For many Nigerian charlatans who claim to be clerics and preach to their congregations with instigation of hate speeches and unbridled hostility, there are many sources from which to learn a lesson. One of such sources is history which is globally recognized as a great teacher of man. Without history, there can neither be any experience for man nor any template for his future plans. It is on the fertile soil of history that the growth of man and the development of his society are firmly planted.
Just as history makes man so does man makes history. But the impact of the latter outweighs that of the former by far in the trend of human civilization. However, the symbiotic relationship of both history and man is what keeps the world going.
Makers of History
In its characteristic nature as a teacher, history has made many people who continue to depend on its platform for livelihood. On the other hand, there are those who have made history to the benefit of other people even long after their demise.
The greatest maker of human history, as universally acknowledged, is the greatest human being that ever lived. That human being is Prophet Muhammad (SAW) the son of Abdullah who was an unlettered desert man that paved way for global literacy and education of mankind without blemish. It was he who clearly distinguished education from literacy with his own practical example and opened the eyes of the whole world to the fact that literacy is just an instrument for documenting and preserving knowledge for posterity. And that is one of the factors that makes him the greatest man that ever lived.
Through a famous book entitled ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most influential Persons in History’ and published in 1977, by a Jewish American astrophysicist and scholar, Michael Hart, the consciousness of the contemporary world was drawn to the uniqueness of an unlettered man who turns out to be the most educated human being ever in history.
It was in that book that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was named the greatest man that ever lived.
And since the publication of that historic book, no other author or scholar of note has come up with an acknowledged research work to counter Michael Hart’s sense of judgment by providing a convincing alternative to the latter’s conclusion.
Thus, contrary to cynics’ baseless propaganda against Islam and Prophet Muhammad (SAW), out of sheer envy, it was this greatest Prophet of Islam that taught mankind the act of religious tolerance and accommodation.
Evidence of Greatness
Greatness is neither by chance nor by sheer proclamation or attribution. Whoever can innovate a venture that becomes a heritage for multitudes of people across nations, centuries and generations is indeed an incontrovertible great person. That is one of the many factors that make Prophet Muhammad (SAW) the greatest man that ever lived.
In recognition of Jesus Christ as his predecessor and fellow Apostle, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) signed a charter with some Christian leaders in 628 CE and the charter remains valid till today. The signing of that charter by the great Prophet was also an evidence that Islam recognizes authentic Christianity as a divine religion.
In that year (628 CE), a Christian delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery travelled to Madinah to meet Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and seek from him protection of the Islamic government under his command. The objective was to elicit the support of the Islamic government in ensuring their security against the aggression of the Persian Empire.
(St. Catherine’s Monastery is the world’s oldest Monastery located at the foot of Mt. Sinai which has a huge collection of Christian manuscripts second only to those of the Vatican City and it is known as a world heritage site).
The Content of the Charter
In response to the request of the Christian representatives cited above, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) them granted a written charter of rights as follows:
“This is a message from Muhammad the son of Abdullah serving as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far that we (Muslims) are with them. Verily, I and all the servants of God, as well as the helpers of Islam hereby make promise to defend Christians because they are my citizens and by God, I stand out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them (concerning their way of worship). Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one should destroy a house of their religion or damage it or loot it. Whoever violates this has breached God’s covenant with mankind and disobeyed His Apostle.
Verily, Christians are my allies and have my secure charter against all they hate. No one should force them to fight for a course in which they have no belief or compel them to migrate against their wish.
Neither is the sacredness of their covenant to be violated nor their Monasteries to be disrespected. And if any damage should happen to their Monasteries by chance, they must not be prevented from repairing them. No Muslim should disobey this charter till the Last Day (end of the world)”.
Before the Charter
Prior to the charter mentioned above, several verses of the Qur’an had been revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) acknowledging the divine mission of all the Prophets preceding him (Muhammad (SAW) including that of Jesus the son of Mary. And because of those Qur’anic revelations, no Muslim can claim to be a true believer in Islam without accepting Jesus the son of Mary as well as other Prophets ordained as Apostles of Allah. One of those Qur’anic revelations states as follows:
“The Apostle of Allah (Muhammad SAW) believes in what was revealed to him and so do the entire Muslim faithful. Every one of them believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books and His Apostles. We do not discriminate against any of His Apostles. They say “we hear and obey (the laws brought by those Apostles). Grant us your forgiveness Oh Lord! To you we shall all return….” (Q. 2: 285).
Brethren in Faith
The above charter shows that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) recognized a bond of brotherhood in faith between Muslims and Christians and that none of them should fight against the other (physically or psychologically) for the reason of differences in their modes of worship. And by validating the charter till the great Day of Judgment, the Prophet had precluded any future attempt to revoke the privileges contained in that charter by any nation, group or individuals.
Implications of the Charter
By implication, the inalienability of the privileges contained in the above charter are remain irreversible from the primordial time to the contemporary time. Besides, one remarkable aspect of the charter is that it did not stipulate any condition for Christians to enjoy those privileges. It is because of that unprecedented charter that Muslims, all over the world, do not blame Christianity for any misdemeanor of a Christian or attack Christianity as a way of preaching Islam as some Christians do against Islam particularly in Nigeria.
Believing that being followers of Jesus Christ was enough a condition to enjoy the privileges contained in the above charter, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) assumed that the Christians, would be civilized enough to reciprocate that unprecedented gesture whenever and wherever they coexist with Muslims not only by tolerating the latter’s mode of worship and way of life but also by refraining from any naked or avowed act of provocation or disdain against them, which could precipitate a religious rancour. Another noticeable aspect of the charter is the Prophet’s silence on any payment by the protectorate Christians which was the general norm among nations in those days.
Thus, that ‘Charter of Rights’ was a free gift. And from it the reason becomes clear why the Islamic State under the command of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) or any of his rightly guided companions or disciples who became Caliphs after his demise never crossed swords with any Christian group or nation throughout their regimes. If any wars like those of the crusades ever broke out centuries later between Christians and Muslims such could only be attributed either to a breach of the charter by ignorant adherents of both religions. And that does not have anything to do with the tenets of the two religions.
Upholding the Charter
In upholding that charter, the second Caliph in Islam, Umar Bn Khattab, refused to observe Muslim prayer (Salat) inside the Church of Jerusalem when he visited the area following the liberation of that region by the Islamic State from the Persian Empire in which Zoroastrianism (worshiping of fire) was the religion. On that historic occasion, the Church of Jerusalem had been cleared by Muslim soldiers for the observance of Salat which Caliph Umar, as Head of State, was to lead. But when he was invited to lead the Salat, he simply declined and rather ordered the soldiers to find another place for Salat and keep the Church intact for the Christians to worship therein in their own way. He said he would not do what Prophet Muhammad (SAW) had prohibited before his demise. He then warned the Muslims who accompanied him never to convert Churches to Mosques for that would amount to religious aggression which was capable of breaching the Prophet’s charter with Christians.
One God, One Faith
A divine religion is like embassies to which Ambassadors are diplomatically assigned. The operations in those embassies are in accordance with the foreign policies of the home country of the mission to which an Ambassador is assigned. And just as the embassy premises are treated as part of the home country of the concerned mission so are the Ambassadors posted to those missions are accorded diplomatic immunity. And, in such cases, what is good for the goose is equally deemed good for the gander.
Commercialization of Religion
Ironically, today, in no other country is religion as commercialized as in Nigeria. Even the United States of America from where that obnoxious capitalist orientation was imported has been surpassed by some Nigerian charlatans calling themselves ‘men and women of god’. If such Nigerians claim to be religious at all, their dedication is rather to the money accruing from religion than to God that they claim to be worshipping.
Evidence of Ignorance
What most Nigerian leaders of Islamic and Christian religions do not seem to know is that the refusal of the adherents of both religions to study and understand the doctrines which guide those religions is the main cause of religious disharmony in the country today. This is however, not peculiar to Nigeria. It is global. Both Christians and Muslims jointly constitute more than half of the world’s population.
And, it is from their common brook that the spiritual ripples which continually make the world restive emanate. If the adherents of both religions had endeavoured to mutually study and understand the doctrines that guide their ways in life, the world would not have come under religious spell as we have it today.
Before the Prophet’s migration from Makkah to Madinah, a Qur’anic revelation came to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in 616 CE to confirm the brotherhood of Islam and Christianity. That revelation which formed a whole chapter in the Qur’an was entitled ‘The Chapter of Rome ’. It reads thus: “Rome, (the nation of the Christian Greeks) has been defeated in a neighbouring land. But after their defeat, they shall (themselves) gain victory within a few years. Allah is the Supreme Commander before and after. On that day (when they become victorious), the believers (Muslims and Christians) will rejoice in Allah’s help.
Allah gives victory to whoever He wills. He is Mighty and Merciful. That is Allah’s promise; He never reneges on His promise” (Q. 30: 1-5).
And true to that divine revelation, the Roman Empire surprisingly defeated the Persian Empire to the ecstasy of the Muslims just nine years after it was revealed. Besides, it will be recalled that the name of Jesus Christ is mentioned more than 37 times in the Glorious Qur’an giving more details of his birth and disappearance more vividly than can be found in the Bible. Also a whole chapter of the Qur’an is dedicated to Mary the mother of Jesus confirming her chastity and the miraculous birth of Jesus. It is only in the Qur’an that the report of how Jesus spoke as an infant was revealed. That chapter is called ‘The Chapter of Maryam (Mary). How else can the unity of religious mission from the unity of God be confirmed?
However, despite all the indisputable facts mentioned above, the Western Orientalists and their blind imitators in Nigeria who seek to foster discord between Christianity and Islam by all means, as a way of enriching themselves materially in their commercialization of religion refuse to relent in that evil machination. Those are commercial the charlatans who want the world to believe that this same Prophet Muhammad (SAW), at the inception of Islam, held the Qur’an in one hand and the sword in the other while moving around to force people to accept Islam or be ready to die. In the exhibition of their blatant ignorance based on falsehood, they do not even think of the illogicality of such baseless falsehood as the Qur’an had not been compiled into a book before the demise of the Prophet. Logically, if one man had such a power to intimidate and force multitudes of people who opposed his divine mission to accept Islam by force could such a man have been compelled to migrate from Makkah (his home town) to Madinah for asylum? That shows how shallow the thought of liars can be in the process of fabricating falsehood.
The doctrine of one God one mission purportedly shared in the world today by three religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) cannot be from the same perception. Each of these religions has its own revealed Book and their adherents practice their faiths according to the doctrines contained in those Books. It will therefore be wrong of adherents of one particular religion to adjudge those of others as deviants or infidels who must be exterminated.
Religion is like an examination. Those who sit down to write with blue ink pen must not turn themselves into examiners using red ink pen to mark it. Paradise is Allah’s own domain. He admits whoever He wishes into it. And this is done not necessarily by sheer mortal charlatans’ recommendation. Only the Almighty Allah who chose our parents for us without our knowledge before we came into this world and who knows where each of us would finally be buried has the final say on everybody’s destination. If the truth must be told, the real cause of religious conflicts in Nigeria is not intolerance as often hypocritically claimed by some people but greedy provocation emanating from avarice under the guise of religion. Nigerian press is particularly guilty of this by fueling such provocations. It is wrong to expect tolerance to thrive in a society where provocation and injustice refuse to abate. Propagating a religion by denigrating another religion is an act of Satanic provocation. And those who want peace to prevail in Nigeria must desist from such intolerable act.
Nigerian Church and Mosque leaders must refrain from negative sentiments and hypocrisy by dissuading their followers from interpreting the misbehaviour of some miscreants to mean the prescription of the religion which those miscreants claim to profess.
No matter the level of hatred and hostility towards another religion, only the will of Allah will prevail.