“Brothers in Deen”: the Quran calls for Coexistence, not Clash


non-Muslims in a Muslim state

The rise of ISIS and the recent Charlie Hebdo massacre have brought the “clash of civilizations” discourse to a fever pitch.  In reality, the Quran calls for a government based on values closely resembling that of Western republics. Equal rights are guaranteed to non-Muslims so long as they fulfill the same two obligations as their Muslim counterparts:  follow the law and pay an income tax. Henceforth, they are considered “brothers in the system of life.”  No religious conversion is required.

Before we proceed, note that Islam (meaning “submission” to the will of God) is referred to as a “Deen” in the Quran. Deen means “system of life” or “way of governance.”   Religion is but a component of Deen.  Next, let’s review the verse deemed “the verse of the sword” by critics:

9:5: “Slay those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God wherever you come upon them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them…”

At first glance, this would seem to condone violence against non-Muslims. But, an honest contextual review reveals that this verse references those non-Muslims who keep violating treaties and attacking the Muslim government.

9:10: “They respect no tie and no pact regarding a believer. They are the transgressors.”

9:11:  “If they (the warring non-Muslims) mend their ways and establish Salat and pay Zakat, then they are your Brothers in Deen.”

So we are clearly told that non-Muslims are considered “brothers” to Muslims if they are not fighting against them and they fulfill two duties: establish Salat and pay Zakat. “Salat” means the “system that follows closely” (the divine commands).  The scope of Salat can vary with context.  For instance, the Quran indicates that establishing Salat at a government level eliminates corruption (11:84-87) and all creatures “know their Salat” (24:41), meaning they follow their Divine programming instinctually.  At a personal level, Salat defines the Islamic daily prayers but more importantly the moral code of honesty, sincerity, truthfulness, steadfastness, etc. (70:19-34).

 jizya is not a non-believer’s “tribute” to Muslims as commonly believed

Coming to Zakat, it is commonly defined as “charity”, but in actuality it was a government income tax (6:141) in the early days of Islam, and only 100 years after Prophet Muhammad (S) died was Zakat disconnected from state collection (see http://tinyurl.com/mta34mw).  Notably, the Quranic term for charity is sadaqa (9:60). Furthermore, the Quran did not restrict Zakat to its current ineffectual 2.5%.

With this understanding of Deen, Salat, and Zakat, we can appreciate verse 9:11 clearly:

“If they (the warring non-Muslims) mend their ways and establish Salat (follow the rules of the Islamic government and its code of ethics) and pay Zakat (the income tax), then they are your Brothers in Deen (good citizens of the Muslim state or brothers in your way of life).”

A parallel can be drawn between this understanding and that of the status of Muslim-Americans, such as myself.  I follow the laws of the American Republic, I respect Judeo-Christian American values, and I pay my taxes.  Hence, I am considered a good American citizen.

What about the jizya?  Are Non-Muslims subject to a special tribute?  As discussed, their only economic duty is to pay the Zakat tax.  Jizya is mentioned in the following verse:

9:29: “Fight against those who reject belief in God and the Last Day, (and keep breaking treaties, 9:13)…until they pay jizya with willing submission.”

First, kharaj is the Quranic term used for tribute (18:94), not jizya.  Secondly, jizya comes from the word jaza (recompense, see 18:106) and hence means “war reparations” owed by the aggressive rebels, not a non-believers’ “tribute” as commonly mistranslated.  Evidence aside from the Quran regarding jizya can be found in the first true Islamic State constitution written by Prophet Muhammad (S):  The Covenant of Medina and his equally benevolent Charter of Privileges for the Coptic Christians on Mt. Sinai.  These landmark human rights documents grant non-Muslims equal rights and make no mention of a tribute.

Certainly some abusive Muslim rulers did burden their non-Muslim subjects with tribute taxation.  More in line with Quranic guidance, the Moorish rulers of Spain presided over Muslim, Jewish and Christian subjects for seven centuries without oppressive taxation.  This thriving milieu made contributions in all fields of learning, and by many accounts gave birth to the European Renaissance. 

Regardless of this nostalgia, the thought of living under any rules remotely “Islamic” repulses Westerners. Take comfort in that 99.99% of immigrant Muslims have no motivation to overthrow Western democracies.  It is these republics that uphold Quranic principles such as freedom of religion and expression (2:256), equality before the law (4:135), presumption of innocence (49:6), gender equity (4:32, 33:35), social safety nets (9:60), rule of law (33:60), and strong ethics (70:21-70:33). The barbarism of blasphemy and apostasy laws, stoning, child marriage, the burqa, 72 virgin mythology, intolerance, all beliefs added to Islam centuries after its advent, await in many of their (so-called) Islamic homelands such as Afghanistan, Saudia Arabia, Yemen, etc. Such is the damage that hate philosophies, including Wahhabism and dictatorial rule have wrought on Islam over the past centuries.

With this latter point, a word to Muslim readers: Islam has been hijacked not only by extremist groups, but also by an orthodox religious establishment that shuns correction of fabricated traditions and misinterpretations which violate human rights and enable extremism.  There is an urgency for a Reformation of Islamic thought.  Don’t sit this one out.  Your children and your Brothers in Deen deserve better!

Fawad Ahmed, MD


11 thoughts on ““Brothers in Deen”: the Quran calls for Coexistence, not Clash

  1. anonymous says:

    Assalamu Alaikum Br. Fawad,

    First and foremost congratulations on your new blog/forum and thank you for presenting the analysis of 9:10-11.

    Based upon the interpretation that non-Muslim’s violated the treaties are required to establish Salaat, the basis of establishing Salaat is based upon 22:41 They are the ones who if We give them power in the land, establish Salaat… In 9:11 mentions aqamoo assalat (establish Salaat) for the Non-Muslim’s upon repentance and mending their ways to become brothers in Deen.

    We have other verses stating that Salaat is for the Mu’min (believers) which would require a conversion.

    4:103 … establish Salaat as usual. Salaat at the times appointed by the Central Authority is mandatory unto believers.

    49:15 The true believers (Mu’mins) are only those who have attained conviction in God and His Messenger, and afterwards, doubt not, but strive in the way of God with their wealth and their person. Such are true to their word. [2:8, 4:136]

    8:2 The true believers are those who feel a tremor in their hearts when God is mentioned. (They beat synchronously with the commands of God.) And when His revelations are conveyed to them, they find their faith strengthened. They do their best and then put their trust in their Lord.

    8:3 They help establish the Divine System and keep the provision that We have given them, open for the good of humanity.

    From the above verses Salaat is for the believers only, can you clarify in 9:11 if conversion was required keeping in mind (2:256) that there is absolutely no compulsion or coercion in Deen as 9:11 would be a contradiction if a conversion was not a requirement.

    Furthermore if Deen is interpreted as system of life and there is no compulsion to follow the established “way of government”, there would be a multitude of problems in an ideal Qur’anic government/society, those who do not follow the established “way of government” would simply live in a society with treaties between each other, eventually leading to a violation as history has shown. History is a testament of the rise and fall of nations.

    Enough of my rambling. I look forward to your reply.

  2. Dr. Shabbir Ahmed says:

    Dear Anonymous, Salamun alaikum!

    I think you know that all terminology and verses of the Qur’an must be seen in their context. For example, SALAAT has been mentioned 300 times in the Qur’an if I recall correctly. Look at the context in each case and you will find SALAAT giving you a different shade of meanings. This phenomenon is not specific to the Qur’an. Even in our daily conversations, writings and books, a word or phrase will totally lose its meanings if we detach it from the context. See that SALAAT translated as the ritual prayer or Namaaz cannot fit in 9:11 however hard we try. Who would expect a non-Muslim to pray Namaaz five times a day?

    For obvious reasons then, I have rendered 9/10-11 as below.

    9:10 They respect no tie and no pact regarding a believer. They are the ones given to excesses.

    9:11 If they mend their ways, (and as law-abiding citizens), help consolidate the Divine System, and the Economic Order of Zakaat, then they are your brothers and sisters in the System of Life. Thus We explain Our messages for those who wish to learn. [The usual translation of this verse conveys the meaning that if they start praying five times a day and give 2.5% poor-due per year, then they are your brothers and sisters in religion. But the verse is addressing a Collective System]

    PS: You will note that the Glorious Book respects human intelligence and encourages us to fill in the apparent blanks.

    IKHWAN = Brothers = Brothers & Sisters although we have a specific word for Sisters, UKHUWAAt.

    15:47 And We shall remove from their hearts any sense of jealousy, rancor, rivalry and bitterness. And they shall rest as brothers and sisters, facing one another, on thrones of happiness. [7:43, 56:15, 88:13. Akh = Brother. Ukht = Sister. Ukhuwaat = Sisters. Ikhwan = Brothers and Sisters]

    49:10 The believers are but a single Brotherhood and Sisterhood. So, make peace between your brothers and sisters. And be mindful of God so that you may attain mercy. [‘Ikhwatun’ = Brotherhood & Sisterhood. They are members of one family, brothers and sisters to one another]

    May Allah bless you!

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    Great points. First of all, note that our religious establishment has done a fine job over the past centuries of turning the Deen of Islam into the small thing called religion. The apt definition of a “believer” in Islam is one that upholds the system of Justice and Opportunity for all citizens, (along with establishing spirituality and certain rituals). Hence, a non-Muslim living in an Islamic country who upholds these values is a “functional Muslim” (a “Brother in Deen”) so to speak, despite his religious beliefs. Contrast this to the ones who maintain religious appearances but have no value for human rights and uphold oppressive governments. That being said, consider the American example: the Republic system of government with its freedoms, justice and due process procedures is very close to the Islamic government system, which is supposed to follow these principles closely (Salat). And its tax base is much more robust than most countries and this collected revenue is distributed very equitably as compared to “Muslim” countries. This is truer to the Zakat system.

    And you are right, the Quran mentions it takes Power to establish Salat and Zakat because they require government level organization behind them (the personal salat being a different matter). Now, yes there is no compulsion in Deen, hence the stipulation is very benevolent for those who do not like the Islamic system, 9:6 leaves no choice but for the Islamic government to escort the insecure non-Muslims to a place where they feel secure. They are not to run parallel governments within the Islamic state, nor be forced to follow rules or religious systems they disagree with. The American government also does not tolerate those who do not want to follow the Republic rules, obey their ethics, or pay income tax.

    Please visit again.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Fawad and to your father for replying to my comments and clarifying certain tenets of your post and I concur with you that the context is very important to analyze. Very interesting stuff and excellent blog post. Please convey my salaam to your father and family. (You will know who I am from my email address).

    • Salaam Sarah. Did you view this video yourself??? There is no reference at all. It only parrots the erroneous traditional understanding for the most part. It did reaffirm what I stated that Zakat was a government collection but that’s it. Please review my essay again. Did you read 9:5 and 9:11? non-Muslims pay Zakat. Do you want to pay a “non-believer tax” in a non-Muslim country, too? Is that justice? Please revisit your views.

  5. Steven says:

    Salaam brother makes alot of sense for Salat to meant that in certain ayats. But what about the ayats the say stand bow/kneel and prostrate. And that Salat is at certain times ? Theres alot of verses talking about movements . Like falling on thier chins/faces weeping. And Salat names Fajr Wusta Isha . Please clarify this part of it doesnt make much sense to me . Salaam may Allah guide us to the truth

    • Salaam brother. Please see this post:
      SALAT IS NOT PRAYERS ALONE. Salat from salu, “to follow”, can be defined as “connection”, or “the system that follows closely.” The related word, “mussalli” is the runner-up horse who follows the “sabiq”, the winner extremely closely (source: Lane, Raghab). In most Quranic contexts, Salat means “the system which closely follows the Divine Laws”. Unfortunately, tradition has reduced Salat to its most basic component: the ritual prayers.
      For over 12 centuries learned men have decried this dilution of Salat. Anas bin Malik, Raghab Isfahani, Abu Qasim Balakhi, Khateeb Baghdadi, Mullah Ali Qari, Jamaluddin Afghani, Allama Mashriqi, Allama Tamanna Imaadi, Dr. Faazil Deeniyat, GA Parvez (see Islam True History and False Beliefs). Let’s review the evidence for ourselves:
      1) Salat is a Comprehensive System:
      Note, the Quran repeatedly states: “Aqimusalat”, ESTABLISH (the system of) Salat, not simply to pray it.
      24:41: …He it is Whom all beings in the heavens and the earth glorify, and the birds, with their wings outspread, as they fly in columns. All of them know their SALAT and TASBEEH (“follow closely” and “strive within” the Divine Laws)…
      9:11: non-Muslims who establish Salat (follow the laws and ethics of the Islamic government) and pay Zakat (the government tax) are called “Brothers in Deen” (citizens of the Islamic state).
      11:84-87: establishing Salat (by following all Divine Laws closely) in a community ELIMINATES corruption.
      29:45: establishing Salat in the society eliminates lewdness, injustice, stinginess.
      ***Reflect: does simply praying eliminate corruption, stinginess, lewdness? Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria all have regular prayers…where is the evidence? But establishing values of ethics, rule of law (comprehensive Salat) certainly are effective. We see this in Western Republics today.
      2) Moral Code of Salat
      70:19-35: Defines the “Musalleen”, those who establish Salat (follow the Divine Laws) by being patient, generous, trustworthy, God-fearing, chaste, truthful, establish Salat in the community…hence they will be rewarded with Paradise.
      Does praying alone magically give us these qualities? or does following closely ALL of the Divine Commands?
      74:43: The ones who were NOT “Musalleen” by being unethical will enter Hellfire.
      *So important is the following of Divine Values on a 24/7 basis, that we are told to uphold it all parts of the day:
      11:114: Strive to establish (Salat) the Divine System, day and night. Actions that create balance in the society remove the ill effects of inequities. (Note: prayers alone cannot do this).
      3) Congregations for Salat
      To establish Salat in the community, periodic congregations are also needed to follow Divine laws: discuss communal needs, review legislation, offer prayers, and before that a symbolic ablution (4:43, 5:6) is mentioned. Because this is serious business, intoxicated ones are asked to avoid coming (5:6, 4:43). The congregations of Salat are to be shortened in times of travel (4:101) and it is advised to conduct salat discussions and meetings in a moderate voice (17:110). Muslims are advised to not limit God’s remembrance to these meetings alone, but carry it with them throughout the day afterwards (64:10).
      For the Prophet (S), there was an extra task (not prayer) of Tahajjud in the night:
      17:79: As head of the state you shall even “contemplate and work” part of the night. This is the extra endeavor for you. (And your companions shall join you in this endeavor as needed (73:2-3)).
      4) Prayer Details
      Prayers can be considered to be a part of Salat but where are the prayer details? Some traditional Qurancentrics feel that Salat details can be gleamed from scattered verses. Did God not want to give us clear, cohesive guidance? Perhaps flexibility was intentional. Here is a popular misconstrued verse often used to justify some positions of prayers:
      Yusuf Ali, 4:102: When thou (O Messenger) art with them on an expedition, and standest to lead them in prayer, Let one party of them stand up (in prayer) with thee, Taking their arms with them: When they finish their prostrations, let them Take their position in the rear. And let the other party come up which hath not yet prayed – and let them pray with thee
      Alternative Translation. Dr. Shabbir Ahmed, 4:102: Messenger! When you are with them on expedition let some of them stand and take instructions/orders (salat) keeping their arms in precaution. After they submit/understand, let them fall to the rear and then let the other group come forth and keep their arms in precaution while taking their instructions/orders.
      (prayers at the frontlines? or battle instructions? which one fits Reason?)
      So where to turn for details? Depending on which sect you are you can choose your hadith books (though they offer very inconsistent information on prayer details). But these are also the same “sahih” hadith books that give us anti-Quranic guidance: child marriage, blasphemy and apostasy laws, destruction of the Arts, stoning, gender oppression, sex slavery, etc. Perhaps like in other things that don’t violate Human Rights and Reason, such as details of Hajj rituals, Eid, funeral prayers, etc. you could just follow the traditional path 😐
      In Conclusion:
      1) My humble advice to Qurancentrics who oppose prayers as a part of Salat altogether: follow the course of Prophet Aaron (S), who tolerated an innovation to avoid further sectarianism:
      20:94: “Aaron said, “O Son of my mother! Don’t get mad at me, nor treat me harshly. I feared that you would say, “You have let the Children of Israel divide into parties and sects.”
      2) To the traditional minded, I advise sincere review of all verses mentioning Salat to understand that prayers alone absolutely cannot encompass Salat. Once you understand the comprehensive nature of Salat, you will grasp the Big Picture of Islam. You will then comprehend why Western Republics are succeeding (establishing Salat principles of ethics and rule of law) and the Muslim World is failing (stuck on lip service). (God’s Promise of Success to those who establish Salat is indiscriminant). You will then understand why Islam is DEEN (a system of governance, a way of life), not a small thing called religion.
      3) As for me personally, I will not be the one calling others to pray 5 times a day because I fall way short myself all the time. However, to ESTABLISH THE SYSTEM OF SALAT, I will exhort my community tirelessly.

      This should help answer your questions. Salat means duty, orders, mission, commands, connection. Salat ul Wusta means Central Duty. The positions are mentioned in above post. For any verses in question, visit Islamawakened.com and see Dr. Shabbir Ahmed translation.

  6. Steven says:

    Thanks for response brother . But i feel like prayer is so important for us to connect with Allah . Its like a meeting we have with Allah , it increases our rememberance. Are u saying theres no such thing as prayer ? And what about where Allah says the Salat is a specific times? If it were the divine system, shouldnt that be applied All the time not just specific parts of the day. And k check out that Quran translation, i feel like it had to many of his imterpretations in it. It wasnt just a translation. May Allah guide us to.truth


    • Salaam Steven,

      Prayer is fine, and du’a is mentioned throughout the Quran, sure. There are no specific times that I see. When the Quran says to establish Salat at all ends of day and throughout the say, does it not tell you that establishing the Divine System is a 24/7 endeavor? not something that we pray and leave on a rug? In any case, so long as we Muslims don’t understand that understanding the Quran and applying throughout society is our central duty, far beyond rug, rituals, recitations…then I have no issue. The translation is an interpretation…word for word translations cannot interpret the depth of Quranic Arabic. Take care brother.

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