[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]

 

[Adapted from website:] Khat-e Solh

[Date:] 4 Khordad 1396 [25 May 2017]

 

Islam And The Forgotten Rights Of The Baha’is

[By:] Hassan Ferechtian

The deprivation of the Baha’is of the most basic citizenship rights, such as the right to education, the right to proper employment, the right to government employment, the right to residence, etc., are clear examples of oppression and cruelty against the followers of Baha’ism. Undoubtedly, in most Islamic societies, the treatment of Baha’is is oppressive, immoral, and inhumane. One can even go a step further and consider their treatment “un-Islamic”.

Discriminatory treatment of them is, in various ways, in conflict with Islamic principles and contrary to Islamic teachings. Below, we examine the illegitimacy of this behaviour from two perspectives: the violation of “Baha’i citizenship rights” and the violation of “the duty of Islamic sovereignty over dissidents.”

  1. Violation of Citizenship Rights Contrary to Sharia [religious law]

In the Muslim community, as in other communities and ideological and belief groups, it is possible, for any reason, that a group of people who share the same beliefs and aims may enter into alliances with each other and give reciprocal privileges to their members and deprive those who are outside this movement. This alliance, within an allied group, may in some cases be considered a normal alliance, and members of the community, like members of a club, have such a right. In this case, it is an internal covenant among the people of a community.

For this reason, intra-ritual privileges given to some followers of a religion are considered natural. It is stated in the Quran, which is considered a worthy issue: “Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you.” [1].

With the establishment of the Islamic government in Iran, the basic principles, definitions and divisions of jurisprudence and theology, in the case of Muslims and non-Muslims, similarly entered into public law and fundamental rights. The concept of citizenship was reduced to the concept of membership in the Islamic nation. As a result, only Muslims were considered to be the main citizens of the Islamic community. According to the common ideological divisions in the Islamic jurisprudence and scholastic theology, non-Muslims and dissidents were placed in the framework of other groups and were considered as second- or third-class citizens.

Those common Sharia jurisprudential and theological divisions could not be assimilated into modern concepts of citizenship. Because there is a [civic] relationship between the citizens of a country and their relationship with the sovereignty of the nation, [everyone] in this citizenship relationship has the same rights and benefits; therefore, it is not possible to differentiate and discriminate between the citizens of a country.

Violation of citizens’ rights is considered contrary to Sharia [religious] law, because the relationship between citizens and the government is within the framework of a reciprocal relationship and a bilateral contract. On the other hand, citizens expect the government to recognize their reciprocal citizenship rights if they leave the country’s destiny in the hands of the rulers and follow the relevant laws and regulations. When it comes to citizenship rights, it is not possible to divide citizens on the basis of religious opinion and beliefs and give special privileges to some of them and impose sanctions on others.

In response to a question about the Baha’is, Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri placed emphasis on their citizenship rights, calling them citizens like other citizens: “The Baha’i sect is not considered a religious minority in the constitution because it does not have a heavenly book such as [that of] Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, but because they are citizens of this country, their rights derive from belonging to this land. [They] enjoy citizenship opportunities, and they should also benefit from the Islamic compassion that is emphasized by the Quran and the religious leaders.”

  1. Violation of the Duty of Islamic Sovereignty Against Dissidents

In the first steps in teaching the relationship with dissenters, God instructs His Prophet to speak of all-encompassing mercy in response to those who deny His message: “But if they deny you, O Prophet, say, ‘Your Lord is infinite in mercy, yet His punishment will not be averted from the wicked people.’” [2]

The above verse refers to the behaviour of believers towards unbelievers. In this behaviour, by emphasis on the all-encompassing divine mercy and to place the divine mercy as a principle in the subconscious of society, it is stated that the way of mercy is also left open for dissidence. According to this verse, God’s mercy is not only for the pious, but also His description of mercy is still valid for His enemies.

Then, in other verses, when expressing the instructions of the social behaviour of Muslims with dissidents, this mercy is again specified; for example, it is stated in the eighth verse of the Surah Al-Mumtahanah, [which outlines] the instructions for dealing with those who are not at war with the Muslims and do not expel the Muslims from their homeland. The Quran instructs that you be fair to this group of non-believers who are not at war with you: “Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and fairly with those who have neither fought nor driven you out of your homes. Surely Allah loves those who are fair.” [3]

The Islamic government is obliged to show mercy, kindness and tolerance to its citizens. Imam Ali, as the ruler of the Islamic society, in his treaty with his governor Malik al-Ashtar Nakhaiy, when he sent him to the governorship of Egypt, gave instructions for regulating the relations between the ruler and the subjects. Ali, while advising Malik to be kind to the citizens, explained to him: “Make kindness, love and compassion for the servant the motto of your heart. Do not be like a beast of prey to a servant, whose hunting and eating are your booty; that is, the subjects are divided into two groups: either your religious brothers, or human beings like you.” [4]

As can be seen in this letter, the imam explains to Malik that human beings are divided into two groups: either they are your religious brethren, or [simply other] human beings like you. In the case of religious brethren, religious teachings explain the faithful and fraternal behaviour of religious people with each other as the the pivot of religion and based on their religious beliefs, religious people will create spiritual ties and religious bonds between themselves. But in the case of non-believers, Imam Ali refers to aspects of the inherent dignity of man by interpreting him as similar in creation. Those aspects of innate human dignity are the important relationships and bonds; by remembering the characteristics of human dignity, human beings must respect the inherent nobility of their fellow human beings.

Ayatollah Montazeri, in another istifta[1] on Baha’ism, referring to this same verse and citing the above-mentioned letter of Ali to Malik al-Ashtar, states, “…In general, people who are not subject to any of the heavenly religions, according to the ruling verse…and the order of the Commander of the Faithful (PBUH) in a letter to Malikal-Ashtar …their human rights must be respected.”

The bottom line is that the persecution of Baha’is and the deprivation of their citizenship rights not only has no religious legitimacy; rather, it contradicts the most obvious Islamic teachings. According to these teachings, not only should their citizenship rights be respected like those of other citizens and without any discrimination; they should also be tolerated in accordance with the order of mercy and compassion for citizens, even though their beliefs were not accepted by the government or Muslim citizens.

 

Postscript Notes

[1] Quran, Sura Al-Hujurat, verse 13 [Quran 49:13] [https://quran.com/49]

[2] Quran, Sura Al-Anam, verse 147 [Quran 6:147] [https://quran.com/6]

[3] Quran, Sura Al Mumtahanah, verse 8 [Quran 60:8] [https://quran.com/60]

[4] Imam Ali to Malik al-Ashtar Nakhaiy, Nahj al-Balagha, letter 53

 

 

[1] [Istifta:  Seeking religious decree]