Religious Pluralism and Civic Rights in a “Muslim Nation”: An Analysis of Prophet Muhammad’s Covenants with Christians

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When assessing current trends in Muslim-Christian relations, there is a tendency to view this complex relationship through the prism of contemporary events alone. Any account of Muslim-Christian relations, however, must consider historical processes and events in order to position current developments in their appropriate context. Before embarking on contemporary issues affecting Muslim and Christian communities, a few historical issues are in order. In the modern era (1500–1945 CE), the major part of the “Muslim world” was ruled by “Christian civilization”. During this period, the Islamic world, as noted by Armstrong, was “convulsed by the modernization process.Instead of being one of the leaders of world civilization, Islamdom was quickly and permanently
reduced to a dependent bloc by the European powers” [1]. Europeans assumed that European culture had always been progressive and that Muslim societies were backward, inefficient, and corrupt [1].

European colonialists in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia also wreaked havoc by plundering Islamic economies and supplanting Islamic educational systems with secular or Christianity-based systems [2]. These kind of colonial interactions had a decisive influence on the religious and political relations between Muslims and Christians, and shaped not least the mutual theological images and assessments of the other [3]. Towards the end of European colonial rule, the Ottoman Empire crumbled,which created a vacuum in the Middle East that contributed to tensions between local inhabitants
and external powers of interests. As World War I ended, “Westerners”—primarily the British—“saw an opportunity to bring modern coherence to [Arabia] by imposing new kingdoms of their owndevising, as long as the kings would be compliant with the strategic interests of the British Empire” [4].

When the British and other European powers (such as the French) drew up state borders in the MiddleEast, they paid little attention to the ethnic and religious division within Arabian societies. Muslims today see these historic events as influencing the development of Islamic societies as well as shaping perceptions of Christians living within their own borders and around the “Western world”.

FULL ARTICLE HERE (PDF) from academia.edu 

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Muslims consider Queen Elizabeth’s ties to the Prophet Muhammad

20180407_MAP004_0“QUEEN ELIZABETH must claim her right to rule Muslims.” So ran a recent headline on the Arab Atheist Network, a web forum. It was only partly in jest. According to reports from Casablanca to Karachi, the British monarch is descended from the Prophet Muhammad, making her a cousin of the kings of Morocco and Jordan, not to mention of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.

The claim, first made many years ago, is gathering renewed interest in the Middle East. Why is not clear, but in March a Moroccan newspaper called Al-Ousboue traced the queen’s lineage back 43 generations. Her bloodline runs through the Earl of Cambridge, in the 14th century, across medieval Muslim Spain, to Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter. Her link to Muhammad has previously been verified by Ali Gomaa, the former grand mufti of Egypt, and Burke’s Peerage, a British authority on royal pedigrees.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ECONOMIST 

Trump could learn a thing or two about freedom and democracy from Islam

TOPIX_Trump_Travel_Ban_Protest_48816.jpg-e3483From his hateful tweets and provocative rhetoric to his “new” executive order banning Muslims and refugees all over again, President Trump is driven by the idea that Islam is a threat to what makes us American.

Trump has declared that “Islam hates us.” “There is,” he says, “an unbelievable hatred.” Stephen K. Bannon, one of his chief advisers, claims that “we are in an outright war against … Islam” and doubts whether“Muslims that are shariah-adherent can actually be part of a society where you have the rule of law and … are a democratic republic.” He believes Islam is “much darker” than Nazism and seems to agree with HUD Secretary Ben Carson that “Islam is a religion of domination.”

But Trump and his administration could learn a thing or two about American values such as freedom and equality from the religion and people they so hate.

In Islam’s founding story, after Muhammad’s death, it was unclear who would lead the nascent Muslim community. Typically, succession disputes make for great drama. This one, however, was more C-SPAN than “Game of Thrones.” Rather than intrigue or bloodshed, the believers pursued democracy. Only by the people’s consent, they reckoned, could a ruler justly be named and a community freely governed. They chose Abu Bakr, one of Muhammad’s companions. His inauguration speech, according to one of Muhammad’s earliest biographers Ibn Ishaq, was brief (though we’re not sure how big the crowd was). It went something like this: “I’m no better than any of you. Only obey me if I do right. Otherwise, resist me. Loyalty means speaking truth. Flattery is treason. No human, but God alone is your lord.”

Abu Bakr sought to guard the people against domination by making himself accountable to them. The people obliged, securing their liberty. They could call him out at any time, and he had to listen. He even had to ask their permission for new clothes. His successor Umar carried the legacy forward. Publicly rebuked by a woman for overstepping the law, Umar responded: “That woman is right, and I am wrong! It seems that all people have deeper wisdom and insight than me.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

ISIL violence against Christians dishonors Islam’s earliest history

Women gather near flowers and candles at the city hall in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray to pay tribute to Father Jacques Hamel, who was killed in an attack on a church
Women gather near flowers and candles at the town hall in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen in Normandy, France, to pay tribute to French priest, Father Jacques Hamel, who was killed with a knife and another hostage seriously wounded in an attack on a church that was carried out by assailants linked to Islamic State, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol – RTSJS29

. . . [I]n the northwest of France, two Muslim terrorists attacked a Catholic church, taking nuns hostage and killing an elderly priest, before they themselves were shot dead by police. It certainly fits the pattern of ISIL violence: vile, shocking, made for media, and—something we talk about less—standing in stark opposition to the very religious tradition they claim to represent.

 Violence against Christians isn’t just un-Islamic: It dishonors the earliest history of Islam.
The Prophet and the King

When he first started preaching Islam in the year 610, Muhammad attracted very few followers. One was his close friend, Abu Bakr, another was his young cousin, Ali, and the first Muslim was his wife, Khadija. By and large, the new faith attracted lowborn and the marginal people who belonged to minor tribes or, worse, had no tribal affiliation. When the predictable backlash began, these newly minted Muslims were especially vulnerable. Most had no patrons to protect them.

 Desperate to find his followers a safe haven, Muhammad dispatched the most vulnerable Muslims across the Red Sea to what is now Ethiopia, where he promised they would find refuge under a just and Christian king. He believed that because Islam and Christianity emerged out of the same Prophetic tradition, the king would show mercy. And he was correct.
  History has shown that Islam and Christianity can exist in harmony. The king’s act of accepting the Muslim refugees provoked a minor diplomatic incident among wary Meccan elites. The upper class feared that Islam and Christianity had much in common. Now Islam had a head of state as a potential patron, making it potentially even more influential. But despite the best attempts of the Meccan establishment, the Ethiopian king refused to hand over the refugees.

The resonance of this historical anecdote should not be lost on us today. Irrespective of the propaganda produced by a political ideology masquerading as a religion, history has shown that Islam and Christianity can exist in harmony. The Prophet Muhammad believed that fairness and decency weren’t the property of any one community, and several of the Prophet’s companions are still buried on Ethiopia’s Christian land.

FULL ARTICLE FROM QUARTZ 

What Prophet Muhammad’s covenants with Christians say about IS

أقباط-مصريون-في-مظاهرة-3Picture this. A Muslim leader reaches out to a group of Christians and invites them to his country. The Christians happily accept the invitation, while the Muslim leader prepares his people for their arrival. This is the first time the two communities have met in an official delegation. Matters of state, politics and religion are the topics of discussion. The two groups see eye-to-eye on most issues, but also agree to disagree on theological issues. If one phrase can best describe their meeting, it is “mutual respect”.

At the end of their talks, the Christians tell the Muslims, “It is time for us to pray”. The problem for the Christians is that there is no church nearby to worship. Instead of letting the Christians pray on the dirty street, the Muslim leader tells the Christians, “You are followers of the one true God, so please come pray inside my mosque. We are all brothers in humanity.” The Christians agree to use the “Islamic space” as their own. A bridge between these religious communities is made in the name of peace and goodwill.

This story is not some fairytale. It is a historical fact (I did, however, make-up quotes based on how the interaction might have played out). The Muslim leader of the story is Prophet Muhammad and the Christians are from Najran, or modern-day Yemen. The event happened in Medina in 631 AD. This moment in time represents one of the first examples of Muslim-Christian dialogue, but more importantly, one of the first acts of religious pluralism in Islamic history.

Now fast forward to 2016 in Damascus, Syria. The city – and much of the Middle East – has plunged into darkness. Pastor Edward Awabdeh leads a prayer in a Church despite threats on his life by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) militant group. Pastor Awabdeh maintains the Christian faith, although many of his religion have fled a country which is now ranked the fifth most dangerous country in the world to be a Christian.

The militant group regularly persecutes religious minorities in the large swathes of Syrian territory it has taken, and its ultimate aim is to destroy all traces of Christianity in the Middle East.

But to put it bluntly, the daily abductions, murders, beheadings and destruction perpetrated by IS fanatics on the vulnerable Christians of the Middle East directly contradict Prophet Muhammad’s vision of an Islamic state.

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Muslim pilgrims walk outside the Prophet Mohammed Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Medina on December 13, 2008. Statistics put the total number of pilgrims who attended this year’s annual hajj pilgrimage last week at more than 2.4 million, almost 1.73 million from abroad and 679,000 from within the kingdom, according to the official SPA news agency. AFP PHOTO/KHALED DESOUKI / AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI

FULL ARTICLE FROM MIDDLE EAST EYE

Nancy Pelosi Invokes Prophet Muhammad at National Prayer Breakfast, Compares Islam and Christianity

12102015_obama-kennedy-center-hon-268201_c0-211-5010-3129_s400x233House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., invoked the Islamic prophet Muhammad at Thursday’s National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., and compared aspects of the Christian and Islamic faiths.

Pelosi, a Roman Catholic, was one of the number of political and faith leaders to speak at the annual prayer breakfast, and mentioned in her speech some of the similarities she sees between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

“In the Gospel of John we see the golden rule that stands at the heart of the gospel, and as we hear these words from John 13, 15, and 17, we know that this message, this command of love is not confined to the New Testament,” Pelosi said, according to The Daily Caller.

“The same message stands at the center of the Torah and the teachings of the prophet Muhammad too. In the Torah it says, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ and from Muhammad, ‘none of you has faith until he loves for his neighbor or brother what he loves for himself.'”

Comparisons between Islam and Christianity have stirred notable controversy in evangelical circles in recent months, particularly with the ongoing case of a Wheaton College professor who is facing termination for suggesting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN POST 

ISIS Violates The Consensus Of Mainstream Islam By Persecuting Christians

0,,17730405_404,00In central Syria, Daesh (“ISIS”) recently destroyed an ancient monastery and a church. This, after abducting several Christians, in what has become the group’s long scourge on humanity. While global Muslim leaders have categorically condemned Daesh, Daesh continues to insist their acts are permitted — even commanded — by Islam.

But if, as Daesh claims, Islam obliges Muslims to raze monasteries, kidnap Christians and rape women, then several questions arise.

For example, how then did an ancient Christian monastery survive this long? Built in 432, or roughly 180 years before Islam’s advent, this monastery withstood nearly 1,500 years of Muslim rule in peace.

Likewise, how did Syria’s 2.3 million Christians, or 10 percent of the Syrian population, survive all these centuries? For centuries, Muhammad and Muslims have practiced a religion foreign to the one Daesh practices.

Contrary to Daesh’s ignorance and propaganda, Prophet Muhammad sought to protect the rights of Christians.

To begin with, the Qur’an 3:114 praises Christians and refers to them as “the People of the Book,” afforded immense respect. The Qur’an 2:63 additionally acknowledges that Christians can and will attain divine reward. Moreover, the Qur’an 22:40-41 explicitly forbids destroying any house of worship, including churches.

Irrespective of what religion people follow, the Qur’an 60:9 commands Muslims to be kind and equitable to all those who do not persecute them and drive them out of their homes on account of their faith. Likewise, the Qur’an 8:61-63 forbids fighting anyone, regardless of faith, who “inclines towards peace.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST