Coexistence means living together, cooperating socially and economically of either the people of two countries to fulfill their livelihood or two individuals who might not share the same interests. In other words, coexistence includes being together, not interfering in others’ private affairs, and respecting the rights of others. Islam, which considers both the individual and social needs of human beings, offers a complete package for a thriving social life. Through its teachings, the Prophet’s (PBUH & HP) and infallible Imams’(AS) tradition (Sunnah), and the Quranic teachings, Islam has provided some clear guidelines for Muslims and the followers of other religions peaceful coexistence in the Quran. Here, we focus mostly on what the Quran offers in this regard.
The first point raised about the peaceful coexistence in the Quran is that Muslims should deal with non-Muslims with justice and beneficence, as far as non-Muslims have not expressed any hostility against them and don’t respond to their kindness with hatred (60:8). In Surah Mumtahina, it is said that: “Allah forbids you only in regard to those who made war against you on account of religion and expelled you from your homes and supported [others] in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them—it is they who are the wrongdoers.”(60:9).
Accordingly, non-Muslims are in two groups — the first group who are in peace with Muslims and live peacefully with them. The Islamic government and Muslims of society should respect this group and recognize their rights. The second group is those who act against Muslims, Islam, and the Islamic government. Undoubtedly, they should be counteracted, and there would be no place for peace in this case . That’s why Imam Ali (AS) had devoted a share of public treasury (Bayt al-mal) to help the needy people of other religions. It means that an Islamic government does not overlook non-Muslims, but recognizes their rights and supports them. (10:57)
Humans naturally tend to reject any imposed idea or belief. And, the Quran never orders something which opposes to human’s nature. Hence, non-Muslims are not compelled to convert to Islam (2:256), and they are free to keep their religion. In Surah An’am, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP) is told that: “Had Allah wished, they would not have ascribed partners [to Him]. We have not made you a caretaker for them, nor is it your duty to watch over them.” (6:107). Based on these verses, along with some others, Islam recognizes other Abrahamic religions, and no Muslim is permitted to force any non-Muslim to accept Islamic ideas. Still, Muslims should let non-Muslims to retain their own religious views and beliefs and to live peacefully in society.
If Muslims want to discuss their religious viewpoints with followers of other religions, they are told: “not to argue with the People of the Book, except in a manner which is best” (29:46). It means to exchange peacefully with logical reasoning and argument. Even in their discussions with polytheists, Muslims are prevented from insulting those whom they invoke besides Allah Almighty; otherwise, they would affront Allah Almighty out of hostility (6:108) . It should be noted that the aim of these discussions should be clarifying the truth and not obliging others to convert. As stated above, no one is forced to accept what we believe. This manner ensures Muslims and non-Muslims peaceful coexistence in the Quran.
In surah Baqara, it is stated that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP) and the faithful have faith in what has been sent down to him (PBUH & HP) from Allah Almighty, and they believe in Allah Almighty, His angels, His scriptures and His apostles, and they make no distinction between any of His apostles (2:285). It means that a real believer should recognize all previous Prophets sent by Allah Almighty and what they have brought to humans from Him . Besides, in Ayat 62, the followers of other religions like the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabaeans who are faithful to Allah and the Day of Judgement and act righteously are told to have their reward from Allah Almighty (2:62). This is another proof that Islam recognizes other religions. Also, it reveals that there have been faithful people among the followers of other religions who truly believed in Allah almighty according to the teachings of their faith.
In dealing with the opponents of Islam, Islam orders Muslims to accept if they offer peace and declare a ceasefire and emphasizes that: “Allah does not allow you any course [of action] against them” (4:90). In other verses, Muslims are told that: “If they incline toward peace, then you [too] incline toward it” (8:61).
Another example that demonstrates Islamic teachings promote peaceful coexistence in the Quran with non-Muslims is that in the Quran, Muslims are told that: “the food of those who were given the Book is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them” (5:5). Besides, according to the Quran, Muslim men can marry the chaste ones from among faithful women, and chaste women of those who were given the Book before Muslims, once their dowries are paid to them (5:5). These two instances show that Muslims are free to fraternize with non-Muslims and exchange with them in society.
What has been mentioned above are only some of the many Islamic guidelines that encourage treating others kindly and behaving friendly with the followers of other religions. That makes them incline slightly towards Islam, such that after a Christian boy who had converted to Islam changed his bad behavior with his mother, the mother was attracted and converted to Islam, too. This, together with many instances of the way that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP) and Infallible Imams (AS) treated non-Muslims, proves Islam's deep care for the way Muslims deal with others which should ultimately lead them toward tolerance and maintaining a peaceful coexistence as stated in the Quran.
- M. A. Amini, “The principle of peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims in Islam,” Ma’rifat Journal, no. 165, p. 35-52.
- M. H. Tabataba’ei, “Translation of Tafsir Al-Mizan, “vol. 2, p. 681.
To address this question, we need first to clarify what we mean by ‘human rights’. Does the term refer to the so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UDHR? Or does it simply refer to the rights of humans in a general sense?
To start with, Islam does indeed confirm the basic human rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UHDR. That is to say, rights such as the right to life, freedom, equality, etc. are acknowledged by Islam. However, the way Islam looks at these concepts may be different.
That is probably the reason why the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, the CDHR, was composed some years later. The declaration included nearly the same basic human rights mentioned in the UHDR; what distinguishes the two, however, is the special perspective of Islam on the Human Being and the subject of rights.
Before examining human rights from an Islamic perspective, the following points may be considered: Is the concept of human rights a ‘modern’ phenomenon? Are human societies, let’s say human authorities, to define certain rights for human beings? If so, are these established rights all-inclusive? Can they be applied to every human being regardless of time and place or any other particular circumstances?
It seems that Islam has a distinct perspective on human rights; something that has to be elaborated in more detail.
Firstly, Islam views rights as being inherent in human beings. This means that, according to Islam, God has granted humans certain rights since the very beginning of creation. There seems no need for a group of people to establish rights for human beings; whether it be the United Nations or any other international institution.
This can explain, to a great extent, any dissimilarity between Islam and the UDHR. Accordingly, there may be certain rights recognized by Islam that are not found in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and equally, there may be rights stated in the UDHR that are not recognized by Islam.
If we have a closer look at the Islamic traditions, we realize that not only they have addressed human individual and collective rights in some great detail, but also gone beyond our ‘modern’ definition of the rights of humans! They have introduced something much more valuable, that is, ‘human dignity’!
To begin with, the Holy Scripture of Islam, the Quran, looks upon humans as one endowed with dignity. Human beings’ dignity refers to their advantages. This means that God has endowed them with sublime traits .
"Certainly We have honored the Children of Adam ….. and preferred them with a complete preference over many of those We have created" (17:70).
Also, all humans are children of Adam and are created from clay. They are equal regardless of gender differences, ethnicity, color, etc.
"Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another"(49:13).
There are plenty of writings on the subject of rights in Islamic resources, amongst which Imam Sajjad (AS)’s The Treatise on Rights is one of the best. Imam Ali b. al-Hussain (AS), known as Sajjad (the Often in Prostration) , has left a comprehensive account on the issue . Almost 50 rights and duties are introduced and discussed in this momentous document; it includes various social relations of any individual such as rights of parents, spouses, children, neighbors, teachers, students, believers, the leader of Congregational Prayer, the government, etc. It also defines the duties that humans have towards their ‘self’ and even their organs:
“The right of your ‘self’ (nafs) against you is that you employ it in obeying God.”
“The right of the tongue is that you consider it too noble for obscenity, accustom it to good, refrain from any meddling in which there is nothing to be gained, express kindness to the people, and speak well concerning them.” 
The treatise was written centuries ago, yet it addresses not only the issue of rights in an extensive manner, but also illustrates the ethical principles of citizenship in detail:
“The right of your neighbor is that you guard him when he is absent, honor him when he is present, and aid him when he is wronged… if you know of any evil from him, you conceal it…You do not forsake him in difficulty, you release him from his stumble, you forgive his sin, and you associate with him generously”.
“The right of the people of your creed is harboring safety for them, compassion toward them…you should love for them what you love for yourself and dislike for them what you dislike for yourself…” .
Our concise examination of the Islamic viewpoint on the subject of human rights implies that Islam does recognize human rights. Nonetheless, a particular Islamic perspective on human beings as the honored creature of God with specific rights and duties has to be taken into consideration.
- "Statement on Human Rights" (PDF), Retrieved 2017,
- Islami, S. H. (2005). Retrieved 2017, from Noormags
- Javadi Amuli, ‘Abdullah. Sources Of Human Rights In Islam. Retrieved 2017, from
- ‘Life of Imam Sajjad (a.s)’. Retrieved 2017, from http://shiastudies.org/article/imam-ali-b-al-husayn-al-sajjad-beginner
- ‘Risalat al-huquq’. Retrieved 2017, from http://en.wikishia.net/view/Risalat_al-huquq_(book)
- TREATISE ON RIGHTS (RISALAT AL-HUQUQ). Retrieved 2017,
Every age has its defining genius, every culture its own Aristotle, Leonardo or Goethe. For classical Islam, one of those figures is unquestionably Ibn Sina or Avicenna (his Latinized name). A marvelous man by whose eighteenth birthday his fame as a physician was so great that he was summoned to treat the dying Samanid king of Bukhara (976-97 A.C) when all the talented court physicians had given up hope of his recovery. To the great astonishment of all, he was given the privilege of using the court's remarkable library which was the highest award for his future successes.
It is hard to describe Avicenna in any word but superlative. He wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived. His intellectual achievements encompassed not only medicine, but philosophy, law, science, music, poetry, mathematics, and statecraft. Even his life was the stuff of legends.
The only source of information for the first part of Avicenna's life is his autobiography, as written down by his student Juzjani. Now let's have a glimpse at his life in his own words:
“My father Abdullah was from Bukhara. Bukhara at that time was one of the greatest cities in Persia. He was appointed as a Samanid governor married to my mother Setareh, and I was born there in 980 A.D. They called me Hussain, some years later my father was posted to Bukhara, where I received my early education in literature and Quran. From the very beginning I made such remarkable progress in my education that at the age of 10, I had completely memorized the Quran. Abu Abdullah al Natili, a leading philosopher of his time, visited Bukhara and stayed at our home. I learned logic, geometry, and astronomy from him. I soon surpassed my teacher and studied medicine, physics, and metaphysics by myself and mastered all these subjects before I was 17 years old. Then, I started writing at the age of 21”.
Ibn Sina's chief work is the monumental "Al-Qanun," which is over one million words in length, in medicine. The instructions of this book were Europe's pharmacopeia for five centuries after his death. Al-Qanun discusses the whole field of medicine in an attempt to codify all the existing medical knowledge.
Another important work, a commentary on the work of Aristotle, was designed to set out the philosophies of ancient Greeks. Al Kitab ash-Shifa (the book of healing) is the most extended treatise on philosophy ever written by a single man.
In the end, the repeated travels and exacting political and intellectual preoccupations of Ibn Sina deteriorated his health. He was suffering from colic, and he made some extraordinary efforts towards his treatment.
He became bedridden in Hamadan (Iran), and died at the age of 57 in 1037 A.D., being the victim of a disease in which he was a specialist. His grave in Hamadan is yearly visited by a large number of admirers.
As one of the historians said, Avicenna is like a meteor, which flashed across the sky, illuminating the whole world with his brilliance, and in whose afterglow we still perceive the world around us.