Everybody knew that Arabs and Jews were kin. As the Jewish historian Josephus (37-c.100CE) explained, Arabs circumcised their sons at the age of thirteen “because Ishmael, the founder of their nation, who was born to Abraham of the concubine [Hagar], was circumcised at that age."According to Karen Armstrong Arabs did not feel it necessary to convert to Judaism or Christianity, because they believed that they were already members of the Abrahamic family; infact, the idea of conversion from one faith to another was alien to the Quraysh, whose vision of religion was essentially pluralistic."
At Madinah especially the Prophet (SAW) according the divine plan was "abandoning the pagan pluralism of Mecca, because it had degenerated into the self-destructive arrogance and violence of jahiliyyah, but he was beginning to embrace monotheistic pluralism". In Jerusalem, during the night journey, he discovered that all the prophets, sent by God to all people, are “brothers”. This episode has been beautifully presented by Karen Armstrong: "Muhammad's prophetic predecessors do not spurn him as a pretender, but welcome him into their family. The prophets do not revile or try to convert each other; instead they listen to each other’s insights. They invite the new prophet to preach to them, and in one version of the story, Muhammad asks Moses for advice about how frequently Muslims should pray ...After quoting this tradition, Armstrong brings home the point: "The fact that this appreciation of others traditions is written into the archetypal myth of Muslim spirituality shows how central this pluralism was to early Islam."
This tolerance is evident at every stage and Allah (SWT) made it clear that the faithful must believe indiscriminately in the revelations of every single one of God's messengers (3:84). Because according to Islam you could not be a Muslim unless you also revered Moses (AS) and Jesus (AS). True faith required surrender to God, not to an established faith.
Practically after reaching to Madinah, the Prophet (SAW) decided to conclude a treaty with them with clauses that provided full freedom in faith and wealth. The most important provisions of the treaty are the following:
1. The Jews of Bani Awf are one community with the believers. The Jews will profess their religion and the Muslims theirs.
2. Each party shall hold counsel with the other. Mutual relation shall be founded on righteousness: sin is totally excluded.
3. The wronged party shall be aided.
4. Madinah shall remain sacred and inviolable for all that join this treaty etc.
Madinah and its suburbs, after the endorsement of this treaty, turned into a coalition state, with Madinah proper as capital and Muhammad (SAW) as president ...To expand the zone of peace and security the Prophet (SAW) started to enter into similar treaties with other tribes living around his state. Thus a strong foundation was laid down by the prophet (SAW) for a pluralistic tolerant society which became the model for the subsequent Muslim societies during the pious Caliphate and afterwards.
Islam has provided the essential rights and freedoms to all human beings as can be envisaged from the Divine Decree of both the Noble Quran: "The life and blood of an innocent person cannot be sacrificed even for the whole of mankind."(5:32) and the statement of the Exalted Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in his Khutba al Wada (Farewell Sermon: ) which was the first Declaration of Human Rights and Freedoms in Islam: "O people !As these days are blessed days .and these months are blessed months ,and this very land where you live is a blessed land ,your lives ,goods ,and chastity are likewise blessed ,untouchable and protected against all kinds of violations” .
These Islamic injections have been working as the guiding principles all along during the Islamic history. For example under the Ottoman Caliphate personal liberty and freedom was granted both to Muslims and non Muslims .Everyone had the right to travel and to security of property on condition that they not violate other's rights and freedoms, which is expressed by the significant principle: "Bara'ah al dhimmah (freedom from obligation) is essential."There was no difference between Muslims and non-Muslims with respect to personal freedom .It was an offence to infringe on someone's life property, or chastity. Non-Muslim places of worship were preserved in the country and they were allowed to have services. The places of worship, schools, and real estate belonging to the non -Muslims in Ottoman territory as well as the court verdicts in that regard are clear proofs of this fact.
According to a famous Turkish scholar Ahmed Akgunduz: "The appearance of personal rights and freedoms on the agenda of the West had to await the declarations of the eighteenth century, which aimed to protect people against unjustifiable detention. We have already seen that till 1689, religious intolerance was prevalent to the extent that Locke had to protested against that vehemently. As a matter of fact, it was only in the nineteenth century that the protection of one's life health and body, the preservation of one's chastity and honour, respect for privacy, and other personal rights began to appear in Western legal systems. Even the Civil Law of Switzerland included the first decrees pertaining to that issue no earlier than 1912.
Islamic law and its pluralistic spirit influenced world both eastwards and westwards. According to Christopher Roederer and Darrel Moellendorf: "There is no doubt that the foundations of modern western civilisation, and of European philosophy of law, are to be found in the Middle Ages and Islamic legal thinking”. It is clearly noticed that Islamic law also introduced “two fundamental principles to the West, on which the future structure of law would later stand: equity and justice. “These two principals were precursors to the concept of pact a Servant in civil law and international law."
(The Author is Director International Center for Spiritual Studies, Islamic University of Science and Technology Awantipora Pulwama. Former Director, Shah-i-Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies, University of Kashmir Srinagar. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)