By MuslimAnswers.net Team
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم
A number of times we have heard or read religious Christians ask the following question to Muslims: “I respect your right to profess and propagate your religion in our Christian countries. However, don’t you, as a Muslim, feel any shame within yourself that the same types of rights are denied to Christians and to others in your Muslim lands?”
To begin with, I have to say that the Christian, regardless of his personal religious devotion, does not truly belong to a “Christian nation” as far as the laws of his country are concerned. Rather, all of the Christian-majority countries have, for the past century or longer, been following a secular model of governance. This is extremely important to consider, since it throws the argument of the Christian of the tracks at the outset. Thus, whatever may be granted to Muslims of “freedom” to practice and preach Islam is done due to the secular setup of governance. We are not saying that there would have been no “freedom” for Muslims had Christianity been so intrinsically interwoven within the public governance of the Christian objector’s lands, but we can surmise that the entire political, social, and cultural setup would have been very different from what it is today in such lands.
This brings us to the next point, which is that even the use of terms such as “right to worship” or “right to proselytize” are in fact secular constructs, and cannot be seriously taken to be of sole Christian origination. Yes, one might mention the role of the Protestant Reformation in “opening up” the worldview of Christian Europe, eventually leading to major changes in the way people are governed in the West and around the world, but this cannot be taken to be so directly related to Christianity. This is particularly due to the fact that Christianity existed for over a millennium before the Reformation, and during this period it was either the “persecuted cult” (in its earlier centuries), or when power was achieved by the Christian clergy and rulers, it did not feel the need to open up religious activity to non-Christian religion, especially not to the point forwarded in modern secular political theory.
Also, we need to consider that the Islamic religion and the Christian one stand very far apart when it comes to the development of their political and societal ideologies. With Islam, the rules for politics and dealing with society at large were revealed ad inspired during the very lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ. There were obviously subsequent clarifications and expositions of what such public rules were, but one cannot fail to notice that the main rules of Islam are in one way or the other all referring back to the person of Muhammad ﷺ.
Not so in Christianity. This is owing to the fact that Jesus (Alayhi Salaam) did not come with an all-around final revelation and practical blueprint for humanity at large. According to the Christian account, within one week of entering the main city of Jerusalem, he was crucified, and human history itself was superseded. With this type of mindset, one cannot expect for a concrete political and social system to be laid bare and to go back fully to the person of Jesus, since the alleged divinity of Jesus and his extraordinary and Universe-shattering Crucifixion would serve as a roadblock towards entering a life of daily rules and regulations. In fact, as we know from a number of Christian-based sources, the bulk of very early Christianity awaited the “Second Coming” of Jesus within their own lifetimes, and it is difficult to envisage how people living with the expectation of an imminent return can even begin to consider a complete political and societal system for everyday living. So we hope this very important point is not missed on our readers.
One final issue might be that, whether the present Christian attitude towards religious expression is from the Bible or from secular liberalism does not matter, for we know it to be much better and humane than the Islamic conception, which does not allow for any religious propagation and punishes apostates with death. To this, we would say that Islam does not generally espouse a doctrine of total moral objectivism where all the rules of Islam can be deduced by reason alone even without the use of revelation. Rather, we say that Allah decides which rules and ordinances are connected to the entry of people into Paradise, even if the humans themselves may not understand the wisdom behind such rules.
Therefore, the proper approach as far as the Christian is concerned is to take note that the Islamic concept of Allah is the only correct one and that the Christian conception of “Triune God” is simply incorrect from a rational perspective; thereafter, a study of the Qur’an and its miraculous nature is to be undertaken, along with a study of other ways in which unquestionable knowledge is ascertained in Islam, along with what the concomitant results are (here we have to keep in mind that there may be differences of opinion, some of which are even related to the extent of “freedom” allowed to non-Muslims to worship according to their religion, and to the extent and application of the apostasy punishments). We believe that such a method of discussion will orient matters towards more substantive points of consideration rather than the low-level squabbling about particular laws one notices in many discussions. [Of course, there may be those who accept Islam just by reflecting on the Qur’an, or perhaps by contemplating some of the rules of Islam, and we are always ready to accept those into Islam regardless of the route they take, but we are talking about the formal methodology for presenting Islam].
So basically, the above is the position we should, as Muslims, adopt whenever someone says that Christianity is superior to Islam for allowing others to worship in their lands while Islam allows no such thing. We will, by the Will of Allah, expand upon this answer as time permits and as the situation demands. And our success is only through Allah the Exalted.