Islam and Religious Tolerance

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

The Light (Pakistan), 1st March 1922 Issue (Vol. 1, No. 6, pp. 1–2)

Writing on the Caliphate in The Moslem World (a Christian missionary paper), Dr Margoliouth thus ends his distorted version of the history of the Caliphate:

“If Western Civilization means anyth­ing, it means that no man may be subjected to disabilities because of the creed which he professes or adopts; Islam by its maxims, subjects those who do not profess it to disabilities and those who abandon it to outlawry. How can anyone who claims religious toleration demand that such a system should have a new lease of political power?”

I am not here concerned with the correct­ness or otherwise of Dr Margoliouth’s claims for Western civilisation. Instances are not wanting in which men have suffered disabili­ties for coming over from Christianity to Islam. But Dr Margoliouth would have done well if he had added the word colour to the word creed in his claim for Western civilisation. Happily, the learned doctor puts in a claim for Western civilisation and not for Christianity. Perhaps he knew that the statement would in that case be too absurd even in a Christian missionary paper.

As regards his attack on the tolerance of Islam, he only gives vent to the bigoted and narrow views of the ordinary Christian missionary. Religious toleration may have been adopted by Western civilisation as a measure of expediency, but it was first pro­nounced as an article of faith by Islam. It is the Holy Quran which first laid down the broad principle:

“There shall be no compul­sion in religion” (The Holy Quran, 2:256).

It is the Holy Quran which laid it down as a fundamental principle of Islam that a Muslim should believe in the prophethood of all the great prophets of the world:

“And those who believe in what has been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee” (The Holy Quran, 2:4).

And again:

“Say, we believe in Allah and (in) that which has been revealed to us, and (in) that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and (in) that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and (in) that which was given to the prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them” (The Holy Quran, 2:136).

And still again:

“There is no nation in which a warner has not passed” (The Holy Quran, 35:24).

And lastly, it is the Holy Quran which required its followers to fight, not only for the maintenance of religious freedom for the Muslims but also for the Jews and the Christians and all worshippers of God generally. The Muslims were persecuted with all the severity to which religious persecution can go; they had to flee from their homes and the sword was then taken up by their oppo­nents to annihilate them. It was at this stage that the Muslims were allowed by the Holy Quran to take up the sword in self-defence, but not only in defence of Islam and its places of worship, but also in defence of the places of worship of all other religions. Read the following:

“And had there not been Allah’s repelling some people by others, certainly there would have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues, and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered; and surely Allah will help him who helps His cause” (The Holy Quran, 22:40).

Here, the cause of Allah is not only the defence of mosques but also of churches and synagogues and even of the cloisters of monks.

Is there any other heavenly book in the world which contains any of these principles of religious tolerance? No one shall be compelled to adopt a religion; every re­ligious reformer shall be respected and even honoured as a prophet of God; and every place of worship shall be defended.

It is Islam which established these principles in the world thirteen hundred years ago, and the exponents of Christianity mean to throw dust into the eyes of the world by claiming every good for themselves and putting every blame on Islam, even against the clearest facts.