Every religion makes a distinction between a relative and stranger. So if Islam gives a preferential treatment to one of its own, it should not come as a surprise. However, this treatment is with respect to life after death. For life in this world believer and non-believer stand on same pedestal. Islam does not afford same treatment to Muslim at the cost of its minority citizens. Islam has given unprecedented high status to minorities which was hitherto unknown to the world. Some of the basic principles regarding the status of non-Muslims in Muslim Societies are discussed below.
Equality of citizens:
As stated earlier, Islam makes a distinction between a Muslim and Non-Muslim concerning life in the hereafter. But regarding life in this world, every individual irrespective of his belief in Islam is equal. A non-Muslim may sue a Muslim without any special condition or formality for any wrong committed to him. The law does not recognize any distinction between the subjects on the basis of their religion.
On the question of religious tolerance, the Quran prescribes that there should be no compulsion in religion. The non-Muslims have complete religious tolerance in the Islamic territory. Mithaq Madina is a classical example of religious tolerance of Holy Prophet PBUH.
Hospitality and Asylum:
Islamic teachings are quite meticulous about hospitality of refugees and asylum seekers. Islam enjoin upon its followers to protect the life and liberty of non-Muslim in peril. There is a well-known verse of the Quran (9/6). And if anyone of the pagans seeketh thy asylum, (O Muhammad), then give him asylum… and afterwards convey him to his place of safety.
The non-Muslims are allowed to convene their life in accordance with the religious mandate and social orientation even if it runs against the rules of Islam. For instance, the consumption of alcohol drinks is forbidden to Muslims, yet the non-Muslim inhabitants of the country have full liberty not only of consumption, but also of manufacture, importation and sale of the same. This holds true in other aspects of their religious and social life.
In the times of prophet, the Jews of Madinah had their Bait at-Midras. In the treaty with the Christians of Najran (Yemen) the Prophet PBUH left the nominations of bishops and priests to the Christian community itself.
Protection of life, property and honour:
The person, property and honour of every individual whether believer or non believer are fully protected in the Islamic territory. The Holy Quran prohibits the unlawful shedding of blood irrespective of any distinction on the basis of cast, colour or creed.
In the time of Caliph Umar certain Muslims had appropriated some land belonging to a jew and built a mosque on it. When matter came into the knowledge of Caliph, he directed the demolition of the mosque and the restoration of the land to the Jew.
Distinction among non-Muslims:
While the life, liberty and property of all non-Muslims are equally protected in the land of Islam, however, Islamic Law recognizes a distinction between different non-Muslim communities with regard to their relations with Muslims. This distinction is based on the faith of non-Muslims in God. For instance, a Muslim male may marry with a non-Muslim female who is believer in God, but he cannot marry who do not such as idolators, atheists, pagans etc.
Hadith of Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) in favour of rights of Non-Muslims:
Holy prophet (P.B.U.H) on his death bed stated; “observe scrupulously the protection accorded by me to non-Muslim subjects. Another saying of the prophet reported by Abu Dawud is “Whoever oppresses the non-Muslim subjects, shall find me to be their advocate on the day of Resurrection (against the oppressing Muslim).