Religious Freedom of Non-Muslims
It is a right for the people of the Book to practice the laws of their religion, judges and courts, enforcing the rules of their own religion among themselves. Their churches or temples are not to be demolished nor are their crosses [religious symbols] to be broken.
اتركوهم وما يدينونه
The Messenger of Allah said, “Leave them to what they worship.”
Additionally, it is the right of a Christian or Jewish spouse of a Muslim is that she is taken to the church or to the temple. And it is not the right of her husband to prevent her from going.
Islām permits them the foods that their religion allows for food or otherwise. Swine are not killed because of them nor is their wine destroyed as long as it is permitted to them. Therefore they have more latitude than the Muslims, who are prohibited from wine and eating pork.
They have the freedom in the laws of marriage, divorce and charity and to conduct these affairs as they wish without any conditions or limits.
Their honor and rights are under the protection of Islām and they are given freedom to the right of deliberation and discussions within the limits of reason and decorum, while adhering to respect, good conduct and avoiding rudeness and harshness. Allah says:
وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَأُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَإِلَهُنَا وَإِلَهُكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ
And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our God and your God is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)."
وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّى يَسْمَعَ كَلاَمَ اللّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لاَّ يَعْلَمُونَ
If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.
This also shows that even if unbelievers come to the Muslims, seeking to live and work in their nation for any reason, it is ordered to grant them safety and security to demonstrate the great care and compassion Islam takes in the care of others. Then such are free to move where they like. This clarifies the understanding that combative Jihād is only against transgressors.
In the view of some schools, Islam equates the punishments for Muslims and non-Muslims except for those things permitted in their faith such as drinking wine or eating pork.
Islām makes lawful eating what the People of the Book slaughter and Muslim men are permitted to marry their women where Allah says:
الْيَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتُ وَطَعَامُ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ حِلٌّ لَّكُمْ وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلُّ لَّهُمْ وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْمُحْصَنَاتُ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ إِذَا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسَافِحِينَ وَلاَ مُتَّخِذِي أَخْدَانٍ ...
This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues...
Islām sanctions visiting and counseling their sick, offering them guidance and dealing with them in business. It is established that when the Messenger of Allah passed to his Lord, his armor was given as credit for a debt from a Jewish person.
In another case, when some of the Companions sacrificed a sheep the Prophet said to his servant, “Give this to our Jewish neighbor.”
It is obligatory for the leader of the Muslims (caliph) to protect those of them who are in Muslim lands just as he would Muslims and to seek the release of those of them who are captured by the enemy. The Messenger of Allah forbade killing a covenanter when he said:
مَنْ قَتَلَ مُعَاهِداً، لَمْ يَرَحْ رَائِحَةَ الجَنَّةِ
The one who kills a convenanter will not smell the fragrance of paradise.
And it can be truly said that in Arab and Muslim nations, the Christians, the Jews and all other non-Muslims are in fact covenanters, for they pay their taxes supporting the nation’s standing army, so it is the duty of the ruler to protect the safety of the covenanter. The concept of a covenant of protection, while not explicitly spelled out today, is fulfilled through government taxation.
The popular, yet controversial, Islamic scholar Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaradāwī said:
Jihād is an obligation on everyone but not killing and fighting.
Citing Ibn Qayyim’s division of Jihād into thirteen different levels including struggle against the ego, shaytan, the establishment of education, etc., only one of them being combat against an aggressor, Shaykh al-Qaradāwī states:
Whoever looks into the sources as to the understanding of Jihād, will see that one can be a mujāhid [of the 13 categories] but it is not necessary to be a combatant; that is only when combat is forced on you by the invasion of your country.