Who Are The People Of The Book In Islam?

The People of the Book, or Ahlul-Kitab in Arabic, are known as people who follow monotheistic religions and have their divine scriptures. While Islam is a separate faith, it recognizes and respects other religions. The term “people of the book” represents Christians and Jews specifically, though.

The Origin of the Term: People of the Book

The Quran mentions the people of the book in various verses. They are the people who received guidance in the form of scriptures from Allah SWT, but they followed different prophets compared to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH.

Although Islam acknowledges all these prophets and their teachings, they are considered the predecessors to the final revelation of the Quran and the last Prophet, Muhammad PBUH.

Despite the scriptural differences, both Muslims and People of the Book have had the idea of worshipping one deity throughout history, which makes both communities have some commonality because whatever book one follows, they are following the words of Allah, albeit they are not applicable anymore.

Quranic Orders Regarding The People Of Other Faiths

No Compulsion in Islam

There are various verses in which the Quran informs the Muslims on how to deal with the people of the book so every community can coexist in peace. For example, the Quran says that Muslims are not allowed to force their religion on anyone.

There is no compulsion with regard to religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejects false deities and believes in Allah has grasped a firm handhold that will never break. Allah is the hearer and the knower. [Surah Baqarah, Verse 256]

Invitation to Islam

The Quran instructs the Muslims to call the non-believers in this manner:

Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is best aware of those who go aright. [Surah Nahl, Verse 125]

Maintaining Distance

While Muslims are to respect and treat Christians or Jews with kindness and respect, they are cautioned not to take them as close friends.

This does not mean that Muslims should not cultivate an atmosphere of peace when interacting with people of other faiths, nor does it mean that they shouldn’t socialize with them as long as they respect the boundaries of enjoyment set forth by Islamic law. But it means that when Muslims seek advice or allies, they should consult other fellow Muslims.

 O those of you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends, one to another. He among you who takes them for friends is one of them. Lo! Allah does not guide the wrongdoing folk. [Surah Maida, Verse 51]

Living In Peace

Islam teaches us to live in peace with people from other faiths. It also instructs us never to initiate any violence, but the exception is only if other people attack first.

Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not initiate any kind of hostilities. Lo! Allah loves those who are not aggressive. [Surah Baqarah, Verse 190]


Allah doesn’t forbid you from dealing kindly with those who haven’t fought with you on account of your religion. Neither does Allah forbid you from dealing kindly with those who didn’t drive you out of your homes. You should show them kindness and deal with them justly. Lo! Allah loves those who are just dealers. [Surah Mumtahina, Verse 08]

The Prophet’s Relationship with the People of the Book

As Islam started to spread throughout Arabia, Muhammad PBUH met many Jews and Christians to spread the message of Islam, but never outwardly converted them. Although he did openly encourage the people to turn to Islam.

Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). [Surah Imran, Verse 64]

To create a peaceful coexistence with the people of the Book in Madinah, where Islam was growing, the Prophet PBUH told his followers to enact a document to regulate the relationship between the Jews and the Christians. The document stated that the people of the book are allowed to practice their religions. It also stated that whoever joined the document’s signatories would be entitled to help from the Muslims, hence showcasing the peaceful nature of the Prophet PBUH regarding people of other faiths.

This document was the first to state freedom of belief and religious pluralism. It is also mentioned that the Prophet PBUH never ridiculed others, but his spreading of Islam was always accompanied by kindness in his speech and actions. He always responded kindly and patiently when somebody spoke ill about him or his religion.

A group of Jews asked permission to visit the Prophet PBUH, and when they were admitted, they said, ‘As- Samu ‘Alaika (Death be upon you).’ Aisha RA understood it and replied, Wa-Alaikum As-Samu wal-la’n. (death and the curse of Allah be upon you). Hearing this, the Prophet PBUH said to Aisha RA that, O Aisha, Allah is kind and lenient and like that, a person would be kind and lenient in all matters. Aisha RA asked the Prophet PBUH if he didn’t hear what the Jews said, so the Prophet PBUH replied that he said to the Jews, ‘Wa ‘Alaikum (and upon you).’ [Sahih al-Bukhari 6927]

Even when Islam started to spread in the Arabian Peninsula, the Muslims never harmed anyone, and neither did they force the people to adopt their religion. Following the order of the Prophet PBUH and his successors, the Muslims didn’t destroy any places of worship. Moreover, the non-Muslims were even allowed to keep their laws and regulations as long as they paid the Jizya tax.

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