Social Conditions Of Christians & Jews In Early Islam

The Quran and Prophetic sayings insists not to ‘harm’ and orders Muslims to strongly to treat non-Muslims kindly and with justice. In the Quran, Allah says:

“Allah does not forbid you, with regard to those who do not fight you on account of your religion nor drive you out of your homes, to treat them with goodness and to be just to them; truly, Allah loves those who are just. Indeed, Allah forbids you (only) with regard to those who fight you on account of religion and drive you out of your homes, and assist (others) in driving you out, that you turn to them (in friendship); and whoever turns to them (in friendship), they are wrongdoers. (Quran – Al-Mumtahanah, 60:8-9)

In a Hadith the Prophet Muhammed (p) said:

“If anyone wrong a man to whom a treaty has been granted, or burdens him above his strength, I am an advocate against him till the day of judgement.” [1]

The first rightly guided Caliph said,

“Do not kill any protected people, for if you do God will require the protection of them from you and will cast you on your faces in hell.” [2]

When Caliph Abu Bakr Siddique sent his soldiers to Syria, he said to have given the followings commandments:

“When you enter that country, kill neither old man, nor little child, nor woman. Do not pull down a pillar saint from his place. Do not injure the monks, for they have set themselves apart to worship God. Do not cut down a tree nor uproot a plant. Do not rip up any ox, cow, or sheep. If a province or people receive you, make an agreement with them and your promise. Let them be governed by their own laws and established customs, and take tribute from them as is agreed between you. Leave them in their religion and their land.” [3]

There are other Hadith, which speak about Umar Ibn al-Khattab, showing kindness to non-Muslims. On the way back from Syria he seen some men in the sun with oil over their heads, in order to attract flies. Umar, asked what is happening to these men, those in charge responded by saying that they are not paying the tax they agreed to pay. Hence, the punishment. The men in response said that they couldn’t pay because they didn’t have any money. They were too poor to pay.

Umar Ibn Khattab ordered those in charge the following,

“Let them go, do not annoy them.” [4]

In another place, Umar was passing along a house when saw an old, blind man begging. Umar touched the old man and asked him, whether he was a Christian or a Jew, the man said that he was Jewish. The old blind man further said that he begged in the day so he could provide himself the daily needs, for his food and pay the Jizya.

“To which of the people of the Book do you belong? I am a Jew, responded the blind man. Umar took him by the hand, led him to his own house, gave him something from it (i.e., food) and then sent him to the keeper of the treasure with this message, ‘See to this man and his like, for we have not done right if we devour their youth and neglect their old age. The religious tax is for the poor and needy. The poor are the Muslims; this man is one of the needy of the people of the Book (Christians and Jews). He freed the man from the obligation to pay the Jizyah.“ [5]

Similarly, in another place Umar Ibn Khattab, the Companion of Prophet Muhammed is said to have instructed his people the following in regards to Christians and Jews (those protected religions’),

“Make it easy for him who cannot pay the Jizyah (tribute); help him who is weak. Let them keep their names…” [6]

Umar Ibn Khattab’s last words, in his dying bed to his successors was the following:

“I charge the Caliph after me to be kind to the dhimmis (non-Muslims), to keep their covenant, to protect them, and not to burden them above their strength.” [7]

Besides presenting Muslim sources on the good, kind treatment given to the non-Muslims in Prophet Muhammed and his successors time, we also have non-Muslim sources attesting, supporting the view that non-Muslims were treated well.

Isho-yahbh the Bishop, who was a Christian patriarch in the years 647 to 657 A.D., states:

“The Arabs, to whom God gave the dominion over the World, behave to us as you know. They are not hostile to Christianity, but praise our religion, honour the priests and saints, and help the Churches and Monasteries.” [8]

The set agreement made by Bishop Isho-yahbh with the Muslims shows to have been quote good and favourable to the Christians. Part of the agreement stipulated was that they should be protected from their enemies, that they should not be forced to fight for the Government in charge, be allowed to their manners and Laws. [9]

The kind, and just treatment towards non-Muslims by Muhammad (p) and his successors is the true essence of Islam. Some in today’s world have rejected and gone against the commandments laid out in the Quran and Hadith. Thus they have gone astray.

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[1] Kitab al-Kharaj, by Abu Yusuf Yaqub page 71
[2] Kitab al-tabaqat al-Kabir, by Ibn Sa’d, volume 3, page 137
[3] The Caliphs And Their Non-Muslim Subjects: A Critical Study Of The Covenant Of Umar [Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press – London Bombay Calcutta Madras, 1930], by Arthur Stanley Tritton, page 137
[4] Kitab al-Kharaj, by Abu Yusuf Yaqub page 71
[5] Kitab al-Kharaj, by Abu Yusuf Yaqub page 71
[6] History, Ibn Asaakir, volume 1, page 178
[7] Kitab al-Kharaj, by Yahya Ibn Adam, page 54
[8] The Book of Governors: The Historia Monastica of Thomas, Bishop of Marga A.D.840. [Edited From Syriac manuscripts In The British Museum And Other Libraries by E. A. Wallis Budge, Litt. D., F. S. A., – London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD. Paternoster House, Charing Cross Road. 1893], volume 2, page 126
[9] Ecclesiastical Chronicle, Bar Hebraeus, volume 3, page 118

– Quotes and references were extracted from the following book “The Caliphs And Their Non-Muslim Subjects: A Critical Study Of The Covenant Of Umar” [Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press – London Bombay Calcutta Madras, 1930], by Arthur Stanley Tritton, page 137 – 139

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