There is much talk these days about the allowance Islam gives to the existence of other religions in the world. Some of the opinion that Islam orders that Muslims fight the world until everyone becomes Muslim, creating ill feelings without actually knowing what the religion actually says in this regard, much more the existence of non-Muslims within an Islamic country.
In terms of residence within Muslim society, non-Muslims are classified into three types. To understand these types will deepen one’s understanding of the relationship between Muslims and peoples of other faith in an Islamic society:
Classification of Non-Muslims
A. Permanent Residents
Muslim jurists use the term ‘ People of the Covenant ’ (Arabic ‘dhimmi’ or ‘Ahl ul-Dhimma’ ) to refer to non-Muslim residents. It is not a derogatory term, as some have made it seem. In Arabic language the word ‘dhimma’ means a treaty of protection for non-Muslims living in Muslim territory. A similar term, ‘Ahl ul-Dhimma’ , means ‘People of the Covenant ,’ because they are protected under the covenant extended to them by Prophet Muhammad and the Muslims. Non-Muslims are guaranteed protection in the Muslim society as long as they pay a head tax and abide by the specific legislations mentioned in Islamic Law. This covenant of protection is not limited to a specific duration; rather, stays in effect as long as those with whom the covenant is made abide by its conditions. The good intent behind the term ‘dhimmi’ can be seen in the letter written by the Caliph Abu Bakr as-Siddiq to the non-Muslims of Najran:
‘In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is the written statement of God’s slave Abu Bakr, the successor of Muhammad, the Prophet and Messenger of God. He affirms for you the rights of a protected neighbor, in yourselves, your lands, your religious community, your wealth, retainers, and servants, those of you who are present or abroad, your bishops and monks, and monasteries, and all that you own, be it great or small. You shall not be deprived of any of it, and shall have full control over it…’Read More>>>