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Dynamics of Islamic Jihad

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



  1. The Qur’an and Hadith

  2. Some Historical Events and Treaties

  3. Rights of the Non-Muslims

The humane and kind treatment given by Islam to the non-Muslims who are conquered by Islamic forces is another interesting subject connected with Jihad which needs elaboration. If such non-Muslims embrace Islam they are given cent per cent equal status with Muslims as Islam does not punish the individuals for their past sins prior to their conversion nor does it discriminate between man and man on the basis of colour, race, blood, language, nationality, place of birth or possession of wealth. Thus the newly-converted Muslims enter into the universal fraternity of Islam and become brothers of old Muslims with the same rights and obligations which the old Muslims have. In case the defeated non-Muslims do not embrace Islam and prefer to retain their old religion, they are given the status of Zimmis (the protected or the covenanted People) and become the respectable subjects of the Islamic state. After payment of a tax of petty amount known as Jizyah (or protection-tax) they become almost equal citizens with the Muslims and enjoy the same socio-economic and legal rights which the Muslim citizens have.

In this chapter we shall discuss the status and rights given by the Islamic state to its non-Muslim citizens. However, before doing so we need to go through the verses of the Qur’an, Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), some historical events and documents.

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I-The Qur’an and Hadith

The verses of al-Qur’an:

1. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, guarantees freedom of religion to the non-Muslims in its following verses:

(i)   There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is, henceforth, distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm hand-hold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.


(ii)   Say: (It is) the truth from the Lord of you (all). Then, whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever, will, let him disbelieve…….


(iii)   Say: O disbelievers!

I worship not that which ye worship;

Nor worship ye that which I worship.

And I shall not worship that which ye worship.

Nor will ye worship that which I worship.

Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.

–––(109:Al-Kafirun: 1-6)

2.       For dealing kindly and justly with the non-Muslims, the Qur’an enjoins upon its followers: “Allah forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! Allah loveth the just dealers. Allah forbiddeth you only those who warred against you on account of religion and have driven you out from your homes and helped to drive you out, that ye make friends of them. Whosoever maketh friends of them-(all) such are wrong-doers.”


3.       The Qur’an permits its followers to have close social relations with the non-Muslim (Ahle-Kitab) in these words: “….The food of those who have received the scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them. And so are the virtuous women of those who received the scripture before you (lawful for you)….”

–––(5:Al Maidah: 5)

4.       The Qur’an permits the non-Muslims to settle their mutual disputes in accordance with their religious or personal law in its following verse: How come they unto thee for judgement when they (the jews) have the Torah, wherein Allah hath delivered judgement (for them)?

–––(5: Al Maidah: 43)

5.       The Qur’an does not permit intolerance in any manner. The religion of the non-believers can neither be ridiculed nor their deities and objects of worship can be condemned. The Qur’an says: “Don’t abuse those whom they invoke besides Allah, lest they should, in their ignorance, abuse Allah …..” (6:108). In the case of preaching and propagation of Islam, the Prophet (PBUH) and his followers have been instructed to be extremely polite and respectful to the non-believers avoiding any aggressive methods and offensive language. The Qur’an says:

Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way.


6.       In the following verses, the Qur’an rules out forced conversion of non-Muslims into the fold of Islam:

- There is no compulsion in religion.


- Had Allah willed, they had not been idolatrous. We have not set thee as keeper over them, nor art thou responsible for them.


- And if thy Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wouldst thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers?


- Say: O mankind! Now hath the Truth from your Lord come unto you. So who-so-ever is guided, is guided only for (the good of ) his soul, and who-so-ever erreth, erreth only against it. And I am not a warder over you.


Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): The following Ahadith of the Prophet of Islam are reproduced to highlight how the Prophet (PBUH) exhorted his followers to honour their pledges with the zimmis (protected people) and accord them the best possible treatment:

(i)   “If you fight against a people and overpower them, and they agree to pay a fixed indemnity of annual revenue (Kharaj) to you in order to save their lives and those of their progenies, then do not take a penny more than the fixed amount, because that will not be valid”.

–––(Abu Daud)

(ii)   “Beware! Whosoever is cruel and hard on such people i.e, (“Contractees”) or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can endure, or realises anything from them against their free-will, I shall myself be a complainant against him on the Day of Judgement.”

––– (Abu Daud)

(iii)   “ Observe scrupulously the protection accorded by me to non-Muslim subjects” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have remarked on his death-bed.

–––(Al-Mawardi quoted by Dr. Hamidullah)

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II-Some Historical Events and Treaties

Let us now examine some historical events and the treaties of peace which were made as result of these events, in the time of the Prophet and the caliphs and judge for ourselves the kind of treatment given by the Muslims to their subject nationalities.

1.       Prophet’s Migration to Madinah and the Charter of Madinah: Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated from Makkah to Madinah in the year 622 A.D. Soon after his arrival in Madinah the Prophet concluded a three-party treaty or alliance which is known in history as the charter of Madinah. The parties to this charter were Mahajreen (those Muslims who had migrated with Prophet from Makkah to Madinah) and Ansar who had welcomed the refugees from Makkah) and the Jewish tribes of Madinah. The portion of this charter concerning the Jews reads as under:

“Whoever among the Jews follows us shall have help and equality; they shall not be injured nor shall any enemy be aided against them. The Jews maintained their religion and the Muslims theirs. Among the Jews (belonging to different tribes), so with their adherents: those who transgress and behave unjustly and sinfully hurt but themselves and their families. Loyalty is a protection against treachery. The close friends of Jews are as themselves. Each, if attacked, shall come to the help of the other. The valley of Yathrib (Madinah) shall be sacred and inviolable for all who join this Treaty. Strangers under protection shall be treated on the same grounds as their protectors.”

The Jews unfortunately did not fulfil the terms of their pledge and instead of helping the Muslims on the occasions when Madinah was invaded they conspired with the invaders and helped them against the Muslims. So the Prophet was forced to take action against them. Thus two tribes of the Jews (Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Nazir) were expelled from Madinah while the third tribe (Banu Quraizah) was given exemplary punishment in accordance with the decision announced by the arbitrator appointed by the Jews themselves.

The treatment of the Prophet of Islam with the Jews of Al-Madinah, especially the killing of the men of Banu Quraizah, a tribe of Jews, is generally criticised by the non-Muslims. However, Lane-Poole, a non-Muslim historian defends it as follows:

“It is, I believe solely on the ground of his treatment of the Jews that Muhammad has been called “a blood thirsty tyrant”: it would certainly be difficult to support the epithet on other grounds. The bloodthirstiness consists in this: some half-dozen Jews, who had distinguished themselves by their virulence against the Muslims, or by their custom of carrying information to the common enemy of Medina, were executed; two of the three Jewish clans were sent into exile, (just as they had previously come into exile) and the third was exterminated–––the men killed and the women and children made slaves. The execution of the half-dozen marked Jews is called assassination, because a Muslim was sent secretly to kill each of the criminals. The reason is almost too obvious to need explanation. There were no police or law courts or even courts-martial at Medina; someone of the followers of Muhammad must, therefore, be the executor of the sentence of death and it was better it should be done quietly, as the executing of a man openly before his clan would have caused a brawl and more bloodshed and retaliation, till the whole city had mixed up in the quarrel. Of the sentences upon the three whole clans, that of exile, passed upon two of them, was clement enough. They were a turbulent set, always setting the people of Medina by the ears; and finally a brawl followed by an insurrection resulted in the expulsion of one tribe; and insubordination, alliance with enemies and a suspicion of conspiracy against the prophet’s life, ended similarly for the second. Both tribes had violated the original treaty, and had endeavoured, in every way, to bring Muhammad and his religion to ridicule and destruction. The only question is whether their punishment was not too light. Of the third clan, a fearful example was made, not by Muhammad, but by an arbitrator appointed by themselves. When the Quraish and their allies were besieging Medina, and well-nigh stormed the defences, this Jewish tribe entered into negotiations with the enemy, which were only circumvented by the diplomacy of the Prophet. When the besiegers had retired, Muhammad naturally demanded an explanation of the Jews. They resisted in their dogged way and were themselves besieged and compelled to surrender at discretion. Muhammad, however, consented to the appointing of a chief of a tribe allied to the Jews as the judge who should pronounce sentence upon them. The man, in question, was a fierce soldier, who had been wounded in the attack on the Jews, and, indeed, died from his wound the same day. This chief gave sentence that the men, in number some 600, should be killed, and the women and children enslaved; and the sentence was carried out. It was a harsh, bloody sentence, worthy of the Episcopal generals of the army against the Albigenses or of the deeds of the Augustan age of Puritanism; but it must be remembered that the crime of these men was high treason against the State, during time of siege; and those who have read how Wellington’s march could be traced by the bodies of deserters and pillagers hanging from the trees, need not be surprised at the summary execution of a traitorous clan.”

2.       Submission of Najran and the terms of peace: In the sixth year of the Hegirah, Muhammad (PBUH) granted to the Christians of Najran a charter which is a monument of enlightened tolerance. Relevant portion of this reads:

“ To (the Christians of) Najran and the neighbouring territories, the security of Allah and the Pledge of His Prophet are extended for their lives, their religion and their property… those present as well as the absent ones and others besides: there shall be no interference with (the practice of) their faith or their observances, nor any change in their rights or privileges; no bishop shall be removed from his bishopric, nor any monk from his priesthood, and they shall continue to enjoy everything great and small as heretofore; no image or cross shall be destroyed; they shall not be oppressed or suppressed; they shall not practice their rights of blood-vengeance as in the Days of Ignorance; no tithes shall be levied on them nor shall they be required to furnish provisions for the troops, nor shall troops be quartered on them.”

3.       Conquest of Makkah and Prophet’s treatment of his old enemies. In the year 8, A.H. (630 A.D.) the Prophet marched with ten thousand men against the Quraish who had broken the truce of Hudaibiyah, and entered Makkah almost unopposed. “Thus Muhammad entered the city which had so cruelly ill-treated him. It lay now completely at his mercy. The chiefs of Quraish had committed so many crimes against him and his companions for thirteen years in Makkah and then waged wars against them for eight years when they sought refuge in Madinah. But in the hour of triumph every evil suffered was forgotten, every injury inflicted was forgiven and a general amnesty was declared; “ He who takes refuge in the house of Abu Sufyan is safe: whosoever closes the door of his house, the inmates thereof shall be in safety, and he who enters Kaabah is safe.”[1] Ikrimah, son of Abu Jahl and Prophet’s longtime enemy was forgiven. Wahshi, the murderer of Prophet’s uncle Hamzah and Hind, wife of Abu Sufyan who had chewed liver of Hamzah in the battle of Uhud, were extended clemency. Habbar who had attacked Prophet’s daughter Zainab with a spear on her way from Makkah to Madinah when she was pregnant and almost killed her was pardoned. Abu Sufyan who had been leading the forces of Quraish in attacks against Madinah and was the bitterest enemy of the Prophet and of Islam was not only forgiven but his house was declared a place of safety for those who entered into it. Thus every enemy was forgiven. Out of the whole population of Makkah only four persons who were guilty of crimes like murder and apostasy and whom justice condemned were executed. They were Abdullah bin Khatal, Migyas bin Hubaba, Huwayrith and one singing girl.

It is said when the Quraish came before him, the Prophet asked: “O Quraish what do you think, of the treatment which I am going to accord you?” They replied: “ O noble brother and son of a noble brother! We expect nothing but good from you.” Upon this the Prophet said: I speak to you in the same words as Joseph spoke unto his brothers: This day, there is no reproach against you; go your way, you are free.”

Can history offer such an instance of a peaceful conquest of city which had been for years hub of tyranny and oppression against the conquerors and had left no stone unturned in harming the conquerors in person and their faith? According to Syed Ameer Ali, most truly has it been said that through all the annals of conquest, there has been no triumphant entry like unto this one.” Historian Lane-Poole writes: “Facts are hard things; and it is a fact that the day of Muhammad’s greatest triumph over his enemies was also the day of his grandest victory over himself.”

4.       Conquest of Damascus: During reign of Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam who succeeded the Prophet, Damascus was conquered by the famous general of Islam Khalid bin Walid who issued the following terms of peace to the inhabitants:

“ In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. This is what Khalid bin Walid would grant to the inhabitants of Damascus if he enters therein; he promises to give them security for their lives, property and churches. Their city-walls shall not be demolished, neither shall any Muslim be quartered in their houses. Thereunto we give to them the Pact of Allah and the protection of His Prophet, the caliphs and believers. So long as they pay the poll-tax, nothing but good shall befall them.”

–––(Baladhuri, Tr. Hitti)

5.       Surrender of Jerusalem: Following is the text of the treaty whereby Jerusalem surrendered to the Muslims during the caliphate of Umar (638. A.D.):

This is the charter which the servant of God, the commander of the faithful, grants to the people of Aelia. He gives them the assurance of the preservation of their lives and properties, their churches and crosses. Your churches will not be transformed into dwellings nor destroyed nor will anyone confiscate any thing belonging to them, nor the crosses or belongings of the inhabitants. There will be no constraint in the matter of religion, nor the least annoyance. The Jews will inhabit Aelia conjointly with the Christians, and those who live there will be required to pay the poll-tax, like the inhabitants of other towns. Greeks and robbers are to leave the town, but will have a safe conduct until they reach a place of security. Still, those who prefer to remain may do so on condition of paying the same poll-tax as the rest. If any of the people of Aelia desire to leave with the Greeks, taking their goods, but abandoning their chapels and crosses, they will be granted personal safety, until they arrive at a secure place. The strangers in the town may remain on the same condition of paying the tax, or, if they wish, they may also leave with Greeks, and return to their land. …… All that this treaty contains is placed under the alliance and protection of God and of His Apostle” (Sir William Muir: The caliphate, Its Rise, Decline and Fall.)

6.       Conquest of other Lands: The Muslims were held as deliverers and liberators by the general masses when they conquered Persia, Africa and Spain. Regarding this, the famous Muslims scholar Syed Ameer Ali writes:

“Consequently, wherever the Muslim missionary-soldier made his appearance, he was hailed by the down-trodden masses and the persecuted heretics as the harbinger of freedom and emancipation from a galling bondage. Islam brought to them practical equality in the eye of the law, and fixity of taxation. The battle of Kadesia, which threw Persia into the hands of the Muslims, was the signal of deliverance to the bulk of the Persians, as the battle of Yermuk and Ajnadin were to the Syrians, the Greeks, and the Egyptians. The Jews, whom the Zoroastrians had massacred from time to time, the Christians, whom they hunted from place to place, breathed freely under the authority of the Prophet, the watchword of whose faith was the brotherhood of man. The people everywhere received the Muslims as their liberators. Wherever any resistance was offered, it was by the priesthood and the aristocracy.”

“The conquest of Africa and Spain was attended with the same result. The Arians, the Pelagians, and other heretics, hitherto, the victims of orthodox fury and hatred, ––– the people at large, who had been terribly oppressed by a lawless soldiery and a still more lawless priesthood, –– found peace and security under Islam. By an irony of fate, which almost induces a belief in the Nemesis of the ancients, the Jews, whose animosity towards the Prophet very nearly wrought the destruction of the Islamic commonwealth, found in the Muslims their best protectors. “Insulted, plundered, hated and despised by all Christian nations,” they found that refuge in Islam, that protection from inhumanity, which was ruthlessly denied to them in Christendom.”

“Immediately on their arrival on the soil of Spain, the Saracens published an edict assuring to the subject races, without any difference of race or creed, the most ample liberty, Suevi, Goth, Vandal, Roman, and Jew were all placed on an equal footing with the Muslim. They guaranteed to both Christian and Jew the full exercise of their religions, the free use of their places of worship, and perfect security of person and property. They even allowed them to be governed, within prescribed limits, by their own laws, to fill all civil offices and serve in the army. Their women were invited to intermarry with the conquerors. Does not the conduct of the Arabs in Spain offer as astonishing contrast to that of many European nations, even in modern times, in their treatment of conquered nationalities?”

“Under the Mogul Emperors of Delhi, Hindus commanded armies, administered provinces and sat in the councils of the sovereign. Even at the present time can it be said that in no European empire, ruling over mixed nationalities and faiths, is any distinction made of creed, colour or race?”

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III- Rights of the Non-Muslims

Having gone through the relevant verses of the Holy Qur’an and Ahadith of Muhammad (PBUH) and having surveyed some historical events and treaties, we shall now discuss the rights granted by Islam to the non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state.

The jurists of Islam have divided the non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state broadly into two categories: those who enter into a treaty or a specific agreement with the Islamic state in a war or without a war and those who are defeated in the battlefield and thus surrender to the Islamic forces. The former are treated in accordance with the terms of the treaty and such treaties are to be complied with strictly at all costs, while the latter are also given kind treatment and all the due rights if they lay down their arms, accept the sovereignty of the Islamic state and agree to pay Jizyah tax. However, for practical purpose, there is no difference between these categories of non-Muslim citizens as all such people have been guaranteed all human rights by the Qur’an and the Sunnah. These rights are sacred and are inviolable and Islamic state cannot curtail or restrict these rights on any pretext or excuse.

As submitted earlier the non-Muslims living in the Islamic state are called Zimmis and the understanding or contract governing relationship between the Islamic state and such non-Muslims is called Aqd-ul-Zimmah. The Zimmis mean protected people and they are so called because the Islamic state becomes duty-bound to protect their lives, honour and properties and also their religions freedom the very moment they submit to Islamic rule and start paying Jizyah.

We would now briefly lay down the rights which have been conferred by Islam on its non-Muslim subject in the following paragraphs:

1.       In an Islamic state, all the fundamental rights of Zimmis including right to life, property and honour are guaranteed by Islam. The blood of a Zimmi is considered as much sacrosanct and sacred as that of a Muslim. In the days of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), a Muslim killed a Zimmi. When the case was brought before the Prophet (PBUH), he ordered the execution of the murderer and remarked: “I am responsible for obtaining redress for the weak”. During the reign of Ali, a Muslim was accused of murdering a Zimmi. When the charge was proved, Ali issued order for the execution of the accused. It was only when the brother of the deceased received blood-money and pardoned the murderer that the caliph agreed to release him. Ali said at that time: “Whoever is our Zimmi, his blood is as sacred as our blood and his property is as inviolable as our own property”. At another occasion, Ali declared: “They have accepted the position of Zimmis on the explicit understanding that their properties and their lives will remain sacred like those of ours (i.e. of the Muslims)”.

2.       Islam guarantees religious freedom to everyone. In an Islamic state, every citizen, may he or she be a Muslim or a non-Muslim, is at liberty to profess and practice his own religion. Thus the non-Muslim minorities enjoy complete religious freedom in an Islamic state as the state does not interfere in their religious matters and shows full tolerance to those who profess and practice religions other than Islam.

Everybody is free to follow and practice his religion on the basis of the Qur’anic principle: “Unto you your religion and unto me my religion.” The Prophet of Islam acted upon this principle literally and gave religious freedom to all of his non-Muslim subjects. We have already glanced through the relevant portions of Charter of Madinah and the letter written by the Prophet (PBUH) to Christians of  Najran and have seen that the Jews of Madinah and the Christians under the Islamic state enjoyed full religious freedom and complete protection.

The following extract from Encyclopedia of Seerah is reproduced to show the benevolent attitude of the early Islamic governments towards the non-Muslims regarding their religious practices and places of worship. The Encyclopedia says:

“It is a notable fact, with few parallels even in modern history, that after the conquest of Egypt, the Caliph Umar scrupulously preserved intact the property dedicated to the Christian churches and continued the allowances made by the former governments for the support of the priests.” (Ameer Ali, the Spirit of Islam, p. 274). The best testimony of the freedom of faith enjoyed by the Christians and members of other religions in the days of the early Muslims is furnished by the Christians themselves. In the reign of ‘Uthman (the third Caliph), the Christian patriarch of Merv addressed the Bishop of fars, named Simeon, in the following terms, “The Arabs, who have been given by God the Kingdom (of the earth), do not attack the Christian faith: on the contrary, they help us in our religion; they respect our God and our saints, and bestow gifts on our churches and monasteries.

Al-Qur’an, the revealed both of Islam, and Muhammad (PBUH), the Prophet of Islam, have strictly prohibited the forced conversion of non-Muslims to Islam. Hence no non-Muslim is forced to embrace Islam against his free will. History of Islam dispels the wide-spread fallacy that the Muslim conquerors place before the non-Muslims only option of conversion or the sword.

3.       The non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state fully enjoy judicial and social autonomy. Their judicial autonomy is guaranteed by verses 43 and 47 of Surah 5 of the Holy Qur’an which have been reproduced already in section I of this chapter. Thus the non-Muslims are at liberty to decide their mutual disputes in accordance with their personal law. As far as social autonomy is concerned, they are free to protect their language, culture, customs, religious practices, social rituals, mode of dress, etc. in which neither the Islamic government nor the Muslim community can interfere.

4.       Disabled or poor Zimmis who have been reduced to begging or the Zimmis who have been overtaken by a calamity are eligible for support from the Bait-ul-Mal of the Islamic state as are the poor and disabled among the Muslims. This rule was established as early as the times of Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam. During his reign, when the famous Muslim general Khalid bin Walid conquered Hira, he specially wrote in the treaty of peace the following terms:-

“I have stipulated that if any one of them becomes unfit to work on account of old age or some other cause, or if anyone who was formerly rich becomes so poor that his coreligionists have to support him by giving him alms, such persons will be exempt from paying the Jizyah and they, together with their dependents, will be helped from the Islamic Treasury (Bait-ul-Mal).”

This rule was further established during the reign of Caliph Umar. He once saw an old Zimmi begging. On enquiry, the Zimmi told the caliph that he was begging for the payment of Jizyah. The caliph at once exempted him from the payment of Jizyah, sanctioned a pension for him and told his treasury officer thus:

“By God, it is undoubtedly not just that we derive benefit from a person in the prime of his youth but leave him to beg in the streets when he is stricken with old age.”

5.       The non-Muslims living in the Islamic state normally enjoy all the socio-economic and political rights which are available to the Muslim citizens. They can adopt any business or profession to earn their livelihood provided such business or profession is not unlawful, immoral or against the explicit injunctions of Islam like sale of wine or pork to Muslims, business involving usury with a Muslim or prostitution, etc. They have right to participate in social activities, national festivals, social gatherings. They are entitled to government jobs except for few posts like head of state, head of government, head of judiciary, head of the armed forces, head of parliament and some other key-offices. The Prophet of Islam himself appointed Amr bin Umaiyah-ad-Damri a non-Muslim as an ambassador to Abyssinia for interceding with the Negus in favour of the Muslim refugees. Umar, the second caliph, appointed a Greek Christian as the head of his accounts department to put in order the accounts of state revenues.

Islam enjoins upon the Muslims to treat the non-Muslims very kindly and justly. The Qur’an encourages social relations between the Muslims and non-Muslim people of the Book (Ahle Kitab). The food of Muslims is lawful for the Jews and Christians and that of the Jews and Christians is lawful for the Muslims. The women of the Christians and Jews have been allowed to marry the Muslims without changing their religion, a privilege devoid to other non-Muslims whose women can marry the Muslims after conversion to Islam.

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[1]       Syed Ameer Ali: ‘The Spirit of Islam’.

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