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50 Common Misconceptions about Islam - X

X. Non-Muslims


1. All Non-Muslims are Kafirs (Disbelievers)


It is generally thought that all non-Muslims are kafirs. This view is not correct. A person becomes a kafir when he denies the truth in spite of being convinced that it is the truth. Since it is humanly impossible for a person to determine whether some person is denying the truth or not, it is only on the basis of information provided by the Almighty that a person can be called a kafir. In the times of when He sent His Messengers (rusul), He chose to impart this information to his Messengers through wahi; however, after the departure of the last rasul Muhammad (sws), people who have deliberately denied the truth cannot be pinpointed since the institution of wahi has been terminated. No Muslim preacher is in a position to reveal the truth in a manner a rasul is able to, nor can he ascertain who among his addressees is guilty of deliberately denying the truth. After the departure of Mushammad (sws), the last of the Messengers of God, only on the Day of Judgement will it now be known whether a particular person is a kafir or not.

It is evident from this explanation that the Christians and Jews and followers of other religions in times after the Prophet (sws) are not kafirs; the right name for them is non-Muslims. As far as Christians are concerned, it must be noted that they are basically followers of monotheism. They never admit to polytheism, though they are involved in it. A person becomes a polytheist when he openly admits that he is a polytheist, even though he may be practicing polytheism in some form; the reason is that a person might be doing something wrong without realizing what he is doing; Christians, whether of today or from the period of Jesus (sws), have never admitted to polytheism. Trinity to them is in accordance with monotheism. Of course, we, Muslims do not agree with them, but unless they realize it, we can only say that in spite of claiming to be monotheists they are involved in polytheism. Their case is the case of a Muslim who goes to the grave of a saint to ask him to grant a wish; we shall not call such a Muslim a polytheist; we shall tell him that what he is doing is something against monotheism to which he himself strongly claims adherence. Similarly, we shall not call Christians polytheists, but we will keep telling them that what they are doing is not in accordance with monotheism.

It is precisely for this reason that the Qur’an never referred to the People of the Book as polytheists though they subscribed to certain blatant forms of polytheism. The Qur’an only called the Ishmaelites as polytheists because they admittedly subscribed and testified to the creed of polytheism. They strongly advocated that polytheism was the very religion the Almighty had revealed and claimed that they were the strong adherents to this religion.



2. Friendship is prohibited with Non-Muslims


On the basis of the following verses of the Qur’an, some Muslim scholars[74] are of the view that Muslims should never make friends with non-Muslims; in fact, they should show hostility and venom towards them:


لَا يَتَّخِذْ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ (28:3 )

Believers should not make friends with the kuffar against the interest of the believers. (3:28)


يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَتُرِيدُونَ أَنْ تَجْعَلُوا لِلَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ سُلْطَانًا مُبِينًا (4 :144)

O believers do not make friends with the kuffar against the interest of the believers. Do you wish to offer God an open argument against yourselves? (4:144)


يَاأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى أَوْلِيَاءَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّهُمْ مِنْكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ (5 :51)

Believers take not these Jews and the Christians for your friends. They are but friends to each other. And he amongst you who turns to them [for friendship] is of them. (5:51)


If the third verse is understood in the light of the first two, it is evident from the first two verses that the actual word used for the Jews and Christians is kuffar. After the departure of the last Prophet Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta), kuffar the among the non-Muslims cannot be ascertained owing to reasons discussed earlier. Thus, these verses cannot be related in any sense to the non-Muslims of today.



3. Non-Muslims should be greeted in an Inferior Way


Some Muslim scholars hold that non-Muslims should not be greeted in the ceremonial way by saying al-salam-u ‘alaykum (peace be to you)[75]. It is argued that non-Muslims do not deserve this prayer. The following Hadith is presented in support of this view:


قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِذَا سَلَّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ فَقُولُوا وَعَلَيْكُمْ (بخارى: رقم ، 6288)

The Prophet (sws) said: “When the People of the Book greet you, reply them by saying wa ‘alaykum.”[76]


If all the texts of this Hadith are collected and analyzed, what comes to light is the fact that some among the People of the Book of the Prophet’s times used to mischievously twist their tongue in a swift manner and instead of saying the proper words of the salutation would say al-salam-u ‘alaykum (death be to you), which when quickly pronounced sounded very near to the original words of al-salam-u ‘alaykum. It was to counter this devilish prank that the Muslims were directed to say: wa ‘alaykum (to you too). It must be borne in mind that the Muslims were asked to give this particular reply only after the basic truths had been revealed in their ultimate form by Muhammad (sws) to the People of the Book after many years of propagation, and in spite of that they were not willing to submit to them. Had this ultimate stage not come, one can safely conclude that Muslims would never have been asked to reply with equally harsh words and would have continued to say the words: al-salamu ‘alaykum, the best of prayers and the best of wishes.

Today no Muslim preacher can ever be in a position to say that non-Muslims have deliberately denied the message of Muhammad (sws). Therefore, he must continue his efforts of propagation all his life, and remain a well-wisher of all the non-Muslims of the world, and continue to greet them with al-salamu ‘alaykum.

Consequently, the following Hadith (which contains a similar directive) also relates specifically to the People of the Book of the Prophet’s times. It has no bearing with the People of the Book of later times:


لَا تَبْدَءُوا الْيَهُودَ وَلَا النَّصَارَى بِالسَّلَامِ فَإِذَا لَقِيتُمْ أَحَدَهُمْ فِي طَرِيقٍ فَاضْطَرُّوهُ إِلَى أَضْيَقِهِ  (مسلم ، رقم :  1602)

Don’t initiate salutations to the Jews or the Christians, and force them to the narrowest of paths when one of them meets you on your way.[77]


Even in the time of the Prophet (sws), before the non-Muslims of his times had become kuffar by deliberately rejecting his message, they too were greeted as Muslims were. In this period, the Prophet (sws) himself said al-salamu ‘alaykum to the non-Muslims of his times. Uthamah Ibn Zayd reports:


أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَرَّ بِمَجْلِسٍ وَفِيهِ أَخْلَاطٌ مِنْ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْيَهُودِ فَسَلَّمَ عَلَيْهِمْ (ترمذى ، رقم :  2702)

The Prophet (sws) once passed by a mixed gathering of Muslims and Jews and said al-salamu ‘alaykum to them.[78]



4. Non-Muslims shall necessarily be Doomed in the Hereafter


It is generally held that all non-Muslims will necessarily go to Hell. Verses like the following usually form the basis of this view:


إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَـابِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ فِى نَارِ جَهَنَّمَ خَـالِدِينَ فِيهَآ أَوْلَـئِكَ هُمْ شَرُّ الْبَرِيَّةِ (98 :6)

The disbelievers among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] and the Idolaters shall burn for ever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. (98:6)[79]


Once again, it must be appreciated that these verses speak of the Jews and Christians and the Idolaters of the Prophet Muhammad’s (sws) times, who had deliberately denied the message of Muhammad (sws). As far as the non-Muslims of later times are concerned, they will meet this fate only if they also deny Messengerhood of Muhammad (sws) in spite of being convinced about its veracity.



5. Muslims should Curse Non-Muslims in the Prayer


The common Muslim thinks that he must curse non-Muslims and have an ill-intent for them. In this regard, a supplication called the qunut-i nazilah in which the Almighty’s help is invoked to destroy and crush non-Muslims is at times read in the prayer.

Again it needs to be pointed out that cursing non-Muslims or expressing ill-intention towards them is only related to the kuffar who no longer can be pin pointed. For this very reason, today, a Muslim preacher must continue his efforts of propagation all his life, and remain a well-wisher of all the non-Muslims of the world. So, as far as reading the qunut-i nazilah is concerned, it was only Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) who had the prerogative to read it. Later Muslims do not have this right.

In this regard, there is also a common perception among Muslims is that the following verse of the Qur’an has stopped them from asking the Almighty for forgiveness of non-Muslims


مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِيِّ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَنْ يَسْتَغْفِرُوا لِلْمُشْرِكِينَ وَلَوْ كَانُوا أُوْلِي قُرْبَى مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْجَحِيمِ (9 :113)

It is not proper for the Prophet and those who believe to ask Allah’s Forgiveness for the mushrikun, even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are the dwellers of the Fire. (9:113)


Again, it needs to be appreciated, as the verse itself clarifies that the Idolaters of Arabia of the Prophet’s times were condemned to Hell because of their persistence in denying the truth in spite of being convinced about it. Today, since no one is in a position to ascertain this denial, this verse does not relate to non-Muslims of times after the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta).


[74]. Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur’an 1st ed., vol. 2 (n.p.: Dar al-Kitab al-‘Arabi, n.d.), 228; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Azim, 1st ed, vol. 2 (Lahore: Amjad Academy, 1982), 68.

[75]. ‘Abd al-Rahman Muhaddith Mubarakpuri, Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Faisalabad: Diya al-Sunnah, n.d.), 397.

[76]. Bukhari, No: 6288.

[77]. Muslim, No: 1602.

[78]. Tirmadhi, No: 2702.

[79]. For verses of similar meaning, see 3:10, 63, 131; 4:56, 115; 7:41; 8:50; 9:63, etc.



Source:    June 2007

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