Federalism and peace from an Islamic perspective
29 April 2013
By Ibrahim Saleh
In the name of God
Your Excellency Arnold Koller, ladies & gentlemen, peace be upon you. The Fribourg peace forum has asked me to deliver a speech about federalism and peace from the Islamic perspective.
However, in order to cover this subject objectively, we must consider the religious, social, and political systems existing at that time especially the question of the relation between men and others – those who are different in color, language and religion. At the emergence of Islam, the two major powers – Persia and Rome – were frequently engaged in wars which took place in the Middle East. The Romans were known for their brutality and the persecution of the Christians. They also used to enslave the defeated and those who were different in color and language. The Arab Peninsula consisted of tribes fighting against each other, they were ignorant, used to burry alive their new born baby girls. The religions prevailing were pagan, with some Jews and Christians.
Before Islam could establish a viable political system, it had to totally uproot the existing pagan, social and political order in the Middle East by taking the following steps:
1. To abolish racism and the rejection of others because of their religion, race and color. For this Islam promoted peace and brotherhood. The Quran says in Surat Al-Hugarat: nr 49, verse 13: Oh people we created all of you from man and woman, made tribes and folks, to cooperate with you …”
Islam stressed that the creation of mankind in different colors, faiths and languages is God’s divine will to make us different surat al rum 30/22 .
And if He wished He could make all of us Jews, Christians, Buddhists or Muslims, this is His will, and for this He created us Hood 11/118
2. Islam declared freedom of religion. It was the first in the history of mankind. Whereas people were usually forced to adopt the religion of their rulers, the Quran states in al kahf 18/29 say the truth from God and al baqqara 2/256- no compulsion in religion al kafiroon 109 last ayat…
3. Also to his credit, Islam banned and dismantled the ugly establishment of priesthood which decided over life and death, misery and happiness of the people. The Quran says anyone could interrelate with God without a broker to ask for forgiveness – and God would accept his prayer…hood nr.11 /3 and ghafer 40/60 pray me and I shall accept your prayer.
4. The Swiss professor Hans Küng once said that there could be no peace between nations before we make peace between people; and there could be no peace between people before we make peace between religions. That is precisely what Islam did when it declared acceptance, respect and peace with and for all previous religions; especially with Judaism and Christianity…sura Imran 3/84… and in al baqqara 2 verse 285 … The Quran also stressed the strong belief and respect of Islam towards Judaism and Christianity. God speaks about the Torah and the Bible as having light and guidance Al Maida 5/44 and 46. It is worth to mention that the Quran is the only book which honored Maria with a complete Sura of 95 verses (Surat Maryam 19). It also honors Jesus and describes him uniquely as being the “soul” and the “word” of God. No other prophet has been described by these characteristics. The Quran also confirms all of Jesus’ miracles such as he was born without a father, that he resurrected the dead, healed the ill and returned vision to the blind.
From this special relationship with the people of the book, the Muslims were allowed to marry their women and to eat their food. From the Muslims belief in the two religions, Jews and Christians enjoyed peace and protection in the Muslim countries facing neither prosecution nor extermination. To date both minorities live in peace and tranquility in Muslim countries. The Jews themselves admit as stated by Professor Israel Shahak in his book “Jewish religion and Jewish history”, that the Muslim always protected the Jews and that those expelled from Spain during the Inquisition were granted asylum in Muslim countries, especially in Turkey.
By this we see that Islam really has eradicated racism and the rejection of others, made peace between the major world religions and their worshippers. Another example of acceptance of the others were the Prophet Mohammed’s companions: Bilal – a freed black slave, Salman – a Persian advisor and Suhaib – a white Roman counselor. In Islam there was no “Clash of Civilizations” as described by Huntington, nor such thing as described in “The End of History” by Fukuyama; and no there was no Holocaust under Islam. There was no such call “as Germany over all”.
5. After Islam uprooted racism, he turned to handle the question of women: the mother, the wife, the daughter. The woman was accused by all the religions to have been responsible about Adam being expelled out of Paradise; hence she is responsible for the suffering of all human beings. She was also accused to be a low, satanic creature who seduced man. It was even questioned whether she had a soul or not. She was persecuted and even buried alive at birth by the Arab tribes.
The Holy Quran reinstated the woman and restored her honor and her esteem. It was Adam who followed Satan and disobeyed God as described in sura Taha 20/120-122. Islam elevated the woman to be equal to man as mentioned in Sura Al Imran 3/ 95. Islam even gave her financial independence: her husband has no right over her fortune and belongings; these rights were granted to European women just a few decades ago.
6. In Islam, life is sacred. Killing a man is considered as killing all mankind. Surra al maida 5/30. War therefore was only allowed in case of self defense or to stop aggression al baqqara 2/90 and by no means to start war or aggress others. The retaliation should be equal and not exceed the damage suffered Al baqqara 2/194.
7. In Islam cooperation between individuals or states is allowed provided they are dedicated to the good. They are forbidden if it is for the evil Al maida 5/2
After all these reforms have been implemented, Islam by then has laid down the foundations of a healthy society and a viable state. Under Islam, the first federation with the Jews was concluded in what was considered or known to be the “Al–Madina-document” which foresees:
"In the name of God. The Jews in Madina are a nation and a community; they have their own religion, rules and customs; and the Muslims are a nation and a community. The Jews are our neighbors and partners with equal rights and obligations. Both parties agree to cooperate against any aggression committed by a foreign power against the other community; they have to work together in good faith and promote trade.”
This treaty or agreement was extended to cover the Christians of Nagran. When they visited the Prophet in Madina, he allowed them to enter his mosque with crosses so as to perform their prayers and ceremonies. Further the Prophet asked the Muslims to allocate money for the repair of the churches and to build new ones. This money was donated by the treasury as a gift and was not to be returned. The Prophet committed himself and the Muslims to defend the Christians against any aggression as if defending their own wife and children. This was the first federation or confederation in the history of Islam.
The same principle of confederation was applied in the Muslim Empire which one day extended from China to Spain. In this confederation each country had its own religion, laws, and languages with open borders and free trade. Their cooperation was in Finance and Defense against any foreign force. They lived in peace and prospered. There was no massacre against any minority. Till now Jewish and Christian minorities in Muslim countries have their own courts to judge upon their own religious and personal affairs.
As an example of such a system we could mention Muslim Spain where Christians, Jews and Arabs lived together in peace and harmony and established a great civilization which greatly influenced the European Renaissance.
However, after the downfall of the Ottoman Empire the remaining countries of this federation were divided on national basis and Turkey became an independent. This arbitrary division of nations caused numerous conflicts, such as the Kurdish question in Iran, Iraq and Turkey; the Arabs in Iran, the Berber in North Africa to mention but a few.
Europe has learned a lot from its bloody and painful history and finally established the European confederation of states. Now we ask ourselves this question: could the Muslims establish the Great Muslim Confederation which could solve all existing problems? We are still waiting for the answer.
Ibrahim Salah, 17 September 2010