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Umar Farooq: Who pioneered religious freedom for the whole of humanity!

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Umar Farooq found the Temple Mount to be garbage dump of Jerusalem in the 7th century and personally cleaned and restored it!

By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The following is a slightly modified version of a short speech I gave in Vestal High School, New York to show that Islam is a religion of peace and that revelation has contributed in a big way to human knowledge and history.

When the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, claimed Monotheism in the polytheistic society of Mecca, they turned against him and he and his followers had to face persecution for 13 long years.  He migrated to Medina but the Meccans did not leave him alone there and attacked Medina, it was in these circumstances that the following verses were revealed:

“Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged — and Allah indeed has power to help them — Those who have been driven out from their homes unjustly only because they said, ‘Our Lord is Allah’ — And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques.” (Al Quran 22:40-41)

By mentioning Churches and Synagogues before Mosques, the revelation was laying the foundation of genuine religious freedom for the whole of humanity.

We visited Spain during the spring vacation this year and went to the central mosque of Cordoba, which was a mosque at least for three centuries, but, it is now a Cathedral.   In the year 1492 when Columbus discovered America, not a single Muslim was left alive in Spain, either converted on the point of sword, banished or killed.

Next year perhaps we will visit Turkey and go to Hagia Sophia, which is a former Cathedral, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople. The building was a mosque from 1453 until 1931, after Constantinople fell to the Ottoman.   This is what groups did to the places of worship of others, the so called enemies, in medieval ages!

But, now I want to share something more dramatic with you. I want you to come with me and visit the holy land of Jerusalem. If you have been to Jerusalem you would have visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the Holiest places in Christianity. The site is venerated as where Jesus was put on cross, and is said also to contain the place where Jesus was buried. It did not suffer the fate of the Mosque of Cordoba or the Hagia Sophia, because of the generosity, wisdom and religious tolerance of one man Umar, who was the second Caliph of Islam and a very close associate of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.  Jerusalem was under Muslim rule from 638 until the creation of Israel in 1948, except for a period of 80 years between the First and the Third Crusade.

After a brief and bloodless siege, initiated after the offensives by the Byzantines colonies, Muslims seized control of Jerusalem from the Byzantines in February 638. Caliph Umar Farooq accepted the city’s surrender from Patriarch Sophronius in person. Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, was shown the great Church of the Holy Sepulcher and offered a place to pray in it, but he refused. He knew that if he prayed in the church, it would set a precedent that would lead to the building’s transformation into a mosque. He wanted the Christians to have their freedom of religion and their worship places. Therefore, he instead prayed on the steps outside, allowing the church to remain a Christian holy place.   It would take Europe several centuries to catch up with the ideal set by Umar regarding religious tolerance, based on the revelation of the Quran and the actions of the Prophet Muhammad.  In the 8th century Charlemagne, Charles the Great was converting Scandinavians on the point of sword to Christianity and during the First Crusade, in the eleventh century each and every Muslim was killed in Jerusalem, according to the Christian sources, some 70,000 Muslims were killed including 10,000 in the Mosque of Umar itself.  No wonder, we owe our religious freedoms, in our great country of USA, historically speaking, to the revelation of the Quran: “And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques.”

Editor’s note: The square minaret of the Mosque of Umar next to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, very powerfully established Islamic belief in freedom of religion and puts to rest, the accusation, for all periods to come that Islam was spread with sword. Islam was actually the pioneer of religious freedoms as I have demonstrated in many of my articles and posts.  For the Muslims the political struggle was always divorced from the freedom of religion.

Square minaret of the Umar-mosque and the Church of Holy Sepulcher in the fore-ground

Posted by on February 2, 2012. Filed under ISLAM,Islam: A Religion of Peace,ISLAMOPHOBIA,Muslim Heritage. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

6 Responses to Umar Farooq: Who pioneered religious freedom for the whole of humanity!

  1. Zia H. Shah

    November 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

    ‘Let the Muslim be my Master in Outward Things’. References to Islam in the Promotion of Religious Tolerance in Christian Europe:

    By Abdul Haq Compier

    Islam presents a policy of religious tolerance, rooted in teachings on the universal nature of man, his free relationship to God, and the divine origins of other religions. The prophet Muhammad separated his authority as a religious leader from his position as a governor, creating a religiously diverse society from the very start. This contrasted to the Christian world, where men were regarded to be born in original sin, only to be redeemed by Christ through the one true Church. Ever since the Byzantine Empire, Christian rulers had governed by the motto ‘One State, One Law, One Faith’, leading to horrendous persecutions of heretics. Throughout history, persecuted Christians have noticed the contrast to the tolerance within Islam. When, in the 16th century, persecutions in Europe became unbearable, Christian advocates of tolerance referred to the Ottoman Empire as the model to adopt. The example of the empire was offered in debates on tolerance from Hungary to Germany, France, the Netherlands and Great Britain, up until the 18th century, by tolerance advocates such as Sebastian Castellio, Francis Junius, John Locke and Voltaire. The Netherlands became a junction, adopting not only the Ottoman model of religious diversity, but also receiving political and military support from Ottoman sultans.

    http://www.themuslimtimes.org/2011/11/muslim-heritage-2/‘let-the-muslim-be-my-master-in-outward-things’-references-to-islam-in-the-promotion-of-religious-tolerance-in-christian-europe

  2. Zia H. Shah

    January 17, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Charlemagne or Charles the Great and total lack of religious freedom

    It is important not to forget the evolution of religious freedom in the world. As those who cannot remember the past are apt to repeat it. Charles the Great expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800. The French and German monarchies descending from the empire ruled by Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor cover most of Europe. In his acceptance speech of the Charlemagne Prize, Pope John Paul II referred to him as the Pater Europae (“father of Europe”), see Wikipedia for reference.

    According to Encyclopedia Britannica:

    Charlemagne’s most demanding military undertaking pitted him against the Saxons, longtime adversaries of the Franks whose conquest required more than 30 years of campaigning (772 to 804). This long struggle, which led to the annexation of a large block of territory between the Rhine and the Elbe rivers, was marked by pillaging, broken truces, hostage taking, mass killings, deportation of rebellious Saxons, draconian measures to compel acceptance of Christianity, and occasional Frankish defeats. The Frisians, Saxon allies living along the North Sea east of the Rhine, were also forced into submission.

    “Charlemagne.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 16 Aug. 2009 .

  3. Muhammad Azimul Haque

    January 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Hazrat Umar(r.a.)’s care and affection for other faiths can be understood from the fact that he was the one who helped restoration of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Which was in ruins since centuries. He allowed 70 families of Jews to return and the live in the present Jewish Quarter..

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