The November 2019 Supreme Court of India’s verdict on the demolition and the allocation of the land where the Babri Masjid formerly stood, adequately highlights the inability of democracy to protect the rights of minorities and religious groups. How is justice served in the world’s largest democracy when the perpetrators of a criminal act are rewarded with its proceeds by the very court that should uphold the law.
This verdict exposes the reality of democracy. In democratic nations, nothing is sacred except the interests of the elites. Self-serving Machiavellian politicians whip up animosity towards minority groups, to boost their electoral fortunes, with no ideological or moral brakes on this slide to genocide. From India to the United States, supposedly democratic states have engaged in the wholesale rollback of minority rights, especially those of Muslims, upon whom any form of tolerance is prohibited.
The obvious contradiction between the concept of individual and religious freedom, and the hijab and niqab ban instituted in many European countries is lost on these politicians, but we expect this to be the case as apparently in democracy the will of the baying mob has to be respected, no matter what principles, morals or ethics it contradicts.
Although some consider populism and its associated bigotry as a relatively new phenomenon and the exception to an otherwise tolerant democratic norm, they conveniently forget that the national socialists in Germany and fascist in many other European nations all ascended to power via democracy. So rather than an exception, the rule is that democratic politicians can appeal to the vilest prejudices of the electorate to smooth their path to power.
This situation is only natural in capitalist and democratic societies where the nation is defined in terms of race and nationalism, and where despite the proliferation of billionaires the obvious fallacy of a scarcity of resources is enshrined in their economic and political systems. Citizens are primed by these systems and concepts to accept the narrative of the elite, who divert the attention of the masses away from the accumulation of wealth in their hands to blaming immigration and minorities for their declining standard of living.
Islam rejects all notions of nationality and race as notions which bind people in a state. Rather, it defines identity upon the basis of a comprehensive view of the world. This view is based upon an understanding that all of creation is created by a Creator – Allah (swt) – and is subservient to his law. From a societal perspective Islam views all the inhabitants as humans rather than looking at their ethnicities or race. As a result, all those who reside in the Islamic territories are viewed as citizens, irrespective of creed, colour or ethnicity.
Citizenship in an Islamic state is based on residency rather than birth or marriage. All those who hold citizenship are subjects of the state, their guardianship and the management of their affairs is the duty of the state, without any discrimination. All people who hold Islamic citizenship should, therefore, be treated equally, without any discrimination between them either by the ruler, in terms of looking after their affairs and in terms of protecting their lives, their honour and their wealth, or by the judge in terms of equality and justice.
Non-Muslim citizens living under the Khilafah are referred to in the Shariah, as dhimmi. The term “dhimma” means “obligation to fulfil a covenant”. The divine texts of Islam exhort the Khalifah to safeguard the rights of the ahlul dimmah (non-Muslim citizens of the state).
The Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
“Indeed, whoever oppresses a Mu’aahid (one under covenant) or degrade him or burdens him above more than he can bear or takes from him something in a dishonest (haram) manner then I am his opponent (arguing against him) on the Day of Judgement.” (Abu Dawood)
Unlike secular democratic states, in which draconian laws limiting the ability of Muslims to practise their religion are designed to coerce Muslims to accept secular liberalism. Islam forbids the state from compelling non-Muslims from their faith.
Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) states in the Quran:
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ
“There is no compulsion in respect to the Deen. Verily the right path has become distinct from the wrong path” [Surah A-Baqarah 2: 256]
And unlike the secular nationalistic states, where justice is influenced by notions of racialism, ethnic superiority and the political interests of the elites, Islam mandates equity before the law. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) also states:
وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُم بَيْنَ النَّاسِ أَن تَحْكُمُوا بِالْعَدْلِ
“And when you judge between the people that you judge with justice” [Surah An-Nisa 4:58]
The sublime nature of the Islamic civilisation and its ability to guarantee the rights of its minorities is attested to by even non-Muslims.
The British historian T. W. Arnold in his book, The Preaching of Islam, wrote regarding the treatment of non-Muslims who lived under the Ottoman Khilafah, “…though the Greeks were numerically superior to the Turks in all European provinces of the empire, the religious toleration thus granted them, and the protection of life and property they enjoyed, soon reconciled them to prefer the domination of the Sultan to that of any Christian power.
Even Jews encouraged their co-religionist in Europe to emigrate to the Khilafah. A Rabbi writes to his followers concerning the situation of Jews in the Ottoman Khilafah:
“Here in the land of the Turks we have nothing to complain of. We possess great fortunes; much gold and silver are in our hands. We are not oppressed with heavy taxes and our commerce is free and unhindered. Rich are the fruits of the Earth. Everything is cheap and every one of us lives in peace and freedom…. Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire, 1453-1924. London: Penguin Books, p15.
Umar ibn al-Khattab, the companion of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, enshrined the treatment of minorities when he granted the Christians of Palestine religious freedom, security and peace. His treaty with the Palestinian Christians stated:
“This is the protection which the servant of God, the Leader of the Faithful, grants to the people of Palestine. Thus, protection is for their lives, property, church, cross, for the healthy and sick and for all their co-religionists. In this way their churches shall not be turned into dwelling houses, nor will they be pulled down, nor any injury will be done to them or to their enclosures, nor to their cross, and nor will anything be deducted from their wealth. No restrictions shall be made regarding their religious ceremonies. Tabari, M, S. (1967) Tarikh Tabari: Tarikh ar-Rusul wal-Muluk.
Islam is able to secure the rights of the minorities because the fundamental beliefs of Islam and the unchanging revelation from Allah (swt) is not influenced by man, is not subject to the interests of the ruling class nor the vagrancies of the masses, there are no elections in which legislators garner votes by pandering to the basest of human emotions. There are no legislators legislating the rights of the minority away to please the majority.