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People of the Book

In Islam, People of the Book or ahl al Kitāb are peoples who have, according to the Qur'an, received divine guidance in form of Scripture.

The people of the book are Jews, Christians and Muslims. Sometimes Karaites, Samaritans, Zoroastrians and even Mandaeans are considered people of the Book.

Table of contents
1 The Qu'ran
2 Similarities in Belief
3 Islamic Law
4 External Links

The Qu'ran

There are many statements in the Quran that promote tolerance towards People of The Book. For example:

And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, 'We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam). (XXIX: The Spider: 46)

There are also many statements that promote an adversarial relationship. For example:

O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people. (Quran 5:51)

Throughout Islamic history, Muslims have used these verses to justify a variety of positions towards non-Muslims. In some places and times, Muslims showed a great deal of tolerance towards non-Muslims; in other places and times non-Muslims were treated as enemies and persecuted. Islamic law demands that Muslims treat Jews and Christians as dhimmis, second-class protected citizens who have a limited number of rights. See the article on dhimmi for more details.

Similarities in Belief

There are many similarities in belief between the People of the Book:

Islamic Law

Where non-Muslim people of the Book live in an Islamic nation under Sharia law, they become dhimmi. They are given a number of rights, such as the right to freely practice their faith in private, but also face additional restrictions and burdens, such as the payment of a special tax called jizyah ("skull tax"). People of the Book living in non-Islamic nations are not considered dhimmi.

Note that in Islamic law there is no concept of "rights", neither for Muslims nor for non-Muslims. Islam as a religion knows only duties, f.e. duties of the ruler and the ruled or duties of the believer. Insofar it is misleading to speak of Islamic law denying people a right as Islamic law doesn't give any rights.

External Links