It is a favorite tactic of dawah team to reference the Inquisition, especially the Spanish variant thereof, as a stick with which to assault Christianity. In fact, the Inquisition began as an attack on heresy – the Cathars in Provence, the Waldensians in north Italy, then the Lollards in England, and Hussites in Bohemia. There were particular political circumstances that led to the Inquisition in Spain addressing Jews and Muslims who were suspected of feigning conversion, and it should be noted that the Spanish Inquisition effectively eradicated Protestants, who posed no potential subversive threat to the Spanish Crown, but were simply persecuted for heresy.
The problem with the dawah teams criticism is that it is so hypocritical. Muslim Andalusia persecuted heretics and apostates, as well as imposing dhimmi status on non-Muslims. Neither can this be presented as an exceptional quirk of Iberian Muslims. Rather, it was based on Islamic Law – Shari’ah – itself founded on the Qur’an and Sunnah. In this paper, we will examine what Islamic Law says about heretics, apostates and dhimmis.
- Heretics and Apostates
Islamic law has problems with the court testimony of heretics:
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[The evidence of the sect of Hawa, and other heretics, admissible, but not that of the tribe of Khetabia.]
THE evidence of the sect of Hawa* (that is, such as are not Soonis) is admissible; excepting, however, the tribe of Khetabia, whose evidence is inadmissible, for reasons that will be hereafter explained. – Shafe’i maintains that the evidence of no tribe whatever of the sect of hawa is admissible, because the heterodox tenets they profess argue the highest degree of depravity. – Our doctors, on the other hand, argue that although their tenets be in reality wrong, yet their adherence to them implies probity, since they have been led to embrace them from an opinion of their being right; and there is, moreover, reason to think that they will abstain from falsehood, because it is prohibited in every religion. Hence the case is the same as if a person should eat of an animal which had not been slain according to the prescribed form of Zabbab, because of its being lawful amongst his sect. It is otherwise where the baseness proceeds from the actions, not from the belief. – With respect to the sect of Khetabia, it is to be observed that they are in a high degree heretics; and amongst them it is lawful to ear positive testimony to a circumstance on the grounds of another having sworn it to them. Some have said that it is an incumbent duty upon that sect to give evidence in favour of each other, whence their testimony is not free from suspicion.
* Anglice, the air; a derisive appellation given by the Soonis to the Shiyas.— Hawa, also, is used to express the sensual passions, whence the term Ail Hawa signifies sensualists, or Epictureans.
However, there were worse practices. The Catholic Inquisition punished – often by execution – false Catholics, whether Jews or Muslims who feigned conversion, but it also persecuted Protestants, who were heretics and had left the Catholic Church (i.e. they had apostatized). As for Islamic law, conversion from Islam – apostasy – is usually seen as a crime to be punished by the State:
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CHAP. IX Of the Laws concerning Apostates.
[An exposition of the faith is to be laid before an apostate]
When a Muslim apostatises from the faith, an exposition thereof is to be laid before him, in such a manner that if his apostasy should have arisen from any religious doubts or scruples, those may be removed. The reason for laying an exposition of the faith before him is that it is possible some doubts or errors may have arisen in his mind, which may be removed by such exposition; and as there are only two modes of repelling the sin of apostasy, namely, destruction or Islam, and Islam is preferable to destruction, the evil is rather to be removed by means of an exposition of the faith; – but yet this exposition of the faith is not incumbent*, (according to what the learned have remarked upon his head,) since a call to the faith has already reached the apostate.
* That is, it is lawful to kill an apostate without making any attempt to recover him from his apostasy.
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[A female apostate is imprisoned until she return to the faith.
If a Muslim woman become an apostate, she is not put to death, but is imprisoned, until she return to the faith.Shafe’i maintains that she is to be put to death; because of the tradition before cited; – and also, because, as men are put to death for apostasy solely for this reason, that it is a crime of great magnitude, and therefore requires that its punishment be proportionally serve, (namely, death,) so the apostasy of a woman being likewise (like that of man) a crime of great magnitude, it follows that her punishment should be the same as that of a man…
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37.19 CRIMES AGAINST ISLAM
A freethinker (zindiq) must be put to death and his repentance is rejected. A freethinker is one who conceals his unbelief and pretends to follow Islam. A magician also is to be put to death, and his repentance also is to be rejected. A apostate is also killed unless he repents. He is allowed three days grace; if he fails to utilise the chance to repent, the execution takes place. This same also applies to women apostates.
If a person who is not an apostate admits that prayer is obligatory but will not perform it, then such a person is given an opportunity to recant by the time of the next prayer; if he does not utilise the opportunity to repent and resume worship, he is then executed. If a Muslim refuses to perform the pilgrimage, he should be left alone and God himself shall decide this case. If a Muslim should abandon the performance of prayer because he disputes its being obligatory, then such a person shall be treated as an apostate – he should be given three days within which to repent. If the three days lapse without his repenting, he is then executed.
Whoever abuses the Messenger of God – peace and blessing of God be upon him – is to be executed, and his repentance is not accepted…
The property of an apostate after his execution is to be shared by the Muslim community.
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40.18 TAKING A MUSLIM’S LIFE OR PROPERTY
God, Glorified be He, has prohibited the shedding of the blood of Muslims; so also has he prohibited assault on their property except for a lawful cause.
It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim except when he commits apostasy, or when he commits adultery, or when he kills a person and this is not in retaliation, or when he becomes an outlaw, or when he renounces the faith.
Sahih Al-Bukhari 5.632 Narrated by Abu Burdah, The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent AbuMusa and Mu’adh to Yemen and said to both of them “Facilitate things for the people (be kind and lenient) and do not make things difficult (for them). Give them good tidings, and do not repulse them; and both of you should obey each other.” …
Once Mu’adh paid a visit to AbuMusa and saw a chained man. Mu’adh asked, “What is this?” AbuMusa said, “(He was) a Jew who embraced Islam and has now turned apostate.” Mu’adh said, “I will surely chop off his neck.!”
Sahih Al-Bukhari 9.17 Narrated by Abdullah, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed except in three cases: in Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who abandons Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari 9.37 Narrated by AbuQilabah, Once Umar ibn AbdulAziz sat on his throne in the courtyard of his house so that the people might gather before him. Then he admitted them and (when they came in) he said, ‘What do you think of al-Qasamah?” They said, “We say that it is lawful to depend on al-Qasamah in Qisas, as the previous Muslim caliphs carried out Qisas depending on it.” Then he said to me, “O AbuQilabah! What do you say about it?”
He let me appear before the people and I said…“By Allah, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) never killed anyone except in one of the following three situations: a person who killed somebody unjustly, was killed (in Qisas); a married person who committed illegal sexual intercourse; and a man who fought against Allah and His Messenger, deserted Islam and became an apostate.” Then the people said, “Didn’t Anas ibn Malik narrate that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) cut off the hands of the thieves, branded their eyes and then threw them out into the sun?”
I said, “I shall tell you the narration of Anas. Anas said: “Eight people from the tribe of Ukl came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and took the pledge of allegiance to Islam (became Muslim). The climate of the place (Medina) did not suit them, so they became sick and complained about that to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He said (to them), ‘Why don’t you go out with the herdsman of our camels and drink, the camels’ milk and urine (as medicine)?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ So they went out and drank the camels’ milk and urine. After they had recovered, they killed the herdsman of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and took away all the camels.
This news reached Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) , so he sent (men) to follow their traces and they were captured and brought (to the Prophet (peace be upon him). He then ordered their hands and feet to be cut off, their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron, and then he threw them out into the sun until they died.” I said, “What can be worse than that which those people did? They deserted Islam, committed murder and theft.”…
A feature of life for non-Muslims in Al-Andalus is that they were reduced to dhimmi status, which allowed them to endure a second-class existence with severe restrictions on religious liberty in return for paying the Jizyah (Darío Fernández-Morera, The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain [Wilmington: ISI Books, 2016], pp. 113-114):
Even in 1100, centuries after the Muslim conquest of Spain, the Andalusian clerics’ obsessive preoccupation with the contaminating potential of the infidels was echoed in the regulations issued in Seville by the faqih Ibn Abdun:
A Muslim must not massage a Jew or a Christian nor throw away his refuse nor clean his latrines. The Jew and the Christian are better fitted for such trades, since they are the trades of those who are vile. A Muslim should not attend to the animal of a Jew or of a Christian, nor serve him as a muleteer [neither Catholics nor Jews could ride horses; only Muslims could], nor hold his stirrup. If any Muslim is known to do this, he should be denounced.… No … [unconverted] Jew or Christian must be allowed to dress in the costume of people of position, of a jurist, or of a worthy man… They must on the contrary be abhorred and shunned and should not be greeted with the formula, “Peace be with you,” for the devil has gained mastery over them and has made them forget the name of God. They are the devil’s party, “and indeed the devil’s party are the losers” (Qur’an 57:22). They must have a distinguishing sign by which they are recognized to their shame [emphasis added].
Non-Muslims in Al-Andalus were to be distinguished from Muslims and avoided if possible (pp. 111-112):
In Umayyad al-Andalus, the ninth-century Maliki cleric Ibn Habib warned against performing ablutions with whatever a Christian had touched or used. Safran cautiously observes that this warning could have “implied” that Muslims should also, for example, keep away from bathhouses used or owned by Christians. In fact, all Maliki manuals of jurisprudence contain many injunctions regarding the problems posed by water, garments, and food touched by Christians.
Maliki scholar Yahya ibn Umar al-Kinani (d. 901), who grew up in Umayyad Córdoba before traveling to pursue his divine studies in Egypt, Baghdad, and Hejaz, warned Muslims against Jews or Christians who in the marketplace might try to blend with Muslims by not wearing the distinguishing piece of cloth or belt that was required of both…
The Utbiyya confirms that Malik taught that Christians should not be allowed to build new churches, and that if the churches had been built, they should be destroyed. Muslims were forbidden to help even in the renovation of existing churches.
Other restirctions were ritually abusive (p. 115): “In Muslim-controlled cities, Christians were forbidden to celebrate their religion in public, even in their own neighborhoods (crosses could not be displayed even on the outside of church walls or on top, and bells could not be wrung)…” This was not mere theoretical jurisprudence. Kenneth Baxter Wolf, ‘Convivencia as Persecution in Ninth-Century Córdoba’ relates the experience of Eulogius (Mark T. Abate [Ed.] Convivencia and Medieval Spain: Essays in Honor of Thomas F. Glick, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, p. 145): “One challenge faced by Christian dhimmis living under Muslim rule was how to participate in a pluralistic society dominated by Islam without compromising their own religious identity… Thanks to the writings of the priest Eulogius, we are in an unusually good position to appreciate it in all its complexity.” This is addressed in detail (p. 151):
Eulogius’ response is one of the most revealing passages in the Memoriale sanctorum.
Clearly [the ones who say this] do not think of the destruction of churches, the taunts directed at priests, and the fact that we pay a monthly tribute with such hardship as constituting “troubles.” … Who among all the persecutors of the faithful has attacked the church as cruelly as this abominable one? Who has heaped up so much in subversion of Catholics as this ill-omened one? No one of us [clergy] may walk secure in their midst, no one may pass by in peace, no one may penetrate their enclosures without being dishonored.
Indeed whenever the need for any ordinary thing compels us to go forth in public, or some pressing domestic necessity forces us to head out into the forum from the recesses of our huts, the moment they notice the symbols of our sacred order, with a shout of derision they attack, as if madmen or fools. This is not to mention the daily mockery on the part of the children, for whom it is not enough to inflict verbal abuse and heap up shameful [examples] of scurrility; they do not cease from pelting us with rocks from behind. Why should I mention what they do as an insult to the venerable sign? For when the appropriate time for singling psalms compels us to give a signal to the faithful, and the hour demands that we make the accustomed indication of prayer to the people, the crowds of people, enticed as they are by lying superstition, try to detect the clang of reverberating metal and do not hesitate to exercise their tongues in every curse and obscenity. Therefore not unfairly are they cursed, who inform their followers with so much hate aimed at God’s portion. We are often—indeed incessantly— slandered by them and everywhere we endure their ferocity on account of religion. Many of them judge us unworthy to touch their garments and abhor our coming close to them. They deem it pollution if we mix in any of their affairs.
Here Eulogius identifies three particular “troubles” faced by dhimmi Christians—“the destruction of churches, the taunts directed at priests, and the fact that we pay a monthly tribute”—adding a fourth—curses directed at the sound of bells—in medias res. It turns out that each of these “troubles” can be traced to a legal restriction imposed on the Christians by virtue of their status as dhimmis, that is, as members of a “People of the Book” residing within the Dar al-Islam and subject to the terms of a capitulation agreement or dhimma.
How far did such restriction reflect Islamic law? Very closely, as we shall see (Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: Revised Edition [Beltsville: Amana publications, 1988] p. 602):
o9.R The caliph (025) makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (N: provided he has first invited them to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya, def: 01 L4)-which is the significance of their paying it, not the money itself – while remaining in their ancestral religions) (0: and the war continues) until they become Muslim or else pay the non-Muslim poll tax (0: in accordance with the word of Allah Most High,
“Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day and who forbid not what Allah and His messenger have forbidden-who do not practice the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book-until they pay the poll tax out of hand and are humbled” (Koran 9:29)
The second-class status of dhimmis becomes clear when we look at the provisions of the Dhimmi “contract”:
011.0 NON·MUSLIM SUBJECTS OF THE ISLAMIC STATE (AHL AL-DHIMMA)
011.1 A formal agreement of protection is made
with citizens who are:
(4) Samarians and Sabians, if their religions do not respectively contradict the fundamental bases of Judaism and Christianity;
(5) and those who adhere to the religion of Abraham or one of the other prophets (upon whom be blessings and peace)…
011.3 Such an agreement is only valid when the subject peoples:
(a) follow the rules of Islam (A: those mentioned below (011.5) and those involving public behavior and dress, though in acts of worship and their private lives, the subject communities have their own laws, judges, and courts, enforcing the rules of their own religion among themselves);
(b) and pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya).
011.4 The minimum non-Muslim poll tax is one dinar (n: 4.235 grams of gold) per person (A: per year). The maximum is whatever both sides agree upon. It is collected with leniency and politeness, as are all debts, and is not levied on women, children,
or the insane.
011.5 Such non-Muslim subjects are obliged to comply with Islamic rules that pertain to the safety and indemnity of life, reputation, and property. In addition, they:
(1) are penalized for committing adultery or theft, though not for drunkenness;
(2) are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunna:r);
(3) are not greeted with “as-Salamu ‘alaykum”
(4) must keep to the side of the street;
(5) may not build higher than or as high as the Muslims’ buildings, though if they acquire a tall house, it is not razed;
(6) are forbidden to openly display wine or pork, (A: to ring church bells or display crosses,) recite the Torah or Evangel aloud, or make public display of their funerals and feastdays;
(7) and are forbidden to build new churches.
We have seen that this was the case in Al-Andalus – the essential features of religious discrimination as outlined here were normative in Islamic Iberia. The Dhimmis were under Muslim authority, and never the reverse:
4018 AL-HEDAYA Vol. II (Hanafi Manual) [The protection granted by a Zimmee.]
If a Zimmee grant protection to an alien infidel, his protection is not valid, because the acts of a Zimmee are liable to suspicion, with respect to granting protection, on account of his infidelity; besides, a Zimmee has no authority with respect to Muslims.
We noted that Islamic law requires non-Muslims to walk separately from Muslims on the road, and also in relation to transport and this religious Apartheid was true of Al-Andalusia:
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[Their wives must not associate with the wives of Muslims.]
It is requisite that the wives of Zimmees be kept separate from the wives of Muslims, both in the public roads, and also in the baths: and it is also requisite that a mark be set upon their dwellings, in order that beggars who come to their doors may not pray for them. The learned have also remarked that it is fit that Zimmees be not permitted to ride at all, except in cases of absolute necessity; and if a Zimmee be thus, of necessity, allowed to ride, he must alight wherever he sees any Muslims assembled; and if there be a necessity for him to use a saddle, it must be made in the manner of the panniers of an ass. Zimmees of the higher orders must also be prohibited from wearing rich garments.
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[and, if they refuse the faith, to pay tribute.
If they do not accept the call to the faith, they must then be called upon to pay Jizyat, or capitation-tax*; because the prophet directed the commander of this armies so to do; and also, because by submitting to this tax, war is forbidden and terminated, upon the authority of the Koran. (This call to pay capitation tax, however, respects only those from whom the capitation-tax is acceptable; for as to apostates and the idolaters of Arabia, to call upon them to pay the tax is useless, since nothing is accepted from them but embracing the faith, as it is thus commanded in the Koran.) – If those who are called upon to pay capitation-tax consent to do so, they then become entitled to the same protection, and subject to the same rules as Muslims, because Alle has declared “Infidels agree to a capitation-tax only in order to render their blood the same as Muslim blood, and their property the same as Muslim property.”
* Tribute from the person, in the same manner as Khiraj is tribute from lands.
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[when he becomes liable to the same penalties with an apostate.
A Zimmee, upon breaking his contract of subjection, stands in the same predicament with an apostate, – that is, he is condemned to death upon absconding to the territory of the infidels, in the same manner as holds in the rule with respect to apostates. The rule also with respect to such property as he may carry off along with him into the said territory, is the same as with respect to the property of an apostate; – that is, if the Muslims afterwards conquer that territory, the property aforesaid is forfeited to the state, in the same manner as the property of an apostate: – but if the Zimmee be made captive, he is a slave : contrary to the case of an apostate, who, if he repent not, is put to death.
It follows that if a Spanish Catholic had left Al-Andalus to the Catholic Kingdom of Asturias in north-eastern Spain, or to Francia (the kingdom of the Franks) to escape his dhimmi status (e.g. paying the Jizya), he was to be killed.
7512 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) 37.19 CRIMES AGAINST ISLAM
…If any dhimmi (by ‘dhimmi’ is meant a non-Muslim subject living in a Muslim country) curses the Prophet – peace be upon him – or abuses him by saying something other than what already makes him an unbeliever, or abuses God Most High by saying something other than what already makes him an unbeliever, he is to be executed unless at that juncture he accepts Islam.
Part of the dhimmi status was that non-Muslims had to pay Jizyah as a sort of “protection money”, and this was practice in Al-Andalus:
7351 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) 25.10 LEVIES ON NON-MUSLIMS
Jizyah tribute is taken from non-Muslim citizens in an Islamic state, who are freeborn male adults. It is not taken from their women, children and slaves. Similarly, jizyah tribute is taken from Magians, that is Zoroastrians, as well as Christian Arabs.
The amount of jizyah taken from people whose currency is gold is four pieces of gold from each man. And for the people whose currency is silver, forty dirhams. The poor from amongst them are allowed some concession.
Customs duties are taken from their merchants who conduct international commerce. The rate is a tenth of the value of their wares. This is taken from them each time they come, even if they enter the Muslim state many times in a year.
If they carried foodstuffs specially to Mecca and Medina only, one half of one tenth of the value of that is taken from them.
Customs duties taken from the citizens of those nations which are at war with the Muslims states shall be one tenth of the value of their wares except where they agreed to pay more.
In the case of a Rikaz treasure buried by the pre-Islamic people, the finder shall pay a fifth of it to the state.
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[In a case of arrear for two years, one year’s tax only is levied.
… capitation-tax is a sort of punishment inflicted upon infidels for their obstinacy in infidelity, (as was before stated;) whence it is that it cannot be accepted of the infidel if he send it by the hands of a messenger, but must be exacted in a mortifying and humiliating manner, by the collector sitting and receiving it from him in a standing posture: (according to one tradition, the collector is to seize him by the throat, and shake him, saying, “Pay your tax, Zimee!”)… SECONDLY, capitation-tax is a substitute for destruction in respect to the infidels…
7389 AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual) CHAPTER 30: A Chapter on Jihad or Holy War
30.01 HOW AND WHEN OBLIGATORY
Jihad is a duty upon Muslims from which, however, a section of the community can relieve other sections. What is preferable in the Maliki view is that the enemy should not be fought until they are called upon to accept the religion of God, that is, the Islamic faith. But this caution can be ignored when the enemy attacks first.
The choice given by the Muslims to the enemy is for the enemy to either accept the Islamic faith or undertake to pay the periodic tribute known as jizyah. If they decline to accept either of these, they are then fought.
Jizyah tribute can only be accepted from them if they are located in a place where the Muslim government can have authority over them. But if they are very far away, jizyah tribute shall not be accepted from them until they migrate into the Muslim territory, and if they refuse to do that they are to be fought.
Flight from the enemy in battle is one of the mortal sins in Islam when the enemy are twice the number of Muslims or less. But if they are more than twice the number of Muslims, there shall be no harm in that.
A Muslim is under an obligation to fight the enemy, under the command of the Muslim ruler, whether such a ruler is a devout Muslim or a sinner.
There is no harm in killing the infidels taken captive. But nobody shall be killed after they have been given an assurance of their safety. Nor must there be a violation of a covenant once entered into with them. Women and children are not to be killed. Muslims must avoid the killing of monks and learned men except where these fight them. Similarly, if a woman fights she can be killed.
It is lawful for a Muslim of humble status to conclude a peace treaty on behalf of the rest of the Muslims. Similarly a woman and a child have permission to do that, but in the case of the child, he has to be able to appreciate the implications of the peace he concludes on behalf of fellow Muslims. However, according to another view, such a peace treaty, that is, one by a Muslim of humble status, a woman and a child, is subject to the ratification of the Muslim ruler.
Sahih Muslim 4294 Narrated by Burayd, When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment… He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the cause of Allah. Fight against those who do not believe in Allah. Wage a holy war…
When you meet enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and restrain yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them… If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizyah. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold your hand. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.
Sahih Al-Bukhari 4.404A Narrated by AbuHurayrah, Sa’id narrated that AbuHurayrah once said (to the people), “What will your state be when you can get no Dinar or Dirham (i.e. taxes from the Dhimmis)?” On that someone asked him, “What makes you know that this state will take place, O AbuHurayrah?” He said, “By Him in Whose Hands AbuHurayrah’s life is, I know it through the statement of the true and truly inspired one (i.e. the Prophet (peace be upon him).” The people asked, “What does the statement say?” He replied, “Allah and His Messenger asylum (granted to Dhimmis, i.e. Non-Muslims living in a Muslim territory) will be outraged, and so Allah will make the hearts of these Dhimmis so daring that they will refuse to pay the Jizyah they will be supposed to pay.”
It is true that the Catholic Inquisition in Spain persecuted non-Catholics – Jews, Muslims and Protestants, to the extent of executing false Catholics and those who had apostatized to Protestantism. However, dawah team are in no position to criticize the Spanish Inquisition, both from a historical perspective, given the treatment of non-Muslims in Al-Andalus, but even more importantly, from a theological standpoint, when we consider the attitude of Islamic law to heretics, blasphemers, apostates and dhimmis. Dhimmis were always under threat of execution unless the paid the humiliating Jizyah, and were always humiliated and the victims of discrimination. The complaints of dawah team about the Catholic Spanish Inquisition ring hollow; people in glass houses should not throw stones.