by Abdullah Hasan
Someone once said that a nation can wage perpetual war for perpetual peace. Absurd isn’t it? Well, recently a so-called progressive, democratic nation decided to “enforce freedom” by taking away a woman’s right to wear the niqab.
The French ban on face veils, which took effect yesterday, legislates what a French citizen can wear in public, and invokes the coercive power of law to impose such legislation.
As David Allen Green says in the New Statesman: “Of course, to use the criminal law in such a way is illiberal and inappropriate. It may well be that, in extreme cases, the law should intervene to prevent the use of disguises for criminal activity. There are those who believe public nakedness should be banned on the basis of public decency. But any use of criminal law to govern the wearing of certain clothes, regardless of any question of criminality or decency, must be a disproportionate interference with a person’s legitimate autonomy.”
I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. It is quite ironic that a country that promotes pluralism, a concept deeply rooted in secularism, attacks a minority of its population expressing their freedom of choice to wear what they want to wear. It was the religious and cultural intolerance of the papacy during the reformation periods that gave way to the emergence of the concept of secularism and pluralism. Has Mr. Sarkozy forgotten his own history?
But then I guess this is the flawed and quirky understanding of pluralism, where only the strongest group in society determines the cultural identity; hence the survival-of-the-fittest ideology comes into effect. If you want to use Mr. Bush’s language, “You either follow my way in everything or don’t get to have a way at all.”
Islam, through the concept of the maqasid al-shari`ah (maxims of sacred law), promotes a fair and just concept of pluralism. The five objectives of the shari`ah are: protection of religion, protection of the self, protection of wealth, protection of the intellect, and protection of honour. These engender all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, irrespective of their financial or political influence, the right to determine how they wish to live within the limits stipulated by God, the Supreme and the Sublime Master and Creator of the universe.
Islam protects the rights of non-Muslims to maintain their own cultural identity under the shari`ah. Below1 is a brief and cursory look into how the shari`ah protects the rights of non-Muslims under the Caliphate (a governance based on Islamic principles):
Protection from Outside Aggression: Non-Muslims have equal rights with Muslims in this regard. The Islamic governments must protect all its citizens, including minority non-Muslim groups, from outside aggression. It is stated in the Hanbali book of fiqh (jurisprudence), Matalib Ula An-Nuha: “The ruler of the Muslim community is bound to protect the non-Muslims and to save them from aggression. Should they fall into captivity, the imam [religious leader] must marshal all resources to secure their release and punish the aggressors against their lives and properties, even if they were the sole (non-Muslim) living in a remote village.”2
Protection from Inside Oppression: There are many verses, and more specifically prophetic instructions, on obliging the Muslims to protect and not harm their fellow non-Muslim citizens. The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said: “Those who commit an act of aggression against a member of the non-Muslims, who usurp his rights, who make any demand upon him which is beyond his capacity to fulfil, or who forcibly obtain anything from him against his wishes, I will be [the oppressed]’s advocate on the Day of Judgement.”3
The Prophet ﷺ also said, “I will be the opponent of one who harms a non-Muslim, and I will speak against those whom I oppose on the Day of Judgement.”4
He said in another hadith, “He who harms a non-Muslim harms me, and he who harms me, harms Allah.”5
Protection of Persons and Lives: Muslims agree that the lives, blood, wealth, and honour of the non-Muslims living among them are inviolate. The Prophet ﷺ said, “He who kills a mu’ahid [non-Muslim living amongst Muslims] will never smell the fragrance of paradise, the fragrance of which can be smelled from a distance of 40-year travel.”6
Protection of Property: Besides protecting the life of the non-Muslim, the Islamic state is bound to protect his property. Imam Abu Yusuf, in his book Al-Kharaj, has quoted the Prophet’s contract with the people of Najran: “Najran and its neighbouring area [are] in the security of Allah and His Messenger. The property, religion and churches of the inhabitants, as well as all possessions, whether much or little, are under the protection of the Prophet ﷺ.”7
Freedom of Embracing a Religion: Just as it preserves other rights of non-Muslims, Islam also protects their right to embrace a religion of their own choice. The Qur’an unequivocally states that Muslims cannot coerce people to embrace Islam.
Allah says, “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong…” (Qur’an, 2:256)
And He says, “[…] would you compel the people in order that they become believers?” (Qur’an, 10:99)
In addition to the covenant made by the Prophet ﷺ with the Christians of Najran, which placed them under the protection of Allah and His Prophet ﷺ and provided for the safeguarding of their wealth, religion and churches, the one made by `Umar ibn al-Khattab with the citizens of Iliya’ (Jerusalem) stated the Islamic ethos in regards to dealing with other religious groups: “This is the protection which the servant of Allah, `Umar ibn al-Khattab, the commander of the faithful extends to them (non-Muslims): “The safeguarding of their lives, property, churches, crosses, and of their entire community. Their churches are not be occupied, demolished, or damaged, nor are their crosses or anything belonging to them to be touched. They will not be forced to abandon their religion, nor will they be harmed…”8
Dress of non-Muslims: Under the Islamic law, non-Muslims are not obliged to wear the attire of the Muslims, nor will the state oblige them to conform to a specific dress code. The narrations from certain companions and Muslim leaders of the past obliging non-Muslims to wear certain colours or types of clothing should be understood in the light of social dictates and the needs of a given society as we have today that each profession in a society has its own specific dress, and not that Islam compels them to wear a particular clothing they may not desire.
The French ban of the face veil only demonstrates how some of the countries in the West are exhibiting an intolerant nature toward Muslims. If Mr. Sarkozy and others wish to promote freedom, democracy and liberty, then this move is very antithetical to these principles. This does nothing but give rise to the far-right and Islamophobia.
“Many secularists and liberals would prefer a world where individuals do not want to hide their faces a part of their social interactions; many secularists and liberals would welcome a world without any face veils. But for such a world to be imposed by legal force makes it a secular and liberal world not worth striving for.”9
I hope the French public will see how detrimental this is to their liberty and freedom.
- Summarised from Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s book: Non-Muslims in the Islamic Society. ↩
- Al-Hanbal, Ahmad Ibn, Matalib Ula An0Nuha, Vol 2, pp. 602-603. ↩
- Related by Imams Abu Dawud and Baihaqi in As-Sunan Al-Kubra, Vol. V, p. 205. ↩
- Related by Al-Khatib, with a good series of transmission. ↩
- Related by Imam At-Tabarani, with a good series of transmission. ↩
- Related by Imams Ahmad and Al-Bukhari in Jizya, and by Imams An-Nisai and ibn Maja in Ad-Diyat, on the authority of ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar. ↩
- Al-Kharaj, p. 72. ↩
- Tarikh At-Tabari, Vol 3 p. 609, ed. Dar al-Ma’anf, Egypt. ↩
- http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2011/04/face-veils-wrong-world-wear ↩