DUBAI: The UAE has shown the world how people of all faiths and nationalities can live together in peace, which is in line with the teachings of Islam, according to Dubai’s leading religious scholar.
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Dr. Mohammed Al-Kobaisi, grand mufti of the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities of Dubai, said that Islam includes the principles of peaceful coexistence and cooperation among all people for goodness and righteousness, to benefit everyone.
“The UAE put these principles into practice and legalized the system in such a way that it not only became a case study but a reality that many people live here,” he said.
“We have more than 200 nationalities who are witnessing that and are a testimony to it.
“Allah Almighty has said repeatedly that all mankind are made from one single male and female, and they are made into races and tribes to know one and other. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also repeated the same by saying: ‘Oh mankind you are all from Adam,’ and there is no distinction or superiority over Arab or non-Arab, neither white over black or black over white, except by righteousness and good deeds.”
Al-Kobaisi said these principals of peaceful coexistence are deeply rooted in the teachings of Islam.
“Muslims worldwide abide and practice them,” he said. “The UAE has made huge advancement in this area. It works on multiple levels: The education system, preaching within guidelines, the legal system and many others. All these put together make it a beautiful reality that all people in the UAE enjoy and benefit from the practice (of treating everyone equally.)”
The grand mufti said Muslims who live with non-muslims or in non-Muslim countries must be especially responsible with their behavior as they face particular challenges.
“The first (challenges) are those that Muslims are facing with regard to their faith and other worldly matters,” he said. “The other major issue is their reaction towards these (challenges) — their own behavior.”
He added that like it or not, every Muslim is an ambassador of Islam, and how each individual acts and presents himself or herself affects the perception and image of all Muslims.
“(In this regard) Islam actually stands out among many other religions,” said Al-Kobaisi. “If a non-Muslim does something, it does not reflect on his religion but if a Muslim does, then it usually reflects on the image of Islam.
“That's why the messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, has guided us that we need to stand out among people with our characters, behaviors and morals. A Muslim should be known immediately as a Muslim because he is peaceful, respects the system and laws, is helpful to his community and neighbors, is truthful, and does not lie or cheat.”
He said this etiquette of Islam is very important everywhere but becomes even more crucial when dealing with non-Muslims.
“Now you are representing Islam,” said Al-Kobaisi. “Even if you are not a good Muslim, they will take it that this is what actual Muslims do. So you need to be careful and represent the real Islamic values. Muslims should always be ready to cooperate for the goodness and benefit of society.”
Responding to social media outcry over Dubai-based Indian origin chef Atul Kochhar’s tweet on Islam, Al-Kobaisi said such issues should be considered on two levels.
"First, a person who is living as a guest in a country should respect local cultural values and customs to ensure a peaceful coexistence.
“It does not make sense for a person living as a guest to attack local customs and traditions — let alone religious values or Islam at large, categorizing all Muslims and Islam through a narrow prism based on false information they read somewhere,” he said.
The second consideration is legal, given that the UAE has strict laws governing public comments, online or otherwise, about religion and anyone who breaks them can be prosecuted.
As for how Muslims should react to such cases, Al-Kobaisi said they should realize that the person involved is either ignorant or does not have the right information.
In the particular case of the chef, he said it is the duty of Muslims to educate him and share the real values of Islam, while offering forgiveness when warranted.
“We should forgive him and guide, if we realize that his opinion was based on wrong information and wrong experiences he had in the past,” he said.
However, if a person doing such things deliberately to disturb the peace in society, or to gain attention or sympathy, then the case should be referred to the authorities who will deal with it according to the rule of law, he added.