The best illustration of these two issues Islam deals with, obedience versus freedom, can we find in the following Qur’anic verses:
If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah) never will it be accepted of him and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost Q:3:85
O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust. Q:5:51
on the one hand…
Those who believe (in the Qur’an) and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, and who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve. Q:2:62 & 5:69
To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed and follow not their vain desires diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee, to each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single People, but (His Plan is) to test you in what He hath given you; so strive as in a race in all virtues the goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute. Q:5:48
And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except in the best way, unless it be with those of them who do wrong but say ‘We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; our God and your God is One; and it is to Him We submit (in Islam). Q:29:46
The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will); nor did the People of the Book dissent therefrom except through envy of each other after knowledge had come to them. But if any deny the Signs of Allah, Allah is swift in calling to account. So if the dispute with thee, say: ‘I have submitted my whole self to Allah and so have those who follow me.’ And say to the People of the Book and to those who are unlearned: ‘Do ye submit yourselves?’ If they do, they are in right guidance, but if they turn back, thy duty is to convey the Message; and in Allah’s sight are His servants. Q:3:19,20
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error; whoever rejects Tagut (any idol) and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. Q:2:256
Those … who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation Q:42:38
on the other hand.
In my opinion these are the most difficult and least understood and appreciated passages of Islam. These verses also give us the essentials of what faith is about and where to boundaries to other creeds are. So on the one hand it is good to know dogmas, build a community around a revelation, however, a stereotype preference for a certain community seems not necessarily to be expressed. The revelation come to Muhammad pbuh is true, but that does not mean that another, older revelation has become immediate untruth. Or that communities still following older revelations do the wrong thing, even though they do not follow the Sunnah, the prophet’s tradition. Verses 2:62 and 5:69 neither say what are precisely faithful people. Islamic believers are prescribed to establish their own communities where prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah is guarded and passed on. However, others also believing in God, are not necessarily wrong.
Through these texts a way is opened to a tolerant, even secular society, where people may form groups along lines of religion, without creating second rate groups with less rights. In a secular system religion has no formal political or legal institutions of power, however, religion is allowed to exercise influence and even power on the stage of politics. To mention a big example now. There is for instance only one political system in the secularist democratic societies of western culture that acknowledges capital punishment, namely that of the USA. In this same fashion it is equally thinkable that an Islamic system does not apply capital punishment. This is because, primarily speaking, Shariah offers the option of choice. A Muslim can, generally speaking, recognize himself in a pluriform system without loosing him or herself.
For now the relationship between Muslims and other people have been described, however, this relationship has another character than that with the basically most important authority figure the believer knows: the only God and creator. Precisely this necessity to wear more than one hat makes quite a lot of people loose the right track.