“All of humanity is the family of God’, Muhammad declared, ‘and the most beloved to God is the one who is of most benefit to His children.”
Muhammad taught his companions to treat everyone, regardless of belief and background, with equality, respect, and tolerance. A neighbour, he said, has rights over you, and this extended to mean an entire community. One of Muhammad’s first acts in Medina was to establish an agreement with the Jews which would protect them, respect their beliefs and give them equal rights. Later, when Christians arrived in the city Muhammad arranged for them to stay in the mosque where they held their religious services alongside Muslims who prayed in the same space.
Diversity and pluralism is integral to the message of the Quran, “God made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one other (not that ye may despise each other)” (49:13). Islamic civilisation is testament to this principle of coexistence and it took pride in combining the geniuses of all races, faiths and backgrounds to shape its success. Christians, Jews, Muslims and those of other faiths and backgrounds worked side by side in hospitals, schools and other public institutions. Caliph Harun al Rashid who ruled in the eighth century appointed a Christian as Director of Public Instruction who oversaw all schools and colleges. In Andalusian Spain, Jews were sent by the Muslim ruler as ambassadors to other parts of Europe. Islamic civilisation attracted people from all over the world to join in this freedom and coexistence.
In today’s climate of hostility and prejudice, Muhammad’s words are ever more relevant: “Do you want me to point out to you something that will enable you love each other? Spread peace amongst yourselves.”