Non-Muslims in Muslim History

This article is devoted to a special group of Non-Muslims, namely those who are called Christians (Catholics, Protestants, others) and Jews. Such groups are considered in Islam to be People of the Book. People of the Book are looked upon by Muslims as God-fearing, God-loving, and God-conscious.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam are rooted in the Abrahamic religion where Islam is the most recent religion sent by God to humankind as a complete way of life. Muslims are required to respect and honor people of the book. An Islamic state must protect non-Muslims and ensure their peace and harmony within Muslim territories.

During the Days of the Prophet

As far as the Jews are concerned

  1. During the life of Prophet Muhammad , the Jews in Madina had a synagogue and an educational institute by the name of Bait-Al-Madras. He made sure it was preserved as well as all the Jews attending it were protected.

  2. The Prophet of Islam made several treaties with the Jews. Following is an extract of a messages that he wrote to form a treaty:

    In the name of God, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful. This message is from Muhammad, Messenger of God. Verily, whoever follows us from the Jews shall have the help and the aid; and shall neither be victim of injustice, nor taken vengeance upon. The Jews of the children of Awf are safe with the Faithful. They have their religion and the Muslims theirs and themselves, except those who oppress or sin, they will forfeit themselves and their families. The Jews of Baani Al-Najjar, of Bani Al-Harith, of Bani Saaedah, of Bani Aws and of Bani Belanah are Jews like the others.

As far as the Christians are concerned

  1. The Prophet honored the Christians of Najran from Yemen who visited him in his own mosque in Madina. The Christians prayed according to Christian fashion inside the mosque, and the Prophet and his followers prayed in Muslim tradition.

  2. The Prophet respected the autonomy of the Christian churches. The nomination and the appointment of bishops and priests was left to the Christian community itself.

  3. Prophet Muhammad promoted cooperation between Muslims and Christians in the political arena as well. The prophet selected a non-Muslims and delegated him as his ambassador to Negus, the king of Ethiopia. The name of that ambassador was 'Amr-ibn-Umaiyah-ad-Damri.

  4. During the days of the Prophet, there were two super powers, the Persians and the Romans. The Romans adopted Christianity while the Persians adopted atheist beliefs. Those two super powers were at war with each other. During that period, Muslims were a small minority in the Arabian Peninsula. They prayed to Almighty God that the Romans would win the war against the Atheistic forces. The feelings and the beliefs of the Muslims were based on the fact that the Romans were part of the People of the Book. (See Qur'an 30: 1-7

  5. The Prophet sent a message to the Monks of Saint Catherine in Mount Sinai. The English translation of that document is as follows:

    This is a message written by Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, far and near, we are behind them. Verily, I defend them by myself, the servants,, the helpers, and my followers, because Christians are citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be changed from their jobs, nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christians is married to a Muslim, this is not to take place without her own wish. She is not to be prevented from going to her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation is to disobey this covenant till the Day of Judgement and the end of the world.

During the Days of 'Umar

  1. The Second Caliph (religious leader of Muslim people) 'Umar, asked his Governor in Syria to recruit a Greek person who could put the accounts of their revenues in  order. He also appointed a Christian to head his Administration.

  2. 'Umar respectfully declined to pray inside the church of Resurrection in Jerusalem, but he did pray outside. He was concerned that his followers would take it over from  the Christians, if he prayed inside.

  3. Muslims were given the key of the Church of Basilica in Jerusalem during the days of the Caliph 'Umar. The Muslims are still taking care of it today.

  4. During the time of Caliph 'Umar certain Muslims had taken a piece of land belonging to a Jew. They constructed a mosque on it. 'Umar ordered the demolition of the mosque and the restoration of the land to the Jew.

  5. When Jerusalem was submitted to Caliph 'Umar, an agreement was made between 'Umar-and the local Christians. The agreement goes as follows:

    In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate! This is the security which grants to the people of Elia. He grants to all, whether sick or sound, security for their lives, their possessions, their churches and their crosses, and for all that concerns their religion. Their churches shall not be changed into dwelling places, nor destroyed, neither shall they nor their appurtenances be in anyway diminished, nor the crosses of the inhabitants nor aught of their possessions, nor shall any constraints be put upon them in the matter of their faith, nor shall any one of them be harmed.

During the Umaiyads and Abbasids

  1. Non-Muslims were holding the rank of Political, Ministers, Administrative positions and membership in Executive Councils. Non-Muslims were given judicial autonomy, not only for personal status, but for all affairs of their life: Civil, penal and others. During the Abbasid Caliphs, Christian Patriarchs and Jewish Hakhams (Rabbis) held highest positions in the Islamic state. They held the position of advisors in the cabinet of the Caliph himself.

  2. When the Muslim army reached the valley of the Jordan and Abu Ubaydah pitched his camp at Fihl, the Christian inhabitants of the country wrote to the Arabs, saying:

    O Muslims, we prefer you to the Byzantine though they are of our faith, because you keep better faith with us and are more merciful to us and refrain from doing us injustice and your rule over us is better than theirs, for they have robbed us of our goods and our homes.

    The people of Emessa closed the gates of their city against the army of Heraclius and told the Muslims that they preferred Muslim government and justice to the injustice and oppression of the Greeks.

  3. Mu'awiyah (661-680) employed Christians very heavily in his service, and the other members of the reigning house followed his example. Christians frequently held high posts at court.

  4. During the days of 'Umar Ibn 'Abd-al-'Aziz (an Umaiyad Caliph) some Muslims took a church to enlarge the Grand Mosque of Damascus (Al-Masjid Al-Umawee). Caliph 'Umar Ibn 'Abd-al-Aziz ordered the demolition of that part of the mosque and to restore the church. However, the Christians opted for a monetary settlement.

  5. Non-Muslims were given the citizenship of the Muslim country in which they lived including the right to vote for the election of the Muslim state. However, they were exempted from being drafted in the Muslim army.

  6. During the days of Haroon Al-Rashid, Dr. Gabriel, the personal physician of the caliph Haroon al-Rashid, was a Nestorian Christian.

Later History

Christians and Jews lived peacefully with Muslims. Non-Muslims flourished among Muslims. None were killed in the name of Islam. The mere presence of a large number of Christians and Jews in the Muslim world is a sign of the tolerance of Muslims to the non-Muslims. Jews fled from Spain during the Inquisition, and Muslims welcomed them in their lands. They protected them and helped them to establish themselves and they indeed flourished.

During the occupation of the Middle East by the crusaders, the local Christians were treated as second class citizens by their European brethren. They could not tolerate the insults and humiliation. Therefore, they helped the Muslims rid themselves of the crusaders from that area, mainly Jerusalem and Palestine. Salahuddin (Saladdin) was able to liberate Jerusalem from the occupation of the crusaders. He was kind to the knights and their soldiers. He treated them generously, especially those who were knights. He considered them as political leaders who should be treated with honor and dignity. They appreciated his kindness, generosity, and fair treatment. Some of them later accepted Islam.

Michael the Elder, Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, writing in the latter half of the twelfth century, approved the actions of his co-religionists. He saw the finger of God in the Arab conquest even after the Eastern churches experienced five centuries of Muslim rule.

Contemporary Treatment of Non-Muslims

Non-Muslims flourished in the Muslim world in all aspects of life even after the abolition of colonialism. Anywhere a person goes in both the Arab world and the non-Arab Muslim world, he will see Christians and Jews. They have lived freely in the Muslim community and have thrived in the fields of religion, education, economics, politics, health, industry, farming, housing, banking, festivities, and social services.

In several Muslim countries like Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Algeria or Sudan, etc. there are a large number of Christians in the highest political levels of the government.

Today there are forces that seem to be propelling a clash of civilizations, but let us build a bridge of understanding and mutual respect through the exploration of commonalities among all civilizations.


Source: Adapted with some modification from "Non-Muslims through Muslim History" by Foundation For Islamic Knowledge, P.O. Box 665, Lombard, IL 60148 USA, Phone: (630) 495-4817, Fax: (630) 627-8894 website:  Email

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
Assalam Alaikoom, brothers and sisters in Islam. I do not in any way pretend to hold a brief for Dr. Sakr, because I am simply not in the least qualified to do so. I am quite confident that the learned doctor is absolutely capable of clarifying the issues that some of the readers are raising with some aspects of this article--specifically the use of symbols to represent Islam. Either he is very busy or he does not want to lend credence to such trivialities. Why would anyone want to oppose the use of symbols to represent Islam as long as such symbols depict something positive? The obvious answer would be because, perhaps, Prophet Muhammad (SAW)--and, by extension, Almighty Allah (SWT)--did not explicitly choose a particular symbol for Islam. But does that mean that the Prophet did not use symbol? Of course he did. When the Muslim warriors went to battle, they carried a flag. Whether these flags had characters on them or not, they were still considered as symbols because they distinguished the Muslim army from the infidels. And the Prophet himself designated whoever the standard bearer (flag bearer) would be for each expedition. I simply think this is a nonissue. It is no way one can prevent the use of symbols in Islam, because in the absence of symbols, we just cannot have a written Qur'an. Don't we know that letters are also symbols? I think Muslims should dwell on more serious issues than this. What we, as Muslims, should guard against is how we use objects or images in our religion. Unlike adherents of other religions, a Muslim is unable to put a face on what he worships, because he is told, in the Holy Qur'an, that anything he sees or imagines cannot be Almighty Allah. Case closed! Salam.

It's sad that T Wainwright took this informative article to turn it into a black and white issue. Thank you for the useful info on Muslim history. As a christian I am always interested in how we can make this a better place for all of us to live.Understanding and acceptance of different faiths can only help. I hope someday people will accept that thier is good and bad in all races and stop trying to make race the issue.I didn't notice any comments about the color of the people shooting at the people who are trying to help the stranded in LA.. Lets look more for the good in people and stop giving the bad all the attention. I look forward to more informative articles in the future.


we do not accept any symbol in Islam. that moon and star that most of dumb moslems use and consider like a symbol of Islam is just wrong made up! unfortunatly, made up by those who take Islam as an enemy to spread rumours that moslems worship a moon God. please brothers and sisters do not do like the jew when they passed with Moses by a tribe worshipping Idol and asked him "make for us an Idol God like they have one? " . I feel sorry how satan doing his best to get Islam from everywhere but the moslems care less about satan and get hooked with "fight for pride" against, those who pretend Jesus symbolized by cross or David symbolized by star. the Holy messengers David, Jesus and Mohammad were all submitting and worshipping Allah and are innocents from what the materialistic people of the 21 century accorded to them. anyone of them gonna do no less than what Moses did to those who took the calf after him to design God. brothers and sisters fear Allah and correct this big mistake who lead with no doubt to Idol worshipping?
note: this is just a warning to those who has brains and doesn't like to worship with Allah anybody else.

Islam is the most recent religion sent by God ..this statement is wrong!!!!...Islam is the ever religion from Allah, since He created the man. All Prophets, He sent to earth to teach the people about the religion of Allah 'Islam', saying 'O people, worship Allah alone'. It completed through Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi wasallam (the last prophet).
Allah says: "I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me." (51:56)

10 minutes walk from my fmaily home in Manama, Bahrain is a church that has been there before my birth (more than 56 years. It is a solid building with Sunday sermons ever since I can remember. May God bless them and give them peace till eternity. If they truly follow Christ, then they are saved for he was a mighty prophet of God, born of the blessed Virgin Mary. So as any Jew who would truly follow Moses for he too was a mighty prophet, may peace be upon them all and upon those who follow God's path. The Quran makes it clear that God makes no difference between His messengers, they were all carrying the same message of following The One God.

Excellent article, yes we muslims have forgot the
the true teachings of the Prophet (PBUH).
The land has become the forces of the destruction of Islam and the civilization.

All that aside, I just returned from Baton Rouge, LA and I want yo to know that to make matters worse, I have witnessed National Guard soldiers, almost all of who are white, shooting African-Americans like ducks for no apparent reason. They were sent to protect the city from looting, but they are using the opportunity to legally slaughter African-Americans. I can see why, because the National Guard in LA is almost entirely made up of whites many of whom are active KKK members.

Indeed there are few scholars who are qualified to comment on articles written by the likes of Dr. Ahmad H. Sakr. Fortunately for me, I am not one of them--I am not even a student yet. The facts stated in this article are those facts that the enemies of Islam, in a grand conspiracy, are trying very hard to suppress. Alhamdu Lillahi, they are failing miserably at it. When there was a hullabaloo about the desecration of the Holy Qur'an--as sacrilegious and as abominable as such act was--I told a brother that we should find solace in the fact that the Holy Qur'an is actually not the papers it is written on. The Holy Qur'an is the words that are written on those papers. And, Alhamdu Lillahi, millions of people (Muslims) have memorized those words chronologically. So, literally, there are millions of walking Qur'an and still counting. How can anyone ever destroy the Indestructible? It is an exercise in futility. I visited your website, Doc, and I'm so glad I did. I will be ordering some of those books that are worth millions of dollars and are yet sold for so little a price. And that's the beauty of Islam: the humility; the modesty. Even though he merits the praises I am heaping upon him, I am sure Dr. Sakr, like all Islamic knowledgeables, is not too pleased with it. As erudite as Dr. Jamal Badawi is, as Sheikh Ahmed Deedat was, and as many other Islamic notables were and are, they never profess to know much. That's Islam. They always say Allah knows best. Indeed. Shookran, Doc. Assalam Alaikum.

This article truly reflects the the position of non-muslims who had freedom of religion in a muslim state and also were given high positions.where as todays western democratic countries fear giving freedom to muslim citizens
follow their beliefs ,even so as to make laws to stop them following their islamic beliefs

This a very good article for both Muslims and non-Muslims.


Yes but in spite of the partial and sensible treatment of Jews and Christians in the Koran and by succeeding Caliphs, the present Judeo Christian thought and actions betrays their true nature as a hateful, brutal, venomous, selfish, racist and treacherous people. If one has any doubts about my assessment, besides the history of intolerance, racism, and deliberate and planned slaughters, massacre and destruction on the innocent in Japan, N. Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, the news article today (link provided below) in the Guardian well illustrates the fact that to Christians and Jews if you are not of their religion then you are not even human.,3604,1560147,00.html

The image of this article looks weired to me. What the icon moon and star means. There is no icons in Islam. Please clarify.

JazakAllah Khair.

assallamu caleykum
I would like to mention that I disagree with some comments of the article. Dr. sark said that Prophet Muhamad peace of Allah be upon him, once selected a non-muslim ambassador to a place called Negus, ethoipia. and I don't think the Prophet (peace of Allah be upon him) ever appointed non-muslim as an ambassador nor the Caliphs. I also would like the authors to tell us the sources they are using when they mention something related to our religion. when they say the Prophet (peace of Allah be upon him) or the Caliphs did this or said this.
Jazakum Allahu kheyran

Assalamu Aleikum Dr. Ahmad H. Sakr,

Wonderful article and very informative. I will certainly be sharing it with my Christian family members, who are in wonderment as to why I chose to become Muslim this past June 2005. They think that the Islamic faith is for poor, oppressed, third-world countries or for those who feel disenfranchised by their government, or whatever. They think that Muslims hate Christians (where they got this idea I have none, as the Muslims I have met are very friendly and accepting of others of different beliefs.) My parents only think the worst of Islam without ever having met anybody that is Muslim. Hopefully others will read this article and share it with others as well because you are so right, there needs to be a greater sharing of information in regards to faith. With understanding there can come peace. This article points out so many things that I will be able to show my family that there actually is a link between the "religions" and that Islam is not as they think.

I think that everybody, especially at the Middle and High School age, should take a class in Diversity and Community Relations because this will give them a chance to meet the people of different cultures and religions in their neighborhoods, hence a better understanding and therefore-peace.
Again, thank you for the information, very helpful to a new Muslimah such as myself and gives me motivation to share with friends and family especially. Insha Allah they will accept me as a Muslim, and let there be peace in this world.