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Ahl al-Kitāb

Ahl al-Kitāb. ‘People of the Book’, i.e. possessing a scripture; the name given by the Qurʾān to the Jewish (Banū Isrāʾīl) and Christian (Naṣārā) communities, possessors respectively of the Tawrāt (Torah) and Zabūr (Psalms) and of the Injīl (Gospel), and later extended by Muslim law to the Sabeans and the Zoroastrians. To these people was given the status of dhimma, ‘protection’. Although the Qurʾān allows them to keep their own religion, and affords them protection, they are expected to pay a special tribute, the jizya (9.29). Because of this special status, it is a vital issue in community relations whether the category can be extended to include others, e.g., Hindus.

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