Islam and the People of the Book

By Anwar Shaikh

There is a general misconception that Islam seeks friendly relations with the People of the Book, that is, the Jews and the Christians. In fact, Islam is as hostile to the members of these religious groups as it is to idolators such as the Hindus. However, this is another matter that the Jews and the Hindus suffered terribly at the hands of Islam, but the Christians, though initially bore its brunt, eventually succeeded in stemming its tide in their lands.

No matter what the adherents of Islam claim about the brotherly outlook that this religion is supposed to have towards the non-Muslims, its basic doctrine, which seeks survival through intense communal strife, cannot be hidden. The Muslim scholars know this truth very well but they deliberately resort to misinterpretation. They do so, though falsely, to demomstrate that Islam is an eternal religion, which adapts itself to all ages and circumstances. Without this stance, Islam, the advocate of ferocious social principles and practices, cannot survive; it must have a humanitarian pretence in our age, dedicated to free speech and human rights. One must remember that it is only the Islamic countries, which amputate human limbs for trivial offences and hang people for the most innocent criticism of the Prophet.

I may come straight to the point and demonstrate that Islam gives no real preference to the People of the Book: the said tolerance is just a euphemism without any substance at all. It is because Islam declares itself to be the only true religion, which has the duty to dominate all other faiths, and eventually abolish them. See the truth for yourself:

"And when God took compact with the Prophets:
That I have given you of Book and Wisdom:
there shall come to you a Messenger confirming
what is with you - you shall believe in him and you
shall help him; do you agree? They said, 'We do
agree.' God said, 'bear witness so, and
I shall be with you among the witnesses.' Then
whosoever turns his back after that - they are
ungodly." ( 111 - The House of Imran: 75 )

It is not easy to understand these verses. In a nutshell, they mean that even before people were created, Allah convened the assembly of the Prophet's (soul) and asked them to promise that they would tell the communities of their followers about the coming of Muhammad and instruct them to embrace his religion.

Obviously, Judaism and Christianity ceased to exist in principle, the moment Muhammad declared Islam. Hadith no. 284, The Muslim, volume one, says that any Jew or Christian, who heard of Muhammad but did not convert to Islam, and died in disbelief, would rot in hell! Thus, Islam withdraws from all Jews and Christians the right to believe in their faiths, and practise them as such.

The Koran goes even as far as to declare about Abraham:

"No: Abraham in truth was not a Jew,
neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim
and one pure of faith; certainly he was never
of the idolaters." (111 - The House of Imran: 60)

Abraham was the Jewish patriarch; by quoting him as a Muslim i.e. the follower of Islam, Muhammad claims that he observed the compact that he made with Allah in the Assembly that He had convened before the creation of mankind

However, there is a bit of ambiguity in the Koranic approach, which gives the impression that Islam is tolerant of the Jews and Christians:

''Dispute not with the People of the Book
save in the fairer manner, except for
those of them that do wrong; and say,
We believe in what has been sent down
to us, and what has been sent down to you:
Our God and your God is One, and to Him
we have surrendered."' (XXIX: The Spider: 45)

These verses apparently indicate tolerance with the People of the Book i.e. the Jews and the Christians. It is because at that time the Prophet was not militarily strong enough to impose his will on them. In fact, he tried a policy of carrot and stick. When persuasion failed, he told them what he thought of them:

"The unbelievers of the People of the Book
and the idolaters shall be in the Fire of Hell
therein dwelling for ever;
those are the worst of creatures.
But those who believe, and do righteous deeds.
those are the best of creatures../..." ( XCVIII: The Clear Sign: 5 )
Here those Jews and Christians, who spurn Islam, have been lumped together with the idolators such as the Hindus, and classified as "the worst of creatures." Therefore, the Koran commands:
"O believers, take not as your friends those
of them, who were given the Book before you,
and the unbelievers, who take your religion
in mockery and as a sport ../.." (V: The Table: 60)
In the same sura, the Koran states the same fact more emphatically:
"O believers, take not Jews and Christians
as friends; they are friends of each other.
Whoso of you makes them his friends
is one of them ../.." ( V. The Table: 55)
It means that if a Muslim makes friends with a Jew or Christian, i e becomes one of them i.e. a Kafir, that is, an unbeliever. The People of the Book, unless they renounce their faith, are liable to become the victims of Jehad i.e. destruction by force of arms:
" ../..../.. And he brought down those of the People of the
Book who supported them from their fortresses and
cast terror in their hearts; some you slew, some you
made captive. And He bequeathed upon you their lands,
their habitations, and their possessions,
and a land you never trod. God is powerful
over everything." (XXXIII - The Confederates: 25)
The above is the description of what happened to the Jews of Khyber, who were attacked without an ultimatum of war, and this practice was also repeated against the Christian tribes of Arabia.

Of course, the Koran treats Jesus as a Prophet of God and confirms that he had been given the power to perform miracles but it defies the Christian fundamentals. For example, it refutes the Doctrine of Crucifixion, which holds that God made His Son the Sacrificial Lamb to carry away people's burdens of sin:

"../..../.. for their saying, "We slew the Messiah,
Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God.
Yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him,
only a likeness of that was shown them ../..../...
God raised him up to Him ../.." (IV - Women: 155)
It means that God did not allow Jesus to suffer crucifixion, which is the kernel of the Christian faith. He raised him from the cross, and replaced him with someone, who looked like Jesus. Thus Islam destroys the very foundation of Christianity.

Not only that, Islam subordinates Jesus to Muhammad. The hadith no. 287 of Sahih Muslim, volume one, states:

"../..../...the son of Mary will soon descend among you as a just
judge. He will break crosses, kill swine and abolish Jizya ../..../.. "
One must try to understand the sophistication of this hadith: it means that Jesus will come to destroy crosses, that is, he will abolish Christianity; kill all swines, whose flesh Islam forbids, and eliminate Jizya, the poll tax which the Koran imposes on non-Muslims. It demonstrates that the purpose of Christ's coming is to expunge all faiths including Christianity and Judaism, and enforce Islam for removing the need to impose Jizya. Thus, Jesus has been allotted a subordinate role, and this is in full accord with the Compact that all Prophets had made with God in the (imaginary) Assembly, before creation.

To prove the friendly attitude of Islam towards the Jews and Christians, it is claimed that it allows intermarriages between the Muslims and the People of the Book. It is a misrepresentation of the Islamic doctrine of marriage:

a. "Anyone of you, who has not the affluence
to be able to marry believing free women
in wedlock, let him take believing handmaids
that your right hands own ../... so marry them
with their people's leave, and give them their
wages honourably as women in wedlock, not
as licence or taking lovers." ( IV - Women: 25 )
Here one can see whether a woman is free or a handmaid, a Muslim (man) cannot marry her unless she is a believer, that is, a Muslim woman.
b. Also look at the following:

"O, Prophet, we (Allah) have made lawful for
thee thy wives whom thou hast given their wages
and what thy right hand owns, spoil of war that
God has given thee." (XXXIII - The Confederates: 45)

When women of the defeated foe fall into the hands of the Muslim warriors, they count as the "Spoils of War" and become property of the conqueror. Thus, morality and respect for the fair sex go out of the window. Such unfortunate women rank as concubines. While the Roman Law during the times of Muhammad prescribed death for the master if he indulged in carnal relationship with his slave-girl, Islam permitted sexual intercourse with her at will, but did not allow marriage with her unless she embraced Islam. Being Jewish or Christian counted for nothing. The Muslim jurists who claim that Islam allows marriage between the adherents of Islam and Jewish-Christian people, have no validity in Sunnah, the practice of the Prophet. There are some precedents rooted in the Muslim Spain which show that some Muslim men did marry Christian women occasionally, but it can be stated with complete certainty that a Muslim man ever gave his daughter to a Christian man. This marital concession was a show of the Muslim superiority, and nothing else; necessity could be another factor: Spain was a Christian country and could not be ruled by sheer brute force; some political inducement was necessary.

However, it is against the Sunnah for a Muslim man to enter into a spousal contract with any non-Muslim woman whether she be Jewish or Christian, because these people have been declared by the Koran as "the worst of creatures."

The exact number of the prophet's concubines is not known, but he had at least two, in addition to his wives; one of them called Marya (Mary) was a very pretty Coptic Christian. She bore him a son, Abraham, who died in infancy. In fact, they were two sisters: the other being Shirin. They were sent to Muhammad as gifts by the Egyptian governor. The Prophet gave Shirin to his grandson, Hassan, who was a boy of about thirteen at that time. At the death of Abraham, the Prophet remarked that, had Abraham lived, the Prophethood would have continued after him (Muhammad) and he would have freed his (Abraham's) mother and uncles!

Rihana, a Jewish girl of great beauty was another concubine of the Prophet. She belonged to the tribe of the Banu Quraizah. Her husband was among those 800 unlucky Jewish men, who were beheaded with Muhammad's consent under his supervision. The Prophet offered to marry her but she would not give up her Jewish faith. So she had no choice but to become his concubine. On the contrary, Juwairiay, who belonged to Banu Mustaliq, a Jewish tribe, when fell into the lot of Muhammad as his share of the war booty, he married her because she accepted Islam.

It is difficult to describe effectively in such a short article the Islamic attitude towards the People of the Book and the Kafirs such as Hindus and Sikhs. The writer intends to write a series of essays to explain the true situation.

This article comes to you compliments of: Liberty, Volume 3, Issue 12, April-June 1996
The Principality Publishers, P.O.Bax 918, Cardiff, CF2 4YP, U.K.

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