Islam is the religion of all prophets. Muslims
believe that all the prophets were sent to their respective peoples from God (Allah). They all had the same mission and message
- guiding people to the right path.
The three revealed, monotheistic
religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, go back to Abraham. The prophets of these religions were directly descended from
him - Moses, Jesus and others from Isaac, but Muhammad from IsmaŒil. It was Prophet Abraham who had established the settlement
which today is the city of Makkah, and with his son IsmaŒil built the KaŒbah, which Muslims all over the world face
when they pray.
Christians and Jews hold a special
place in Islam. They are called the People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab), since the original Torah and Gospel were also divinely
revealed and they shared in the prophetic tradition. Islamic states have nearly always shown their religious minorities tolerance
and respect and those communities flourished under Islamic rule. God says:
"...[T]hose who believe (in
the message of Islam), and the Jews, the Sabaeans, and the Christians - all those who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and
act righteously - no fear shall come upon them..." [5:69]
Setting up the Islamic state in
Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) further warned:
"Whoever oppresses any Dhimmi
(non-Muslim citizen of the Islamic state), I shall be his prosecutor on the Day of Judgment."
In setting up the Islamic state,
Prophet Muhammad made it inclusive of the Arabian Jews and Christians. Their persons, properties, churches and synagogues
were protected, freedom of worship was guaranteed, and they controlled their own community affairs with their own civil and
religious laws and courts. For most of the first century of the Islamic state, in fact, the majority of the citizens were
Christians, enjoying peace and liberty such as they had not had even under Christian Rome or Byzantium.
The Jews, from the very beginning
in Madinah, and later everywhere else, were lifted from the burden of being clients of individual Arab tribes to being citizens
of the state, thus freeing them to focus on their Jewish ness. When the Islamic state expanded outside Arabia the Jews of
other lands were treated for the first time as liberated citizens. Judaism flourished as never before, with Jews even serving
in Muslim armies and administrations while their culture bloomed in the arts, sciences, medicine and philosophy. This knowledge
they transmitted to their brethren in the hostile climate of Christian Europe. Even Jewish mysticism originated under the
influence of Sufism and spread to northern Europe.
When Islam reached Persia the concept
of People of the Book was extended to the Zoroastrians as well. Later, when the Muslims conquered parts of India and encountered
Buddhists and Hindus, who appeared to worship idols, the question was referred to the ulema (council of scholars), who judged
that even they could have the same protected status as the Jews and Christians, so long as they did not fight Islam and they
paid the Jizyah tax.