In response to “Moral Imperatives, Badly Served“, a friend commented as follows:
I have no doubt that an Islamic governor should be concerned about the betterment of the non-Muslims living in the state.
I am currently reading a book by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, that talks about non-Muslims’ rights in an Islamic state. A translation of the book’s Arabic title is Evidence on the Islamic Solution: Suspicions of the Secularist and The People Living in The West. It replies to the concern that a non-Muslim will be compelled to accept rulings of Islam, where that might contradict with some of the teachings of a person’s non-Islamic faith. Here is a summary of what it says:
Islam has four aspects that we have to distinguish from each other: Creed, worship, ethics and law (Sharia).
As for the first aspect, creed, Islam does not force it upon anybody.
The following verse was revealed when some of the Prophet’s companions were trying to force their children to accept Islam, when the children were still Christians or Jews:
There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing. (Qur’an.com 2:256)
It is also narrated that the companions of the Prophet would say, regarding non-Muslims in their time, “leave them to what ever they believe in”.
As for acts of worship, non-Muslims are also not compelled to participate in any of the Muslims’ rituals.
In fact, Islam gave special consideration to non-Muslims and did not obligate upon them to neither pay Zakat nor to participate in Jihad. This was the case, even though Zakat was a financial “tax”, and Jihad was a military service, where both were for the support of the state. However, they had to pay another form of “tax” instead, and that was waived for children, women, and the poor.
As for ethics, it is something that is agreed upon in all devine religions. All of them call for love, justice, mercy, modesty… For example, fornication is something that is prohibited in most religions.
Finally comes the aspect of law (Sharia). For simplicity, it involves private law (family), and criminal law.
For a non-Muslim’s family issues, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, he/she is given the option to either adhere to Sharia law or whatever other law he/she wants to refer to. Hence, no compulsion in this part.
When crimes are committed by non-Muslims, they receive the same sanctions like the Muslims, as long as the crime is prohibited in their religion as well, such as robbery or fornication. This does not apply to what is accepted in their own faith, such as drinking alcohol, in some faiths.
For these reasons, many of the Islamic states through history have dedicated special courts for non-Muslims to refer to. In some cases, judges dedicated a day in the week for non-Muslims.
Hence, Islam does not compel non-Muslims to leave any act that is considered to be obligatory in their religions, nor does it obligate upon them things that are forbidden in their religion.
I hope that this broad image of Islam is present when people discuss “Sharia Law”. “Sharia Law” is not limited to sanctions. It is as a divine law that is closer to Christian and Jewish law than any other positive law. Sharia law is brought to people by the mercy of Allah.