One of the hardest truths to interpret within any faith is the identity of those who are not within it. For me, when I read that part of being a Muslim is to want for others what I want for myself, I understand this in its literal sense: if I want food to eat, somewhere to work, a safe place to live, friends, a happy life, then the depth and meaning of my Islam can only defined by how I enable others to achieve the same.
Yes, the Quran does makes a distinction between those who chose to believe and those who chose not to believe in the message brought by Prophet Muhammad. But the Quran also continues to state that there is no compulsion in religion. Meaning that it is not for a Muslim to impose religion onto a non-Muslim, just as it is not for any Muslim to impose their interpretation of religion onto another Muslim. Moreover, this freedom of religion is underpinned by the traits of freedom of thought and expression, which may be penned as a singular concept: a common humanity. – God, we are taught is the One who judges, not humanity.
Often Muslims interpret the word Ummah to mean those who follow the religion of Islam. However, an analysis of Prophet Muhammad’s own life, including specifically his relationship with non-Muslim communities in the Constitution of Medina, demonstrates that the Ummah was not defined by religious lines, but as a term reflecting a collective of different religions who came together to establish and sustain social cohesion. I repeat, the Ummah was not about Muslims, it was about establishing human welfare across the religious spectrum.
That ISIS – an organisation claiming to represent the values of Islam – have failed to acknowledge this historical reality by murdering everyone and anyone is simply an extraction from established teachings around the Muslim world today, where in an effort to create a Muslim identity, engagement with local communities and secular government is often viewed as being ‘unIslamic.’
But it is not in the Muslim nor non-Muslim world that any person will find a utopia. Instead, it is only by acknowledging our different ways of life, and helping one another achieve social justice, where the rights of human beings are represented as the rights of human beings, that humanity achieves it’s objective of success in this life and success in the next; something Muslims are taught to pray for.
Prophet Muhammad understood the need for people of all faiths to come together on a common platform. Muslims must move away from defining society on religious grounds, focusing instead on a single human community respecting the different religions of the world, the global Ummah, using Prophet Muhammad’s definition which included everyone in Medina: Christians, Jews, even Pagans.
Want for others what we want for ourselves, Prophet Muhammad once said. This is the sunnah – his example – that we should adopt. And if any person is so concerned about another person’s disbelief, as faith is a blessing from God, do not set yourself up as a God imposing it upon others. Instead, ask God Almighty to guide them. As Prophet Muhammad also said, do not allow your dislike of a person (their faith, way of life, etc), lead you to be unjust to them. Honour a person’s right to live and chose, this is the sunnah.