Non-Muslims in Islam

On Muslim hypocrisy in not defending other persecuted peoples

Salam Aleikoum. I wonder how we Muslims are against that quraysh was persecuting muslims at that time and all the suffering they had to go through,but many muslims today are doing the same. they are OK with the fact that shias/ismailis /sufis are persecuted in many muslim countries. Isn't that hypocrisy?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

That is very true. I recently wrote an article about how we should criticize the injustices committed by Saudi Arabia and the result was a great deal of hate mail because people do not like their nations to be criticized even if it is justified criticism.

The fact is that Muslims are humans who act like other humans. Few among them live up to Islam’s high spiritual ideals. The Quran tells us that Prophet Ibrahim tried to save the people of Lot despite knowing them to be great sinners, but if you look at Muslims today you will see that many of them lack the spiritual maturity to see the tragedy in the destruction of a sinful people and may even celebrate it.

We should not blame the failure of Muslims on Islam, but on their human nature. Look at any Muslim population and you will be able to see various negatives. But take away Islam from them and they will become worse, not better. Islam’s critics blame Islam for the problems of the Middle East but are generally completely blind to the fact that Christian Latin America is doing much worse than the Middle East when it comes to many things (homicide rates and scientific research output are two examples).

We can criticize the intolerance of India’s rural Muslims, but compare them to India’s rural Hindus and you will find that the Muslims are doing much better when it comes to many things.

If we compare most Muslim countries to Western Europe, then the Muslim countries will look worse, because they have yet to catch up to the same level. But if we do a fair comparison, comparing the Muslims of any country with its non-Muslims, we see that the Muslims are actually better, not worse. Swedish converts to Islam are just as nice, kind and open-minded as Swedish Christians and agnostics. Egyptian Muslims are in no way inferior to Egyptian Christians. Honor killings, which people like to blame Islam for, are common in India among the Hindus and Christians. Whatever problems Muslims have are better explained by the state of their society rather than their religion, and if we look at the non-Muslims around them, we see them suffer from the exact same problems and often worse ones. A Muslim migrant in Sweden will often be worse than the native population when it comes to many things, and the West’s many amateur sociologists will blame that on Islam and ignore the fact that a non-Muslim migrant from the same country will have exactly the same problems and probably worse ones.

It takes a great deal of education for people to start to have empathy for outsiders. Westerners only started to see non-Westerners as proper humans about two hundred years ago, Muslim societies are developing in the same (good) direction, but change takes time and should be measured in generations, not months or years. The Muslim world is changing very fast. We can look at the example of Indonesia:

In 1950 there were 10 institutions of higher learning with a total of about 6,500 students. In 1970, 450 private and state institutions enrolled about 237,000 students. By 1990 there were 900 institutions with about 141,000 teachers and nearly 1.5 million students. By 2009 there were 2,975 institutions of higher education and more than 4.2 million students. (From Wikipedia)

The Islamic world is entering a phase that has never been seen before, and that is going to change everything. For all of Islam’s history until recently, the number of people who could read and write was often around 1-2% of the population. Today the literacy rate is approaching 100% in most Muslim countries, while the number of people attending university has doubled in most of these countries in the past 30 years. As people become more educated, we can expect them to become more open-minded and to develop better empathy for people who differ from them and to stand up for their rights.

On having empathy toward non-Muslims

My question might be weird to you but I hope you can at least understand my perspective. I'm an empath, the inclusion of the entire humanity is important for me. However I don't feel that I've found this in Islam and I feel isolated because of this problem. I feel as the Islamic community only sympathise and cares about other Muslims and in the mosque when we are making dua for Muslims , but disregard other lives because they fall into the category is disbeliever.

Muslims are a few generations behind on this issue, but I expect that is going to slowly change as more of them get educated. I wrote a new essay related to this topic, on how Islam teaches us to have respect and sympathy for non-Muslims, it might interest you: Consensual Communities and the Sanctity of Human Life: The Path to Moderate Islam between Pluralism, Authoritarianism, Conformity and Individualism

The Quranic and Prophetic Way to Treating Non-Muslims

My father says we must hate Buddhist and Hinduists because they are mushrikin. I don't really hate them or see them as enemy. Is that normal?

There is no reason to hate them. Hatred often causes you to be blind to the good qualities in the person you hate and to only see the bad qualities in them.

We must instead treat them the way the Quran teaches us to treat people, and the way the Prophet ﷺ treated his pagan extended family and neighbors. The Prophet ﷺ did not gather his following by preaching hatred and intolerance toward others. He did it by preaching recognizing God’s Oneness and the importance of connecting with Him, and by preaching good manners and patience toward the insults and attacks of the pagans against the Muslims.

Here is an anecdote about the Prophet ﷺ and his treatment of his arch-enemy Ibn Ubayy in Al-Madinah:

The Prophet’s leniency toward this hypocrite continued until Ibn Ubayy died of natural causes. The Prophet accepted to have his (own) garment used as Ibn Ubayy’s burial shroud upon Ibn Ubayy’s son’s request.

The Quran says that God would not forgive the like of Ibn Ubayy even if the Prophet asked for forgiveness for them seventy times, so the Prophet said he would ask for his forgiveness more than seventy times. He accepted to pray at his funeral, after which verse 9:84 of the Quran was revealed which prohibited him from praying at the funerals of proven hypocrites. (From my book A Beautiful Path to God).

The Prophet ﷺ, instead of finding excuses to hate this man who spent most of his time plotting against the Muslims, continued to find excuses for him, and honored him after death by letting his own garment be used as his burial shroud.

Prophet Ibrahim was a similar person as is recorded in the Quran:

74. When Abraham's fear subsided, and the good news had reached him, he started pleading with Us concerning the people of Lot.

75. Abraham was gentle, kind, penitent.

76. “O Abraham, refrain from this. The command of your Lord has come; they have incurred an irreversible punishment.” (The Quran, verses 11:74-76)

The angels had arrived to tell Prophet Ibrahim that they were about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, which were inhabited by a people who were homosexual rapists and robbers. Instead of rejoicing at the news of the destruction of these people, Prophet Ibrahim argues with the angels on their behalf, wanting to block the punishment.

And the Quran does not blame Prophet Ibrahim for trying to block the punishment, instead praises him for it in verse 75 above.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his ancestor Prophet Ibrahim are role models in kindness and tolerance toward others, including toward non-believers. It is the example of these two men that we must follow above all others.

If individual Buddhists or Hindus, or groups of them, commit a crime against Muslims then they should be dealt with as the case requires, the way the Prophet ﷺ dealt with the Jews, hypocrites and pagans who plotted to destroy the Muslims. But there is nothing in the Quran and the Prophet’s life ﷺ to teach us to have a blanket hatred toward people who mean us no harm just because they are not Muslim.

As for those who have not fought against you for your religion, nor expelled you from your homes, God does not prohibit you from dealing with them kindly and equitably. God loves the equitable. (The Quran, verse 60:8)