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Appendix C: Treatment of Non-Muslim Minorities
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

It has been shown that non-Muslim minorities living in an Islamic state must be classified as Mu‘āhids (citizens by contract). As far as the attitude of an Islamic state to its non-Muslim minorities is concerned, it needs to be appreciated that all dealings with them should be according to the terms of the treaty concluded with them. Muslims have been bound  by Islam to abide by these terms in all circumstances and to never violate them in the slightest way. Such violations according to Islam are totally forbidden and, in fact, amount to a grave transgression. The Qur’ān says:

وَأَوْفُوا بِالْعَهْدِ إِنَّ الْعَهْدَ كَانَ مَسْئُولًا (١٧ :٣٤)

Keep [your] covenants; because indeed [on the Day of Judgement] you will be held accountable for them. (17:34)

The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:

أَلَا مَنْ ظَلَمَ مُعَاهِدًا أَوْ انْتَقَصَهُ أَوْ كَلَّفَهُ فَوْقَ طَاقَتِهِ أَوْ أَخَذَ مِنْهُ شَيْئًا بِغَيْرِ طِيبِ نَفْسٍ فَأَنَا حَجِيجُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ (ابو داؤد: رقم ٣٠٥٢)

Beware! I myself shall invoke the justice of the Almighty on the Day of Judgement against the person who oppresses and persecutes a Mu‘āhid, or reduces his rights, or burdens him [with responsibilities] he cannot bear, or takes something from him against his will. (Abu Dā’ūd: No. 3052)

In this regard, the Qur’ān has explicitly stated the principle that Muslims while dealing with their enemies must not exceed the limits of justice, not to speak of Mu‘āhids who have accepted to live peacefully in an Islamic State:

وَلَا يَجْرِمَنَّكُمْ شَنَآنُ قَوْمٍ عَلَى أَلَّا تَعْدِلُوا اعْدِلُوا هُوَ أَقْرَبُ (٥ :٨)

And let not the enmity of a people turn you away from justice. Deal justly; this is nearer to piety. (5:8)

As far as their rights are concerned, they should be given all the rights that are sanctioned by the norms of justice and fairness for people in a civilized society. For example:

Their life, wealth and honour should be protected by the state such that no one whosoever is able to lay hands on them.

The needy and poor among them should be provided the basic necessities of life.

Their personal matters and religious rituals should be exempted from the law of the state and no interference should be made in their faith and religion.

Their places of worship should be given full protection.

They should be allowed to present their religion to others in a polite manner.

They should be allowed to be elected to public offices except to those which may require Muslims to preserve the religious identity of the state.

In this regard, however, there exists an exception regarding the Arabian peninsula. Pre-Islamic Arabia was conquered and given in the possession of Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) by the Almighty in accordance with His established scheme regarding His Messengers that has been discussed earlier in detail in the main text of this article. It is the Almighty who actually took control of matters and saw to it that the Kuffār be punished through the hands of the believers. The Messengers and their Companions (rta) act as no more than the implementers of His will. So in accordance with this law, specifically meant for the Messengers, Muhammad (sws) and his Companions (rta) were told that they would have to fight the Idolaters of Arabia until the supremacy of Islam was achieved:

وَقَاتِلُوهُمْ حَتَّى لَا تَكُونَ فِتْنَةٌ وَيَكُونَ الدِّينُ كُلُّهُ لِلَّهِ (٨ :٣٩)

And fight them on until there is no more persecution and there prevails the religion of God everywhere [in this land of Arabia]. (8:39)

This Qur’anic directive has been referred to by the Prophet in the following words:

لَا يَجْتَمِعُ دِينَانِ فِي جَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِ (مؤطا: رقم ١٦٥١)

No religion other than Islam should reign in Arabia. (Mu’attā: No. 1651)

With the implementation of this divine scheme, Arabia was required to become a symbol of monotheism. Here every trace of polytheism was to be uprooted. Therefore, all idols were destroyed. Consequently, in Arabia no non-Muslim was and is allowed to build places of worship to practice polytheism.

The directive is not related to other countries and territories in which non-Muslims can live as permanent citizens and build places of worship. So, we find the Companions (rta) of the Prophet (sws) giving full religious freedom to their subjects in conquered areas outside Arabia.

All non-Muslims who come to Arabia would be treated as its guests and temporary residents and would not be given its full citizenship for reasons mentioned above.

An issue that is linked with non-Muslim occupation in Holy lands is their visiting the Baytullāh.

On the basis of the following verse, some scholars1 opine that non-Muslims cannot enter Muslim places of worship, in particular the Baytullāh:

يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْمُشْرِكُونَ نَجَسٌ فَلاَ يَقْرَبُواْ الْمَسْجِدَ الْحَرَامَ بَعْدَ عَامِهِمْ (٩ :٢٨)

Believers, verily these Idolaters are unclean [of faith]. So let them not after this year of theirs approach the Sacred Mosque. (9:28)

It is evident from this verse that the real reason of this prohibition is polytheism which has been called impure and unclean. Consequently, this prohibition stands analogously extended to people who have adopted polytheism as their religion, for example some sects of Hinduism. It cannot be extended to the adherents of such monotheistic religions as Judaism and Christianity. As has been explained earlier, though the followers of Christianity are involved in polytheistic practices, yet they never condone to polytheism as the real religion. Obviously, there is a world of difference between getting involved in polytheistic practices while considering them to be non- polytheistic and becoming followers of polytheism itself.




1. According to Zamakhasharī, this is the view of Mālik and Shāfi‘ī. For details see Zamakhasharī, Kashshāf, vol. 2 (Beirut: Dāru’l-Kitāb al-‘Arabī), p. 261

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