Even though this might seem paradoxal to those most keen stereotypes of the contemporary popular image of Islam as hermetic and sectarian, the pattern of drawing people together while protecting the individuals’ freedom of beliefs is part of the anthropological DNA of the religion. Within its a context of emergence and expansion and with regard to the inner endless subdivisions of the Islamic faith, the principle of pluralism was naturally forged.
One of the best illustrations of its institutionalization can be found in the previously discussed Millet System established in the Ottoman Empire that doubtlessly contributed to making this regime “highly legitimate” for Muslims as well as for non-Muslim due to the “dual role of religion as an institution and a system of beliefs” . Indeed, the Muslim religious life and law encompassed within the same institutional framework didn’t hinder a state law to stand beside in this bureaucratically organized empire , opening the way for this “system of autonomous self-government under religious leader” of the millets (in arabic « millah », which can be found in the Qur’an as meaning “religion, nation, community, or rite” ).
Since “Islamic beliefs constitute the vocabulary of political action” , this part of the paper will focus on the Islamic roots of this pluralist and toleration-based system. The principle of toleration is clearly pronounced in the Qur’an. For example in Sûrat al-hujurât (The Dwellings, verse 49:3) we can read “O’ Mankind [...] made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another” which implies the need for a common respect. Indeed, despite the absence of literal term for the word “tolerance” in the Qu’ran, Hadith and ‘Fiqh, show that religious coercion (“‘ikrâh”) is whether “unfeasible or forbidden” as shows the following verse; “there shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion” (Surât ii: Verse 256). This is reinforced by the principle of “bara’a a’liyya” wanting that “Man exists in a natural state of freedom from moral [...] absolute moral obligations cannot come from social custom or the arbitrary will of other humans, including political rulers” . Even more originally, the principle of “Tawhid” (unity of the divinity), “validated the experiences of those adhering to other faiths” . Also, one should not forget how much those moral obligation and solidarity serve the “da’wa” (Islamic proselytism) .
Let’s first notice that the sacred and secular spheres are not object of a clear-cut division in the Islamic faith. They intermingle as they both share the same legal foundations (‘ulamâ’ usûl al-fiqh) which relies on the “Sunna”, collecting the normative value of the words (aqwâl) and acts (af’âl) of the Prophet, as basis for religious dictates . This corpus of legislation “Shariah”, legal Islamic law, as well as the Jurisprudence of the minorities (“Fiqh Al Aqalliyyât”) used in “al-majallah al-ahkām al-`adliyyah” (civil code of the ottomans in 1876) , both hold inter...