A Call For Unity

Chapter 1 : Muslims and the People of the Book

This book reveals that Muslims, Christians, and Jews have common principles of faith, worship, and moral values; face common dangers; and calls on the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) to unite with Muslims as fellow believers opposed to atheism, anti-religiosity, and social as well as moral degeneration. In short, it is an invitation to spread virtue around the world, a call to all Jews, Christians, and Muslims who are sincere,

conscientious, tolerant, helpful, conciliatory, reasonable, virtuous, peaceful, and fair to recognize that we believe in the same God and strive to live and extend the reach of God's morality. The followers of these three faiths believe that God created the universe and sustains all matter; created all life forms in a miraculous way; gave each human being a soul; sent Prophets to humanity throughout history, like Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace), and Prophets Jesus, Moses, Noah, David, Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph (peace be upon them all); created our lives according to destiny; and believe in the Resurrection, Hell, Paradise, and angels.

The People of the Book and Muslims also have common moral values. For example, in a world in which prostitution, homosexuality, and drug abuse, together with selfishness, greed, and hardheartedness are spreading fast, they value and seek to live by honor, chastity, modesty, selflessness, honesty, compassion, mercy, and unconditional love.

We Muslims love and respect Prophets Moses (pbuh) and Jesus (pbuh), know that they are loved and dear people in God's presence, and believe in all His Prophets. Furthermore, we respect Jewish and Christian beliefs, values, and traditions, for God commands us to invite the People of the Book to unite on a common premise:

Say: "O People of the Book! Come to a proposition that is the same for us and you - that we should worship none but God, not associate any partners with Him, and not take one another as lords besides God." If they turn away, say: "Bear witness that we are Muslims." (Qur'an, 3:64)

This is our call to Jews and Christians: As believers in God and His revelation, let us unite in faith, love and obey our Master and Creator, and pray to Him for enlightenment. When Muslims, Christians, and Jews unite under these premises, when they realize that they are friends and not enemies, and when they see that the real enemies are atheism and irreligion, the world will become an altogether different place. Wars, antagonisms, fears, and violence will end, and a new civilization founded on this common premise, one based on love, respect, and contentment, will emerge.

Islam Accepts Judaism and Christianity

There is a basic difference between how the members of the divinely revealed religions view each other. Judaism does not recognize Christianity and Islam, which superseded it, and Christianity recognizes Judaism but not Islam, which superseded it. Islam however, recognizes both Judaism and Christianity as divinely revealed religions that originated in God's revelation and does not view them as systems of idolatry or unbelief. Rather, it regards Jews and Christians as People of the Book and advises Muslims to accept and respect their beliefs:

Alif Lam Mim. That is the Book without any doubt. It contains guidance for those who guard against evil: those who believe in the Unseen, perform prayer, and spend from what We have provided for them; those who believe in what has been sent down to you, what was sent down before you, and are certain about the Hereafter. (Qur'an, 2:1-4)

These verses describe Muslims as people who believe in the Qur'an revealed to Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) as well as in the earlier divinely revealed books: the Pages of Abraham (pbuh), the Torah revealed to Moses (pbuh), the Book of Psalms revealed to David (pbuh), and the Bible revealed to Jesus (pbuh). However, over time these books were tampered with and therefore contain both accurate (e.g., belief in God, virtue, the Day of Judgment, and the rejection of idolatry), and inaccurate information. One verse says:

He has sent down the Book to you with truth, confirming what was there before it. And He sent down the Torah and the Gospel, previously, as guidance for humanity... (Qur'an, 3:3-4)

Another verse states the following about the Torah:

We sent down the Torah containing guidance and light, and the Prophets who had submitted themselves gave judgment by it for the Jews - as did their scholars and their rabbis - by what they had been allowed to preserve of God's Book, to which they were witnesses. (Qur'an, 5:44)

The Qur'an reveals that some Jewish scholars and rabbis "distorted words from their proper meanings" in the Torah (Qur'an, 5:41) and falsified it: "Woe to those who write the Book with their own hands and then say: 'This is from God,' to sell it for a paltry price" (Qur'an, 2:79). Christians, on the other hand, made a grave mistake by deifying Jesus (pbuh) Qur'an, 4:171). However, God's revelation of such mistakes does not mean that the People of the Book are in complete ignorance and error, for He also reveals that some of them are deeply religious and devoted to God:

They are not all the same. There is a community among the People of the Book who are upright. They recite God's Signs throughout the night, and they prostrate. They believe in God and the Last Day, enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and compete in doing good. They are among the righteous. You will not be denied the reward for any good thing you do. God knows those who guard against evil. (Qur'an, 3:113-15)

Among the People of the Book are some who believe in God and in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down to them, and who are humble before God. They do not sell God's Signs for a paltry price. Such people will have their reward with their Lord. And God is swift at reckoning. (Qur'an, 3:199)

Therefore, a Muslim's attitude toward the People of the Book reflects the probable existence of genuinely faithful people among them. Only God knows the hearts of people, and He reveals that some Jews and Christians have earned His good pleasure.

Prophet Abraham (pbuh) Was a Haneef

God reveals that He has created a way and a method for all nations. Throughout history, He has sent Prophets to people to inform them of His laws, commands, and prohibitions. Essentially, all Prophets have invited their nations to believe in and worship God and to abide by the limits He has established for humanity. In other words, all true religions in their original state are based on the principles of not associating others with Him and of working to win His good pleasure, compassion, and Paradise. All nations are expected to follow God's will without fail and to do good deeds in order to earn His reward:

We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So, compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God, and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed. (Qur'an, 5:48)

The People of the Book were given a different law than the Muslims, but all sincere Jews, Christians, and Muslims are required to submit wholeheartedly to Him, do what is good, and compete in doing good deeds. All of them who believe in God's existence and unity and the Hereafter and do good deeds are, in reality, following the true religion revealed to Abraham (pbuh). God reveals that Adam (pbuh) was the first of a long line of Prophets, to which his descendents Noah and Abraham (peace be upon them all) also belong:

"Peace be upon Noah, among all beings." That is how We recompense the good-doers. He truly was one of Our servants who believes. Then We drowned the rest. One of his followers in faith was Abraham. (Qur'an, 37:79-83)

The Qur'an reveals that Abraham (pbuh) was a haneef, meaning one who surrenders to God's will, not compromising in any way on his religion, and being devout. In one verse, God commands Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) to abide by this religion:

Then We revealed to you: "Follow the religion of Abraham, a man of pure natural belief. He was not one of the idolaters." (Qur'an, 16:123) Abraham's (pbuh) sons, grandchildren, and other devout Muslim descendents all abided by his religion, for, Who would deliberately renounce the religion of Abraham, except someone who reveals himself to be a fool? We chose him in this world, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the righteous. When his Lord said to him: "Become a Muslim!" he said: "I am a Muslim who has submitted to the Lord of all the worlds." Abraham directed his sons to this, as did Jacob: "My sons. God has chosen this religion for you, so do not die except as Muslims." Or were you present when death came to Jacob and he said to his sons: "What will you worship when I have gone?" They said: "We will worship your God, the God of your forefathers, Abraham, Ishmail and Isaac - one God. We are Muslims submitted to Him." (Qur'an, 2:130-33)

As we can see, the religion followed by Abraham (pbuh) represents the common ground among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Love, faith, and respect for Abraham (pbuh) are just as important to Muslims as they are for Christians and Jews. However, those who follow his morality are the ones who are closest to him. He was exuberant in his faith in God, loved him deeply, followed all of His commands willingly, and thus was an example for all humanity. As God says:

The people with the strongest claim to Abraham are those who followed him and this Prophet, and those who believe. God is the Protector of the believers. (Qur'an, 3:68)

Therefore, all Jews and Christians, who believe wholeheartedly in God, like Abraham (pbuh) and the believers who followed him, must only turn to God and follow this great Prophet's example of virtue, sincerity, and insight. The best way to show one's love, obedience, and closeness to the Prophets is by emulating them. Muslims do not discriminate among all of the Prophets and what was revealed to them, for God commands:

Say: "We believe in God and what has been sent down to us, what was sent down to Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, and the Tribes; what Moses and Jesus were given; and what all of the Prophets were given by their Lord. We do not differentiate between any of them. We are Muslims submitted to Him." (Qur'an, 2:136)

Chapter 2 : Muslims and The People Of The Book in History

Unbiased people who study Islamic history and the Muslims' relationship with the Jews and Christians living under Islamic rule will come across the following fact: The People of the Book have always lived in peace and tranquility under Islamic rule. Sometimes, Jews and Christians who were oppressed by their own religious or political rulers sought refuge and safety in Muslim countries. The most important reason for their enviable position, when compared to that of their coreligionists in Europe, was the Muslims' submission to the Qur'an's morality.

Islam, a religion of peace and acceptance, requires believers to treat all people with justice and respect. Devout Muslims are tolerant, forgiving, modest, understanding, gentle, genuine, and honest. In fact, God commands them to be just even when it is not in their own interests or those of their families to be so; to feed orphans and prisoners of war first, even if they are hungry themselves; and to be selfless, patient, and firm in virtue. Such Muslims are far more accepting of non-Muslims, for they know that compulsion is disallowed in religion. When dealing with non-Muslims,

they do their best to show the way to the right path, address the other person's conscience, and become the means of this person's acceptance of a virtuous life, which is only possible if God grants him or her faith. The following verse reveals that God rules people's hearts and that only He can bring light into them:

Do those who believe not know that if God had wanted to He could have guided all humanity? (Qur'an, 13:31)

You cannot guide those you would like to, but God guides whoever He wills. He has best knowledge of the guided. (Qur'an, 28:56) Muslims are only responsible for relaying the truth and inviting people to believe, for belief cannot be forced upon someone. God says: There is no compulsion in religion. Right guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false deities and believes in God has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Qur'an, 2:256)

Muslims naturally abide by the Qur'an's morality when dealing with the People of the Book. For example, the Qur'an says that Muslims are expected to respect the Christians' and the Jews' beliefs and reputations, protect them and be compassionate toward them, for they are fellow believers in God's existence and unity, His angels and Prophets, the Day of Judgment, and the necessity to abide by religious morality.

God also reveals that those Christians and Jews who believe in Him and the Day of Judgment and do good deeds will receive the fairest rewards for their virtue:

Those with faith, those who are Jews, Christians, and Sabaeans, all who believe in God and the Last Day and act rightly will have their reward with their Lord. They will feel no fear and will know no sorrow. (Qur'an, 2:62)

Thus, good tidings are given to all who believe in God and the Day of Judgment and do right deeds. The faithful will attain salvation and happiness. Qur'an 5:48 states that "We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you," and they have to "compete with each other in doing good." This is a request for all sincere believers to live righteously and compete in doing good. Therefore, Muslims cannot be uncompromising and intolerant toward people who, like themselves, believe in God and are righteous. The history of Islam proves this point. Before we analyze this history, we must point out a very important factor that determines the Muslims' attitude toward the People of the Book: Muslims' love for Prophets Moses (pbuh) and Jesus (pbuh).

Muslims Love Prophets Moses (pbuh) and Jesus (pbuh)

In all epochs, God has sent Prophets to deliver His revelations to humanity. Prophets are chosen in His presence and therefore are ennobled by Him. These role models of virtue taught His religion to their nations, advocated goodness and warned of evil, and helped people toward faith. The Qur'an gives many examples of past nations and peoples and their Prophets' lives. These narratives reveal details of their teachings about God and His religion, their ideological fight against unbelievers, and the responses they received from the people they invited to faith. The Prophets' patience, selflessness, sincerity, fine thinking, and other superior human virtues made them ideal role models. Muslims believe in all Prophets who were chosen by God to reveal the truth to humanity, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them all):

He has laid down the same religion for you as He enjoined on Noah: that which We have revealed to you and which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: "Establish the religion and do not make divisions in it." What you call the idolaters to follow is very hard for them. God chooses for Himself anyone He wills, and guides to Himself those who turn to Him. (Qur'an, 42:13)

God also reveals that Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) is an ideal role model for all people who believe in God and the Day of Judgment (Qur'an, 33:21), which is why Muslims seek to acquire his morality, follow his noble path, and become people who please Him. The Qur'an's accounts of Jesus (pbuh) and Moses (pbuh), whose lives are told in some detail in the Qur'an, contain many examples of wisdom and morality for Muslims.

God reveals that Moses (pbuh) and his brother Aaron (pbuh) were His ennobled servants:

We showed great kindness to Moses and Aaron. We rescued them and their people from their terrible plight. We supported them, and so they were the victors. We gave them the clarifying Book, guided them on the Straight Path, and left the later people saying of them: "Peace be upon Moses and Aaron." That is how We recompense good-doers. They truly were among Our believing servants. (Qur'an, 37:114-22)

God sent Moses (pbuh) to the Children of Israel, then enslaved by Pharaoh, for the following reason: "Then We gave Moses the Book, complete and perfect for him who does good, elucidating everything, and a guidance and a mercy, so that hopefully they will believe in their encounter with their Lord" (Qur'an, 6:154). The Qur'an reveals how Moses (pbuh) was chosen:

Has the story of Moses not reached you? When he [Moses] saw a fire and said to his family: "Wait here. I can make out a fire. Maybe I will bring you a brand from it, or will find guidance there." Then when he reached it, a voice called out: "Moses! I am your Lord. Take off your sandals. You are in the holy valley of Tuwa. I have chosen you, so listen well to what is revealed." (Qur'an, 20:9-13)

Moses (pbuh) fought against Pharaoh and his close allies, as well as those hypocrites and people of weak faith from among his own nation, and proved himself a universal role model by means of his submission to God and his faith, patience, courage, selflessness, intelligence, motivation, and drive. Muslims feel deep respect for him. Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is introduced as "God's Messenger and word" (Qur'an, 4:171), as well as a "sign" (Qur'an, 21:91) for people. The Qur'an reveals some enlightening information about his mission, miracles, and life. For example;

When the angels said: "Mary, your Lord gives you good news of a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, of high esteem in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near." (Qur'an, 3:45) The nature of the divine revelation given to him is described as follows:

And We sent Jesus, son of Mary, following in their footsteps, confirming the Torah that came before him. We gave him the Gospel containing guidance and light, confirming the Torah that came before it, and as guidance and admonition for those who guard against evil. (Qur'an, 5:46)

As the Qur'an reveals, Jesus (pbuh) is distinguished from the other Prophets in several ways. The most significant of these is that he did not die, but was raised up to God's presence and will return. The Qur'an states that "they certainly did not kill him" (Qur'an, 4:157), but that God raised him up to His presence. The Qur'an also reveals information about his second coming and future life. Given that all of the events it foretells come true, Muslims are awaiting his return with great joy and anticipation, and are doing their best to prepare for his arrival.

Prophet Mohammed's (may God bless him and grant him peace) Exemplary Attitude

Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace), the best role model for Muslims who deal with the People of the Book, was always just and compassionate toward Jews and Christians and tried to create an atmosphere based on reconciliation and love among these three religious communities. Various agreements and guarantees allowed Christians and Jews to live as autonomous religious communities. When the young Muslim community was still suffering from the Makkan polytheists' cruelty and oppression, our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) advised some of them to seek refuge with the Christian king of Ethiopia, Negus (or al-Najashi).

The Muslims who later on migrated to Madinah with our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace), on the other hand, developed a model of coexistence with that city's Jewish community that was to become a model for all later generations. The Muslims' acceptance of Jews and Christians during the period of Islam's expansion in Arabia entered the history books as an example of justice and acceptance.

One such example was our beloved Prophet's (may God bless him and grant him peace) reading of the verse: "Only argue with the People of the Book in the kindest way - except in the case of those of them who do wrong - saying: 'We believe in what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to you. Our God and your God are one, and we submit to Him'" (Qur'an, 29:46) after he had the following words written in the text of an agreement prepared for the Christian Ibn Harris bin Ka`b and his co-religionists: "The religion, churches, lives, chastity, and goods of all Christians living in the East are under the protection of God and all believers. None of those living by Christianity will be forced to turn to Islam. If any Christian is subjected to any killing or injustice, Muslims must help him."1

Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) allowed the Jews to become a party to the Constitution of Madinah signed with the Aws and Khazraj clans, which permitted them to continue living as a separate religious community. The basis for this acceptance of the Jews' faith and traditions was laid down in the following article: "The Jews of Banu Awf [non-Muslim minorities] are a community along with the believers. To the Jews their religion, and to the Muslim their religion."2

As a requirement of the morality ordained by God, Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) not only showed compassion and understanding toward the People of the Book, but also taught his Companions that those Jews and Christians living under the rule of Islam must be protected. The privileges that he granted them in the settlements of Adruh, Maqna, Khaybar, Najran, and Aqaba prove that Muslims both guaranteed these non-Muslims' lives and property and recognized their freedom of belief and worship. The following articles of the agreement between our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) and the Christians of Najran need to be pointed out:

To the Christians of Najran and the neighboring territories, the security of God and pledge of His Prophet are extended for their lives, their religion, and their property - to those present as well as those absent and others besides;

No bishop shall be removed from his bishopric, nor any monk from his monastery, nor any priest from his priesthood, and they shall continue to enjoy everything great and small as heretofore... They shall not oppress or be oppressed. If anyone demands his right from you, justice will be maintained between you.

Neither you will be oppressed, nor you will be allowed to oppress others.3 In addition, according to some hearsay, our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) attended their weddings, visited their sick, and was generous to them. Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) even spread out his cloak so that the Christians of Najran who came to visit him could sit on it. Following his death, the Muslims' moral conduct toward the People of the Book continued to be based on the acceptance that Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace) had shown to them throughout his life.

Freedom of Belief and Worship

Beginning at the time of Prophet Mohammed (may God bless him and grant him peace), there has always been freedom of religion in Muslim-ruled lands. Muslims protected the Christians' and Jews' belief systems, rituals, churches and synagogues, and schools of religious education. Articles guaranteeing the protection of monasteries and churches have been important parts of all agreements signed between Muslims and the People of the Book. Early agreements also allowed Muslim travelers to rest in the monasteries located along the travel routes. This suggests that Muslims were attempting to base their relationship and dialogue with the People of the Book on mutual respect. Historical documents reveal that many Muslims visited monasteries to rest for the night, to enjoy a meal, or even to have a civilized conversation during their travels or campaigns.

The People of the Book often responded warmly toward Muslims. The following expressions were recorded in an agreement signed by Caliph Umar, which was presented to Abu Ubayda by the Syrian Christians:

[We imposed these terms on ourselves:]… not to withhold our churches from Muslims stopping there by night or day; to open their doors to the traveller and wayfarer; …to entertain every Muslim traveller in our customary style and feed him… We will not abuse a Muslim, and he who strikes a Muslim has forfeited his rights.4

As "if God had not driven some people back by means of others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, where God's name is mentioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed," (Qur'an, 22:40) points out, Jewish and Christian places of worship are regarded by Muslims as holy places in which God's name is remembered. Thus, as it is their responsibility to protect such places, throughout Islamic history all Jewish and Christian houses of worship have been protected so that the Jews and Christians can pray and worship in them as they please. For instance, historic documents signed during Abu Bakr's reign state that the Christians of the peacefully taken city of Tabarriya were given guarantees that their churches would not be harmed. Likewise, the agreement signed after the conquest of Damascus stated that churches would not be destroyed or occupied.

Umar's covenant to the people of Jerusalem guaranteed the protection of all places of worship. During the conquest of the Armenian city of Dabil (Dvin) in Uthman's time, the assurances given to Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians guaranteed the protection of all places of worship.5 Permission to restore damaged churches and build new monasteries was never withheld. For instance, the St. Sergius monastery outside of Medain was destroyed by Patriarch Mar Amme and rebuilt during Uthman's reign.

Uqba, the governor of Egypt, contributed to a Nestorian monastery, the Church of Edessa was restored during the reign of Mu'awiyya, and the Saint Marcos Church was built in Alexandria. These are just a few examples of this tradition. The continued existence of churches and synagogues in Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq proves the Muslims' respect for the other divinely revealed religions. The Sinai Monastery with a mosque right next door is an important pilgrimage center on Mount Sinai and a symbol of Muslim acceptance.

Under Islamic rule, the People of the Book have always celebrated their religious festivities as they pleased. From time to time, the Muslim leadership even attended them. A letter by the Nestorian Patriarch Isho'yab III (650-60) reveals the Muslim leaders' compassion and acceptance toward the People of the Book: They [Abbasids] have not attacked the Christian religion, but rather they have commended our faith, honored our priests... and conferred benefits on churches and monasteries.6

Benjamin of Tudela, a famous twelfth-century Jewish explorer who could not conceal his astonishment when he discovered such attitudes in the Islamic world, expressed the impossibility of such religious acceptance and pluralism in Christian Europe. He also stated that Jews and Muslims prayed together in holy places and at the tombs of holy people, that mosques were built next to synagogues, and that different congregations celebrated each other's religious festivities.7 These historical facts reveal that, contrary to much of what we read today, Islam is a religion of peace and acceptance. Christians and Jews lived freely under Muslim rule and enjoyed the freedoms of religious belief and thought.

Tranquillity under Muslim Rule

Christians and Jews enjoyed the highest degree of freedom and tolerance under Muslim rule. During the first few centuries of the Christian era, Jews oppressed Christians; as the latter became more powerful, they began to oppress Jews and even fellow Christians belonging to other sects. The Middle Ages were dominated by the Catholic church's oppression of all Jews and Christians who did not agree with its teachings. Some non-Catholics sought refuge with the Muslims. The oppression and violence directed by Byzantium against the Egyptian Monophysite and the Jacobean Christians, the horrors endured by those Jews and Orthodox Christians who found themselves in the path of the Catholic Crusaders, and the persecution endured by the Jews of Europe, as well as by the Muslisms and Jews in Spain after the reconquista, have never occured on Muslim soil.

The Ottoman Empire set an example of acceptance. The Patriarch of Antalya, Makarios, compared the tyranny of Catholic Poland against the Orthodox population with the Ottoman administration and concluded:

We mourned the thousands of people, men, women, and children killed by those heathens. The Polish wish to exterminate people of the Orthodox faith. May God make the Turkish state eternal, because they do not interfere with the Jews or Christians, provided they pay their taxes.8 Jews escaping Spanish tyranny found the peace and security they sought on Ottoman soil. Driven out of Spain and faced with more hardship in other countries where they sought refuge, many died of hunger and thirst at the gates of towns and cities they were not permitted to enter. Jews who boarded Genoese ships were either exploited or sold to pirates. Sultan Bayazid welcomed the Jews into his empire and demanded that the people show them the respect and acceptance to which they were entitled.

The order proclaimed not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially.9 Sultan Bayazid is known to history as a religious man, and his hospitality and acceptance were based on the Qur'an's morality.

Another example of the comfortable and prosperous lives led by Jews on Muslim soil was seen in Muslim Andalusia. This state, which founded the most advanced civilization in Europe at that time, was characterized by its acceptance of non-Muslims. Andalusia was gradually weakened due to the constant attacks of Spanish Christians. Granada was its last stronghold, and historic documents state that "those who have not seen the splendor of Jewish life do not know what splendor is." At that time, Granada was the safest place on Earth for Jews.10

Another example is Palestine, where Jewish and Christian communities enjoyed religious freedom, lived in peace and safety, and engaged in trade and crafts. The Ottoman Empire guaranteed peace and security for five centuries in the area, and such order has never been seen there since. The freedoms and acceptance enjoyed in Jerusalem and its surrounding area under Ottoman rule is described by one of Israel's ex-foreign ministers, Abba Eban, as follows:

Jerusalem and the Jewish nation suffered bloodshed and torture from the Romans and every other occupying force. Only after the conquest of Jerusalem by Sultan Yavuz Selim and its fortification by Kanuni did the Jewish nation discover what humanity, equality, and a peaceful life meant.11 Throughout the Muslim world, Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together in peace and tranquility for centuries. The People of the Book engaged in commerce and acquired property as they wished, engaged in the trade or profession of their choice, and were appointed to posts in the state administration and even in the sultan's palace. They enjoyed the freedom of thought and expression at the highest degree, and made scientific and cultural achievements that are still with us today. They were not denied their social rights, and enjoyed maximum freedoms of belief and worship.

For instance, historical sources reveal that Christian physicians in the Abbasids' palace could read the Bible with their families and staff, and no one interfered with their worship.

The importance of science and scientists in the Islamic world guaranteed the caliphs' patronage of Christian and Jewish scientists. Scientists of various religious denominations would meet at state-organized gatherings to discuss scientific matters. Jewish and Christian physicists would exchange views with their Muslim counterparts, and many medical works would be discussed in the presence of the caliph or his bureaucrats.12 Living under the Islamic rule,

the People of the Book took part in the bustling cultural life. Muslim leaders extended their cultural patronage to the lands they conquered and imported them to Baghdad, capital of the empire, where they would be studied by Muslim, Christian, and Jewish scientists. Each of them in turn, could teach their works based on these studies alongside their own religious beliefs. At a time when Muslims supported science and freedom of thought, Europe, the center of Christianity, had Inquisition courts that burned people at the stake for their heretical, meaning non-Catholic, thoughts or religious beliefs.

The Muslim leaders' sense of justice led many Christians and Jews to bring their cases to Islamic courts, even though they had their own courts with their own laws. At one time, the Nestorian patriarch Mar Timothee I (780-825) even circulated a decree to counteract the ever-increasing number of Christians taking their cases to Islamic courts.13

This unequalled acceptance and justice in Muslim lands was based on the Qur'an's morality. Muslim leaders who adopted such ethical standards always achieved security, peace, and justice in their domains. These administrations' priority was the public's happiness and prosperity; therefore, they established systems that set the standards for future generations. When these same values of compassion, mercy, justice, understanding, modesty, patience, selflessness, and devotion derived from the Qur'an's morality begin to pervade modern-day societies, it will be possible to create a world order in which all people will find peace and security.

The Non-Muslims' Legal Status

The People of the Book living within the Muslim realm were considered dhimmis, rather than prisoners of war, and therefore were guaranteed certain legal rights. For example, in exchange for paying the jizya tax, their lives and property were guaranteed, and they enjoyed freedom of religious belief and thought, were exempted from military service, and had the right to their own law courts to resolve their disputes. On some occasions, their taxes were refunded.

This tax on non-Muslims has sometimes been misinterpreted in order to portray it as an injustice. But as we have seen above, the protections that they secured after paying it were hardly insignificant. In addition, the collected money was used to protect the non-Muslims' rights and future, and to take care of their needy coreligionists. Studying the dhimmis' status and the Muslim administrators' practices in this regard reveal the truth of the matter.

Our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) said: "I am the adversary of those who wrong the dhimmis or burden them with a load they cannot carry." According to this principle, Muslims considered it their duty to protect those non-Muslims living under their rule. The Muslims' sense of justice dictates that dhimmis come under the state's protection. During the reign of Umar ibn al-Khattab, the Muslims signed an agreement with the Christians of Hira. One of the provisions stated: "If any of their men become weak and old,

or inflicted with a disease, or was rich and had become poor, the jizya shall be lifted from him, and he and his family shall be supported by the public treasury [bayt al-mal] so long as he resides in the dar al-Islam."14 This clearly reveals the attitude of the Muslim authorities toward the dhimmis. When non-Muslims could not pay their taxes, they were supported by public funds, which were an important aspect of state support. Before signing the agreement he had made with the people of Damascus, Umar revealed the sensitivity of Muslims toward the jizya and non-Muslims:

My own opinion and on the Book of Allah [citing Q. LIX, 6-8] is that you should keep what has been given by Allah to you [of the land] in the hands of its people …If the jizya is paid by them [the dhimmis], you should require no more of them … For if we divide the land [among us], nothing will be left for our descendants …[If the land is left with its people,] the Muslims will be able to live on its produce.

You may therefore impose on them [the dhimmis] the jizya, never to take them as prisoners, nor to do any injustice or harm to them, or to take any of their property unless you have a [valid legal] claim to it. You must fulfill the obligations you accepted in accordance with your agreement with them.15

As we have seen, genuine Muslims who abide by the Qur'an's morality considered it their responsibility to protect the lives, property, and peace of non-Muslims. Once, during a battle with the Byzantine army, the situation became so untenable that Muslims could no longer provide the necessary protection to Christians. Thus, Mohammed, our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace), ordered the jizya to be returned to them.16 The amicable history between Muslims and Jews and Christians is an example for the present.

The Islamic code of ethics requires that non-Muslims be accepted, that their values and beliefs be respected, and that an environment in which peaceful coexistence is possible be created. Therefore, the spread of this code, as well as efforts to correct some misguided practices claiming to be Islamic, will play an important role. In addition, the Muslims' acceptance and understanding must find an appropriate response in the Jewish and Christian communities, because God also commands them to love all other people and to be the leaders in all matters of good and peace.