Permissibility of dealing with Jews and Christians as People of the Book

Q: Islam abrogates the Divine Religions that were revealed before it, as Allah says in the Qur'an: And whoever seeks a religion other than Islâm, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers. The Kufr (disbelief) of the People of the Book, the Jews and the Christians, is explained in many Ayahs (Qur'anic verses). Why then does Islam not deal with them as Kafirs (disbelievers), instead it allows them to remain following their religions, which have been proved to be distorted and fabricated? And why does it permit Muslims to marry the women of the People of the Book and eat their food? Can the present day Christians be called the People of the Book, and does the same ruling apply to them?

A: Firstly: The basis of the Din (religion) that all the prophets conveyed was the same, it was Islam. Allah (Exalted be He) says: Truly, the religion with Allâh is Islâm. As for its subsidiary matters, the laws, this is where they differ and where Naskh (abrogation) is applicable. Allah (Exalted be He) says: To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way. It is authentically reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "I am the closest person to `Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary), in this world and in the Hereafter. All the prophets are brothers, although their mothers were different, their religion is one." (Related by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, and others, and this narration is by Al-Bukhari). It is only the subsidiary matters that are subject to Naskh, not the bases, as Allah (Exalted be He) says: And who turns away from the religion of Ibrâhîm (Abraham) (i.e. Islâmic Monotheism) except him who befools himself? Truly, We chose him in this world and verily, in the Hereafter he will be among the righteous. When his Lord said to him, "Submit (i.e. be a Muslim)!" He said, "I have submitted myself (as a Muslim) to the Lord of the ‘Alamîn (mankind, jinn and all that exists)." And this (submission to Allâh, Islâm) was enjoined by Ibrâhîm (Abraham) upon his sons and by Ya‘qûb (Jacob) (saying), "O my sons! Allâh has chosen for you the (true) religion, then die not except in the Faith of Islâm (as Muslims - Islâmic Monotheism)." Or were you witnesses when death approached Ya‘qûb (Jacob)? When he said unto his sons, "What will you worship after me?" They said, "We shall worship your Ilâh (God - Allâh), the Ilâh (God) of your fathers, Ibrâhîm (Abraham), Ismâ‘îl (Ishmael), Ishâq (Isaac), One Ilâh (God), and to Him we submit (in Islâm)." (Part No. 3; Page No. 418)  Secondly: Allah permits Muslims to eat the food of the people who were given the Book, and this refers to their slaughtered meat, as evidenced in the following Ayah from Surah Al-Ma'idah: The food (slaughtered cattle, eatable animals) of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) is lawful to you and yours is lawful to them. (Lawful to you in marriage) are chaste women from the believers and chaste women from those who were given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) before your time when you have given their due Mahr (bridal-money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage), desiring chastity (i.e. taking them in legal wedlock) not committing illegal sexual intercourse, nor taking them as girl-friends. Islam also permits Muslims to marry the women of the People of the Book if they are free and chaste, whether they are Jews or Christians, although Allah (Exalted be He) describes the Jews and the Christians in the same Surah as Kafirs. He (Exalted be He) says: Surely, in disbelief are they who say that Allâh is the Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary). He (Exalted be He) also says: And (both) the Jews and the Christians say: "We are the children of Allâh and His loved ones." Allah also says: And the Jews say: ‘Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allâh, and the Christians say: Messiah is the son of Allâh. That is their saying with their mouths, resembling the saying of those who disbelieved aforetime. Allâh’s Curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth! They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allâh (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allâh), and (they also took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they (Jews and Christians) were commanded [in the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] to worship none but One Ilâh (God - Allâh) Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Praise and glory be to Him (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)." They (the disbelievers, the Jews and the Christians) want to extinguish Allâh’s Light (with which Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم has been sent - Islâmic Monotheism) with their mouths, but Allâh will not allow except that His Light should be perfected even though the Kâfirûn (disbelievers) hate (it). It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islâm), to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikûn (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh) hate (it). (Part No. 3; Page No. 419) Allah (Exalted be He) says: Surely, disbelievers are those who said: “Allâh is the third of the three (in a Trinity).” There are also other similar Ayahs in the same Surah. Thirdly: Allah specifies the Jews and the Christians when He gives Muslims the permission to eat their slaughtered meat, to marry their free and chaste women, and also to take the Jizyah (poll tax required from non-Muslims living in an Islamic state) from them, saying: Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allâh, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allâh and His Messenger Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islâm) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. He specified them, because they are the People of the Books that were previously revealed and they are therefore closer to the Muslims than the other Kafirs. This was why the Muslims rejoiced at their victory against the Persians after their earlier defeat, and Allah acknowledges the Muslims' happiness on this event by saying: (Part No. 3; Page No. 420)  The Romans have been defeated. In the nearest land (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine), and they, after their defeat, will be victorious. Within three to nine years. The decision of the matter, before and after (these events) is only with Allâh, (before the defeat of the Romans by the Persians, and after the defeat of the Persians by the Romans). And on that Day, the believers (i.e. Muslims) will rejoice (at the victory given by Allâh to the Romans against the Persians) - With the help of Allâh. He helps whom He wills, and He is the All-Mighty, the Most Merciful. (It is) a Promise of Allâh (i.e. Allâh will give victory to the Romans against the Persians), and Allâh fails not in His Promise, but most of men know not. However, Allah (Exalted be He) neither permits them to persist in their Kufr of Him nor approves of the distortions they have made to His Books and their denial of the Message of His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah permits the Muslims to refrain from fighting them or taking them as captives, if they willingly agree to pay the Jizyah, unlike the other Kafirs. And this is the opinion of the Jumhur (the dominant majority of scholars).May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.