Definition of People of the Book
In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.
It is a consensus of the Muslim Ummah that the word ‘book’ is where there exists a certitude, confirmed by the Holy Qur’an to be the Book of Allah, for instance, the Torah, Evangile, Zabur (Psalms) and other scriptures of Saaiduna Musa Alayhis Salam and Saaiduna Ibrahim Alayhis Salam.
Therefore, people who believe in a book but this book does not stand proved through the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith shall not be included under the term ‘People of the Book.’
This tells us that the Jews and Christians who are believers of the Torah and the Evangile respectively are included in the term of ‘People of the Book.’
Mufti Shafi (RA) has said if the Jews and Christians accept and believe in a scripture and claim to follow it- they still be considered as the ‘People of the Book’ even though they may have altered the Torah and the Evangile.
Those to whom the Holy Qur’an gave the title of The People of the Book were also those about whom it said at several places that these people distort their scriptures. It also said that the Jews took Saaiduna Uzair Alayhis Salam as the son of God and the Christians did the same to Saaiduna Masih Alayhis Salam. When, despite what they were and what they did, the Holy Qur’an insisted on calling them the People of the Book, it becomes evident that-unless the Jews and Christians were to abandon Judaism and Christianity totally-they shall continue to be the People of the Book, no matter how involved in false beliefs they are.(Maariful Quran p.61 v.3)
However, it should be borne in mind that nowadays atheist Jews and Christians would not be considered as People of the Book, hence, their slaughter would not be lawful and nor would a Muslim be allowed to marry their women. (Maariful Quran p.63 v.3)
Only Allah Knows Best
Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham