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Citizenship of an Islamic State
Political Issues
Dr. Shehzad Saleem


An Islamic State is an ideological state. Keeping in view its specific ideology, its citizens can be classified into two categories:

1) Those who become its citizens after accepting its ideological basis.

2) Those who assume its citizenship as a consequence of a treaty.

The First Category

The Qur’ān has specified three conditions for persons eligible for this category:

1) They should profess faith in the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of Muhammad (sws) and give up every belief and deed against Islam.

2) As testimony of their faith, they should offer prayers according to the way prescribed by the Prophet (sws).

3) For the functioning of the state system, they should pay zakāt to the public treasury (baytu’l māl).

The Qur’ān says:

If they repent [from all un-Islamic beliefs and deeds], establish regular prayers, and pay zakāt, they are your brethren in religion. (9:11)

Whoever fulfils these three conditions, will be considered a Muslim in the eyes of the law and will be granted this type of citizenship in an Islamic State. As far as his rights and duties in a state are concerned, there will be no difference between him and those who are the founders of the state. The Qur’ān has used the word fa ikhwānukum fi’l dīn (they are your brothers in religion) to convey this meaning. From the word al-dīn, Islam is implied and by the words fa ikhwānukum, those who professed faith in the Prophet (sws) in the early stages and those who laid the foundations of the Islamic state in Madīnah have been addressed and told that people who fulfil these conditions are equal to them and will have the same political and collective rights.

The Prophet (sws) has explained this Qur’ānic directive in the following words:

I have been ordained to wage war1 with these people until they testify to the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of Muhammad, establish regular prayers and pay zakāt. If they accept these conditions, their lives and wealth shall be given protection except if they are deprived from this protection on the grounds of some offence they may commit. As far as their inner account is concerned, it rests with Allah. (Muslim: Kitābu’l Imān)

A similar statement is attributed to the Caliph Abū Bakr, while he was launching an attack against those who were desisting to pay zakāt:

The Prophet waged war on three conditions: on testifying to the oneness of Allah, on the establishment of regular prayers and on the payment of zakāt and the Almighty has said: `Therefore, if they repent, establish regular prayers and pay zakāt, spare their lives'. By God! I shall neither ask for more nor less. (Ahkāmu’l Qur’ān, Jassās, Vol 3, Pg 82)

The Second Category

The Qur’ān has alluded to this type of citizenship in the words `with whom you have concluded a treaty’ (8:56). The Jews of Madīnah are implied here. This treaty was concluded with them by the Prophet (sws) when he became the ruler of Madīnah after migration. Historians refer to it as the Mīthāq-i-Madīnah. Later on, similar treaties were concluded by the Muslims with other nations as well. Such treaties, of course, can be concluded upon different conditions depending upon the circumstances. In the Mīthāq-i-Madīnah, it was clearly stated that after accepting Muhammad (sws) as the ruler of Madīnah, the Jews and the Muslims would be one nation. Their rights will be the same as the rights of the Muslim citizens of Madīnah:

The Jews, according to this treaty stand accepted as one nation with the Muslims. As far as their religion is concerned, the Jews will remain on theirs’ and the Muslims and their allies on theirs’. (al-sīrah al-nabawiyyah, Ibn Hishām, Vol 2, Pg 107)

All non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic State belong to this category.

 (Adapted from Ghamidi’s “Mīzān”)




1. The words qitāl (war) must not cause any misconception in the hadīth quoted. The opponents in this case were the Ismaelites, the nation towards whom the Prophet (sws) was directly assigned. For them the law was either to accept faith or face destruction. Citizenship meant the fulfilment of the three conditions stated in verse eleven of Sūrah Tawbah quoted above. Therefore, the Companions of the Prophet (sws) waged war against them if they declined to fulfil even one of them.

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