Christianity History Islam

Peo­ple of The Book” and The Muslims

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Emin Ergin

Islam is a reli­gion of peace, love and tol­er­ance. Today, how­ev­er, some cir­cles have pre­sent­ed a false image of Islam, as if there were con­flict between Islam and the adher­ents of the two oth­er monothe­is­tic reli­gions. Yet Islam’s view of Jews and Chris­tians, who are named the Peo­ple of the Book” in the Qur’?n, is very friend­ly and tolerant.

This atti­tude towards the Peo­ple of the Book devel­oped dur­ing the years of the birth of Islam. At that time, Mus­lims were a minor­i­ty, strug­gling to pro­tect their faith and suf­fer­ing oppres­sion and tor­ture from the pagans of the city of Makkah. Due to this per­se­cu­tion, some Mus­lims decid­ed to flee Mec­ca and shel­ter in a safe coun­try with a just ruler. The Prophet Muhammad(P) told them to take refuge with King Negus, the Chris­t­ian king of Ethiopia. The Mus­lims who fol­lowed this advice found a very fair admin­is­tra­tion that embraced them with love and respect when they went to Ethiopia. King Negus refused the demands of the pagan mes­sen­gers who asked him to sur­ren­der the Mus­lims to them, and announced that Mus­lims could live freely in his country.

Such atti­tudes of Chris­t­ian peo­ple who are based on the con­cepts of com­pas­sion, mer­cy, mod­esty and jus­tice, con­sti­tute a fact that God has point­ed out in the Qur’an. A verse of the Qur’an states :

You will find the peo­ple most affec­tion­ate to those who believe are those who say, We are Chris­tians.’ That is because some of them are priests and monks and because they are not arro­gant.” (Surat al-Ma’i­da, 82)

The Com­mon Beliefs and Val­ues of the Peo­ple of the Book with Muslims

Chris­t­ian and Mus­lim belief have many aspects in com­mon. Judaism too shares many beliefs with Islam. All true adher­ents of these three great religions :

  • believe that God has cre­at­ed the entire uni­verse out of noth­ing and that He dom­i­nates all that exists with His omnipotence. 
  • believe that God has cre­at­ed man and liv­ing things in a mirac­u­lous way and that man pos­sess­es a soul grant­ed him by God. 
  • believe that besides Jesus, Moses or Muham­mad, God sent many prophets such as Noah, Abra­ham, Isaac and Joseph through­out his­to­ry, and they love all these prophets. 
  • believe in res­ur­rec­tion, Heav­en and Hell and angels, and that God has cre­at­ed our lives with a cer­tain destiny.

The beliefs of the Peo­ple of the Book are in har­mo­ny with Mus­lims, not only in terms of faith-relat­ed issues, but also of moral val­ues. Today, in a world where such immoral­i­ties as adul­tery, homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, drug addic­tion and a mod­el of ego­ism and self-seek­ing cru­el­ty have grown wide­spread, the Peo­ple of the Book and Mus­lims share the same virtues : Hon­or, chasti­ty, humil­i­ty, self-sac­ri­fice, hon­esty, com­pas­sion, mer­cy and uncon­di­tion­al love.

Accord­ing To The Qur’an, Mus­lims, Jews And Chris­tians Should Live In Friendship

It is evi­dent there are ample grounds for an alliance between the Peo­ple of the Book” and Mus­lims. This is also very evi­dent in the Qur’?n. In the rel­e­vant vers­es of the Qur’?n, there is a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence between the Peo­ple of the Book and the idol­aters. This is espe­cial­ly empha­sized in the area of social life. For exam­ple, it is said con­cern­ing the idolaters :

(they) are unclean, so after this year they should not come near the Masjid al-Haram (Kaa­ba).” (Surat at-Taw­ba : 28

Idol­aters are peo­ple who obey no divine law, have no moral pre­cepts and who are capa­ble of com­mit­ting every kind of degrad­ing and per­verse action with­out hesitation.

But while they basi­cal­ly rely on God’s rev­e­la­tion, the Peo­ple of the Book have moral pre­cepts and know what is law­ful and what is not. For this rea­son, if one of the Peo­ple of the Book cooks some food, it is law­ful for Mus­lims to eat it. In the same way, per­mis­sion has been giv­en for a Mus­lim man to mar­ry a woman from among the Peo­ple of the Book. On this sub­ject God commands :

Today all good things have been made law­ful for you. And the food of those giv­en the Book is also law­ful for you and your food is law­ful for them. So are chaste women from among the believ­ers and chaste women of those giv­en the Book before you, once you have giv­en them their dowries in mar­riage, not in for­ni­ca­tion or tak­ing them as lovers. But as for any­one who dis­be­lieve, his actions will come to noth­ing and in the here­after he will be among the losers.” (Surat al-Mai’­da : 5)

These com­mands show that bonds of kin­ship may be estab­lished as a result of the mar­riage of a Mus­lim with a woman from the Peo­ple of the Book, and that those on each side of the union can accept an invi­ta­tion to a meal. These are the fun­da­men­tals that will ensure the estab­lish­ment of equi­table human rela­tion­ships and a hap­py com­mu­nal life. Since the Qur’?n enjoins this equi­table and tol­er­ant atti­tude, it is unthink­able that a Mus­lim could take an oppos­ing view.

Monas­ter­ies, Church­es And Syn­a­gogues Should Be Respected

Anoth­er impor­tant fact we learn from the Qur’an is that Mus­lims must respect Jew­ish and Chris­t­ian places of wor­ship. In the Qur’?n, the places of wor­ship of the Peo­ple of the Book, i.e. monas­ter­ies, church­es and syn­a­gogues, are men­tioned as places of wor­ship pro­tect­ed by God.

If God had not dri­ven some peo­ple back by means of oth­ers, monas­ter­ies, church­es, syn­a­gogues and mosques, where God’s name is men­tioned much, would have been pulled down and destroyed. God will cer­tain­ly help those who help Him — God is All-Strong, Almighty.” (Surat al-Hajj : 40 )

This verse shows all Mus­lims the impor­tance of respect­ing and pro­tect­ing the sanc­tu­ar­ies of Chris­tians and Jews.

Indeed, in the Qur’an God com­mands Mus­lims not to har­bor any enmi­ty towards any peo­ple. In many vers­es, friend­ship is rec­om­mend­ed, even with idol­aters. God even refers to the idol­aters at war with Mus­lims in this way :

If any of the idol­aters ask you for pro­tec­tion, give them pro­tec­tion until they have heard the words of God. Then con­vey them to a place where they are safe.” (Surat at-Taw­ba : 6)

Jews and Chris­tians, how­ev­er, are much clos­er to Mus­lims than idol­aters. Each of these reli­gions has its book, that is, they are sub­ject to a rev­e­la­tion sent down by God. They know what is right and what is wrong, what is law­ful and what is unlaw­ful. They know they will give an account to God, and they love and revere His prophets. This shows that Mus­lims and the peo­ple of the book can live eas­i­ly togeth­er and coöperate.

The Com­mon Ene­mies of the Faith

Anoth­er impor­tant fact that draws Chris­tian­i­ty, Judaism and Islam togeth­er is the athe­ist philoso­phies that are so influ­en­tial in our time.

Among the best-known and most harm­ful philoso­phies of our age can be cit­ed mate­ri­al­ism, com­mu­nism, fas­cism, anar­chism, racism and sec­u­lar human­ism. Many peo­ple who believed in the fake diag­noses, decep­tive descrip­tions and expla­na­tions of these ideas on the uni­verse, soci­ety and man, have lost their faith or doubt­ed it. What is more, these ide­olo­gies have dragged peo­ple, soci­eties and nations into great crises, con­flicts and wars. Their share of the blame for the pain and trou­bles that human­i­ty suf­fers today is immense.

While they deny God and cre­ation, all the above-men­tioned ide­olo­gies are based on a com­mon frame­work, a so-called sci­en­tif­ic basis ; Charles Dar­win’s the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion. Dar­win­ism con­sti­tutes the basis of athe­ist philoso­phies. This the­o­ry claims that liv­ing beings have evolved as a result of coin­ci­dences and by means of a strug­gle for life. There­fore, Dar­win­ism sends this decep­tive mes­sage to people :

You are not respon­si­ble to any­one, you owe your life to coin­ci­dences, you need to strug­gle, and if nec­es­sary to oppress oth­ers to suc­ceed. This world is one of con­flict and self-interest”.

This evil moral­i­ty advis­es peo­ple to be ego­is­ti­cal, self-seek­ing, cru­el and oppres­sive. It destroys such virtues as mer­cy, com­pas­sion, self-sac­ri­fice and humil­i­ty, the moral val­ues of the three great monothe­is­tic religions.

This being the case, it is nec­es­sary for the Peo­ple of the Book and Mus­lims to coöper­ate, since they believe in God and accept the moral­i­ty that He teach­es. The fol­low­ers of these three reli­gions should expose to the world the fal­la­cy of Dar­win­ism, which has no sci­en­tif­ic basis, but which is try­ing to be pre­served for the sake of mate­ri­al­ist phi­los­o­phy. They should coop­er­a­tive­ly car­ry out an intel­lec­tu­al strug­gle against all oth­er decep­tive ideas that serve athe­ism. Once this is real­ized, the world will, in a very short time, embrace peace, tran­quil­i­ty and justice.

Con­clu­sion : Let us Ral­ly to a Com­mon Formula”

At a time when anti-reli­gious, athe­ist and mate­ri­al­ist ide­olo­gies sur­round the world, sim­i­lar­i­ties among the­is­tic reli­gions should be empha­sized, and coöper­a­tion should be estab­lished for com­mon aims.

Con­cern­ing the Peo­ple of the Book, God gives Mus­lims a com­mand in the Qur’?n ; to ral­ly to a com­mon formula :

O Peo­ple of the Book ! Let us ral­ly to a com­mon for­mu­la to be bind­ing on both us and you : That we wor­ship none but God ; that we asso­ciate no part­ners with Him ; that we erect not, from among our­selves, Lords and patrons oth­er than God.” (Surat Al Imran, 64)

This is indeed our call to Chris­tians and Jews : As peo­ple who believe in God and fol­low His rev­e­la­tions, let us ral­ly to a com­mon for­mu­la — faith”. Let us love God, Who is our Cre­ator and Lord, and fol­low His com­mands. And let us pray for God to lead us to an even straighter path.

When Mus­lims, Chris­tians and Jews ral­ly to a com­mon for­mu­la this way ;
When they under­stand that they are friends not enemies,
When they see that the real ene­my is athe­ism and paganism,
then the world will become a very dif­fer­ent place.

The fight­ing that has raged for ages, enmi­ties, fears — and ter­ror­ist attacks — will come to an end, and a new civ­i­liza­tion based on love, respect and peace will be estab­lished upon this com­mon formula”.Endmark


  1. Prophet Muham­mad’s Char­ter of Priv­iledges to Christians
    A Let­ter to the Monks of St. Cather­ine Monastry
    Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq, The Islam­ic Civilisation
    (Copy­right 1990, 1997, All Rights Reserved)
    In 628 C.E. Prophet Muham­mad (s) grant­ed a Char­ter of Priv­i­leges to the monks of St. Cather­ine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. It con­sist­ed of sev­er­al claus­es cov­er­ing all aspects of human rights includ­ing such top­ics as the pro­tec­tion of Chris­tians, free­dom of wor­ship and move­ment, free­dom to appoint their own judges and to own and main­tain their prop­er­ty, exemp­tion from mil­i­tary ser­vice, and the right to pro­tec­tion in war.
    An Eng­lish trans­la­tion of that doc­u­ment is pre­sent­ed below.

    This is a mes­sage from Muham­mad ibn Abdul­lah, as a covenant to those who adopt Chris­tian­i­ty, near and far, we are with them.
    Ver­i­ly I, the ser­vants, the helpers, and my fol­low­ers defend them, because Chris­tians are my cit­i­zens ; and by Allah ! I hold out against any­thing that dis­pleas­es them.

    No com­pul­sion is to be on them.

    Nei­ther are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

    No one is to destroy a house of their reli­gion, to dam­age it, or to car­ry any­thing from it to the Mus­lims’ houses.

    Should any­one take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and dis­obey His Prophet. Ver­i­ly, they are my allies and have my secure char­ter against all that they hate.

    No one is to force them to trav­el or to oblige them to fight.

    The Mus­lims are to fight for them.

    If a female Chris­t­ian is mar­ried to a Mus­lim, it is not to take place with­out her approval. She is not to be pre­vent­ed from vis­it­ing her church to pray.

    Their church­es are to be respect­ed. They are nei­ther to be pre­vent­ed from repair­ing them nor the sacred­ness of their covenants.

    No one of the nation (Mus­lims) is to dis­obey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).

    This char­ter of priv­i­leges has been hon­ored and faith­ful­ly applied by Mus­lims through­out the cen­turies in all lands they ruled

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