• Copts
  • July 8, 2007
  • 9 minutes read

Non-Muslim Minorities in Egyptian Islamic Discourse

Non-Muslim Minorities in Egyptian Islamic Discourse

First: Legal rules based on Sharia (Islamic Law)

The Holy Quran states that all Mankind have freedom of choice in terms of attitude towards the issue of belief or disbelief; Allah say:( then whoever wills let him believe, and whoever wills let him disbelieve); texts in the holy Quran clearly explain that (Let there be no compulsion in religion) and that (And if thy Lord willed, all who are in the earth would have believed together. Wouldst thou (Muhammad) compel men until they are believers?). The holy verses mention the natural social communication between Muslims and non- Muslims in the same society, saying (This day are (all) good things made lawful for you. The food of those who have received the Scripture is lawful for you, and your food is lawful for them..) in addition to marriage and complete dealings in the context of the natural life.

This view is based on principles while dealing with the Other who differs in terms of religion with all those who believe in Allah as their Lord and Islam as their religion and Mohamed- Peace Be Upon Him- as a messenger.

Also, the Prophetic Sunna ( the second primary source of Islamic legislation ) confirms this meaning very clearly, something that the Noble Messenger explained through his practical examples; take the example of the Sahifa (document) that laid down legal foundations for the relation between the Muslims and non-Muslims in the first role-model society of Al-Madinah, to prove this understanding in practice and application; one of its paragraphs reads ( .. God’s protection is one, the least of them may give protection to a stranger on their behalf. Believers are friends one to the other to the exclusion of outsiders. To the Jew who follows us belong help and equality. He shall not be wronged nor shall his enemies be aided…); the Prophet- peace be upon him- says in a Hadith (“Surely,

whoever oppresses a person under covenant (Mu’ahid) or imposes upon him more than he can afford and humiliates him or takes anything from him without his consent I will challenge him (i.e. the oppressor) on the day of judgment.”) and he says also (whoever hurts a non-Muslim, I will challenge him (i.e. the oppressor) on the day of judgment) and ( who hurts a non-Muslim, hurts me and who hurts me hurts Allah ) and in his  message- peace be upon him- to Najran bishop in Yemen, he says: ( from Mohamed to the Al-Hareth, the bishop of Najran The people of Najran and its surrounding area are under the protection of Allah and the (security) pledge (dhimmah) of Muhammad the Prophet and Messenger of Allah, (a protection) that embraces their property, their souls, their land, their religion, those of them who are present or absent, and all that which they possess, whether ample or little. No bishop, monk, or priest shall be removed from his office. No army shall enter their land. If anyone of the people of Najran demands their rights, justice shall be given to him. Neither shall they oppress nor shall they be oppressed)


The companions of the prophet followed his example; the treaty of (Ilya) between Omar bin Al-Khattab and patriarch (Sophronius). Books of the biography report that one of the aides of Omar Bin Al Khattab- may Allah be pleased with him- was a Christian and he called him to convert to Islam, but he refused; Omar- may Allah be pleased with him- bore no grudges against him for refusing and sticking to his religion. 

These are a few examples of many practices that explain the view which is based on sound knowledge and right understanding of the Islamic Sharia concerning the position of non- Muslims in the Muslim society. It is actually a commitment to sharia texts, no more or less .

 View of the Islamic discourse towards non-Muslims in Egypt

As I mentioned before, the sharia texts are the judge in this issue; Islam does not accept bargaining that violates its ordains and rules. Consequently, the view of the Islamic discourse pertains to Islam and its sources, topped by the  Book of Allah and the Sunna of the prophet.

Throughout the history of the Islamic reform movement, from Gamaluddin Al Afghani”s age till now, nothing has been issued to offend or belittle the Copts in the Egyptian society; Mr. martyr Hassan Al Banna considered that understanding only this verse (Say, ‘We believe in Allah and what has been sent down to us and what was sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham)) makes people of the same country, Muslim and Christian, in a state of continuous unity and that Islam gave this unity a religious sacredness. Al Banna- May Allah have Mercy on Him- confirms that we– along with our Coptic brothers- consider ourselves Arabs as all of us speak Arabic and deal with each other using it; as we are Arabs, it is natural to resort to an Arab law, not a western law that has French and Belgian multiple sources, referring to the group”s call for applying the Islamic Sharia laws.

When asked about the tribute, he said that it isn”t applicable nowadays as long as all citizens joining the military service and all of them defend the country.


In March 2004, the Muslim Brotherhood issued its initiative for the political reform, in which it pointed out that the Egyptian Copts a main part of the Egyptian society and that they are partners of homeland and fate and they have full freedom of belief and worship and that the most prominent of their targets is to preserve the spirit of brotherhood that united- throughout centuries- all the Egyptian people- Muslims and Copts- to enable the nation to carry out an integrated work to build its future and to protect it from all forms of schism.

This proves that citizenship is the very centre of rights and duties in the Egyptian society and totally excluding the Dhimmis concept and that using it in the sharia sources is a description, not a definition. 

In a study written by Dr. Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, member of the MB executive bureau, entitled (the Islamic concept of comprehensive reform) he said that citizenship in the civil country and sought by the Islamist reform movement is the basis of living in the society within a democratic framework; every one approves this framework has an equal position like others in all ideological and political trends; and that the full political and legal equality among all sectors and sects of the society is the basis of living in the society, while giving all guarantees to protect this equality from any political or doctrinal deviation .

He had previously issued a statement entitled ( One Lord …One homeland) in which he called on the Copts to get out of their isolation and fully participate in all the activities of the parties and political groups as they are Egyptian citizens, comparing them to the Nile and the pyramids .

These are the dominant features of the Islamic reform movement towards the Egyptian Copts from the beginnings of the reformist movement that had an Islamic basis till nowadays.

I want to explain some points quickly:

1- All the national movement spectrum, including the Muslim Brotherhood group, agree that the Egyptian Copts are not a minority. Arabizing prayers in the Egyptian churches was a glorious action in places that the Egyptians consider as great national institutions.

2- The Copts history hasn”t witnessed, during the periods of invasion and occupation, any deviation from the united national group; the Coptic legion led by General Yacoub in 1789 during the French campaign, was just an exceptional case that the Copts, before the Muslims, rejected.

3- In Mohamed Ali”s era, the Copts rejected joining a Russian pact that guarantees a special protection for them.

4- All the Egyptians rejected giving the Copts (a quota) according to which they have a representation in parliament and executive services and institutions.

5- The political bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood included, during the 1940s, three Coptic members.

6- -The national movement complains nowadays of  a state of (general repression) that led to a recession in the joint national action regarding its many political and social fields, leading to something of seclusion from the general scene of the public life; this clear in the Coptic case; what reinforced this is a direction inside the Egyptian church demanding that the church- not the state- be the civilian basis for the Copts.  The Islamic reform movement aspires to the time in which all the Egyptian society enjoys the atmosphere of democracy and freedoms in which all people are merged in the national actions without any sectarianism or discrimination.


This is the general view of the Islamists towards the Egyptian Copts; they are Egyptian citizens who are equal to their Muslim brothers in all rights and duties; yet, they worship God in their churches.