Question: Should we tell non-Muslims to abide by the rules of Islam?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
We are not obliged to command non-Muslims to conform to the details of the Sacred Law. However, we do have to rebuke them if they break rules shared by both their religion and Islam, such as lying. Also, we should not assist them in activities that are against our own religion.
Tolerating Other religions
While Islam recognizes itself as the one and absolute truth, it does tolerate other religions. For this reason, it is permissible for Muslims to allow non-Muslims to do certain things that impermissible in Islam but permissible in their religion. This is especially the case when it comes to their religious activities.
For example, a Muslim man may allow his Christian wife to go to church or drink alcohol.
No one can allow a Muslim or a non-Muslim to commit murder, however, because it is something that all religions forbid.
Non-Muslims and the Details of the Sacred Law
There is a debate between the scholars regarding the moral responsibility of non-Muslims to abide by the details of the Sacred Law. Everyone agrees that the responsibility of a non-Muslim is to enter Islam. But will they be asked on the Day of Judgment why they did not pray or ate pork etc., or will they only have to answer for not believing? [Al-Manar, Nasafi; Jam al-Jawami, Subki] This debate can help us answer whether or not we have to “command the right and forbid the wrong” with non-Muslims.
Those who say that non-Muslims are not responsible to abide by the details of the Sacred Law hold that Muslims do not have to command non-Muslims to fast Ramadan, for example, and may even allow them to eat in Ramadan.
Similarly, based on this logic there would be no responsibility to command non-Muslims to do the right and forbid them from doing the wrong regarding details of the Sacred Law that are not shared with their faith system.
Those who say that non-Muslims are responsible to abide by the details of the Sacred Law would maintain that prohibiting a non-Muslim from doing that which is sinful in the Sacred Law would actually be obligatory. Based on this logic, pouring a cup of tea for a non-Muslim to drink during the day in Ramadan would actually be sinful because a non-Muslim, in their eyes, is responsible to fast and the like. Please see:
It goes without saying that this discussion only applies to the details of the Sacred Law that are unique to Islam. It would be obligate to forbid others from matters such as lying, killing, stealing, etc. that are all agreed upon as immoral regardless of religion.
A Better Alternative
Regardless of the aforementioned debate, as Muslims, we have to be custodians of that which is true, decent, and upright. Allah Most High says, ‘And so We have made you an upright community so that you may be witnesses over humanity.’ (Qur’an, 2: 143)
Our duty is to be proactively driving the world to be more moral on all fronts: political, environmental, financial, racial, and social. Regardless of the religious affiliations of those involved, we have to try and guide every environment in which we have sway towards something closer to that which pleases Allah.
If, for example, backbiting and lying are happening in our office space, we should work towards eliminating it, even if all our colleagues are non-Muslim.
If we have non-Muslim friends who drink or date, we should try to show them a better alternative. This is usually more effective in actions than in deeds. If for example, we all have bad marriages, then what kind of argument are we making for the institution of marriage? We have to practically demonstrate that Islam is the better alternative.
This should all be done out of genuine care for those around us and concern for humanity as a whole. It should not be done in a stuck up or pontificating manner. No one likes to be spoken down to.
I pray this helps.
[Ustadh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.