Islamic Dealing with People of the Book

Question and answer details
Is it real that Muslims hate and attack Christians just because they want to force the Qur’an on them? Is it true that Muslims hate and attack Christians just because they see Islam superior to Judaism and Christianity, or it is for other reasons? How is it true that Muslims love Jews and protected them when there is fighting in the Middle East?
Ælfwine Mischler

Salam Dear Mike,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Actually I find it a bit strange, because it reflects misconceptions contrary to what I would expect to find. Most people think that Muslims hate Jews, not Christians, as you think.

In order to answer your question, I must clarify that there is a difference between what Islam says Muslims should do and what individual Muslims actually do. Just as you will find among Christians, Jews, and others those people who do not follow what their religion teaches, so, too, you will find Muslims who do not follow the teachings of Islam. This may be due to their ignorance of the correct understanding of the Quran and Sunnah, or it may be due to their personal weaknesses and prejudices.

Your first question is whether Muslims hate Christians because they want to force the Quran on them. This assumes that Muslims hate Christians. Again, you will find that there are some Muslims who do hate Christians, but this is not what Islam teaches. Muslims are to respect both Christians and Jews as being People of the Book, that is, people who received revelation from God before the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and the revelation of the Quran, which is God’s final Scripture.

Muslims are not allowed to force the Quran on Christians or others. This is clear in the Quran in words that mean:

{There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error…} (Al-Baqarah 2:256)

While Muslims respect Jews and Christians as People of the Book, at the same time Muslims are cautioned not to take them as close friends. This does not mean that Muslims should not treat them with respect, kindness, and justice, nor that Muslims cannot socialize with them as long as they respect the limits of Islam - for example, that no alcohol is served. But it does mean that Muslims should seek personal advice and, on a national level, allies, from fellow Muslims.

The Quran gives guidance in how to deal with the People of the Book. It reads what means:

{And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah [Himself] is Guidance. And if thou shouldst follow their desires after the knowledge which hath come unto thee, then wouldst thou have from Allah no protecting friend nor helper.} (Al-Baqarah 2:120)

The Quran also reads:

{And they say: Be Jews or Christians, then ye will be rightly guided. Say [unto them, O Muhammad]: Nay, but [we follow] the religion of Abraham, the upright, and he was not of the idolaters. Say [O Muslims]: We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto Us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, add that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.} (Al-Baqarah 2:135-136)

Another verse reads what means:

{O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. He among you who taketh them for friends is [one] of them. Lo! Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.} (Al-Maidah 5:51)

Then another verse reads what means:

{Thou wilt find the most vehement of mankind in hostility to those who believe [to be] the Jews and the idolaters. And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe [to be] those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud.} (Al-Maidah 5:82)

When Islam spread outside the Arab Peninsula, the Muslims did not force anyone to adopt their religion. Following the orders of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his successors, they did not destroy churches, monasteries, synagogues, or even pagan temples. The Muslims established their rule based on the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Non-Muslims were allowed to keep their religions and personal status laws and even their own criminal laws for crimes committed among themselves.

Islam teaches us to try to live in peaceful coexistence with those of other faiths. Muslims are not to attack others unless they are attacked first. The Quran says what means:

{Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not, aggressors.} (Al-Baqarah 2:190)

The Quran also reads what means:

{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.} (Al-Mumtahana 60:8)

I don’t know whether, in asking your question, you are referring to a particular incident that you heard of. I have not heard of Muslims attacking Christians for the purpose of imposing the Quran on them. Sometimes there are conflicts or even full-scale wars that appear to be for religious reasons because the two sides are divided along religious lines. But, in fact, these are usually struggles for economic or political power.

I would like to add here that Muslims do abhor the methods used by some Christians to spread their version of Christianity. Such methods include slandering and lying against the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). In contrast, no Muslim would dream of slandering or lying against Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) because he is also a prophet of God and a messenger of Islam, that is, surrender to the will of God.

Muslims are ordered to invite others to Islam in this way stated in the Quran. The Quran reads what means:

{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.} (An-Nahl 16:125)

As for your question about the Jews, I repeat, Muslims are to respect them for being People of the Book. When the Quran does criticize the Jews who did not follow God’s commands, the expression {among them there are some…} is always there, so that the good are not condemned along with the bad. When Muslims ruled by Islamic Law, Jews - and others - were free to practice their religion and flourished.

The fighting you see today in the Middle East is not about religion, but about economic and political power. We must always distinguish between Zionists — many of whom are even atheists — and Jews, many of whom oppose Zionism. Please read the links below for clarification of this subject.

Let me ask you this: If a lot of foreigners moved into your country and then, instead of living peacefully among you, took over the government, forced you out of your homes, cut most of the water going to you, gave you no voice in the government, searched you whenever you entered a house of worship, humiliated you in numerous ways, threatened you with guns and tanks, and so on, wouldn’t you—the original residents—be angry and fight back in any way you could? And if those foreigners who took over happened to be of a different religion than the original residents, would the fighting be because of the religious differences? Possibly, but not necessarily. Remember that in the case of Palestinians, not all of them are Muslims.

In sum, while you may see individual Muslims who hate Christians and Jews, the Quran does not teach us to hate them. Muslims are to treat Jews and Christians—indeed, all people—with respect, kindness, and justice while making their closest friends and allies among fellow Muslims. Only if the others begin hostilities may Muslims fight back.

Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.


Useful Links:

Do Muslims Want to Kill People of the Book?

Harming or Respecting People of the Book?

Does the Quran Hate People of the Book?

Destiny of People of the Book

Between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam