The Value Placed on the People of the Book in the Qur'an
Today both the Muslims and the People of the Book are engaged in a broadening struggle against immoralities such as sexual perversions or drug addiction. Each of these three religions accepts chastity, honesty and self-sacrifice as the greatest virtues.
Today all good things have been made halal [lawful] for you.And the food of those given the Book [Jews and Christians] is also halal for you and your food is halal for them. So are chaste women from among the believers and chaste women of those given the Book before you [Jews and Christians], once you have given them their dowries in marriage, not in fornication or taking them as lovers. But as for anyone who rejects faith, his actions will come to nothing and in the hereafter he will be among the losers. (Qur'an, 5:5)
This verse describes the value that Muslims place on the People of the Book with various pieces of important detail. According to this verse, a Muslim man is allowed to marry a woman of the People of the Book. This is a significant permission, because as commanded in the verse, "Corrupt women are for corrupt men and corrupt men are for corrupt women, good women are for good men and good men are for good women…" (Qur'an, 24:26), Muslims have a responsibility to marry good, clean people. This indicates that Jews and Christians are also good, clean people.
In addition, there is a very important criterion in this verse. A Muslim will intend to take a Jewish or Christian woman as his wife, to call her "darling" or "beloved," to start a family with her, to spend his life with her and even to spend eternal life with her. This is the sole person throughout his life with whom he will share all his troubles and all his happiness. These two look after one another when they are ill, and trust one another.
According to the fanatics' way of thinking, however, a person should feel enmity toward the woman he calls "beloved," with whom he spends his life and entrusts his own life to, the mother of his children, and declare her to be cursed only because she is a Christian or a Jew. One would have to be profoundly psychologically disturbed to do that. This verse describes the love to be shown to a Jew or Christian by a rational Muslim who heeds the Qur'an.
The verse also bestows a special authorization on Muslims: the authority to eat food prepared by the People of the Book. This is very important. As we know, Muslims have to pay great attention to certain prohibitions when preparing food; pork, and meat from an animal that has not been slaughtered in the name of God, is prohibited in Islam. The fact that food prepared by Jews and Christians is made lawful shows that these people are to be trusted. The same thing also applies to Christians and Jews, and the verse makes food prepared by Muslims lawful for them.
It will also be useful to refer to another expression of friendship here. The People of the Book and Muslims can eat together under the same roof, be one another's guests, sit down at the same table and play host to one another. This is a description of friendship. What is being described is not an environment based on hatred and killing, but one of love, friendship and brotherhood.
This is not the only verse to set out the position of the People of the Book. God praises the People of the Book in many of the Qur'an's verses. The related verses include:
Among the people of Moses there is a group who guide by the truth and act justly in accordance with it. (Qur'an, 7:159)
They are not all the same. There is a community among the People of the Book who are upright. They recite God's signs throughout the night, and they prostrate. They have faith in God and the Last Day, and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and compete in doing good. They are among the righteous ones. They will not be denied the reward for any good thing they do. God knows those who have fear of God. (Qur'an, 3:113-115)
Among the people of the Book there are some who have faith in God and in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down to them, and who are humble before God. They do not sell God's signs for a paltry price. Such people will have their reward with their Lord. And God is swift at reckoning. (Qur'an, 3:199)
As these verses clearly show, pure and sincere Jews and Christians are praised with fine words in the Qur'an and are promised a fine reward by God; God says that He will take these people into paradise. This is an expression of His love. How can a Muslim be the enemy of someone whom God loves, is pleased with and welcomes into paradise? That is impossible according to the Qur'an. Such enmity is a crime according to the Qur'an. Therefore, the fanatics who adopt false hadiths as their guide – despite the verses of the Qur'an clearly demonstrating the contrary – are committing an offense in the view of Islam by spreading hostility toward the People of the Book.
What needs to be done is to invite the People of the Book to Islam using pleasant words, and then to leave the decision up to them.
In the Qur'an, Christians and Jews are defined as the People of the Book, and there is a command to show respect, mercy and kindness to them. Both Christians and Jews believe in God and share the same moral values as Muslims.