Protection of Churches, Synagogues and Mosques in Islam

Islamic Teachings on Protecting Places of Worship

“Had Allah not repelled

some people by means

of others, monasteries,

churches, synagogues and

mosques wherein Allah’s name

is abundantly praised would

have been demolished.

Allah will definitely help

those who help Him…”

(Qur’an, Surah Al-Hajj, 22:40)

The recent unfortunate events in Nigeria have increased the occurrence and instances of destruction of both mosques and churches. This has also increased the tendency for some Muslims to feel justified in burning churches, especially if their mosques had also been burnt or destroyed. The tendency of Christians to also destroy mosques especially if any of their churches were destroyed by Muslims has not stopped to rise on the graph. Both groups involved in this criminal act tend to whip up religious sentiments and rhetoric to justify their unjust actions.

For most people, actions speak louder than words. And silence in the face of wrong-doing is often interpreted as approval. The unfortunate consequence of this however, is the real tendency for Christians to view the destruction of churches as somehow sanctioned by the religion of Islam; and for Muslims to view the destruction of mosques as somehow permissible in Christianity. This is especially true if religious and political leaders do little or nothing to condemn the destruction of places of worship or to decry any atrocity committed in the name of religions that claim to stand for love, civility, peaceful coexistence and justice.

The purpose of this paper is to make clear for Muslims and non-Muslims the respectful position that Islam gives to churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, especially those belonging to the “People of the Book”.The Islamic teachings that forbid the destruction of churches, synagogues, and mosques also require Muslims to protect these religious spaces.

This presentation also seeks to make it clear that the protection of such places of worship is not a contemporary phenomenon. It has in fact been an inherent part of Islamic teachings based on the Qur’an, the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, practices of the companions (sahabah), the successors (tabi’in) and the position of the great scholars of Islam, as well as the followers of mainstream Islam until today.

There is no doubt that at some points or the other in the history of most of the world’s religions, “religious people” have for various reasons been very unfaithful to the true spirit of their respective faiths. Others, however, have unfortunately come up with religious or ideological justifications for their atrocities and injustices. [1]

It is a historical fact that at the peak of Muslim political power and civilization, interfaith harmony and religious freedom reached their highest points. This is attested to by the fact that in all lands that were under Muslim rule, there still remain many churches, synagogues, monasteries, temples and other places of worship.

There also exist today a sizeable number of non-Muslim communities who did not embrace Islam. They include Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Hindus living in lands presently or formally under Muslim rule. Muslim lands, especially places such as Morocco, Egypt, and Turkey under the Ottoman rule served as places of refuge and asylum for Christians and Jews who were escaping religious persecution from their own people.

As the protection of mosques in Islam is taken for granted by Muslims, this presentation will focus more on the Islamic perspective on the protection of non-Muslim places of worship- especially those belonging to Christians and Jews.

[1] For better appreciation of this fact, and the many cases of destruction of religious symbols, icons and places of worship from all over the world, see iconoclasm in Wikipedia.com (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iconoclasm)

Islam is a religion that teaches mercy to all creatures and people, both Muslims and non-Muslims.  The Prophet was described in the Quran as being a mercy due to the message he brought for humanity and his exemplary life.

“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to all the worlds.” (Qur’an 21:107)


According toIbn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah(1292-1350 CE / 691-751 AH), the prominent medieval Muslim scholar and jurist,“Islamic lawis all about wisdom and achieving people’s welfare in this life and the hereafter. It is all about justice, mercy, wisdom, and good. Thus, any ruling that replaces justice with injustice, mercy with its opposite, common good with mischief, or wisdom with nonsense, is a ruling that does not belong to Islamic law, even if it is claimed to be so by some interpretation.”[1]


When anyone analyzes the legislations of Islam with an open mind, the mercy mentioned in the above verse (Qur’an 21:107) will definitely become apparent.  One of the aspects constituting an epitome of this mercy is the way the legislations of Islam deal with people of other faiths.  The tolerant attitude of Islam towards non-Muslims, whether they are those residing in their own countries or within Muslim lands, can be clearly seen through a study of history.  This fact is not only purported by Muslims, but many non-Muslim historians also testify to it as we shall see later.


Peace-loving non-Muslims, especially Ahl al-kitab[2] (People of the Book, i.e. the Jews and Christians) living under Muslim authority as Ahl al-Dhimmah(People of Covenant) have been given full assurance to enjoy this mercy by Islam. The Ahl al-Kitab, whether the past or present, are regarded as being the same religious community referred to in the Qur’an or Sunnah (i.e. tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace)).  This is the view of the overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars.[3]

[1]Ibn al-Qayyim, I’lam al-Muwaqqi’in, vol.1, p.333

[2]It should be noted that the Qur’an and Hadith literature often refer to Christians or Jews with the honorific name of “Ahl al-Kitab”, which means “People of the Book” or “People of an Earlier Revelation (before the Qur’an)” in recognition of their  association with genuine prophets and messengers from God, such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus, peace be upon them.

[3]IbnTaimiyyah, for instance, submitted that when someone subscribes to the religion of Ahl al Kitab he is considered one of them. This is based on the following Prophetic tradition: Ibn Umar (R.A) narrated, Allah’s Messenger (on whom be peace) said: “He who imitates any people (in their actions) is considered to be one of them.” This is related by Abu Dawud and graded as Sahih (authentic) by IbnHibban.

So, the fact that many some modern-day Christians and Jews do not actively practice their professed faith may not necessarily disqualify them from being considered as People of the Book. Once they identify themselves as Jews and Christians and align with them in societal friendship and mutual coexistence, they are to be considered as members of Ahl al Kitab.

The Qur’an and the Prophetic traditions (Sunnah) which arethe primary sources of legislation in Islam condemn the destruction of any place of worship, be it for Muslims or non-Muslims, especially those of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians).[1]


For anyone who attempts to ruin a mosque, God warns of disgrace in this world and promises him an exceeding torment in the hereafter. He says in the Qur’an, “And who is more unjust than He who forbids that in places for the worship of Allah, Allah’s name should be celebrated? (The one) whose zeal is (in fact) to ruin them? It was not fitting that such should themselves enter them except in fear. For them there is nothing but disgrace in this world, and in the world to come, an exceeding torment.” (Qur’an 2:114).


Thus, for the protection of monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, Godpermits a people to resort to the full use of force in self-defense:

ﭝ  ﭞ  ﭟ  ﭠ  ﭡ       ﭢ  ﭣ       ﭤ   ﭥ  ﭦ  ﭧﭨ  ﭩ  ﭪ  ﭫ  ﭬ  ﭭ  ﭮ  ﭯ   ﭰ  ﭱ  ﭲ  ﭳ  ﭴ    ﭵ  ﭶ  ﭷ   ﭸﭹ  ﭺ  ﭻ  ﭼ  ﭽﭾ  ﭿ  ﮀ  ﮁ   ﮂ  ﮃ

“Had Allah not been repelling some people by means of some others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosqueswhere Allah’s name is abundantly recited would have been demolished. Allah will definitely help those who help Him…” (Quran 22:40)


In order to ensure the religious freedom of a people, God therefore not only prohibits the destruction of places of worship, but also empowers some people to come to the rescue of anyoppressed religious community.


It is in this spirit that IbnHazm (995-1063 CE), a classical jurist of Islam, said:


‘If we are attacked by an enemy nation who is targeting the People of the Covenant (non-Muslim citizens) living among us, it is our duty to come fully armed and ready to die in battle for them, to protect those people who are protected by the covenant of God and His Messenger.  Doing any less and surrendering them will be blameworthy neglect of a sacred promise.’[2]


Not only does Islam demand the freedom for Christians and Jews to practice their religion and the protection of their places of worship, but also that they be treated justly as any other fellow human.  Warning against any abuse of non-Muslims, the Prophet stated:


“Beware!  Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, curtails their rights, burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will advocateagainst the person on the Day of Judgment.”[3]


This spirit can be seen in display in the letter of the first Caliph of Islam,Abu Bakr,to the non-Muslims of Najran. In the letter, the Caliph wrote:


‘In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is the written statement of God’s slave Abu Bakr, the successor of Muhammad, the Prophet and Messenger of God.  He affirms for you the rights of a protected neighbor, in yourselves, your lands, your religious community, your wealth, retainers, and servants, those of you who are present or abroad, your bishops and monks, and monasteries, and all that you own, be it great or small.  You shall not be deprived of any of it, and shall have full control over it…’[4]



In a similar vein, the treaty of the second Caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab, with the people of Iliya of Jerusalem reinforces this fact. In it he states that:


‘This is the security given by the slave of God, Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, to the people of Iliya: they are guaranteed the security in their persons, possessions, churches, crucifixes, and everyone within, whether sick or in good health, as well as everyone in their community.  Their churches will not be occupied or demolished, nor will anything be taken from them: neither furnishings nor crucifixes or money.  They will not be forced away from their religion, or harmed because of it….” [5]


As a result, since the era of the “Rightly-guided Caliphs”, Jews and Christians have held their services in freedom and security.[6]


Another example is the statement of a famous classical jurist of Islam, Imam Al-Awza’i, in his letter to the Abbasid governor,Salih bin ‘Ali bin Abdullah, about the People of the Covenant (Non-Muslims), “They are not slaves, so beware of changing their status after they have lived in freedom.  They are free People of the Covenant.”[7]


The Prophet of Islam (on whom be peace) declared that the life of a non-Muslim resident or visitor is inviolable when he said, “Whoever kills a person with whom we have a treaty will not come close enough to Paradise to smell its fragrance, and its fragrance can be perceived as far away as forty years of travel.”[8]


Islam does not allow assaulting an innocent non-Muslim, violating his honor or property, or hurting him. If someone steals fromhim, that person must be punished.  If anyone borrows fromhim, the property must be returned.  The Prophet of Islam said:


“Indeed God, Almighty and Majestic, has not allowed you to enter the homes of the People of the Book except by their permission, nor has He allowed you to hit their women, nor eat their fruit if they give you what is obligatory upon them [from the jizyah[9]].”[10]


He also said:


“You must know that it is not lawful for you to take the property of the People of the Covenant unless it is (in payment) for something.”[11]


He said also:


“The obligation imposed by the covenant (with non-Muslims) is communal, and the nearest Muslim must try hard to fulfill it.  Anyone who violates the protection granted by a Muslim will be under the curse of God, the angels, and all people, and on Judgment Day no intercession will be accepted on his behalf.”[12]


In fact, in the Qur’an, God has forbidden Muslims from speaking ill ofthe objects of worship of non-Muslims so that they do not speak ill, in retaliation, of God as understood and revered by Muslims. Such a scenario is against human dignity of both sides and would lead to mutual rejection and hatred.It could also lead to a vicious cycle of violence which could lead to a reciprocal burning of places of worship (commonly Churches and mosques) and dehumanization and violation of God-given human rights, out of a rancorous ignorance.  Consequently, God warns the Muslims in the Quran:

ﮬ  ﮭ  ﮮ       ﮯ  ﮰ  ﮱ  ﯓ  ﯔ  ﯕ  ﯖ  ﯗ     ﯘﯙ  ﯚ          ﯛ   ﯜ  ﯝ  ﯞ  ﯟ  ﯠ  ﯡ  ﯢ  ﯣ  ﯤ  ﯥ                ﯦ  ﯧ

“Do not revile those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they revile Allah out of spite in their ignorance.  Thus, We have made alluring to each people its own doings.  In the end will they return to their Lord and He shall then tell them the truth of what they did.” (Quran 6:108)

[1] For further reading on this subject, see articles by Dr. Saleh al-Aayed on the website: www.islamreligion.com (05/06/2012)

[2]Cited in al-Qarafi, ‘al-Furuq,’ vol. 3, p. 14

[3]Abu Dawud

[4] Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, p. 79

[5] Tabari, Tarikh al-Tabari, vol 3, p. 159

[6] Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘al-Aqaliyyat ad-Diniyya wa-Hal al-Islami,’ p. 13

[7] Abu Ubayd, al-Amwaal, p. 170, 171

[8]Sahih Al-Bukhari

[9] This refers to the Dhimmi tax (jizyah tax). See Appendix III for more discussion on Jizyah.

[10] Abu Dawood

[11]Musnad Ahmad

[12]Saheeh Al-Bukhari, IbnMajah

The above ethics of Islam held by Muslims did not always end up in speeches or on paper. They were actually displayed by the rightly guided Muslim leaders when they conquered non-Muslim lands.  For example, one of the Muslim caliphs, Abdul-Malik, took the Church of Saint John from the Christians and made it part of a mosque.  When Umar bin Abdul-Aziz succeeded him as the new Caliph, the Christians complained to him about what his predecessor had done to their church.  Umar wrote to the governor that the portion of the mosque that was rightfully theirs be returned to them if they were unable to agree with the governor on a monetary settlement that would satisfy them.[1]


The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem is known to historians to be one of the holiest places of worship in Judaism.   It was completely buried under rubble and heaps of debris during the era of the Ottoman caliph, Sultan Sulayman I (1494-1566).  When the caliph  came to know of this, he ordered his governor in Jerusalem to remove all the rubble and debris, clean the area, restore the Wailing Wall, and make it accessible for Jews to visit.[2]

[1]Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘Ghayr al-Muslimeenfil-Mujtama’ al-Islami,’ p. 32

[2]Hussayn, Abdul-Latif, ‘Tasamuh al-GharbMa’al-Muslimeen,’ p. 67

The respect Islam enjoins on Muslims towards non-Muslims with regard to protecting their various places of worship can be testified to by non-Muslims, some of whom, though ardent critics of Islam and Muslims,have been objective enough to tell the truth as it is.


The Christian Patriarch Ghaytho wrote about the Arab of his time:


‘The Arabs, to whom the Lord has given control over the world, treat us as you know; they are not the enemies of Christians.  Indeed, they praise our community, and treat our priests and saints with dignity, and offer aid to churches and monasteries.’[1]


Also the Historian, Will Durant wrote:


‘At the time of the Umayyad caliphate, the People of the Covenant, Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews, and Sabians, all enjoyed a degree of tolerance that we do not find even today in Christian countries.  They were free to practice the rituals of their religion and their churches and temples were preserved.  They enjoyed autonomy in that they were subject to the religious laws of their scholars and judges.’[2]


Thisrespectfulrelationship between Muslims and people of other faiths wasnot due to mere “national interests” and politics played by Muslim rulers, but rather they were a direct result of the immutable teachings of the Qur’an and the traditions of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). These fundamental sources of Islam teach that people of other religions be free to practice their own faith. They should only accept the guidance of Islam by their own free choice.  God says in the Quran:

ﯿ  ﰀ    ﰁ  ﰂﰃ  ﰄ  ﰅ  ﰆ    ﰇ  ﰈﰉ  ﰊ  ﰋ  ﰌ  ﰍ  ﰎ  ﰏ   ﰐ  ﰑ  ﰒ  ﰓ  ﰔ  ﰕﰖ  ﰗ  ﰘ  ﰙ  ﰚ


“Let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from error: Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, which never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.” (Quran 2:256)


Similarly, Muslims protected Christian churches from being harmed in the lands they occupied.  In a letter to Simeon, the Archbishop of Rifardashir and leader of all the bishops of Persia, the Nestorian Patriarch Geoff III wrote:


‘The Arabs, to whom God has given power over the whole world, know how wealthy you are, for they live among you.  In spite of this, they do not assail the Christian creed.  To the contrary, they have sympathy with our religion, and venerate our priests and saints of our Lord, and they graciously donate to our churches and monasteries.’[3]


Western historians and orientalists acknowledge these facts.  Le Bon writes:


‘The tolerance of Muhammad towards the Jews and Christians was truly grand; the founders of other religions that appeared before him, Judaism and Christianity in particular, did not prescribe such goodwill.  His caliphs followed the same policy, and his tolerance has been acknowledged by skeptics and believers alike when they study the history of the Arabs in depth.’[4]


Robertson wrote:


‘The Muslims alone were able to integrate their zeal for their own religion with tolerance for followers of other religions.  Even when they bore swords into battle for freedom for their religion to spread, they left those who did not desire it free to adhere to their own religious teachings.’[5]


According to professor emeritus, Sir Thomas Arnold, an English orientalist:


‘We never heard of a report of any planned attempt to compel non-Muslim minorities to accept Islam, or any organized persecution aimed at uprooting the Christian religion.  If any of the caliphs had chosen any of these policies, they would have overwhelmed Christianity with the same ease with which Ferdinand and Isabella exiled Islam from Spain or with which Louis XIV made following Protestantism a punishable crime in France, or with which the Jews were exiled from England for 350 years.  At that time Eastern churches were completely isolated from the rest of the Christian world.  They had no supporters in the world as they were considered heretical sects of Christianity.  Their very existence to this day is the strongest evidence of the policy of Islamic government’s tolerance towards them.’[6]


The American author, Lothrop Stoddard wrote,


‘The caliph Umar took the utmost care to tend to the sanctity of the Christian holy places, and those who became caliph after him followed his footsteps.  They did not harass the many denominations of pilgrims who came annually from every corner of the Christian world to visit Jerusalem.’[7]


Historically, non-Muslims were treated with more tolerance among the Muslims than anything they experienced with other sects of their own religion.


Richard Stebbins spoke of the Christian experience under the rule of the Turks:


‘They (the Turks) allowed all of them, Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox, to preserve their religion and follow their consciences as they chose: they allowed them their churches to perform their sacred rituals in Constantinople and many other places.  This is in contrast to what I can testify to from living in Spain for twelve years; not only were we forced to attend their Papist celebrations, but our lives and the lives of our grandchildren were in danger also.’[8]


Sir Thomas Arnold mentions in his ‘Invitation to Islam’ that during the Ottoman rule there were many people in Italy at that time who longed for Ottoman rule.  They wished they could be granted the same freedom and tolerance that the Ottomans gave to their Christian subjects, for they had despaired of achieving it under any Christian government.  He also mentions that a great many Jews fled persecution in Spain at the end of the 15th century and took refuge in Ottoman Turkey.[9]


It is worth re-emphasizing the fact thatthe existence of non-Muslims and their churches, monasteries, temples and synagogues for centuries across the Muslim world, from Moorish Spain and Sub-Saharan Africa to Egypt, Syria, India, and Indonesia are clear evidence of the religious tolerance extended by Islam to people of other faiths.  This tolerance even contributedto the elimination of Muslims, such as in Spain, where the Christians took advantage of Muslim weakness and their political in-fighting, and nearly wiped them out from Spain through an inquisition in which they were killed, forced to convert, or expelled. The grand mosque of Granada and many other mosques were subsequently converted into churches.[10]


Etienne Denier wrote, ‘The Muslims are the opposite of what many people believe.  They never used force outside of the Hejaz[11].[12]

[1]Tritton, Arthur Stanley: ‘The People Of The Covenant In Islam.’ p. 158.

[2] Durant, Will: ‘The Story Of Civilization.’ vol. 13. p. 131-132.

[3]Arnold, Thomas, ‘Invitation To Islam,’ p. 102.

[4] Le Bon, Gustav, ‘Arab Civilization,’ p. 128

[5]  Quoted in Aayed, SalehHussain, ‘HuquqGhayr al-Muslimeen fi Biladil-Islam,’ p. 26

[6] Arnold, Thomas, ‘Invitation To Islam,’ p. 98-99

[7] Stoddard, L.W., ‘The Islamic World At Present,’ vol 1, p. 13-14

[8] Quoted in Al-Qaradawi, Yusuf, ‘al-Aqaliyyat ad-Diniyyah wa-Hal al-Islami,’ p. 56-57]

[9] Arnold, Thomas, ‘Invitation To Islam,’ p. 183

[10]Reconquista and the 16th century, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granada. Unfortunately, Muslims also turned the HagiaSofiya church built in 360 AD, in Istanbul, Turkey, into a mosque in 1453. In 1931, it was secularized and became a museum in 1935. For further details on this see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagia_Sophia.

[11]The Western part of Arabia that includes the cities of Mecca and Medina

[12] Denier, Etienne, ‘Muhammad: The Messenger of God,’ p. 332.

The many bombings and burnings of non-Muslim places of worship that we witness today are misguided and criminal acts that are blameworthy and condemnedby Islam. This is because Allah prohibits not only the destruction of the churches, monasteries and synagogues of non-Muslims, but He also prohibits reviling their deities. This prohibition from Allah goes beyond prohibition of destruction to full protection by Muslims and government forces. Whenever people of other faiths living peacefully and in harmony with Muslims are being oppressed even by Muslims, it is the duty of all God-fearing Muslims and their governments to protect them. Allah says:

ﭑ  ﭒ  ﭓ  ﭔ  ﭕ  ﭖ  ﭗ  ﭘ  ﭙ   ﭚ    ﭛ  ﭜ  ﭝ  ﭞ  ﭟ  ﭠ  ﭡ  ﭢ  ﭣ      ﭤ  ﭥ  ﭦ  ﭧ  ﭨ  ﭩ  ﭪ  ﭫ  ﭬ  ﭭ  ﭮ   ﭯ  ﭰ

“And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah, and forthe weak and oppressed (who are ill-treated) amongmen, women, and children, whose cry is, “Our Lord, Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect; and raise for us from You one who will help!”(Qur’an 4:75)



The purport of this verse may be understood in the statement of the great classical jurist of Islam, IbnHazm, mentioned earlier on. For the sake of emphasis, his poignant comment is worth repeating:


‘If we are attacked by an enemy nation who is targeting the People of the Covenant (non-Muslim citizens) living among us, it is our duty to come fully armed and ready to die in battle for them, to protect those people who are protected by the covenant of God and His Messenger.  Doing any less and surrendering them will be blameworthy neglect of a sacred promise.’[1]


Really, not protecting them would amount to, in the words of IbnHazm, a “blameworthy neglect of a sacred promise”.For, who else will come to their aid and help them? Allah says:

ﭝ  ﭞ  ﭟ  ﭠ  ﭡ       ﭢ  ﭣ       ﭤ   ﭥ  ﭦ  ﭧﭨ  ﭩ  ﭪ  ﭫ  ﭬ  ﭭ  ﭮ  ﭯ   ﭰ  ﭱ  ﭲ  ﭳ  ﭴ    ﭵ  ﭶ  ﭷ   ﭸﭹ  ﭺ  ﭻ  ﭼ  ﭽﭾ  ﭿ  ﮀ  ﮁ   ﮂ  ﮃ

“Had Allah not been repelling some people by means of some others, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques where Allah’s name is abundantly recited would have been demolished. Allah will definitely help those who help Him…” (Quran 22:40)


We should not forget also that one of the female companions, Umm Hani, said to the Prophet (on whom be peace):


“Messenger of God, my brother Ali claims that he is at war with a man whom I have granted asylum, a non-Muslim man byname IbnHubayrah.”


The Prophet (on whom be peace) answered her:


“Anyone you have given asylum to is under the protection of all of us, O Umm Hani.”


A notable fact therefore is that since the failure of an ardent advocate of democracy to adhere absolutely to its principle is never seen as a failure of democracy but of that of its advocate, the veering away of any Muslim from the teachings of Islam should be seen only as the failure of the follower but not of Islam. This is because it is Islam which defines who a Muslim is and not vice versa.


The beautiful teachings of Islam were demonstrated by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during the Arab revolution in Egypt when they protected the Coptic Christians who were worshiping in their churches from being attacked by extremist Muslims. This exemplary act was also demonstrated by Muslims inMinna and Kano in northern Nigeria during the fuel subsidy removal crisis on the eve of 2012.


Our clarion call goes therefore to Muslim leaders, scholars and activists to guide their followers to the true teachings of Islam with regards to non-Muslims.


We also call the attention of Christian leaders, clerics, and activists to their roles of distinguishing between actions of hooligans and criminals and the true teachings of Islam as evident from its authentic sources- the Qur’an and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.


Regarding the situation in Nigeria therefore, as with the situation anywhere else, both Muslims and Christians need to learn more about each other’s religion through various platforms of communication (dialogues, social interactions, etc.). This is to prevent their respective religions frombeing hijacked by anarchists and those working to destabilize the justice, peace, and progress that all the major religions preach.


In the end, we pray that this document serves its purpose of creating a better understanding of the respect for the peaceful and progressive interfaith relations that Islam prescribes and enjoins on its adherents.

[1]Qarafi, ‘al-Furuq,’ vol 3, p. 14

The Pledge of Prophet Muhammad, which he granted to the Monks of Mount Sinai and to Christians in general (as translated by John Davenport in his book An Apology for Mohammed and the Koran. 1869. Pages 147-151) is as follows:


“As God is great and governs, from whom all the prophets are come, for there remains no record of injustice against God; through the gifts that are given unto men, Mohammed, the son of AbdAllah, the Apostle of God, and careful guardian of the whole world, has written the present instrument, to all those that are his national people, and of his religion, as a secure and positive promise to be accomplished to the Christian nation and relations of the Nazarene, whosoever they may be, whether they be the noble or the vulgar, the honorable or otherwise, saying thus:


  1. “Whosoever of my nation thatpresumes to break my promise and oath which is contained in this present agreement, destroys the promise of God, acts contrary to the oath and will be a resister of the faith (which God forbid!) for he becomes worthy of the curse, whether he be the king himself or a poor man, or what person whosoever he may be.


  1. “That whenever any of the monks in his travels shall happen to settle on any mountain, hill, village, or in any other habitable place, on the sea or in deserts, or in any convent, church, or house of prayer, I shall be in the midst of them, as the preserver and protector of them, their goods and effects, with my soul, aid and protection, jointly with all my national people, because they are a part of my own people, and an honor to me.


III. “Moreover, I command all officers not to require any poll tax of them or any other tribute, because they shall not be forced or compelled to anything of this kind.


  1. “None shall presume to change their judges or governors, but they shall remain in their office without being deposed.


  1. “No one shall molest them when they are travelling on the road.


  1. “Whatever churches they are possessed of, no one is to deprive them of them.


VII. “Whosoever shall annul any of these my decrees, let him know positively that he annuls the ordinance of God.


VIII. “Moreover, neither their judges, governors, monks, servants, disciples, or any others depending on them, shall pay any poll tax or be molested on that account, because I am their protector, wheresoever they shall be, either by land or sea, east or west, north or south; because both they and all that belong to them are included in this my promissory oath and patent.


  1. “And of those that live quietly and solitary upon the mountains, they shall exact neither poll tax nor tithes from their incomes, neither shall any Mussulman (Muslim) partake of what they have, for they labor only to maintain themselves.


  1. “Whenever the crop of the earth shall be plentiful in its due time, the inhabitants shall be obliged, out of every bushel, to give them a certain measure.


  1. “Neither in time of war shall they take them out of their habitation, nor compel them to go to the wars, nor even then shall they require of them any poll-tax.”


In these eleven chapters is to be found whatever relates to the monks; as to the remaining seven chapters they direct what relates to every Christian.


XII. “Those Christians who are inhabitants, and with their riches and traffic are able to pay the poll-tax, shall pay no more than 12 drachmas (a silver coin).


XIII. “Excepting this, nothing more shall be required of them, according to the express word of God, that says: ‘Do not molest those that have a veneration for the Books that are sent from God, but rather, in a kind manner, give of your good things to them, and converse with them, and hinder everyone from molesting them.’


XIV. “If a Christian woman shall happen to marry a Mussulman, the Mussulman shall not cross the inclination of his wife to keep her from her chapel and prayers and the practice of her religion.*


  1. “That no person hinder (restrict) them from repairing their churches.


XVI. “Whosoever acts contrary to this my grant, or gives credit to anything contrary to it, becomes truly an apostate from God and his divine Apostle, because this protection I have granted to them according to this promise.


XVII. “No one shall bear arms against them, but, on the contrary, the Mussulmans shall wage war for them.


XVIII. “And by this I ordain that none of my nation shall presume to do or act contrary to this promise until the end of the world.



Ali the son of Abu Thaleb. (Ali bin Abu Talib)

Homar, the son of Hattavi. (Umar bin Khattab)

Ziphir, the son of Abuan. (Zubair bin Awwam)

Saith, the son of Maat. (Sa’id bin Mu’adh)

Thavitt, the son of Nesis. (Thabit bin Qais?)

Amphachin, the son of Hassan. (?)

Muathem, the son of Kasvi. (?)

Azur, the son of Jassin. (?)

Abombaker, the son of AmbiKaphe. (Abubakr bin AbiQuhafah)

Ottoman, the son of Gafas. (Uthman bin Affan)

Ambtelack, the son of Messutt. (Abdullah bin Mas’ud)

Phazer, the son of Abbas. (Fadl bin Abbas?)

Talat, the son of Amptolack. (Talhat bin Ubaidullah)

Saat the son of Abbatt.(Sa’ad bin Ubadah)

Kasmer the son of Abid. (?)

Ambtullack the son of Omar. (Abdullah bin Umar)


This document was writtenin the second year of Hegira (Hijra), the third day of the month of Machorem (Muharram).


* In line with the fourteenth provision of this pledge, during the Ottoman period, Muslim jurists gave the religious verdict that the Muslimson of a Christian mother is bound to convey her, when old or infirm, to the church door for worship, upon a beast (horse or a mule etc.); and should he be poor and possess no beast, he is bound to carry her on his shoulders.”[2]

[1] The spelling of the witnesses’ names appears to be a transliteration from the Turkish orthography. Names we (at the Da’wah Institute of Nigeria) believe we have identified are re-spelled and put in brackets. We put a question mark beside names we could not identify.

[2]John Davenport. An Apology for Mohammed and the Koran. 1869. Pages 147-151. The electronic copy of this book is available on http://www.scribd.com/doc/32657708/Apology-for-Mohammed-and-the-Koran (21/06/2012). Also available for free download on Google book platform.

Some Muslims argue that theAhl-al-Kitab (“People of the Book”, or “People of Earlier Revelation” before Prophet Muhammad) are no longer in existence. They say the present-day Christians and Jews – unlike those of the time of the Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace) – are not the same as those described in the Qur’an and Hadith as Ahl-al-Kitab,because among other reasons, they have corrupted the teachings of their scriptures and that their scriptures are no longer authentic.

However, the Qur’an speaks of the Christians at the time of the Prophet (on whom be peace) as having believed in the Trinity (Qur’an 4:171, 5:73) the divine Sonship of Jesus (Qur’an 9:30), the crucifixion of Jesus (Qur’an 4:157) and the belief that he and his mother (Mary) were divine or to be worshipped (Qur’an 5:116), etc. The Qur’an also states that some of the Arab Jews believed that Uzair was a son of God (Qur’an 9:30), and that some of the Ahl al-Kitab corrupted their scriptures (Qur’an 2:79). These beliefs are therefore not new or recent teachings of Judaism or Christianity.

In spite of all these, the Qur’an and the Prophet (on whom be peace) still considered these Christians and Jews as Ahl-al-Kitab (People of Earlier Revelations) and permitted conditional intermarriage and eating of what they slaughter, etc. (Qur’an 22:17; 5:5).

To believe that there are no more Ahl-al-Kitab existing today would also indirectly imply an abrogation or even irrelevance (for all present and practical purposes) of all references in the Qur’an or Hadith to Ahl-al-Kitab (Qur’an 3:64; 5:82; 22:17 etc.).

In fact, among the hadith literature on the Signs of the Last Day are some that indicate the continued presence of Jews and Christians.

All the major classical literatures of Islamic jurisprudence that discuss issues related to the Ahl al-Kitab have assumed their continued existence to this day.

It is interesting to note that some of the contemporary scholars who claim that the Ahl al-Kitab no longer exist, still quote verses of the Qur’an when referring to the beliefs and actions of present-day Jews and Christians![1]

The Jews and Christians of today therefore, are still members of the religious community described in the Qur’an as Ahl al-Kitab, and should be honoured as such. And Allah knows best!

[1]For further reading on the various views of scholars regarding who the “Ahl-al-Kitab” are, and whether they still exist today, see The Identity and Existence of Ahl al-Kitab in the relevant sections of the Train the Trainers Course in Islam and Dialogue material (produced by the Islamic Education Trust, Minna, Nigeria). Also see Sheikh Khalid Abdul-Qadir, Fiqh al-Aqalliyat al-Muslimah(Lebanon: Darul-Iman, 1998) p.26-27; Zaidan, Al Mufassal fi Ahkam al Mar’ah, (Mu’assasat al Risalah, Beirut, 1993)Vol. 6, p.307; Rashid Rida, Tafsir al Manar, Vol. 6, p.190; Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, AhkamAhl al-Dhimmahin CD Rom of MaktabahIbnTaymiyyah, Ibn al-Qayyim and IbnJawzy; Qurtubi, Al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Qur’an, (Dar al-Kutub Beirut 2001) Vol. 6, p.11; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahl_al-Kitab  (21/06/2006)

The Qur’an says the following about the jizyah:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (Quran 9:29)

According to Muhammad Asad, in his commentary of this verse:

“… Jizyah is no more and no less than an exemption tax in lieu of military service and in compensation for the “covenant of protection” (dhimmah) accorded to such citizens by the Islamic state…. No fixed rate has been set either by the Qur’an or the Prophet for this tax; but from all available Traditions (Hadith), it is evident that it is to be considerably lower than the tax called zakah (“purifying dues”) to which Muslims are liable and which – because it is a specifically Islamic religious duty – is naturally not to be levied on non-Muslims. Only such of the non-Muslims citizens who, if they were Muslims, would be exempted to serve in the armed forces of the state are liable to the payment of jizyah, provided that they can easily afford it. Accordingly, all non-Muslim citizens whose personal status or condition would automatically free them from the obligation to render military service are statutorily – that is, on the basis of clear-cut ordinances promulgated by the Prophet – exempted from the payment of jizyah:… All non-Muslim citizens who volunteer for military service are obviously exempted from the payment of jizyah.”[2]

It is worth noting that respected contemporary Muslim thinkers such as Syed AbulAla-Maududi was of the position that Christians in Pakistan should not pay jizyah because they were not conquered or made subjects as a result of a treaty – which is part of the justification for jizyah in the Qur’an (9:29) and from the relevant Hadith on this subject.[3]

[1]For further reading on jizyah, see the following useful sources: Boisard, Marcel A.: Humanism in Islam. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Islamic Book Trust, 2003; Ramadan, Said: Islamic Law: Its Scope and Equity. U.K., Macmillan, 1961; Hussain, S. Showkat, Minorities: Islam And The Nation State. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Islamic Book Trust, p.26-29; 36; and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jizya


[2] See Asad, Muhammad:  The Message of the Qur’an. Gibraltar: Dar Al-Andalus, 1980. Footnote 43, page 262.

[3] See Maududi, A. A., Nazariyyat al-Islam waHadiyyah, Al Dar al-Saudia, Saudi Arabia, p.304, cited in Hussain, S. Showkat, Minorities: Islam And The Nation State. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Islamic Book Trust, 1997, p.39.

Below is an excerpt from a statement by the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, on Security Tips to Churches and Mosques[1]. Please study these tips carefully and act promptly, so as to enhance your awareness on security around you. Also, kindly give it the widest publicity it deserves.

  1. Churches/Mosques should carry out risk assessment and vulnerability surveys to enable them determine the level of risk they are exposed to.
  2. Establishment of standard security and safety committees by Churches/Mosques.
  3. Formulation of appropriate security measures by such Established Committees in close working relationship with the local police authority and other relevant security agencies.
  4. Organizing training workshops and seminars for committee members as possible options for Churches’/Mosques’ consideration.
  5. Ushers in Churches should be encouraged to perform additional security duties.
  6. Ushers should be given extra trainings and briefings on security.
  7. Competency and individual pedigree, rather than mere looks should be the yardstick for appointing ushers.
  8. Churches/Mosques may consider erecting barriers to help human and vehicular traffic away from designated areas.
  9. Church/Mosque officials are advised to make conscious efforts to know their members. This will make it easier for them to spot and identify strangers and intruders.
  10. Churches/Mosques in restive areas must avoid the temptation of isolating themselves from the public or their host community. They must avoid the “fortress mentality”. They are encouraged to go into the society and play positive roles in solving the problems of the community and changing the society for good. They must build bridges and build bonds.
  11. They should strive to build strong relationships with local security agencies (police, military, fire service, etc.) and encourage seamless flow of information between themselves and the agencies.
  12. Worshipers should park their vehicles at designated distances away from the places of worship. Worshipers who reside close to the places of worship are encouraged to walk rather than drive to the worship centers. This will reduce the number of cars around the worship centers.
  13. Worshipers should be discouraged from entering the worship centers with handbags, briefcases and other similar items.
  14. There is need for perimeter fencing of all places of worship to prevent invaders from gaining cheap access, especially during prayers/services.
  15. There is need for training of Churches/Mosques guards by the law enforcement agents to meet up with their responsibilities at their duty posts.
  16. Churches/Mosques are advised to invest on modern security gadgets such as CCTV cameras, scanners, etc.
  17. The officials and worshipers at Churches and Mosques should be ready to partner and cooperate with the security agencies deployed to their places of worship on Sundays and Fridays.
  18. People should avoid rushing to the scene of incidents, especially explosions, so as to avoid distorting the scene of the crime and exposing themselves to further danger.
  19. The youth and other members of the congregation must be sufficiently sensitized on the need to always allow the security agencies unrestricted access to scenes of incidents in all emergency situations.
  20. Worshipers should be advised to return to their various homes rather than clustering/loitering around the worship centers after Sunday services or Friday (Jummat) prayers.
  21. Worshipers should be security conscious and report all suspicious characters and observations to the police.


The statement concluded: “Altogether, we concede that the concept of absolute security is almost impossible, nonetheless, we believe that with adequate advance planning and systematic synergy amongst the officials of various places of worship, the worshippers, the host community and the law enforcement agencies, the risk of criminal attacks on our places of worship could be reduced almost to zero level.”

[1]Source: “The Nation” Newspaper(Nigeria), Wednesday, 27th June, 2012, page 4. Also available on:www.thenationonlineng.net/2011/index.php/news/51814-terrorism-igp-gives-security-tips-to-church-mosques.html