Harun Yahya - Justice and Tolerance in the Qur'an
Justice and Tolerance in the Qur'an

"If you do judge, judge between them justly. God loves the just."
(Our'an: 5:42)

The People of the Book in the Qur'an

T here are many nations in the world with different colours, creeds, and languages. These differences, as mentioned earlier, have been a cause of enmity throughout history. The perceived wisdom is that people can never manage to co-exist and that disputes arise wherever such differences exist. However, this is a great misconception and the facts are otherwise. In fact, it is God Who created human beings in different communities and in the Qur'an, He calls all people to peace and security:

O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace [Islam]. Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you. (Qur'an, 2:208)

God calls to the Abode of Peace and He guides whom He wills to a straight path. (Qur'an, 10:25)

All divine religions revealed through God's messengers summon people to have faith in God, recommend them to display moral perfection and warn them against bad morals. Despite the fact that all divine religions-except for Islam-are distorted, it is evident today that some of their messages are fundamentally the same. That is why these conflicts, which are stirred up artificially, lack reasonable and logical grounds. As stated in the verse above, the main reason for unrest among people is not complying with God's summoning but following in the "footsteps of Satan."

Believers' harbouring hostile feelings to other people who have faith in God is a moral weakness that displeases God, who prohibits all believers from displaying such feelings. He calls on people to establish peace, tolerance and friendship. The Qur'an, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the last messenger of God, gives believers explicit commands and recommendations on this subject.


The Status of the People of the Book in the Qur'an

In the Qur'an, Jews and Christians, the members of the religions who abide by the Divine Books revealed by God, are called the "People of the Book." What Muslims' views of the People of the Book should be, their relations, and the status of the People of the Book in social life are described in verses and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in detail. The People of the Book, while they rely basically on God's revelation, have moral precepts and know what is lawful and what is not. For this reason, if one of the People of the Book cooks some food, it is lawful for Muslims to eat it. In the same way, permission has been given to a Muslim man to marry a woman from among the People of the Book. On this subject God commands:

Today all good things have been made lawful for you. And the food of those given the Book is also lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. So are chaste women from among the believers and chaste women of those given the Book before you, once you have given them their dowries in marriage, not in fornication or taking them as lovers. But as for anyone who disbelieves, his actions will come to nothing and in the hereafter he will be among the losers. (Qur'an, 5:5)

Throughout Islamic history, the People of the Book have been always treated with tolerance in Muslim societies. This was particularly evident in the Ottoman Empire. It is a well known fact that the Jews, whose rights were denied and were exiled by the Catholic Kingdom of Spain, took refuge in the lands of the Ottoman Empire. As will be dealt with in detail in the following sections, when Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror captured Istanbul, he granted both Christians and Jews all their fundamental rights. Throughout Ottoman history, Jews were regarded as a People of the Book and enjoyed peaceful coexistence with Muslims.


How Should a Muslim Regard Judaism?

As exemplified in the previous pages, throughout his life, the Prophet (pbuh) treated the People of the Book with the utmost tolerance and justice. Thanks to this noble attitude, Abdullah ibn Salam, a prominent rabbi, and his friends converted to Islam and came to believe in his prophethood.

The practices of the Inquisition in European history, which were a consequence of Christian bigotry, or of anti-Semitism that is itself linked to racist views (hatred of Jews) were never observed in the Islamic world. In the 20th century, however, with Jews embracing Zionism, which is an anti-religious and racist ideology, the Middle East became the scene of conflict and unrest between Jews and Muslims.

There is no doubt that Zionism is a detrimental and harmful ideology for Muslims and world peace alike. It is therefore the duty of every Muslim and person, no matter what his political stance or belief, to struggle against Zionism on intellectual grounds. However, as in the case of any sphere, it is also of vital importance to establish justice and to avoid prejudice. A Muslim must oppose Zionists while ensuring that injustice and oppression are not inflicted on innocent Jews.

As in every form of racism, anti-Semitism is an ideology utterly foreign to Islam. A Muslim opposes all forms of genocide, torture and violence, regardless of religion, race and ethnical origins. A Muslim will never support even the most minor attack on innocent Jews, in the same way he would not approve of any cruel treatment of a member of any other nation. On the contrary, he will denounce it. In the Qur'an, those who make mischief on earth, who subject people to cruelty and those who kill people for no reason are denounced. Some verses on this subject read as follows:

Seek the abode of the hereafter with what God has given you, without forgetting your portion of the world. And do good as God has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. God does not love corrupters. (Qur'an, 28:77)

Then, is it to be expected of you, if you were put in authority, that you will do mischief in the land, and sever your ties of kinship? Such are the people God has cursed, making them deaf and blinding their eyes. (Qur'an, 47:22-23)

There are only grounds against those who wrong people and act as tyrants in the earth without any right to do so. Such people will have a painful punishment. (Qur'an, 42:42)

In compliance with these commands of God, the rightful reaction felt towards Zionism should not lapse into a kind of an "antagonism towards Jews," and innocent people should not be subjected to such unacceptable reactions. This is what being just and tolerant entails.

Antisemitism and other kinds of racism (eg. prejudice against blacks) are perversions arising from various ideologies and superstitions. When we examine anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, we see clearly that they promote ideas and a model of society that is totally contrary to the moral teachings of the Qur'an. At the root of anti-Semitism for instance lie hatred, violence, and lack of compassion. An anti-Semite may be so cruel as to support the murder of Jewish people, men, women, children and the aged, and condone their torture. However, the moral teaching of the Qur'an enjoins love, compassion and mercy for all people. It also commands Muslims to show justice and be forgiving even to their enemies. As stated in the verse: "...if someone kills another person-unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth-it is as if he had murdered all mankind..." (Qur'an, 5:32) It is a very serious crime to slay even a single innocent person.

On the other hand, anti-Semites and other racists baulk at living together in peace with people of different races or creeds. (eg. German racists (Nazis) and Jewish racists (Zionists) were opposed to Germans and Jews living together. Both sides rejected it, citing concern for the degeneration of their respective races.) However, in the Qur'an, there is not the slightest distinction between races; the Qur'an advises that people of different faiths live together in the same society in peace and happiness.

The Qur'an even discriminates between those who do not believe in God and religion and those who are actively hostile to it. God commands Muslims to make their position clear to those who are hostile, while He orders them to treat with justice to those who do not show such hostility:

God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you over religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. God loves those who are just. God merely forbids you from taking as friends those who have fought you over religion and driven you from your homes and who supported your expulsion. Any who take them as friends are wrongdoers. (Qur'an, 60:8-9)

In the Qur'an, we are commanded not to make judgements about people just because they belong to a particular race, nation or religion. In every community, there are good people as well as wicked people. The Qur'an draws attention to this differentiation. For instance, right after mentioning the rebellious nature-against God and His religion-of some People of the Book, there is reference to an exception and, said:

[However] They are not all alike. Among the People of the Book there is an upright community who recite the revelation of God during the night and fall prostrate before Him. They believe in God and the Last Day, enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil, and vie with one another in good works. They are of the righteous and whatever good they do, its reward will not be denied them. God knows those who fear [Him]. (Qur'an 3:113-115)

In conclusion, a person who thinks in the light of the verses of the Qur'an and fears God can in no way feel hostility towards Jews because of their religion or creed. The moral teachings of the Qur'an exclude all racism. For this reason, a Muslim who follows the Qur'an does not practise racism and does not despise people because they belong to a certain race. It is commanded in the Qur'an that, so long as they show no hostility to Islam or Muslims, a tolerant and friendly attitude must be maintained toward other religions. For this reason, a Muslim who follows the Qur'an should assume a compassionate and friendly manner towards people of different religions, and especially towards the People of the Book.

A Muslim's view of Judaism and Holocaust must be based on these basic criteria. Jews may be subjected to criticism because they have a racist attitude, shed blood in the name of Zionism and subject other people to cruelty in compliance with the commands of the distorted Torah. A Muslim wishes to see an end to anti-Semitic racist movements and ideologies such as Zionism that practise racism in the name of the Jews, and a peaceable world order established, in which every race and belief can live in peace and justice.


Monasteries, Churches and Synagogues must be Respected

A Muslim must respect and protect the holy places where the People of the Book worship God, and protect them. For Muslims, these places are precious because in these places, people, whether Jews or Christians, remember God. In the Qur'an, the places of worship of the People of the Book, ie. monasteries, churches and synagogues, are mentioned as places of worship protected by God.

…if God had not driven some people back by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, where God's name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. God will certainly help those who help Him-God is All-Strong, Almighty. (Qur'an, 22:40)

As a manifestation of his loyalty to God's commands, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was most careful not to destroy the holy places of the People of the Book. Such destruction means, in the first place, opposing God's commands. This aside, it means preventing people who have faith in God worshipping Him. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) promised the Christians, who were the other party to a peace agreement he made, that their churches would not be destroyed and that they would never be harmed. The tax (Jizya) agreements he made with Christians also guaranteed the safety of churches.

The first agreement made after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) that guaranteed the protection of the temples was a tax agreement Khalid bin al-Waleed signed with the leader of the city of Anat. Ibn Ishaq stated that those agreements made by Khalid bin al-Waleed were also approved by Abu Bakr and the three caliphs following him.16 This aside, Abu Bakr offered the same guarantees that had been offered to the people of Najran by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The Islamic societies that abided by Islamic morality after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) also paid special attention to this issue. Muslim leaders who adhered to the Qur'an and the Sunnah (the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)) respected the places of worship of non-Muslims in conquered countries and showed great tolerance to the clergy. Christians who lived under Muslim rule for centuries never rebelled for religious reasons. This, there is no doubt, is the result of the just and tolerant attitudes of Muslim leaders in compliance with Qur'anic rules.


16 Levent Öztürk, Asr-ı Saadetten Haçlı Seferlerine Kadar İslam Toplumunda Hıristiyanlar (Christians in the Islamic Society From the Blessed Period to the Crusades), İz Yayıncılık, Istanbul, 1998, p. 111.