Minorities in an Islamic State


Author: Malik Saifur Rahman

Publisher: Islam International Publications Ltd.


This booklet is a short but great work by Malik Saifur Rehman Sahib, a great scholar of the Jamaat. The work is multifaceted as it removes many allegations on the Holy Prophetsa of Islam, lays out a guideline for Muslim states in terms of how to treat minorities and gives a beautiful angle of the character of the Holy Prophetsa of Islam from authentic sources. 

To introduce this book, we thought it best to include some passages from within the work:

The dhimmis in an Islamic state

It was this declaration of protection of and responsibility for the non-Muslims, on the basis of which the non-Muslim citizens of a Muslim state were described as dhimmis. True, this term has come to carry some dangerous connotations because of its wrong interpretation by some ignorant Mullahs. But in the great days of early Islam, the term dhimmi signified the sacred responsibility of Muslims to protect all the rights of the non-Muslim citizens, and that they would have the fullest opportunities to live in peace without the least threat or danger to their security. 

The term dhimmis was a source of pride for the Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The institution of dhimmis contained the secret of the greatness of a government; and the public, irrespective of creed or community to which it belonged, took pride in being the citizens of a state of this kind. The term, at no stage, signified restraint against the fundamental rights of an individual nor did it mean to subject him to the restrictions of a subject and a slave. 

That in the days of the Holy Prophetsa and his successors, this principle of equality was followed in its highest sense is an open chapter of world history. No distinction was made between a Muslim and a non-Muslim in social and civic affairs. Every officer of state was issued clear directions particularly to protect the rights of non-Muslim citizens, to respect their dignity and honour and not to give them any cause or occasion for complaint. 

The Holy Prophet’s sociological relations with non-Muslims

The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, as head of the Islamic state, treated the non-Muslims on a footing of absolute equality and tried successfully to establish good business and social relations with them. Thus, we see that once he borrowed some money from a Jew. After some time, when the Jew came to realise his loan, he was rather rude and insulting in his demeanour towards the Holy Prophetsa. He used such language that the companions of the Holy Prophetsa flew into rage. But the Prophetsa restrained them and said: “Please leave him be. He has the right to say what he has said because I owe him what he demands.” After this, the Prophetsa paid him the money he owed. Eventually, the Jew accepted Islam when he experienced such good treatment at the hands of the Prophetsa

Once a Jewish lady, who was a dhimmiyah from Khyber, tried to poison him by offering him some poisoned roasted meat. On being found out, she apologised, and instead of punishing her, the Prophetsa forgave her. 

Hazrat Anasra reports that the Prophetsa accepted the invitation of a Jew and willingly partook of the humble fare of fat and oat meal. 

Ibn-e-Abi Laila relates that one day, Suhail bin Hanif and Qais bin Sa‘d were sitting in Qadsiyyah, when a funeral procession passed by. The two got up to respect the deceased. Somebody pointed out that the funeral was that of a non-Muslim, whereat the two replied: “What does it matter? Do you not remember that once a funeral procession passed by the Holy Prophetsa and he got up? The people pointed out that it was the funeral of a Jew. The Prophetsa replied, ‘Do you not think the Jews too are human beings?’” 

Abu Hurrairahra reports that once, a non-Muslim stranger stayed with the Prophetsa as a guest. The Prophetsa milked one of his goats and offered the milk to the guest, but the guest was not satisfied. The Prophetsa offered him the milk of a second goat, but the guest was still not satisfied. In fact, he drank the milk of as many as seven goats. The Prophetsa was amused at his appetite but would say nothing. Moreover, the Holy Prophetsa, as a matter of habit, used to visit the ailing non-Muslims to express sympathy with them and to share their sorrows and sufferings. 

Protection of the rights of dhimmis

Hazrat Bilalra, who handled the domestic expenses of the Holy Prophetsa, borrowed some money from a dhimmi for the personal use of the Holy Prophetsa. The day when the loan was to be repaid was approaching fast but there was no money to repay it. Bilalra was afraid that the creditor would press his demand and make the situation awkward for him. He conveyed his fears to the Prophetsa and begged leave to get out of Medina for a few days to escape from the clutches of the creditor. Under the law of the time, a money-lender could even put the borrower under house arrest. Bilalra was afraid that this too might happen. Accordingly, he went to his house and made preparations to go out of the city the following day. Early next morning, Bilalra received word from the Prophetsa that he need not worry as arrangements for payment had been made. 

This happened sometime after seventh year of Hijra when Islam was at the heyday of its power. World history is incapable of furnishing a similar example of the protection of rights of an ordinary citizen against a head of state.

Soon after the Fall of Mecca, a deputation of Banu Thaqif from Taif waited on the Holy Prophetsa, who made arrangements for their stay in the mosque, where tents were pitched for them. Some people approached the Prophetsa and objected to their staying in the mosque on the ground that the guests were idolaters and an impure lot. The Prophetsa replied that the Quranic verse, “The idolaters are impure” referred to a condition of heart and not to that of the body; nor for that matter was any human being impure in this sense. Physically speaking, all human beings are pure and have the right to free access to the holiest of holy places. 

Hazrat Muhayyisahra, one of the companions of the Prophetsa, was killed in Khyber. His heirs filed a suit for blood-money before the Holy Prophetsa. The Holy Prophetsa asked them if they could swear to the identity of the murderer. They replied, “O Prophet of Allah, how can we testify on oath when we did not happen to be present at the time of murder?” The Prophetsa replied, “You cannot claim damages without proof. The only alternative that remains under the law is that the Jews of Khyber, whom you suspect, should plead not guilty to the charge fifty times to clear their position.” The heirs of the late companion said: “The Jews are not reliable, they can easily make false statements and swear to their truth.” The Holy Prophetsa declared: “Then I cannot do more than this, because the Quranic law does not allow any discrimination.” 

It is interesting to note that the Prophetsa paid the damages to the heirs of Muhayyisah out of his own pocket. Once some Muslims, who were fed up with the machinations of the Jews of Khyber, misappropriated some of their fruits and animals. The Prophetsa was furious when he came to learn of this and said, “Allah does not allow you to enter the houses of the People of the Book without their permission. Similarly, it is absolutely illegal to pluck fruits from their orchards.”

An Ansari reports: “Once I accompanied the Prophetsa on a journey. I was hungry and had nothing to eat. I spotted some goats belonging to some non-Muslims, which I captured and killed and set the cauldron on fire. Meanwhile, the Holy Prophetsa arrived and came to know of what I had done. He had a bow in his hand, with which he struck at the cauldron and threw it away, and declared, ‘Loot is as illegal as a dead carrion.’” 

It is reported in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal that once some children were overtaken by the rush of battle and were trampled to death. The Prophetsa was shocked at this, so to console him, one of the companions submitted: “O Prophet of Allah, after all they were only children of the idolaters.” The Prophetsa said: “The children of idolaters are also humans like you and have the inherent capacities to become the best of men. As a matter of fact, every child is born a Muslim and it is after their birth that their parents make them a Jew, a Christian or something else. Beware! Do not kill children. Beware! Do not kill children.”

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