Freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights of man. P rovided his religious practice does not harm his society, man should be free to profess his belief and practise his religion, without any hindrance. This is because religion is a matter between man and God. World religions have never compelled their followers to either deny this right to anyone or to compel anyone to follow a diff e re n t belief. This is only to be expected as religion originates from God and its object is to bring man closer to God. So those who follow religion must strive to reflect His attributes. If God were intolerant of different beliefs then would He not have wiped out all but one religion? On the contrary He has left this to the choice of the individual, as God is The Patient and The Forbearing. So, if man were in anyway religious then he would not depart from this principle in the slightest. For Muslims in particular there should be no doubt concerning the freedom of religion. In Islam God has made the choice of religion absolutely clear. He states in the Holy Qur’an: There should be no compulsion in religion. (Ch.2: v.257) He also says in relation to Islam that: And say, It is the truth from your Lord; wherefore let him who will, believe, and let him who will, disbelieve.’ (Ch.18: v.30) If one looks at the life of the Holy P ro p h e t( s a ) – the model for mankind – then we can see that he exhibited not just re l i g i o u s tolerance but a determination to defend the rights of people to practise their religion without let or hindrance. In his Charter of Freedom, for example, the Holy P ro p h e t(sa) a s s u red Christians living under Muslim rule that they would have freedom to practise their faith and Muslims would not only defend them from persecution but also help to repair their churches. The narratives from Muslim Spain a re a wonderful testament to how this was practised by the 2 The Review of Religions – June 2003 Editorial Muslims of the time and their tolerance was acknowledged by the Christians and Jews who lived with them. If that were not enough, the Holy Prophet(sa) also clarified the role of intra- religious differences. His teach- ing that, ‘Honest and sincere d i ff e rences of points of view among my people should be accounted as a blessing.’ (As- Sayuti) leaves no room to question the right to freedom of thought. The wisdom behind this is clear – with differing view- points one has the opportunity to reassess and reanalyse one’s beliefs, to think about the rationale of one’s religion and to i n c rease one’s knowledge t h rough dialogue, debate and s t u d y. This promotes gre a t e r understanding and forms the foundation for tolerance and respect in society, so allowing it to progress intellectually as well as spiritually. Yet it is unfortunate that despite all this instruction one finds the Muslim world divided by religious difference – even to the extent that some are persecuted for their belief in God and His Prophet(sa). The lead article in this issue discusses the subject of religious persecution in Pakistan, with particular re f e rence to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that has suffered persecution for decades. It explores the history of this persecution and shows its incompatibility with re l i g i o n , international law as well as the wishes of the founder of Pakistan. What is apparent is that as Muslims the persecutors are ignoring both the advice of God and His Pro p h e t( s a ), and as Pakistanis they are ignoring the guidance of the founder of Pakistan. The new country that was to be a place of freedom for all, has become a place of persecution and restriction. However, the history of religion has been absolutely clear on the fate of those who persecute and the fate of those persecuted on account of their belief in God. One can only hope and pray that the perpetrators of this injustice realise the error of their ways so that they too can become recipients of God’s Mercy, rather than God’s Wrath. 3 Editorial The Review of Religions – June 2003

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