said: “lf anyone knocks on your door with the message of extremism, hand him over to the nearest police station.” Politics is the bane of all religions. But unlike other faiths, the Wahabis have enormous petrodollars at their disposal, funded by the so-called Saudi charities that have wrought havoc worldwide. Hopefully, the resilient multi-layered syncretic culture of Indonesia will be able to prevent the Wahabis from turning this picturesque secular country into another Pakistan where rose petals are being showered on the killer of the liberal Punjab governor Salman Taseer,--  Madanjeet Singh 

I call the above question tricky for a number of reasons. For anyone who is not aware, the most dangerous minority to be in Pakistan is not (contrary to popular belief) an Ahmadi, but an atheist, a disbeliever in any form of God(s); an apostate and therefore, directly wajibul qatl. While there may still be some room for debate about the discriminatory mention of Ahmadis in Pakistan’s constitution, so great is the taboo of atheism that it cannot even be whispered in close quarters with friends and family, let alone in parliament, the courts or the broader media sphere. Simply put, there is no room for atheism in Pakistan, so how can anyone possibly talk about it? You cannot praise an atheist in our land of the pure, as that is a tricky and dangerous minefield to tread. Even if the mullahs don’t get you, there is always the clear and present danger of marching out yet another awful journalistic cliché not unlike our fashion industry’s “brave” fashion shows to “defeat the Taliban mindset”. No, atheism framed as a (farcical) response to extremism in the country is also a joke, aside from the potential threat to life and limb. -- Jahanzaib Haque

....the site of the barbaric blitz by Breivik, once again ignited the shock that rocked not only Norway but every devotee of democracy, peace and sanctity of life anywhere on earth. It has also, rather warmly, accommodated immigrants from almost every faith and culture like Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, Sikhs and Muslims. About one fifth of its five million strong population are not Christians while nearly one hundred thousand of them are Muslims including about 32,000 from Pakistan. Yet this multiculturalism also rankles some rather refractory factions still yearning for the revival and exclusive supremacy of the pure Nordic breed and Christian faith. The extremists in the western and Muslim world, thus despite their venom and vitriolic against each other, are out to scuttle the shared world ideals for peace, democracy and a symbiotic global interaction to combat hunger, disease, degradation of the environment and the quality of life and habitat.-- Elf Habib


One important constituent of faith in Islam is that a Muslim should also have faith in all the earlier prophets and holy books and scriptures revealed to them along with having faith in the holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Islam’s divine book, the holy Quran has forbidden Muslims to speak ill of other religions and their gods and deities. In this way the Quran advocates a multicultural society where the followers of all religions live together and believe in peaceful coexistence. …

As all the prophets preached the same religion of tauheed (oneness of God), the ummahs of all the prophets were in principle, considered one ummah collectively. Because the prophets were human beings and lived a physical age, they had to die one day. That’s why God sent one prophet after another to continue the mission of spreading his message. However, God gave every ummah a different way of worship. But men also created differences to give their religions a new shape altogether. ... The followers of one religion believe that only they are on the right path and all the other religions are false and so deserve to go to hell. But contrary to their belief, the holy Quran says that the follower of any Abrahamic religion is righteous in the eyes of God if he obeys the teachings of his prophet, has faith in the unity of God, has faith in the Day of Judgment and abstains from sins. On the one hand, the Quran chides those who believe only in the truth of their own religion and, on the other, it gives glad tidings to all the righteous persons of every ummah:

“Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”(Al Baqra:62) -- Sohail Arshad, New AgeIslam.com

Sri Ramanand Saraswati Pustakalaya (SRSP) sits on a high plinth, overlooking green paddy fields and a swollen Ghaghra river. Mainly housing tomes in Hindi, SRSP is pride of Jokahra, a dusty village in Azamgarh, a district in UP with abysmally low literacy rate but high incidents of crime. It faces serious charges of nurturing several alleged terrorists, including Abu Salem. But more than the library, it's the librarain who is a centre of attraction for many."I was arrested too and imprisoned where I met Samad. He would get lavish home-cooked food and would often share it with me," he recalls. Before Samad was slapped with National Security Act (NSA) and transferred to another jail in Akola, he had promised Sharma that he would get him out. Though another jail bird, a builder, paid for Sharma's bail amount of Rs 2000, it is gangster Samad to whom Sharma returned after release.  "I had promised Samad that I would join him once I was out of jail. He too was released and I joined him," says Sharma without a trace of remorse. -- Adab Nawaz, NewAgeIslam.com


A few kilometers before it reaches the holy city of Ayodhya, the ancient river Saryu passes through Faizabad, founded by Awadh Nawab Shujaudaullah who also made it the province's capital. Faizabad doesn't have Ayodhya's aura or its festering religious controversy - neither does it have Lucknow's political skulduggery to keep it in the national eye. But thanks to a frail 70-yearold called Mohammed Sharif, the town has lately been acquiring some recognition. Sharif, an ordinary Muslim clad in traditional white kurta-pyjama and skull cap, is Faizabad's most famous Good Samaritan. This pious Muslim takes unclaimed Hindu corpses to a burning ghat and thinks nothing of stoking the burning pyre with a bamboo pole, something which is part of Hindu funeral rites. He does the same for unclaimed Muslim corpses as well, giving them a decent burial. "I believe every human being deserves the dignity of a funeral. I try to accord this to the unclaimed corpses that would otherwise rot in morgues or be thrown to the elements, “says Sharif, sweating profusely from the heat of a pyre. Little wonder then that every Faizabadi, whether from the crowded narrow streets of the chowks or the clean, leafy Civil Lines area, knows and loves "Sharif chacha". -- Mohammed Wajihuddin, Times News Network

Many people would readily blame religion for such killings but things are more complex. Religion is a tool which can be used for both establishing peace as well as for waging war.  Much depends on either individual or on group with certain ideology one belongs to. Obviously all individuals do not kill nor do all groups adopt far right ideologies. Is peace more integral to religion or hate?  Does one who hates ‘other’, loves one’s own people? I do not think answers are as simple as we would like to be. Religion can be what we want it to be. There are instances of religion being used for peace and also those of spreading hate. There are many deeply religious people who devoted their lives for the cause of peace and harmony. Foremost among them in our own times is Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. from USA. Gandhi stood for non-violence and so interpreted his religious tradition as well as other traditions like Christianity and Islam as to establish peace. Similarly a Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh firmly stood for peace in the face of horrible acts of violence committed by America in Vietnam.  We often condemn those who use religion for killing others as fundamentalists but interestingly those who use religion for peace too make very hard use of religion and are, in that sense, no less ‘fundamentalists’. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim attitudes and activities, known as Islamophobia, are increasingly finding place in the agenda of ultra-right wing political parties and civil societies in the West in their anti-immigrant and anti-multiculturalism policies, as was evident in the manifesto of the Norway killer. Their views are being promoted under the banner of freedom of expression while claiming that Muslims do not respect that right. No one has the right to insult another for their beliefs or to incite hatred and prejudice. That kind of behaviour is irresponsible and uncivilized. We also cannot overlook the fact that the world is diverse. The Western perception on certain issues would differ from those held by others. We need to be sensitive and appreciative of this reality, more so when it comes to criticizing or expressing views on issues related to religion and culture.--Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu

In the face of strong protests, over the years the Indian state was compelled to extend Scheduled Caste status to Sikh and Buddhist Dalits. Yet, it continues to deny the same to Christian and Muslim and Dalits. This is a clear violation of the Constitutional rights of these groups that number in the tens of millions. It is a patent act of discrimination on the basis of religion engaged in by the Indian state itself. It compels Dalits to identify themselves (often against their will, given the degraded status that Hinduism consigns them to) as ‘Hindus’, thereby artificially inflating Hindu numbers. Although the Brahminical texts, the basis of what is called ‘Hinduism’, clearly do not recognize Dalits as members of the Hindu society, treating them as ‘polluting’ beings and as avarnas or outside the four-fold Varna system, below even the degraded Shudras, by insisting that the Dalits identify themselves as ‘Hindus’ if they wished to enjoy Scheduled Caste status, in one stroke the Indian state engaged in a massive act of religious conversion, converting, through the force of law, millions of people to a religion that is predicated on the denial of their humanity. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Iftaar at a mosque from every denomination including: Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad, Wahhabi and others. You are welcome to join me or experience it yourselves, we have to learn to respect the differences and appreciate the uniqueness of each tradition. God says the best among you is the one who knows each other for peaceful co-existence. During the month of Ramadan, most mosques bring guest Imams and here at the Momin Center, Imam Nabi Raza was visiting from San Jose, California. He is from Richmond Town, Bangalore, and a fellow Bangalorean and has been in the states for nearly 20 years. He was excited about my visit to every mosque during Ramadan so we can learn to respect the uniqueness of each tradition. He talked about the extensive programs they have in the bay area Mosques where all the Sunnis and Shias gather up on occasions. He mentioned that they gather up 15-20,000 Audience in Bangalore to celebrate Prophet’s birthday (Maulood, Milaad). Insha Allah, God willing we may coordinate visiting Bangalore as I give a talk “Prophet the peace maker” every act of the prophet had one thing in common – conflict mitigations and goodwill nurturance. -- Mike Ghouse


When Islam emerged on the scene in early seventh century, Arabs were divided among different tribes but nevertheless spoke one language Arabic and more or less followed one religion (though had different traditions) i.e. worshipping different idols placed inside Ka’ba and some idols which were outside Mecca. Thus we cannot call that society a pluralist society. Of course there were Jews in Madina and Christians in some parts of Arabian Peninsula. So in that way it was a multi-religious society to an extent as Christians and Jews were in small minorities. We do not know about any religious conflict between pagan-Arabs and Jews and Christians. Though Judaism and Christianity were organized religions and Arabs had none, pagan Arabs were wary of accepting these religions for fear of political consequences. They thought Christianity is official religion of Roman Empire and converting to it may subjugate them to Roman Empire and they may lose their independence. Also, some Arabs in the border area who embraced Christianity were far from happy and they faced persecution from Roman Empire. Later they embraced Islam as mainly religion of the Arabs. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Behind the current conflict lies a long struggle for self-determination by the Uighur people. Although Xinjiang is in the far north-west of China, it is also culturally part of Central Asia and the Uighurs, who are the largest single ethnic group in Xinjiang, are Turkic-speaking Muslims. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Muslim Central Asian states gained their independence, the dormant Eastern Turkestan independence movement in Xinjiang was stirred into a revival. Religious activities, which have become less restricted in the rest of China, were curtailed in Xinjiang; children under the age of 18 and Communist Party and government officials were forbidden even to enter a mosque for prayers.-- Michael Dillon


The work is an outstanding and deep act of empathy. Not only has Collier managed an extremely balanced, historically accurate and engaging novel on the famous ruler, he has also written a book deeply engaged with Islam and with the righteous notes of the Islamic past. Given that Collier lives in Europe, which has developed a violent antipathy to Islam, his achievement is even more singular. ... When he proclaimed the Din-e-Ilahi, his attempt at a universal deism, and asked Man Singh whether he would take oath on that, the great Rajput is said to have responded, “My lord, I know only two religions, Hinduism and Islam, if you ask me to become a Muslim I will do so but I do not understand this third way!” That did not stop Akbar from instituting Sulh-e Kul, peace with all as the guiding force of his Empire. No wonder he has ever provided the role model for our secularism, a secularism that is as statist and government-heavy as it was under Akbar.-- Mahmood Farooqui(Photo: Book Cover: The Emperor’s Writings: Memories of Akbar the Great)

The inherent secular nature of Islam is evident from the following Quranic verses: “Had God willed, they had not been idolatrous. We have not set thee as a keeper over them, nor art thou responsible for them” (6:107) and “Do not revile those unto whom they pray beside God, lest they wrongfully revile God through ignorance” (6:108). Islam does not preach coercion of believers of other faiths as the Holy Quran says, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and “(So) for you is your religion and for me is my religion” (109:6). According to Abu Dawood 3:170, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Beware! If anyone dared oppress a member of minority community or usurped his right or tortured him more than his endurance or took something away forcibly without his consent, I would fight (against such Muslims) on his behalf on the Day of Judgment.” At another point the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever killed a member of a minority community, he would not smell the fragrance of paradise though fragrance of paradise would cover the distance of forty years (of travelling)” (Ibne Rushd, Badiya-tul-Mujtahid, 2:299).

The phrase ‘laa ilaaha illa Allah’ (there is no deity except God) is one of the major pillars of the Muslim faith. The phrase echoed in the slogan “Pakistan ka matlab kya: Laa ilaaha illa Allah” as the struggle for the creation of Pakistan was nearing its completion, despite the fact that most of the religious leaders and parties were against this idea and joined the chorus at a later stage when the creation of a separate homeland became inevitable.-- Dr. Irfan Zafar

Muslims and Secularism
Ghulam Mohiyuddin, Writer, Commentator
Muslims and Secularism
Ghulam Mohiyuddin, New Age Islam

What our Prophet brought to us was a religion for the masses. It is a religion of common sense. It builds on our innate sense of what is right and what is good. Getting such a simple and pure religion wafted about by ‘scholarly’, long-winded and futile disputations is unfortunate. Particularly problematic are statements of many Islamic leaders expressing their insistence on establishing ‘Sharia Laws’, and their opposition to democratic and secular forms of government. Our ulama and scholars should instead expound on what the Quran has to say about issues such as the following: (1) Getting along with our non-Muslim neighbors. (2) Respecting the religions and beliefs of non-Muslims. (3) Equality of men and women. (4) Freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom to dissent. (5) Using only humane forms of punishments for criminals. (6) Democratic forms of government. (7) Secularism, separation of state from religion, and equal rights for minorities. (8) Avoiding violence and considering murder of innocent civilians to be an abominable act. (9) Resolving problems through reconciliation and compromise. (10) Not being spiteful or vindictive and (11) upholding the dignity of men and women.

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