The rights of non-Muslims in a Muslim state have been discussed partially in this book on the earlier pages, yet it seems more apt to discuss this issue in detail so that the Islamic point of view in this connection becomes clear to the reader.

It has been made clear through the previous chapters that Islam is based on democratic principles. It offers its message in a peaceful and binds none to accept it against his will. The obvious result of such an offer is that a group of people may not accept Islam. The rights of this group, in a Muslim state, are to be discussed here.

The readers might have observed through the previous discussion that the Quran, in such matters only lays down the principles instead of giving details for the convenient and universal application of its instructions in all circumstances and for all times. Therefore, the Quran issued forth the order based on principle:

“O believers, be true to your treaties”. (Al-Maidah- 5:1)

It means that the Muslims, as a rule, are bound to honor the agreements, if any, made with the non-Muslims. While explaining this principle, the Holy Prophet said:

“I warn you that whosoever makes aggression against the non-Muslims in agreement, limits their rights, presses them more than their capacity or snatches any of their belongings. I shall sue against such a Muslim on Doomsday”. (Abu-Dawud: Katib al-Jihad)


The same has been ordered by the Quran as under:

“And keep your promise. Surely it will be inquired into”. (Al-Isra-17:34)

Particularly about non-Muslims, it was directed by the Quran to deal them with justice:

“Do not allow your hatred for other nations to turn you away from justice. Deal. Justly; justice is nearer to true piety. Have fear of Allah; He is cognizant of what you do”. (Al-Maidah-5:8)

Justice means that the non-Muslims must be granted all human and political rights, their lives, property and honor must be safeguarded. Their basic necessities must be met with, their religious and individual matters must not be interfered, their holy places must be protected, they must be allowed to propagate and promote their religion in a civilized manner and they must be allowed to pay a tax equal in ratio to that of Muslims. Rather they must be treated with, even better than, Muslims. Because the Quran says:

“Be extremely kind and beneficial to others; Allah loves the benefactors, the generous”. (Al-Baqarah- 2:195)

Keeping this Quranic injunction the Holy Prophet entered into several treaties with the non-Muslims during his stay at Madina. (Unfortunately, most of these treaties could not be honored by the non-Muslims). For example, the Holy Prophet made an agreement, commonly known as “The Charter of Al-Madina”, with the neighboring Jews of the state of Madina. The following were the main features of this agreement:


The Jews and the Muslims will be considered as one state despite practicing their respective religions.

Both the parties will fight jointly against an outer force making aggression against either of the two.

The Muslims and the Jews will meet their respective expenses at their own.

The mutual relations of the two parties will be based on good will, nice conduct and justice.

The oppressed will be helped. Indiscipline, violence and bloodshed will be

forbidden in the state of Madina.

This treaty will not be a source of protection for any oppressor or a criminal.

In case of a dispute, Muhammad (SWS) would be the arbiter.


As a result of this treaty a federal state came into being with Madina as its capital and Muhammad (SWS) as its head.

If studied minutely, it would become clear that the above-mentioned agreement respected the noblest human values above all. This agreement is still a lighthouse for the whole world.

Unfortunately the Jews did not honor this agreement and started violating it very soon.





This subject at this turn requires an answer to the questions regarding the identity of a “Zimmi” and the definition of “Jizyah”.


Before answering this question we shall have to keep the special status of the Prophet Hood of Muhammad (SWS). In fact after the completion of the process of communication of the message of Islam, the Holy Prophet, just one year before his death, was ordered by God that all Jews and Christians, living on the Arabian soil who have not yet embraced Islam, should be declared “Zimmi”. These Zimmis would be the subjects of the Muslim state if they want to stay here and would be its responsibility; they would pay a tax named as “Jizyah” as the Muslims pay the tax known as Zakat.


Thus they were punished in a way that their independent status was terminated and they were included among the subject of the Muslim government of Arabia. The following order was issued forth by God one year before the death of the Holy Prophet:


“Fight against such of those to whom “the Book” was given as they believe neither in Allah nor the last day, who do not forbid what Allah and His Prophet have forbidden, and do not embrace the true faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are subdued”. (Al-Tawbah-9:29)


Certain facts here are noteworthy. First, there was no regular state formulated on the Arabian soil. So when the establishment of a regular state was planned, it was to be perceived what should be the status of the Jews and the Christians reluctant to embrace Islam. Therefore, they were declared Zimis and were levied the tax of Jizyah upon them. It was made clear that they would not render compulsory military service in return to their payment of Jizyah.


Second, those who did not accept Muhammad (SWS) as the Prophet of God faced the penalty inflicted upon them by God. This punishment was not the same for the believers of the Holy Books and the pagans. The pagans were warned to be ready for death or exile in case they failed to accept Islam as their religion whereas the believers of the Holy Books were just declared Zimmis.


Thus these instructions were also exclusively related with the direct addressees of the Holy Prophet. Since a Rasool is himself a court of God set in this world, they were penalized by this court. This instruction is no more applicable in later periods. This is why, there is neither any Zimmi today nor does the tax of Jizyah exist. Now, all the non-Muslims ruled by a Muslim government are the party of the treaty made between the two groups by the constitution of that country. And the Muslims are bound to honor this treaty and treat the non-Muslims with justice. These people are called “Maahid” (Non-Muslims with whom an agreement has been accorded). 


This principled and ideological discussion gives birth to some questions. The first one is about the obligations of the Muslim governments of today towards the non-Muslim minorities according to the Islamic point of view. The answer is that in the present day all the Muslim governments are the members of the United Nations Organization and they are, therefore, bound to observe its charter. They are also bound to honor the treaties with any other nation on reciprocal basis. Their treatment with the minorities has to be just; rather they must treat them even better than their own people.


The second question deals with the issue of separate electorate and separate seats for the non-Muslims in the parliament. It is important to know the Islamic point of view in this regard. In fact, it all depends on the mutual settlement between the Muslims and the non-Muslim minority whether they go for separate electorate or joint elections. However, the opinion of the non-Muslims should be given priority as Islam teaches nice conduct with non-Muslims. 


The joint elections seem more appropriate if perceived from the Islamic angle. The joint elections promote an environment of cordiality between the two parties. The non-Muslims esteem Islam higher and feel convenient to study the message of Islam. Their problems can be solved in a better way and as such they can be saved from becoming followers of fanatic leadership. On the other side separate electorate might cause an environment of constant hatred between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. The non-Muslims may get away from the Muslims forever. Their problems hardly get solved. Such a situation gives rise to the extremist religious parties and causes the fanaticism among the candidates taking part in the elections. Thus the separate electorate creates such a gap between the Muslims and non-Muslims which gets wider and wider with the passage of time.  


There is a question, in this context; what is Islam’s point of view towards the holy places of the non-Muslims, their customs, and their statues of historical importance. Does it direct to demolish them considering them against the belief of oneness of God or attaches due respect to them?


Islam positively instructs its followers to respect the Holy figures of the non-Muslims. It forbids them to abuse any of them because the non-Muslims might do the same to Allah and Islam in reaction. Obviously the respect for the sacred places of the non-Muslims and their statues is enveloped in their respect for the holy figures. The Quran say:


“(Muslims) Do not revile (The idols) which they invoke besides Allah, lest in their ignorance, they should spitefully revile Allah.” (Al-An’am 6:108).


The second portion of this instruction is that the Holy Ka’bah and its surrounding areas have special significance. It is so because the Holy Ka’bah was constructed by the Prophet Ibrahim according to the direct commandment of Allah for the worship of the Omnipotent. Therefore, it is the center of the Unitarianism on this earth of God. Hence it is necessary to keep the whole of this area purified from every touch of paganism and attaches special importance to it. The logic behind this is that the pilgrims should find every convenience and get the food in abundance. There should be a state that takes the task of the safeguard and management of the Holy House as its foremost duty. This was an area God managed to be conquered at the hands of the Holy Prophet. It includes most part of the Arabian Peninsula. Since this is the center of Unitarianism, there can’t be any other shrine here. This is why the Prophet purified it completely from every shape of paganism. Different aspects of this direction have been stated in the Quran at different places. The part of the Arabian Peninsula handed over to the Holy Prophet by God, was purified from every shrine, every idol, every picture or image used for the purpose of worship and every vaulted grave. The authentic Hadiths state it in detail


The companions of the Prophet were so clear of both the parts of this direction that when they stepped out of the Arabian soil, Abu Bakar, the first of the pious Caliphs issued an order regarding the protection of every shrine, saint and hermit. Therefore history tells us that not even a single temple was damaged during the process of the conquest outside the Arabian soil in the days of the Prophet’s companions. Big idols situated at all important places like Abul Haul and Abu Sunbal were also left as such and were rather safeguarded. It must be kept in mind that these parts of Egypt were conquered during the regime of Umar, the second Caliph of Islam. These statues are still erect.


The above discussion makes it clear that it is obligatory upon the Muslims to protect and respect all the holy places of the non-Muslims in the areas under their control.


Special instructions for “People of the Book”


The third issue requires the answer whether the Christians and the Jews must be dealt with hatred as the Quran forbids the Muslims to make friends with these two communities.


The reply to this question is that the verse 51 of Sura Al-Maida is not, generally translated in its true context which causes confusion. The Quran is an integrated and comprehensive document. It is not a set of separate sayings. So, while inferring from any verse of the Quran, it is necessary to relate it with its proper context. According to the Arabic Linguistics, if a common noun takes “al” in its start, it becomes a proper noun and hence gives a particular sense.


The above mentioned part of chapter al-Maidah deals with those Jews and Christians who had received the message of Islam very clearly through the Holy Prophet and his companions. Despite this, they not only refused to accept Islam but rather started hatching up conspiracies against the Muslims regularly. Therefore, the Muslims were forbidden to develop friendly relations with this specific group of Jews and Christians, as they would harm the Muslims in the guise of friends. The Quran says:


“Believers, take neither these Jews nor these Christians for your friends and protectors. They are friends and protectors of one another. Whoever of you seeks their friendship and supports them shall become one of their members. Allah does not guide the wrongdoers”. (Al-Maidah-5:51)


This verse is specific to the Jews and Christians of the Prophetic period only. This verse does not, in any case give the general meaning because the Christians and Jews have also been deadly enemies to each other during the different years in past. In the next few verse, after further analysis the Quran points out that the Muslims can find friends among Christian’s closers than those from other religions. The Quran has generalized this verse by not using the two-lettered word “al” with it.


“You will find the nearest in affection to the pure believers those who say: ‘We are Christians’. That is because there are priests and people devoted to the service of mankind among them; and because they are free from pride”. (Al-Maidah-5:82)


If the verse 51 is generalized, the verse 82 becomes meaningless; rather both the verses convey contradictory senses.

The truth about it is that the verse 51 deals with those Jews and Christians of the Prophetic period whose enmity with the Holy Prophet and the Muslims was clear and open and who were busy in plotting against them. It has no concern with the Jews and Christians in general. 


It seems appropriate here that Islam’s attitude towards other religions should be known. The verse 82 of Al-Maidah tells us about the Quran’s perception about Christians. In fact, the Quran stresses a lot on bringing all those religions closers to one another, which have monotheism as the common feature:


“People of the book, let us come to an equitable agreement among us that we will worship none but Allah, that we will associate none with Him, and that we will not set up another lords besides Him”. (Al-Imran-3:64)


While making critical analysis of the Jews and Christians, the Quran points out several ideological misconceptions and wrong notions in faith. However, the Muslims are told by the Quran that there are nice people among them too and the Muslims can make friends with them:


“Yet they are not all alike. There are among the people of the Book some upright people who all night long recite the revelations of Allah and pray; who believe in Allah and the last day; who enjoy justice and forbid evil and vie with each other in good works. These are righteous people: whatever good they do, shall not be denied them. Allah knows the righteous”. (Al-Imran-3:115)


The verses conveying the above mentioned sense are present in the Quran at seven different places. The Quran deems all such places of worship as holy and sacred where God is worshipped irrespective of any religion they belong to. The Quran declares that it does not allow the wrongdoers to gain absolute strength in this world so that they might not destroy all places of worship.


“Had Allah not repelled some (bad) people by the might of others, the monasteries and churches, the synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is frequently remembered, would have been utterly destroyed”. (Al-Hajj-22:40)


Once a delegation of the Christians came to Madina to meet the Holy Prophet. When Sunday approached, the Holy Prophet offered them to pray in the Holy Mosque of Madina in Christian style. The members of the delegation did so. (Ibn e Kaseer: Book 1:434)


It is also asked in this context why the Prophet sent two Jewish Tribes in exile from the state of Madinah and sentenced one tribe to death during his regime?


The answer is that when the Prophet came to the state of Al-Madinah, the Jews accepted him as their head and admitted to accept his decision as final under an agreement. They might have a conception that the Prophet would just emerge as a national leader. But when Islam started spreading very fast and even among the Jews several people started embracing Islam, they became busy in conspiracies against the Prophet. First of all a Jew Tribe, Banu Qaynuqa’a refused to accept any accord. They were, hence, expelled from the state of Al-Madinah. Another Jewish Tribe, Banu Nazeer hatched up a conspiracy for the murder of the Prophet but the plotters were caught before hand. Consequently, this tribe was also sent in exile. The crime of the Third Tribe, Banu Qurayzah was the most horrible one and the gravest nature. During the war of Ahzab, when all forces of Arabia launched a untied attack on Madinah and the Muslims besieged themselves by digging a trench, Banu Qurayzah broke the accord with the Muslims in that crucial time. They assured the enemies of Islam that they would attack the Muslims from inside while there would be a sudden attack from outside. The Prophet came to know about it and countered the action in time. When the enemy retreated, the Prophet besieged that tribe according to the orders of God. Banu Qurayzah appointed Sa’d Bin Mu’az as their arbitrator owing to his old terms with that tribe. Hence, Sa’d decided after consulting the holy book of Jews that such a tribe must be put to death because of their act of treason. If Banu Qurayzah had left the matter at the mercy of the Prophet, he would certainly have decided exile instead of death for them.


It should also be kept in mind that according to the Quran, the Jews invited towards Islam directly by the Holy Prophet, were punished by God directly. It is not a general rule. It is that specific rule under which all such people invited towards Islam by the Prophet himself and having received the message of Islam in its accomplished form, still remain adamant due to their carnal desires, stubbornness and pride are punished by God directly. This punishment cannot be imposed after the Prophet’s time. Therefore, any faction, the Muslim or the non-Muslim committing such crime today within a Muslim state would be dealt with in accordance with the general laws of the state.


Islamic punishments for the non-Muslims


The next issue poses the question whether the punishments proposed by Islam are applicable to non-Muslims as well. If so, can it be just? 

Islam gives due importance to life, honor and property of an individual. In the same way, Islam attaches great respect to the peace and order in a society. Therefore, it determines severest punishment against the five major crimes in relation to an individual, as man has always struck imbalance in the punishment of these crimes. These crimes include murder, theft, adultery, slander and injury. The society is free to determine the punishment for the rest of crimes according to its circumstances. Yet some facts must be kept in mind regarding the punishment to such crimes. They are as under:


First, these punishments are for the crimes of extreme nature where the criminal cannot be given any relaxation. Second, if a crime is less in gravity, the state can have legislation in this connection according to its circumstances. Third, these laws are mean for a true welfare Islamic state. Fourth, Islam differentiates between a crime and a sin. It also differentiates among the crimes of religious nature. For example, it is obligatory for a Muslim to fast during the whole moth of Ramzan. It would be a sin if he fails to do so but it is not the duty of the state to punish him. The other example is related to the crime of taking alcoholic drink. Islam forbids doing so. If a Muslim drinks wine, the state has a right to punish him but such a law is not applicable to non-Muslims.


Theft and adultery are the two crimes, which are the main concerns of the non-Muslims. So, they are being discussed further.


The Quran determines through verses 38-39 of al-Maidah that one hand of the thief is to be severed. It must be clearly understood that imputation of one hand is the punishment of the thief and not against ordinary theft. The literal meaning of the relevant words used in the Quran and interpreted by the Holy Prophet affirms that such punishment is applicable to a habitual thief. Therefore a person committing theft of ordinary nature, taking a thing left uncared for and stealing under forced circumstances is not titled as thief. This is why the Holy Prophet did not inflict this severe punishment on those who deserved relaxation. In the same way the second Muslim ruler (Caliph), and the most reliable companion of the Holy Prophet, Umar, did not impose this punishment during famine, because he argued that state is not fulfilling its responsibility of providing food to everybody. 


If state or courts think it appropriate, keeping in view the circumstances: to give mild punishment to a person committing this crime for the first or second time. In the likewise manner, a habitual thief who does not give up stealing despite repeated warnings, can be given this punishment.


The punishment of adultery has been determined in Surah Al-Nur. It says that the man and the woman found guilty of this crime should be given the punishment of a hundred lashes.


Unlike this order of Islam, adultery is not at all a crime in the West. In the West, the freedom for the individual is above anything else. For the same reason, the importance of a family is far less than that of the individual in that society. It does not matter in the West if it fails to make a family but there must not be any restriction on the individual’s freedom. Quite unlike this, Islam emphasizes upon the family connection along wit the freedom of individual. It believes that a family is the basic unit of a human society. Therefore, anything that weakens this unit must be banned. Adultery is the crime that badly damages the system of family. It also generates other types of vice, which are harmful for the individual and the family equally. This is why Islam has declared it a major crime and has tried to keep people away from it.


However, as Islam does not overlook the forced circumstances in the commission of a crime, it also accords relaxation in the punishment of a criminal who is neither fully educated nor fully given proper awareness. For instance, during the Prophetic period, if a slave girl after getting married was found guilty of the crime of adultery, she was granted the punishment of just 50 lashes which was half to that of a free person (Al-Nisa-4:25). It was so because their basic education was not up to the mark though they were provided an opportunity to lead a pious life after entering into the bond of marriage.


It must be borne in mind that all these punishments find their enforcement when an Islamic sate has been properly established in its true sense. This Islamic state must have educated and inculcated the moral values in its citizens so that they can prevent themselves from committing such crimes. It is wrong to enforce these punishments by developing a conceptual situation based on a wrong hypothesis.


It is also important to know what code of law Islam has determined in order to deal with the crimes like assault on chastity, gang rape, group murder, robbery, dacoity, terrorism and prostitution.


For an answer to this question we can consult verses 33:34 of Surah Al-Maidah, which grant extensive powers to a Muslims government in this regard. They are extensive so that the humankind may be saved from every kind of atrocity and the aggressors must be exterminated. Since the nature and gravity of such matters can be in varied forms, the Quran leaves it to the discretion of the government and the court whether to sentence such criminals to death, punish them physically, put them behind the bars or send then in exile. It is quite possible that the first two punishments seem intensive to the Western mind but two things must be kept in mind in this context. First, Islam considers that the peace and order in the society is very important. Second, these punishments are discretionary and an Islamic government may lessen their intensity.


For the non-Muslim the Holy Quran is very explicit that there is no compulsion in religion. The Holy Quran says:


“There is no compulsion in religion. True guidance is now distinct from error.” (Al-Baqarah-2:250)


“We have shown the human being the right path, whether he becomes a believer or not”. (Al-Dahr-76:3)


So it is evident from the above verses that the Islamic criminal laws are not applicable to non-Muslims. They are allowed to frame their own laws for these crimes. Even they can ask for separate courts for the promulgation of their personal laws.