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People of the Book

 

People of the Book

 

Ahl -e- Kitaab

O believers, Observe your duty to Allah rightly, and die not except as Muslims’. (3,102)

Prophet Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi wasallam) was chosen as the final Messenger from Allah (swt). He was created to bring the ‘Qur’an’ the final testament to the people and through his way and teachings, become an example forever. Muslims and Non-Muslims have asked the question that if Islam is the true path of belief and following Prophet Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi wasallam) is the only acceptable way, then what happened to the followers of the previous Prophets.


The previous books revealed such as the Gospel – Ingeel, Psalms – Zabur, Torah – Torat at the time of revelation were the books of God. The question was once asked that why was the Qur’an, which is the complete and true guidance for mankind, not revealed instead of these previous testaments. The previous books were revealed to specific nations according to their times and situations. The followers of all the previous Prophets (Alayahi Salaam) were on the true path as was revealed. Therefore those nations who existed at the time of the previous Prophets (As) and followed their teachings will go to Paradise inshallah. Allah (swt) sent His Prophets (As) with divine teachings, and upon certain points revealed Books of revelations. However as time passed these books of guidance were lost or changed by the followers as they eventually began to err from the rightly guided path, finding themselves either destroyed or completely lost. Allah (swt) then sent His Final and most elevated Messenger; Prophet Muhammad (Salla lahu Alayhi Wa'ale Hi Wasallam) to bring the final guidance and complete revelation. Te difference between the previous books and the universal Message given to Prophet Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi wasallam) was that Al Qur'an is for the whole of mankind and until the end of time. Whereas the previous books as revealed to past Messengers of Allah (swt), were only for a certain time and specific nation. Allah (swt) has Infinite wisdom and therefore plans in a way that only He understands. Allah (swt) had to prepare the whole of mankind to receive the
Final Criterion.

This is similar to the education process in schools.
First we have nursery when our learning and understanding are at an elementary stage. We then progress to Primary school and Secondary as we are developing and learning in more detail. Eventually there is higher education of College and University. This comparison shows how education and knowledge needs to be in accordance with our level of understanding and development. We cannot be expected to do a PhD degree after only receiving Primary school education.

Allah (swt) makes it clear that when the Final Messenger; Prophet Muhammad (Salla lahu Alayhi Wa'ale Hi Wasallam) brought the revelations of the Qur’an, this was now accepted as the only true path of guidance. As authentic hadith explains that all the people of previous books were the rightly guided until they were replaced by the Qur’an. Those followers now had to leave behind their previous beliefs and accept the Qur’an and Sunnah. They would be non-believers if they chose to continue with their previous faith. Prophet Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi wasallam) once said to Hasrat Umar Ibn Khattab (ra) that even if Prophet Moses – Musa (as) was alive in this time he would also have to follow the Qur’an and would be a follower of the Final Messenger (salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi wasallam) . In Al Qur'an, Allah (swt) made a pact with all the Prophets (Alayhi Salaam) that He would bestow upon them the Book and Wisdom, they must in return promise to believe in and follow the Final Messenger; Sayyidina Muhammad (Salla lahu Alayhi Wa'ale Hi Wasallam). If the Final Messenger (salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi wasallam) was to be sent in their lifetime they would no longer be the messenger of their time and instead would be the follower of Prophet Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi wasallam). Ofcourse we know that Allah (swt) was going to send His Final Messenger (Salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi Wasallam) after the previous Prophets (As), but this ayah shows the elevated rank of Prophet Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi wasallam) (Al Qur'aan. 3,81). The term ‘Ahl –e- Kitaab’ meaning the People of the book, is often mis-understood as the people of all previous books. Some Muslims even believe that we can continue to marry people as long as they are followers of a revealed book. This is a gross mis-conception.

‘O believers, if you obey a party of those who received the scripture they make you disbelievers after your belief‘. (3,100)

The Qur’an and Sunnah only distinguishes between believers in Islam and Non-believers in Islam. The faith of these non-believers whether they are idolaters, Christians, Hindus or Jews is of no consequence. They are non-believers – Kafir and away from the guidance. The followers of the Gospel, Torah etc may have been the rightly guided when their books were revealed but have long since been changed and been lost, the point is that even if those books still existed in their original form they have now been replaced with the
Final revelation – Al-Qur’an. Any revelations in regard to acceptability of marrying Christians and Jews, who had previously received revelations have been abrogated by the verses above.


So we need to remove this very common mis-conception of who are the ‘people of the book’. They are the followers of the Final and complete revelation, therefore we need to understand the ayat – verse from Surah Al-Imran.

'The religion with Allah is Islam, those who previously received the book differed after knowledge came to them, through transgression among themselves'.

(Surah Ali - Imran 3,19)