Most non-Muslims may not be aware of the fact that Islam commands Muslims to contribute to society at large, regardless of whether it be a predominantly Muslim or non-Muslim society.
Islam teaches its followers to work hand in hand with their fellow citizens in order to bring about positive change, peace, and justice in their society. This is evident from the story of Joseph, peace be upon him, in the Qur’an. After he was released from prison and declared innocent by the king, he was honored and offered a position in the Egyptian government. Joseph, peace be upon him, himself requested:
Appoint me over the storehouses of the land. Indeed,
I will be a knowing guardian. (Qur’an, 12:55)
Prophet Joseph, peace be upon him, did not see any contradiction in being Muslim and playing an important role in a non-Muslim society.
Furthermore, God often refers to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as a mercy to all creation, not just for Muslims.
The Obligation of Promoting Justice
As part and parcel of contributing towards the improvement of society, Muslims are required to promote justice in their communities, regardless of whether those communities are majority Muslim or non-Muslim. God commands Muslims in the Holy Qur’an:
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah,
even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. (Qur’an 4:135)
A few examples from Islamic history will help to demonstrate this fact…
The Pact of Chivalry
An interesting incident took place in Makkah before the advent of Prophet Muhammad’s, peace be upon him, prophethood, i.e. before he began preaching Islam. A non-Makkan merchant came to Makkah to sell his goods. A Makkan man took some of his goods and refused to pay for them. The merchant approached various clans of the Quraish seeking help, but because Makkah was a tribalistic society, all refused to help him. Finally, the man went to the top of a mountain and began shouting his grievances to all who could hear him. In response to this, some of the leaders of the Arab tribes came together and forced the Makkan man to pay the merchant what he was owed. Furthermore, some of these leaders formed what is known as the Pact of Chivalry (Hilf ul Fudool) where they committed to working together to counter injustice and restore the rights of the weak and oppressed in society.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, witnessed this Pact of Chivalry and – even though it was initiated by polytheists – he remembered it approvingly. Much later during his Prophethood he said:
‘I witnessed a confederacy in the house of ‘Abdullah ibn Jada’an. It was more appealing to me than herds of cattle. Even now, in the period of Islam, I would respond positively to attending such a meeting if I were invited.’
The Case of the Falsely Accused
During the Prophet’s rule in Madinah, a Muslim man stole some flour and weapons from the home of another Muslim. When people became suspicious of him, he took the weapons to a Jewish man and asked if he could store them in his home for safekeeping. Furthermore, he made a trail of flour leading from the home of the person he originally stole the items from to the home of the Jewish man. Then he turned around and accused the Jewish man of stealing both the weapons and the flour. The Jewish man protested and claimed his innocence.
This caused confusion in Madinah and due to the false evidence presented, even the Prophet, peace be upon him, was inclining towards believing the accusation against the Jewish man. At this point, God Himself intervened and revealed nine verses of the Holy Qur’an (Qur’an 4:105 – 113) exonerating the Jewish man and exposing the lies and deceit of the Muslim thief.
Prophet Muhammad, The Jewish Man, and the Repayment of a Loan
In another incident, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, once took a loan from a Jewish man called Zayd ibn Sana’a. Before the repayment was due, Zayd came to the Prophet and harshly demanded that he pay back the loan immediately, claiming that his forefathers were known to be defaulters. The Prophet’s close companion named Umar, may God be pleased with him, was with the Prophet at the time. He became extremely upset at Zayd’s behavior and was on the verge of beating him.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, managed to calm down the situation. Addressing Zayd, he smiled and said, ‘There are still three days to go before repayment is due.’ Then addressing Umar, he said, ‘We would expect better treatment from you. You could have advised me to be more careful about repaying loans and you could have advised the Jewish man to be more courteous when demanding repayment.’ He then asked Umar to repay Zayd with dates and to add an extra amount of dates.
Upon this, Zayd revealed that he had actually staged the entire incident because he wanted to test the character of the Prophet, peace be upon him, in order to determine if he truly possessed the noble manners befitting a prophet. He immediately accepted Islam.
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