PETALING JAYA - The Sultan of Perak has called for greater tolerance in his Maulidur Rasul address, drawing on the example of Prophet Muhammad as a leader who protected the rights of minorities to practise their religion.
Sultan Dr Nazrin Shah said religious tolerance was demonstrated very clearly when Prophet Muhammad signed an agreement with monks at the St Catherine monastery in Mount Sinai in 627 AD, where the Muslims provided a guarantee to protect the Christians, their homes and their place of worship.
"The agreement provided assurances to the Christians they would be protected, not be imposed unfair taxes, not be exiled or forced to convert to Islam, and not have their places of worship demolished for the purpose of building mosques or Muslim settlements.
"The Muslims were also permitted to assist in repairing churches and monasteries, and were not unfairly punished for supposedly jeopardising their faith in Islam," the Sultan said in Ipoh yesterday.
He said the seventh century agreement was ahead of its time, and served as proof that Islam did not suppress other religions from being practised openly.
In the year 631 AD, a Christian delegation to Madinah was even allowed by the Prophet to pray in the mosque, and spent a long time discussing the subject of Jesus.
"They subsequently entered into a similar agreement as St Catherine."
The Perak Ruler highlighted the Prophet's good leadership of the first Islamic state in Madinah, founded on the concept of justice.
"The justness practised by the Prophet was not exclusive to Muslims, but also enjoyed by non-Muslims, who were guaranteed security, freedom of religion and culture, and free to pursue any form of economic activity and social development."
He said the Prophet embodied the concept of moderation and followed a political order based on service and sacrifice.
"Prophet Muhammad never demanded any special rights or treatment, and never considered himself to be higher in standing than others.
"He was strong in his belief that one's honour can only be determined by God, and reminded his governors to be fair leaders," he said, adding that fairness was the basis to earn God's goodwill in the afterlife.
Referring to Malaysia, the Sultan said the spirit of consensus achieved by the country's founders in the struggle for Independence must be respected.
"Any demand - any action which goes against this spirit of consensus - must be opposed to ensure the continuity of our country as a sovereign, independent county where its citizens accept differences and can live in unity and harmony," he said.