I wonder whether Islam categorises a Christian as a polytheist or Ahl Al Kitab? This is very important to know since the Qur'an teaches differently about these two categories in matters concerning marriage.

وَلَا تَنْكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكٰتِ حَتّٰى يُؤْمِنَّ ۚ وَلَأَمَةٌ مُّؤْمِنَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ مُّشْرِكَةٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَتْكُمْ ۗ وَلَا تُنْكِحُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَتّٰى يُؤْمِنُوا ۚ وَلَعَبْدٌ مُّؤْمِنٌ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ مُّشْرِكٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكُمْ ۗ أُولٰٓئِكَ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى النَّارِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ يَدْعُوٓا إِلَى الْجَنَّةِ وَالْمَغْفِرَةِ بِإِذْنِهِۦ ۖ وَيُبَيِّنُ ءَايٰتِهِۦ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ

"And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing slave woman is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing slave is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you. Those invite [you] to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. And He makes clear His verses to the people that perhaps they may remember." (2:221)

الْيَوْمَ أُحِلَّ لَكُمُ الطَّيِّبٰتُ ۖ وَطَعَامُ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتٰبَ حِلٌّ لَّكُمْ وَطَعَامُكُمْ حِلٌّ لَّهُمْ ۖ وَالْمُحْصَنٰتُ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنٰتِ وَالْمُحْصَنٰتُ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتٰبَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ إِذَآ ءَاتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ أُجُورَهُنَّ مُحْصِنِينَ غَيْرَ مُسٰفِحِينَ وَلَا مُتَّخِذِىٓ أَخْدَانٍ ۗ وَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالْإِيمٰنِ فَقَدْ حَبِطَ عَمَلُهُۥ وَهُوَ فِى الْأَاخِرَةِ مِنَ الْخٰسِرِينَ

"This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. And [lawful in marriage are] chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you, when you have given them their due compensation, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse or taking [secret] lovers. And whoever denies the faith - his work has become worthless, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers." (5:5)

Christians: Polytheist or Ahl-al-Kitab?


They are both .. being ahl ketab -people of book- doesn't mean that they are true believers . This is just an attribute to tell that they had a book before and also to tell that they have some special rules (ahkam) .. that's why you find an aya telling "الذين كفروا من أهل الكتاب" ... Which means the in believers among the people of the book ...and concerning the two things you mentioned in the questions (food and marriage) ... They are allowed as an exception from among all the other in believers but it doesn't mean that they are true believers ... Allah said : " لقد كفر الذين قالوا إن الله هو المسيح بن مريم" ... "لقد كفر الذين قالوا إن الله ثالث ثلاثة" .... " و قالوا اتخذ الله ولدا. لقد جئتم شيئا إدا.تكاد السموات يتفطرن منه و تنشق الأرض و تخر الجبال هدا.أن دعوا الرحمن ولدا. و ما ينبغى الرحمن أن يتخذ ولدا" So that bottom line is : they are polytheists, infidels as per Quran .. yet they are still :ahl ketab (meaning that they got a scripture before and they know about god, prophets and the there after) and this implies special rules (ahkam) for them like being lawful to eat from their food if it doesn't contain something Haram and is slughtered properly and being lawful to marry from them generally

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