Are non-Muslims allowed to propagate their beliefs (whether they be of a religious affiliation or not) in a state governed by the Shari`ah?
If not, please can you explain why?
Freedom of thought, expression and ascription to an idea or belief are all a part of the basic human rights. The Qur’an has condoned and upheld this right by stating:
There is no Compulsion in Religion. (Al-Baqarah 2: 256)
Propagating one’s ideas in a decent manner and within the limits prescribed by the law of the land is obviously a part of this freedom.
Besides this general freedom granted by the Qur’an, the Shari`ah, however, has not given any express directives regarding whether a Muslim state should allow or prohibit its non-Muslim citizens and inhabitants from such expression and propagation of their ideas and beliefs. This really implies that the issue should be considered in the light of the universally acknowledged moral principles.
In my opinion, if Muslims expect to be allowed the freedom to express their thoughts and propagate their ideas, while they are living or visiting non-Muslim lands, then they must reciprocate their expectations by giving the same rights to non-Muslims in their own land. The issue should, in my opinion, be decided in the light of the principle of justice: Muslim states should closely consider the kind of freedom they would like non-Muslim states to grant their Muslim citizens and then they must grant the same rights to the non-Muslims living in their own states. If, however, they are not willing to grant a particular right to non-Muslims, living in their lands, then they should, at least, stop demanding that particular right for the Muslim, from the non-Muslim states in which they reside.
My aforementioned opinion is, generally, brushed aside by those who differ with it, on the grounds: “How can we allow the propagation of falsehood among the Muslims and how can we sit as silent spectators, while our Muslim brethren are convinced into accepting falsehood?”. This, in my opinion, is quite a ridiculous argument. This argument presupposes the idea that the world has, in fact, accepted Islam to be the only way of Truth, yet is not willing to accept it. It presupposes the idea that the adherents and proponents of other religions, beliefs and ideas themselves acknowledge their ascriptions to be falsehood. The fact, on the contrary, is that just as the Muslims believe their ascriptions to be the Ultimate Truth and desire for themselves the freedom to be able to proclaim and propagate this Truth in other states, the adherents of other religions also consider their own specific affiliations to be the Ultimate Truth and desire for themselves the same rights.
Furthermore, the Modern-day Muslim states should also realize that after the discontinuation of the institute of prophethood, the humankind has no other way of recognizing and appreciating the truth, except through communication and interaction. Under these circumstances, the way of establishing the superiority of the Truth over falsehood is not through restricting and oppressing what we consider to be false – as this would, on reciprocal basis, grant the same right to others of restricting and oppressing the ideas, which we ourselves hold to be true – but through unhindered communication and interaction between the different creeds.
In my opinion, the more appropriate thing to do is to equip the Muslims with a sound knowledge of Islam and then to allow their free interaction with people of other creeds. If we truly believe Islam to be the Ultimate Truth of God, then our actions should represent our confidence in Islam. Our true confidence in Islam would translate into a more effective presentation of Islam – allowing the people their natural freedom of choice – rather than restricting others to present their ideas, in fear of losing a number of Muslim heads, who could have remained Muslims had we fulfilled our responsibilities, rather than putting restriction upon others.
The Qur’an, immediately after the foregoing verse says:
Truth has become apparent from falsehood. Now, whoever rejects [the path of] the Transgressor and believes in God has, indeed, taken to a stronghold…
Let us direct all our efforts in making the ‘Truth’ as apparent from the falsehood as we can, rather than fret over the propagation of falsehood.