People of the Book

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In the Qur'an and Hadith, the term People of the Book (أهل الكتاب‎ ′Ahl al-Kitāb) is used to refer to followers of certain monotheistic faiths which pre-date the advent of Islam. In particular, it refers to the Christian, Jewish, and Sabian (and Zoroastrian) faiths.[1] This page contains summaries of articles discussing the relationship between Islam and the People of the Book.

Revealed Scriptures

Revelation is the medium by which Allah claims to have communicated his words to his prophets so that they may inform the people of his will, what he wants from them and what they must do for him in order to be saved from eternal damnation.

The Torah/Old Testament

The Qur'an talks of the Taurat/Tawrah ( توراة ) referring to the Torah - the first five books of the Jewish Bible (also known as the Pentateuch); found in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Some Muslims and scholars believe it refers to the entire Old Testament, but this view is not widely held.

The Psalms

The Zabur, mentioned 3 times in the Qur'an, refers to the Psalms of the Old Testament. The Qur'an asserts that the Zabur is one of the 3 Previous Revelations of Allah.

The New Testament/Four Gospels

The Qur'an talks of the Injil (إنجيل) referring to the New Testament of the Bible (usually the four Gospels), which it claims was given to Jesus, rather than being written by his followers.

The Qur'an

The Qur'ān (القرآن) is the central religious text of Islam. Muslims believe the Qur'an to be the book of divine guidance and direction for mankind. The best-known chapter of the Qur'an is al-Fatiha ‘The Opening’. This surah is recited as part of all the mandatory daily prayers and repeated within each prayer. A faithful Muslim who said all their prayers would recite this surah at least seventeen times a day, and over five thousand times a year.

The hadith literature make negative references to the Jews and Christians in connection with this surah. Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan and Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali incorporate this within their translation. Ayah 6-7 thus reads; "Guide us to the Straight Way. The Way of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger (such as the Jews), nor of those who went astray (such as the Christians)."

It is remarkable that the daily prayers of every Muslim, part of the core of Islam, include a rejection of Christians and Jews as misguided and objects of Allah’s wrath.

Incompatibility with Previous Revelations

Qur'an 2:79 and the Corruption of the Previous Scriptures

It is a common Islamic belief that the Qur'an states that the previous scriptures (the Taurat and Injil) have been physically corrupted by those who were charged with safeguarding it (the Jews and Christians). Thus, it is claimed, the Qur'an is the 'return' to the true message of the God of the Bible. The following verse (2:79) is generally advanced as evidence.

Shakir: Woe, then, to those who write the book with their hands and then say: This is from Allah, so that they may take for it a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.

The above article examines what the Qur'an says about the Taurat and Injil and examines verse 2:79 in this own context, and considers whether the doctrine of the corruption of previous scriptures is indeed found in the Qur'an.

Parallelism Between the Qur'an and Judeo-Christian Scriptures

The similarities between the Qur'an and previous scriptures have been noted since the advent of Islam. Modern scholarship has extended the identification of such parallels to the extra-Biblical legends and commentaries circulating in late antiquity in the centuries before Islam. The development of the stories through successive versions can be seen in some cases. Some stories were originally Rabbinic illustrations to make a point about individual words. Examples include:

  • Flood waters boiled from an oven
  • Abraham's conversion to monotheism
  • Abraham & the idols.
  • Mary, Jesus and the Trinity
  • Jesus and the clay birds

  • Mary’s upbringing & her relationship with Zachariah
  • Mary, Jesus & the palm tree
  • Satan’s refusal to prostrate to Adam
  • the Queen of Sheba
  • the wealth of Korah

Furthermore, the claim that the Quran describes the Judeo-Christians scriptures as "corrupted" has been substantially critiqued, and is most probably untrue.

Biblical and Islamic Figures


According to Islam, Allāh is the Creator of the Universe. Allah is commonly understood to "the God". Linguists consider its origins uncertain, though it was the name of a Nabatean pagan deity several centuries before Islam, before becoming applied to the Judeo-Christian God. It was also used in this way by the Quranic Mushrikeen, where it was the name of the supreme creator god, along with lesser dieties. The goddesses; Allāt (meaning 'the goddess' ),[2] Manat, and al-Uzza were Allah's daughters.

Jesus Christ

In Islam, Isa al-Masih (عيسى المسي usually translated as Jesus Christ) is believed to be a prophet, second in rank to Muhammad, and not the son of God. Indeed, associating divinity with Jesus is decried as blasphemy in the Qur'an time and again.

The Virgin Mary

The Qur'anic verses 21:91 and 66:12 in conjunction with the tafsirs, tell us the angel Jibreel was sent to breathe Allah's spirit into Maryam's (مريم Mary's) vagina. Quran 5:116 tells us the Trinity consists of three separate gods, which are the Father (God), the Mother (Virgin Mary) and the Son (Jesus). The Quran is generally highly critical of the Christians for their views about Jesus and Mary. According to a hadith, Mary will be one of Muhammad's wives in paradise.

Muhammad said, “In heaven, Mary mother of Jesus, will be one of my wives.”
al-Siyuti (6/395)
"The Messenger of God ... said, ‘God married me in paradise to Mary the daughter of 'Imran and to the wife of Pharaoh and the sister of Moses.’" [3]

The Angel Gabriel

According to Islamic scriptures, Jibreel (جبريل Gabriel) is the angel who first appeared to Muhammad in the cave of Hijra and taught Muhammad the Qur'an. The initial experience frightened Muhammad, and originally thinking he was possessed by a demon, the Islamic prophet became, according to his own account, suicidal for a period of time (being prevented from jumping off a cliff multiple times by Gabriel himself).

Under Islamic Rule


The term Dhimmitude is derived from Dhimmi, which means a non-Muslim living in an Islamic country. According to orthodox Islamic law, those who are qualified for the second-class Dhimmi status within the Muslim society are the free (i.e. non-slave) Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, who agree to pay the jizyah, a religious tax whose purpose is to "humiliate" or "subdue" non-Muslims (as stated explicitly in Quran 9:29). Adherents of other religions, as well as those without religion, are asked to convert to Islam; if they refuse, they are to be forced to convert, or face enslavement or execution. This Dhimma legal framework is not in force in modern Muslim states today as civil law is considered to have rendered it inapplicable.

According to some scholars of the Islamist mindset such as Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (d. 1979, founder of the Jama'at-i Islami movement), jihad should be waged against Jews and Christians because they are guilty of committing shirk (one of the gravest sins in Islam), their beliefs about the Day of Judgement are not Islamic, and they do not follow the laws of Islam revealed to Muhammad.[4]

Jizyah Tax

Summon the people to God; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, but those who refuse must pay the poll tax out of humiliation and lowliness. If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency. Fear God with regard to what you have been entrusted.[5]
Umar ibn al-Khattab during the conquest of al-Basrah (636 CE)

According to the Qur'an and hadith, Jizyah or jizya (جزْي) is the extra tax imposed on non-Muslims (Dhimmis) who live under Muslim rule. It is paid as a sign of submission and gives dhimmis some legal protection in return. Under dhimmitude (the status that Islamic law, the Sharia, mandates for non-Muslims) Dhimmis usually are not allowed to carry arms to protect themselves, serve in the army or government, display symbols of their faith, build or repair places of worship, etc. If the conquered do not wish to pay or convert, their fate may very well be slavery (under which, rape is permitted) or (as evidenced in the quotes above) death.

Forced Conversion

This article provides information about the historical Islamic use of forced conversion and forced submission or expulsion.

The Pact of Umar

Much has been said of the Pact of Umar,[6] and much of it distinctly positive. Its non-Muslim admirers gleefully compare its contents to the treatment of religious minorities in Medieval Europe, while ignoring its influence and conformity with Islamic scriptural sources which still govern the treatment of minorities in the East today. Some non-Muslim scholars of early Islam doubt the pact's authenticity, highlighting the fact that the Islamic traditions surrounding the writing of the pact are a few hundred years removed from the actual events described, and that no contemporary sources refer to it at all. Sophronius' (560  - 638 AD) authentic extant writings also refer to the Muslim conquerors in a very negative way, putting further doubts on the Muslim recollections of events.[7] This article, nonetheless, analyses the rights and limitations placed on the Syrians based on this account of the Pact of Umar. It is further worth noting that, even if the pact is historically unreliable, many (if not all) of the specific stipulations found in the pact have a basis in Islamic scripture independent of the pact itself.

The Genocide of Banu Qurayza

Hijra year 5 (627 AD), almost nine hundred Jews (including children) of a Medinan tribe named Banu Qurayza were massacred by Muslims in one day. Muhammad was the lead of the atrocity, which began early in the day, ending in torchlight. Those who escaped death were taken captive by Muslims and sold in slave markets. This genocide is known in history as the Banu Qurayza incident.


What Islamic Scripture and Scholars Say about the People of the Book

Islamic scripture and scholars have much to say in regards to Jews and Christians.

And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they! They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One Allah. There is no Allah save Him. Be He Glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)!

Antisemitism in Islam

Anti-Semitism is rampant in the Muslim world, often intertwined with grievances concerning the long-running Israel-Palestine conflict. Islamic scripture is often cited in defense of these attitudes. Hadiths portray Muhammad as stating that the Final Hour will not come until Muslims slaughter Jews, and even the rocks and trees will betray the Jews hiding behind them.

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.

External Links


  1. "...Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians..." - Quran 2:62
  2. Arne A. Ambros, and Stephan Procházka - A Concise Dictionary of Koranic Arabic (p. 306) - Weisbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3895004006
  3. (Ibn Kathir, Qisas al-Anbiya [Cairo: Dar al-Kutub, 1968/1388], p. 381- as cited in Aliah Schleifer's Mary The Blessed Virgin of Islam [Fons Vitae; ISBN: 1887752021; July 1, 1998], p. 64;
  4. Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an (Quran 9:29, Footnotes 26 & 27)
  5. Al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari (Ta'rikh al rusul wa'l-muluk), vol. 12: The Battle of Qadissiyah and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine, trans. Yohanan Friedman (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992), p. 167.
  6. Paul Halsall - The Status of Non-Muslims Under Muslim Rule- Medieval Sourcebook, January, 1996
  7. Robert Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw It (Princeton, 1996) p. 69-71