“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). Continue reading