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People of the Book

Reader comment on item: "Islam" Does Not Mean "Peace"
in response to reader comment: Islam does equal peace

Submitted by Angela Class (United States), Jun 13, 2007 at 22:02

For Muslims the Qur'an is the last but not the only holy book revealed by Allah to mankind through His messengers. However, they believe it is the only holy book which remained perfectly intact from the time of its revelation until the present time.

The Koran teaches that "People of the Book", namely Christians and Jews, and other servants of the one true God recognized by Muslims, and called Allah or "God" in Arabic, are technically not Infidels.

The clear intention in these scriptures is that they should be and are accorded a limited protected status. However, they do become Infidels if they attack Islam or any Muslim. there is no requirement of conversion for the People of the Book. They are considered to already worship the same God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who sent Jesus 500 years before Mohammed.

Notably this exception has in modern times received a radically narrower intepretation by Islamist Fundamentalists causing a rift between Muslims and other "People of the Book".

"People of the Book" ( Ahl al- Kitab) is a theological term, primarily related to Islam, describing non-Muslim peoples who, according to the Qur'an , received scriptures which were revealed to them by God(Allah) before the time of Mohammed. In Islam, the Muslim scripture, the Qur'an, is taken to represent the completion of these scriptures, and to supplant them as God's true, final, and eternal message to humanity. However, because the People of the Book recognize the supreme Abrahamic God as the Muslims do, and they practice revealed faiths based on Divine ordinances, a certain level of 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 (the Torah or the Five Books of Moses. Sometimes refers to the entire Old Testament) and the Injil ( generally believed to refer to the four Gospels of the New Testament).

When 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. They also have some responsibilities, such as the payment of a special tax called jizyah ("poll tax"), 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.

A dhimmi is a person of the dhimma, a term which refers in Islamic law to 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 , and, in some areas, Hindus and Buddhists. This extension was a clear example of Muslim tolerance in interpreting this to include as many people as possible.

The radical re-interpretation, or all but total disregard of this concept is an example of Islamist Fundamentalism in action.

"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 -Qur'an. 29:46

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. Qur'an 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. 'Qur'an 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 . Qur'an 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. 3:64.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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