Status of Non-Muslim Citizens
Political Issues
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

What exactly is the status of Non-Muslim citizens in a Muslim country? Do they have the same rights as Muslim citizens?


The issue of citizenship of an Islamic State needs a little elaboration. It is generally held by Muslim authorities that non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state are of two categories1:

(i) Dhimmīs, viz. those who have come under an Islamic State on account of being subdued in a battle.

(ii) Musta’mins, viz. non-Muslim residents of Dāru’l-Harb who temporarily reside in Dāru’l-Islām.

It needs to be appreciated that both these categories of non-Muslims specific to the age of the Prophet (sws) and his Companions (rta)2. The directives of Fiqh related to Dhimmīs and Musta’mins consequently cannot be related to the non-Muslims of today.

The Non-Muslim minorities of today living in Muslim countries can only be classified as Mu‘āhids (citizenship by contract)3. Keeping in view the general welfare of the state, through mutual consent, any contract can be made with non-Muslims of today regarding their rights. As such, all dealings with them should be according to the terms of the treaty concluded with them.

Muslims are required Islamically 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 is able to lay hands on them.

They can be given independence in their personal law.

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 Islamic identity of the state.



1. ‘Abdu’l-Karīm Zaydān, Ahkāmu’l-Dhimiyyīn wa’l Musta’minīn Fī Dāri’l Islam, 1st ed., (Baghdad: Maktabatu’l-Quds, 1982), pp. 22-60.

2. For details see: For details, see: Renaissance, March2002 (Special issue on Non-Muslims), Dāru’l- Ishrāq, 2002

3. The Mīthāq (treaty) of Madīnah made with Jewish tribes by the Prophet (sws) is an example of this type of citizenship.


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