Muslims and non-Muslims are 
Equal and Alike in Worldly Affairs

by M. Hamidullah

Excerpts from The Muslim Conduct of State
©1941 Published by Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Pakistan

O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even against yourself, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor.” (4:135) 
Justice is God’s attribute, and to stand firm for justice is to be a witness to God, even if it is detrimental to our own interests (as we conceive them) or the interests of those who are near and dear to us. According to the Latin saying, “Let justice be done though heaven should fall.” 

But Islamic justice is something higher than the formal justice of Roman law or any other human law. It is even more penetrative than the subtler justice in the speculation of the Greek philosophers. It reaches out innermost motives, because we are to act as in the presence of God, to whom all things, act and motives are known. 

Justice, even at the detriment of self-interest (Qur'an 4:135 above), such is what Islam enjoins on Muslims in all their conduct, including that in Foreign and War Offices. In his book, Abu ‘Abaid quotes this saying of the Prophet p.b.u.h “Observance for violation is better than violation for violation” – M. Hamidullah, Muslim Conduct of State (page 76). 

  • One cannot transgress law and justice and good conscience on the pretext that the other party is non-Muslim. 
  • One cannot violate pledge given them on any account. 
  • Vicarious reprisals are unlawful in Islam (for practice see “hostages” under the chapter ‘End of War’, ibid para 577) Or again, the Islamic institution of giving quarter to the enemy, based on the Quranic command concerns none else than the polytheists, the most detested of all the non-Muslims in Islam, if any human being asks for asylum and protection, it can on no account be refused. 
In fact, the entire fabric of Muslim International Law is intended for the non-Muslims, since for the founders of this science theIslamic World represented one single whole; and what they wanted to codify was to establish how to deal with other, that is non-Muslim states) ibid page 75. 

The Quran clearly declares in 4:136: 

O ye who believe! Believe in God and His Apostle, and the Scripture, which He hath sent to His Apostle, and the Scripture, which He has sent to those before (him). Any who denieth God, His angels, His Books, His Apostles, and the Day of Judgement, hath gone far, far astray.”  [see commentary 646]
However, when it comes to worldly matters, the principle of law at the heart of international relations (e.g. between Muslims and non-Muslims) is repeated in every compendium of Muslim Law. The most orthodox and the most religious Muslim authors, even during the height of their worldly might, are all unanimous on this principle that in sufferings of this world [for] Muslims and non-Muslims, are equal and alike. Ad-Dabusy, for instance says: “God has not made a difference between us and them with respect to the causes of worldly sufferings [as] this world is not the Abode of Reward.” 

Treatment of aliens has always been a matter of fundamental and far-reaching importance throughout history. Enemies from among the brothers have always elicited some restraint on the part of the victors, but the aliens have never been so fortunate. It is a matter of historical record that genocide was a religious dogma for some (regarding the Amalekites), untouchability for others,  [whereas others said] “to violate a pledge is a sin, yet to honour the pledge given to the infidel is a greater sin” (as we heard during the Crusades). 

It is important to note in conclusion that Muslim jurists have always treated the subject of treatment of aliens/non-Muslims i.e. the international law as an integral part of the general Muslim law. They do not leave this to the discretion of the rulers or the whims and fancies of politicians. The earliest extant manual or code of Muslim law dating back to the very first century was compiled by Zaid ibn Ali (grandson of Khalifa Ali) (d.120H.) under the title of Almajmu’.

Yusuf Ali Commentary Footnote 646:
If your belief is by habit or birth or the example of those you love or respect or admire, make that belief more specific and personal to yourself. We must not only have faith, but realize that faith in our inmost being. The chief objects of our Faith are God, His Apostle, and His Revelations. To all these we must give a home in our hearts. The angels we do not see and realize as we realize God, who is nearer to us than the vehicle of our lifeblood, andDay of Judgment is our future experience, but we must not deny them, or we cut off a part of our spiritual view.”