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Non-Muslim in an Islamic Society

Jews have been persecuted under Christian rule, secular rule and dictatorship for centuries. But what about under Islam? What was the reality of the Jews living under Islamic rule? How does Islam say those of other faiths should be treated?

Let us first see the oppression of Jews under of Christian Spain prior to Muslim arrival. One of the clauses in the text of the proceedings of the fourth Council of Toledo in 633 states:

We decree that the sons and daughters of the Jews should be separated from the company of their parents in order that they should not become further entangled in their deviation, and entrusted either to monasteries or to Christian, God fearing men and women , in order that they should learn from their way of life to venerate the Faith and, educated on better things, progress in their morals as well as their Faith . [1]

However, when Islamic rule came with the arrival of the Muslims the Jews were liberated from the oppression of the Church. Zion Zohar, a modern Jewish scholar , had this to add to confirm the assertion made above:

Thus, when Muslims crossed the straits of Gibraltar from North Africa in 711 and invaded the Iberian Peninsula, Jews welcomed them as liberators from Christian Persecution. [2]

There are many more historical examples of how Islam dealt with people of other faiths. For instance, after 1453 Jews were encouraged to emigrate from Europe. A letter from one Rabbi to his persecuted brethren in Europe urges settlement in the Islamic lands:

"Here in the land of the Turks we have nothing to complain of. We possess great fortunes; much gold and silver are in our hands. We are not oppressed with heavy taxes and our commerce is free and unhindered. Rich are the fruits of the earth. Everything is cheap and every one of us lives in peace and freedom ..." [3]

Non-Muslims living under Islamic rule are referred to as dhimmi (people of contract) which means they enjoy the rights of citizenship. The Prophet Muhammad said:

"He who abuses a dhimmi [non-Muslim citizen] then I will be his rival and dispute him on the Day of Judgment."

This is also reflected in classical scholarship, Imam Qurafi, an Islamic scholar , summed up the responsibility of the Islamic Caliphate to the dhimmi when he said: "It is the responsibility of the Muslims to the People of the Dhimma to care for their weak, fulfil the needs of the poor, feed the hungry, provide clothes, address them politely, and even tolerate their harm even if it was from a neighbour, even though the Muslim may have the upper hand. The Muslims must also advise them sincerely on their affairs and protect them against anyone who tries to hurt them or their family, steal their wealth, or violates their rights."

The continued existence in Muslim lands till today of communities of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and others numbering millions - is perhaps the biggest testimony of Islamic rules care for its non-Muslim citizens, and a refutation of those who claim that Muslims will try to forcibly convert non-Muslims to Islam.

[1] The Jews in the Legal Sources of the Early Middle Ages, edited by Amnon Linder, Wayne University Press, 1997, p.488.

[2] Zion Zohar, Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewry, New York, 2005, p. 8-9.

[3] Philip Mansel. 1995. Constantinople: City of the World's desire, 1453-1924. Penguin Books, p. 15

Categories: Islam Explained, | Tags: non-Muslims, dhimmi,

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Cached: 21/8/2009 at 11:24