By Qari Muhammad Asim MBE
I was one of the many Muslim scholars, including a delegation from Minhaj-ul-Qur'an, and other faiths leaders invited to a major summit of its kind in Morocco to debate the rights of religious minorities living in the Muslim world. The summit opened on 25 January and brought together 300 influential thinkers from across the globe to reassert the principles stipulated by the Constitution of Medina (Arabic: صحیفة المدینه, Ṣaḥīfat al-Madīna), also known as the Charter of Medina.
The summit was hosted by Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, who is the President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, with the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Explaining the background to the summit, Bin Bayyah told the summit that extremists were committing violence against Christians, Jews and other faith minorities under the banner of "Jihad". As Muslim leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that the principles enumerated in Islam are not toppled over by those who have territorial aims and want to create division between communities, said bin Bayyah.
In his inaugural address to the summit, the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, said that co-existence and cultural diversity is celebrated in Islam. Moroccan history is full of rich examples of celebrating multi-ethnicity.
The Charter is the first constitution for Muslims which enshrines the principles of tolerance, co-existence and pluralism. Articles 25-40 of the Charter of Medina focus on co-existence and pluralism, stipulating concepts a such as "No Jew will be wronged for being a Jew". Shaykh Hamza Yusuf said that it is a historical fact that Jews in Muslim history were more honoured than Christians. However, both communities, along with other faith groups, have enjoyed religious freedoms in Muslim lands.
The formation of an "ummah" (one community) in the Medina Charter established idea of common citizenship regardless of religious beliefs.The first ever “Constitutional Analysis” of the Constitution of Medina was done by Islamic Scholar Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri in 1990 with a revised edition to be published in 2016. He analysed the Constitution of Medina and formed 63 articles. A brief version is available for free download at minhajpublications.com.
Peace in our time can only be achieved through recognising the multi-ethnic, multi-belief and multi-cultural society that is celebrated by Islam. The Qur'an requires Muslims to treat their fellow citizens - of other faiths or no faith- with kindness and justice. - killing and injuring them is the opposite of what Islam demands. The Qur’an says: ‘God does not forbid you in regard to those who did not wage war against you on account of religion and did not expel you from your homes, that you should treat them kindly and deal with them justly. Assuredly God loves the just.’ (Qur'an, 60: 8).
The radical groups such as ISIS, Daesh, Boko Haram, Taliban and such other groups are effectively presenting a twisted ideology based on literal reading religious texts, cut off from their temporal and objective contexts.
The leaders from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, Morocco to Pakistan, Russia to Indonesia and many other countries reaffirmed that protection of religious minorities is a human rights issue, and must be a priority for the Muslim world.
Muslim scholars gathered at the summit made it clear that religious minorities living in Muslim countries must enjoy safety and security, granted by Islam, unconditionally.