*Dhimmi: Comes from the word Dhimmah and it means covenanted person. The word covenant here means that he or she has the covenant of Allah, His messenger and the Muslim community that their legitimate right shall be safeguarded.

**Jizya: Comes from ‘jaza’ which means something in return for something, i.e. services, defense and social security in return for financial


From the beginning of civilization man has traveled across nations for trading, conquests, in search of new land for settlement etc. These instances of migration for whatever purpose have created minority populations across nations. So, under the Islamic ruling how should non-Muslims be treated and what rights do they have in Muslim states?

Such non-Muslims are called Dhimmi* and as commonly misconceived, the term does not refer to second-class citizens. As we all know, the source of the Shari`ah is the Holy Quran and Sahi Hadith. To start off, the following Hadiths help to encapsulate the view on treatment of non-Muslims:

The Prophet is reported to have said,“He who hurts a dhimmi hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys Allah” (At-Tabarani).

He also says, “Whoever hurts a dhimmi, I am his adversary, and I shall be an adversary to him on the Day of Resurrection” (Al-Khatib).

“On the Day of Judgment, I will dispute with anyone who oppresses a person from among the People of the Covenant, or infringes upon his right, or puts a responsibility on him which is beyond his strength, or takes something from him against his will” (Abu Dawud).

In the Quran, Jews and Christians are always mentioned as ‘People of the Book’. This shows that they were originally people of a revealed religion. For this reason, there exists a relationship of mercy and spiritual kinship between them and Muslims, all having in common the principles of the one true religion sent by Allah through His Prophets (peace and blessings are upon them all). In the Quran, Allah says,He has ordained for (the Muslims) the same religion which He enjoined on Noah, and that which We have revealed to thee (Muhammad) and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: that you should establish the faith and make no division in it (Ash-Shura 42:13).

Right to follow one’s own religious laws

The first Islamic State was established in light the Charter of Madinah, a real and actual social contract agreed upon by Muslims, Jews and others, stipulating that they all would be treated as equal citizens of Madinah, giving the non-Muslims right of choosing a legal system they wished their affairs be governed by, be it Islamic or Jewish law or pre-Islamic Arab tribal traditions. This confirms the principle “no compulsion in religion”, freedom of expression and religious practice was open to everyone.

There is sometimes a misunderstood view, that if any non-Muslim lives under the rule of Islam, he/she would be curtailed in their religious freedom. There is no compulsion in Islam to accept Islam as your faith. It is a misconception to say that Islam is spread by the sword, with forced conversions. That never took place.

Secondly, if you again look at the practice of Prophet Muhammad, he provided excellent facilities for non-Muslims. For instance in his time, the monks of Mount Sinai were given protection. The monasteries were protected, the monks themselves were protected from any attack or persecution. Churches could not be pulled down to be replaced by mosques or to build houses. They were seen as a place of sanctuary and protected by the Islamic state.

In most Western countries, whatever the law of the land is must be followed without any recognition to one’s personal beliefs. However, an Islamic state is much more flexible in this. Non-Muslim minorities, in certain matters of personal law, such as marriage, divorce, inheritance would be able to implement their own religious laws and would not be subject to Shari`ah-law.

Right to consumption of alcohol and pork

Another interesting fact in Islamic history is that although Muslims are prohibited from entering into manufacturing, selling and consuming alcohol, whereas the ruling is not the same with non-Muslim. If there was a non-Muslim minority in an Islamic state who wish to do so, and do not involve Muslims, they would actually be given this right.

The issue of Jizya**

The description of the term as a payment in return for services from the State helps to remove the misconception that non-Muslims are asked to pay Zakah in Muslim states. For example, Muslims are required to pay Zakah, which helps finance needs such as services, defence and social security. All citizens, Muslims and dhimis, have equal access to such services without discrimination. If the Shari`ah required dhimmis to pay Zakah exactly like their fellow Muslim citizens, it may be insensitive to their religious identity. The reason is that Zakah is not merely a tax, even though it serves the purposes of taxes. Zakah is an Islamic concept and is one of the five pillars of Islam. To ask a dhimmi to pay Zakah implies requiring him to tacitly believe in one of the pillars of Islam that he does not believe in. On the other hand, if he shares the cost of above services under a different and more neutral title, it is even more respectful to them. Hence the term jizya is used whereby the non-Muslim is merely paying for the services rendered by the State.


The above information only reiterates the meaning of ISLAM, i.e., PEACE! It teaches us to be tolerant and that non-Muslims are to be treated with respect and allowed to practice their own religion without fear of repression. Islam was not spread by the sword, rather by dawa. It talks about universal brotherhood. In contrast during the Spanish inquisition, Muslims were put to death for refusing to convert!

There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error, so whoever rejects false gods and believes in Allah has grasped the firmest hand-hold, one that will never break. Allah is all hearing and all knowing (Al-Baqrah 2: 256).

Having said the above, in my opinion, Islam is not a means of oppression as misconceived by many, rather the champion of human rights!!!!



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