I've heard this story a few times, and I'm wondering if it's actually true.

Basically, the story goes something like: a non-Muslim was being punished under sharia, but instead of using the Qur'an, the judge used the non-Muslim's holy book for sentencing.

Question: Is it true that non-Muslims are punished under sharia according to their holy book (e.g., the Bible)?

  • Yes it is true. I've answered questions where the relevant ahadith are quoted, i think it was under tafsir tag. See also history.stackexchange.com/q/25952/13543
    – Medi1Saif
    May 13, 2017 at 9:43
  • That sounds like an oversimplification; in disputes between Muslims and Non-Muslims, in matters of blasphemy against Islam, in violation of the dhimma, and probably a bunch of other issues Non-Muslims will be judged under sharia.
    – G. Bach
    May 13, 2017 at 10:05
  • This is the post I meant islam.stackexchange.com/questions/35735/… G.Bach however has a point I'm not sure about the situation if there's a dispute between a Muslim and a person among people of the book.
    – Medi1Saif
    May 13, 2017 at 14:31
  • Then there's the obvious issue of Non-Muslims who don't follow a scripture; I don't know much about vedic texts, so not sure whether the Jains or Buddhists or Hindus have any legal codes in their texts, but the norse or graeco-roman pagans (those still exist) pretty much don't, I doubt shamanistic peoples do, and irreligious people clearly don't.
    – G. Bach
    May 13, 2017 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


This is not true. The statement in the question is perhaps a wrong oversimplification of the following facts:

  • Non-Muslims are not punished for drinking wine, as long as they do it privately. The reason for this is that wine is permissible or even required in their religion and such private religious concessions are granted as part of the treaty of Dhimma.

  • Some madhabs allow for non-muslims to judge themselves in their private matters in which there is no Muslim affected. And some allow for Muslims to refuse passing judgement in the disputes between non-muslims - in which case they are free to instead get a judgement from their own rabbis and priests. This is based on:

    فاحكم بينهم أو أعرض عنهم

    Judge between them or turn away from them

    Quran 5:42

    However this concession is disputed, since this verse was revealed regarding the Jews of Medinah in the early period, who were not Dhimmis. And there are traditions that it has been abrogated by 5:49 which does not give this choice.

  • Some minority opinions deviate on specific matters regarding legal punishments on non-muslims. For example the Malikis according to one saying do not impose the punishment of Zina on a non-muslim. While the Hanafis dispute whether non-muslims can be stoned to death for adultery. And similarly there are a few other aberrant opinions. However this is because of their interpretation of some ahadith and traditions and not because of what non-muslim scriptures say (The Torah actually prescribes execution or stoning on the Jews for adultery).

  • There is an incident where the Prophet passed a sentence on some Jews and asked them for the law of the Torah. However the law of the Torah in this case is the same as the law in Islam, so it is not evidence on anything where the Torah might deviate from the Quran.

If a Muslim ruler judges between non-muslims he must always judge according to the laws in the Quran and he can not judge according to un-Islamic sources, including the scriptures of the non-muslims when they contradict the Quran:

وأن احكم بينهم بما أنزل الله ولا تتبع أهواءهم واحذرهم أن يفتنوك عن بعض ما أنزل الله إليك

And judge, [O Muhammad], between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations and beware of them, lest they tempt you away from some of what Allah has revealed to you.

Quran 5:49

فاحكم بينهم بما أنزل الله ولا تتبع أهواءهم عما جاءك من الحق

So judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth.

Quran 5:48

وفي جميع الأحوال إذا حكم القاضي المسلم بين غير المسلمين لا يحكم إلا بالشريعة الإسلامية

In all cases, if a Muslim judges between non-Muslims he will only judge according to Islamic law

Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah

Hence it is not possible for a Muslim judge to use the non-Muslim's holy book for sentencing.

Further, as far as the Hudud punishments are concerned, scholars have noted there is no distinction if the perpetrator is a Muslim or non-Muslim - both get the same punishment which is obligated in the Quran:

وأما الذمي فهو فيما سوى حد الشرب كالمسلم إجماعا

As for a Dhimmi then other than the legal punishment of drinking he is like a Muslim by consensus

Jawharah an-Nayyirah

وأما الذمي فيجب عليه جميع الحدود اتفاقا إلا حد الخمر

As for a Dhimmi it is obligatory to impose on him all legal punishments and this is agreed upon, except the Hadd of drinking wine

Al-Bahr ar-Raiq

The Quranic verses on the punishment of fornication (24:2), theft (5:38), robbery (5:33), slander (24:4) etc. are general and their wording does not differentiate between whether the perpetrator is a Muslim or Non-Muslim. Hence they apply equally to non-muslim citizens despite the fact that many of these punishments are different from the Bible.

  • This answer reads to me like it suggests the answer to the question is "yes" instead "in some cases, not in others"; it would be useful to at least mention legal cases that involve a Muslim and a kafir, blasphemy offenses, kuffar that don't follow a scripture, issues of dhimma and restriction of religious rights (for example, Christian texts will not prohibit wearing a gold cross in public, but the dhimma may well), and other areas of conflict.
    – G. Bach
    May 23, 2017 at 11:39

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