People of the Book

People of the Book

:"This article is about the theological concept in Islam. For the novel by Geraldine Brooks see People of the Book (novel)."In Islam, the ""People of the Book" (Arabic _ar. أهل الكتاب, "ArabDIN|Ahl al- Kitâb"), also "Followers of the Holy Books" [ [] Qur'an 5:15.] , are non-Muslim peoples who, according to the Qur'an, received scriptures which were revealed to them by God before the time of Muhammad (especially Christians and Jews). In Islam, the Muslim scripture, the "Qur'an", is taken to represent the completion of these scriptures, and to synthesize them as God's true, final, and eternal message to humanity. However, because the People of the Book recognize the God of Abraham as the one and only god, as the Muslims do, and they practice revealed faiths based on Divine ordinances, tolerance and autonomy is accorded to them in societies governed by sharia (Islamic divine law) [] . The generally accepted interpretation is that the pre-Islamic revealed texts are the "Tawrat", "Zabur" and the "Injil". They are roughly equivalent to the Jewish Torah, the Book of Psalms, and the Four Christian Gospels, respectively.

A "dhimmi" is a person who is protected under Islamic law by a pact contracted between non-Muslims and authorities from their Muslim government: this status was originally only made available to non-Muslims who were People of the Book (i.e. Jews and Christians), but was later extended to include Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Mandeans, Hindus [Bat Ye'or (1985), p. 45] and Buddhists. [The Chach Nama English translation by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg. Delhi Reprint, 1979.] [ Annemarie Schimmel (2004), p.107, "The conqueror Muhammad Ibn Al Qasem gave both Hindus and Buddhists the same status as the Christians, Jews and Sabaeans in the Middle east". They were all "dhimmi" ('protected people')"]

In Judaism the term "People of the Book" (Hebrew: עם הספר, "Am HaSefer") subsequently became self-applied to refer specifically to the Jewish people and the Torah; also the Jewish people and the wider canon of written Jewish law (including the Mishnah and the Talmud). In the Jewish tradition's use of the term there is generally no connotation as to the nature of Judaism's relationship with other faiths. [Hence for example such books as "People of the Book: Thirty Scholars Reflect on Their Jewish Identity" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997) and "People of the Book: Canon, Meaning, and Authority" (Harvard University Press, 1997).]

Definitions of dhimmi

In the classical understanding, the People of the Book are those whose faiths share the following qualities:

*They practice "Tawhid" (monotheism).
*They recognize life after death, judgement, Heaven, and the existence of angels.
*They usually recognize Satan and Hell, and they have many similar eschatological beliefs.
*They share some of the same prophets, such as Moses.
*They have similar beliefs regarding the creation, specifically, in the lives of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The term "People of the Book" is thus taken in classical orthodox Islam to refer to followers of monotheistic Abrahamic religions which are older than Islam. This includes all Christians, all Jews (including Karaites and Samaritans), and Sabians (a Qur'anic term interpretedFact|date=April 2008 to refer to the Mandaeans).

Many early Islamic scholars, such as Malik ibn Anas, agreed that Zoroastrians should also be included.Fact|date=April 2008 Zoroastrianism is believed by scholars and historians to have been founded between 1000 BCE and 600 BCE making it older than Christianity and Islam. It shares similar eschatological views with Christianity and Islam, and recognizes life after death, Satan (as Angra Mainyu), Heaven, and Hell. There is no official Zoroastrian viewpoint regarding Adam and Eve or Moses. Most Shi'a Muslims accept Zoroastrians as People of the Book.

Generally speaking, only pre-Islamic religions are considered to be the religions of the Book. This is because Muhammad is viewed in Islam as the seal of the prophets, the final prophet that God will ever send to humanity for all time. This means that post-Islamic faiths are not considered religions of the Book in the classical sense, even if they are revealed, scriptural, monotheistic, and/or Abrahamic.

Scholars have opinions as to whether or not Hinduism constitutes as a religion of The People of the Book, as the term "Hindu" being derived from the Arabic text "Al-Hind" is the modern day name for the people of the Indian religions. Hinduism was, and still is, the Indian religion with the largest number of followers. The Islamic conquest of India necessitated that this definition be revised, due to the majority of the inhabitants of India were followers of the Indian religions, and as some were generally regarded as "mushrikeen". However, Hindu views of God are diverse and multifaceted, ranging from conventional monotheism, to panentheism, monism, immanence, and polytheism; many Hindus have a perspective that is somewhere between the extremes of polytheism and monotheism. Because of the substantial Hindu tradition of monism, and the prominent Hindu theological perspective that there is a single Entity ("Brahma") which sustains the world, Hindus eventually have been included as Dhimmis. [Thapar, R. 1993. "Interpreting Early India." Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 77]

Sikhism is not Abrahamic, as it rejects the concept of the Devil, angels and the concept of Adam and Eve. It also post-dates Muhammad.

Buddhism does not explicitly recognize a God, or the concept of prophethood. However, there is no official Buddhist view of God, and Buddhism does not specifically oppose monotheism. Brahman is recognised as the supreme Deva. However, it is explicitly stated in sutra that deva, including supreme Brahman is insufficient (or irrelevant or inferior) to attainment of enlightenment, as they are still trapped in cycle of rebirth. Moreover, Buddhism does not recognize God in the sense of Creator.

The Yazidi, Druze and Azali faiths are small post-Islamic monotheistic faiths whose adherents mainly reside in Muslim-majority countries. Because they number very few and have seldom disturbed, countered or threatened Muslim authority, they are usually regarded as dhimmis.

Some strains of Islam, such as Salafism and Wahhabism, reject most followers of Indian religions, as "kafir" (pagans). Saudi Arabia, which has the Wahhabi sect of Islam as its state religion, has implemented full sharia lawFact|date=October 2007, but does not regard Non-Muslims staying in the country as 'dhimmis'. Numerous non-Arabs, mostly South Asians and Filipinos, have been allowed into the country as foreign workers, some of whom are Muslim, and some of whom are not. However, public practice of a non-Muslim religion in Saudi Arabia is a punishable offence.

The definition of "dhimmi" always excludes followers of the Bahá'í Faith. This is because the Bahá'í Faith, which grew out of Shi'a Islam, is a post-Islamic religion which does not accept the finality of Muhammad's revelation. Instead, Bahá'ís believe in the concept of progressive revelation, which states that God's will is progressively revealed through different teachers at different times, and that there will never be a final revelation. Bahá'ís refer to the people who bring a new revelation into the world as Manifestations of God; the person who is accepted as the current Manifestation of God is Bahá'u'lláh.

The Bahá'í Faith is revealed, scriptural and Abrahamic, and Bahá'ís accept Muhammad as one of the previous Manifestations of God. However, because they have explicitly repudiated the eternal authority of the Qur'an and Sunnah, they are condemned as "murtadeen" (apostates). They are sometimes also called "zandiqa" ("atheists"). Bahá'ís are considered to be subject to the fate of Dar al-Harb, the doomed pagan world which is not beloved of God. Bahá'ís have been badly persecuted by Muslim regimes up to the present day. The most significant persecution has occurred in Iran, where Bahá'ís are the most populous religious minority. The exception is Turkey, where a policy of state secularism has resulted in almost no official persecution.

The Qur'an on dhimmis

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

* "And do not dispute with the followers of the Book except by what is best, except those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him do we submit." Quran-usc|29|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 rulers/patrons ; they are protectors of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a ruler/patron, then surely he is one of them; surely God does not guide the unjust people." Quran-usc|5|51

In other places the Qur'an says:

* "Not all of them are alike; a party of the people of the Scripture stand for the right, they recite the Verses of God during the hours of the night, prostrating themselves in prayer. They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin Al-Ma'rûf and forbid Al-Munkar ; and they hasten in (all) good works; and they are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for God knows well those who are Al-Muttaqûn .(3:113-115)"

* "And there are, certainly, among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), those who believe in God and in that which has been revealed to you, and in that which has been revealed to them, humbling themselves before God. They do not sell the Verses of God for a little price, for them is a reward with their Lord. Surely, God is Swift in account. '(3:199)'

* "Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve ." Quran-usc|2|62

* "Say (O Muhammad ): "O people of the Scripture : Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God." Quran-usc|3|64

Throughout Islamic history, Muslims have used these ayah (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, protected citizens who have a number of rights.

One ayah in the Qur'an can even be interpreted to encourage a neutral position toward non-Muslims. This ayah says, "Those who follow the Jewish and the Sabi'een, Christians, Magians and Polytheists — Allah will judge them On the Day of Judgement:" (22:17). The acceptance of Zoroastrians as dhimmis is partly because of this ayah, as the Magians were Zurvanist Zoroastrians, and this verse, specifically mentions them alongside other People of the Book, and lists them ahead of polytheists.

Islamic law

When the non-Muslim People of the Book live in an Islamic nation under Sharia law, they become dhimmis. They are given a number of rights, such as the right to freely practice their faith in private, in return for state protection, and exemption from military service. The social structure of the Ottoman Empire would serve as an example of how non-Muslims were treated. They also have some responsibilities, such as the payment of a special tax called jizyah ("tribute"), but they are exempted from Zakat which Muslims are required to pay. People of the Book living in non-Islamic nations are not considered dhimmis.


Further reading

* Yusuf al-Qaradawi has a book entitled "Non-Muslims in Muslim societies" detailing many issues including what a dhimmi is, jizyah, rights, responsibilities, and more.

External links

* [ "People of the Book" and Muslims] . A positive view of attitudes concerning People of the Book
* [ Does Islam Forbid Befriending Non-Muslims?] Brief exegesis of a controversial verse from Quran (5:51)
* [ Domains of Muslim-Christian Cooperation]
* [ Muslim and Non-Muslim Relations Reflections on Some Qur’anic Texts]
* [ Islamic Dealing with People of the Book]
* [ Inviting People of the Book]
* [ Scope of Amicable Dealings with Non-Muslims]
* [ Does the Term “Ahlul-Kitab” Still Apply Today?]
* [ Should the Magians Be Treated as Ahl al-Kitab?]
* [ The Books of the People of the Book: Judaic Collection of Library of Congress]
* [ Islam and the People of the Book] . A negative view of attitudes concerning People of the Book

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