British Values are Islamic Values
In June this year Prime Minister David Cameron supported plans to promote British values in schools stating that it is these values that define us as a society and deter extremism from growing in the UK. These values include the Rule of Law, Democracy, the preservation of Human Rights, a tolerant perspective and an aversion to conflict.
As a Muslim, I welcome this initiative and I promote these values as I recognise them as being integral to our Muslim heritage having been advocated by Muslims for over 1400 years. It is unfortunate, however, that over time these values – that could arguably be thought of as Human values – have been lost in some parts of the Muslim world only to have surfaced and flourished in many Western countries, one of which is the UK. In a recent study by professor, Hossein Askari, it was found that Qur’anic teachings are acted upon more in Western countries than they are in some Islamic countries which have failed to embrace the values of their own faith in politics, business, law and society.
What constitutes Islamic values, then, and why do I believe them to be synonymous with British values? As Eric Pickles MP wrote in a recent letter, “British values are Islamic values.” In fact, only recently former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams stated that ‘Islam is reviving British values’.”
With regards to the aforementioned British values, I would like to highlight the Islamic standpoint using some Qur’anic verses.
There are numerous quotes in the Qur’an and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) indicating the peaceful nature of Islam. However, there are also a few verses which call upon the Muslims to defend themselves as they were revealed at a time when Muslims were being physically attacked early on in their history when they were at their weakest. Consequently, God instructed Muslims to fight back until these attacks ceased. Unfortunately, these verses have become controversial as they tend to be taken out of context and quoted by parts of the media and extremists – be they Muslims or non-Muslims – when, in truth, murder and the unlawful and unjustified engagement in conflict are in fact heinous crimes in Islam.
“…….anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people. And anyone who spares a life, it shall be as if he spared the lives of all the people.” (Qur’an, 5:32)
“You shall not kill any person – for God has made life sacred – except in the course of justice. …..”
The Qur’an does not allow Muslims to fight except in self-defence and to enforce peace. It imposes no restrictions on those who disagree on religious matters. It urges Muslims to treat such people kindly and equitably.
In much the same vein, Muslims are ordained by God to protect and fulfil the rights of our fellow human beings, regardless of race, socio-economic background, ethnicity or creed.
Indeed God says in the Qur’an,
“Do not argue with the people of the scripture (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) except in the nicest possible manner—unless they transgress—and say, “We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you, and our God and your God is one and the same; to Him we are submitters.” (Quran 29:46)
“Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the Muslims; anyone who (1) believes in God, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” (Quran 2:62)
“… If it were not for God’s supporting of some people against others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques – where the name of God is commemorated frequently – would have been destroyed. Absolutely, God supports those who support Him. God is Powerful, Almighty.” (Quran 22:40)
In honour of the teachings of the Qur’an, when the second ruler of the Islamic empire, Umar b. Al-Khattab, captured Jerusalem he invited the Jews back into the city, allowing them to practice their religion freely. This pact, called ‘The Covenant of Umar’, was done in order to rectify the injustices inflicted upon the Jews by other nations predating Islam
Rule of Law
The drawing up of covenants, pacts and treaties were characteristic of early generation Islamic governance. They were a means by which the ruler of the Muslims engaged with leaders of other nations and ensured the just and fair treatment of and amongst his people. The leader was held to account by the Shura, a council. All affairs were conducted and decided by mutual consultation with the Shura who ensured the ruler of the Muslims adhered to the Islamic values necessary to ensuring the rights of the people were fulfilled.
It is evident that the ruling system of the Islamic empire was revolutionary for its time. Over 1400 years ago the Muslim governing body had implemented values fundamental to modern day Western governments. There is one area of contention, however – Democracy. There are ideological groups who argue that Islam discourages and condemns the democratic political system. Nevertheless, one need only look to Islamic history, at a time when Islam was practiced in its most authentic form, to find that values of democracy essential to Islamic society. As previously mentioned, the Shura was a council which consulted with the leader of the people. This leader was elected by the people by way of a voting system and nearly 100 years of Islamic ruler ship was determined as a result of elections. Even the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) deferred to the majority judgement of his companions in matters of importance. Some battles were fought and some conceded on the vote taken despite the Prophet’s own opinion to the contrary.
Enlightened reform ideas continue to develop in the Muslim world. Institutions like Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which is the oldest university in the world, the Muslim World League in Mecca, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference headquartered in Jeddah are the examples of the contemporary, intellectual, educational, and diplomatic forces in the resurgence of Islam. The contributions they make toward a better understanding of Islam, as well as its peaceful propagation, are free from extremism and violence.
The resurgence of Islam is flourishing in every part of the world and dedicated Muslims are trying hard to meet the challenges of modern times while remaining faithful to the values of their faith. This is enlightened Islamic Fundamentalism. Its continuation and growth are ongoing. But since all mass movements carry the risk of excess, extremism by some is likely to occur at times. However, one should not judge the higher values shared by the many on the basis of the extreme deeds committed by the few.
George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950) was a Nobel-Prize-winning Irish playwright, critic and passionate socialist whose influence on Western theatre, culture and politics stretched from the 1880s to his death in 1950, at 94 one of the world’s most famous men. After studying Islam and Prophet Mohammed made a number of remarks including the following two:
“I have very carefully studied Islam and the life of its Prophet (pbuh). I have done so both as a student of history and as a critic. And I have come to conclusion that Muhammad (pbuh) was indeed a great man and a deliverer and benefactor of mankind which was till then writhing under the most agonising Pain.”
“If a man like Muhammed were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness.”
Sadly, this message of “peace and happiness” appears to have been lost in some parts of the world, however “Human Values” prevail, and are universal whether referred to as “Islamic” or “British”, they are applicable to all humanity.
There is no doubt that the values held by British Muslims have much in common with those held by past generations of this country as well as those held by British citizens today. I hope that this spirit of positive contribution to society, compassion and caring for the vulnerable, may long continue – for the benefit of all in Britain. It is these values that make Britain great, and make this a country that I and my fellow Muslims are proud to call home.
By Mr Deen – Muslim Lay Chaplain
Click here to go back to the Unions of Religion page