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By Khalid Baig
t is one thing to make pious pronouncements about equality. It is another to really consider everyone’s life to be of equal worth and take the difficult decisions that may be dictated by this principle. It is in the latter test where Islamic record rises above that of others. During the time of Caliph Umar Ibn Khattab, (May Allah be pleased with him), when a Muslim from the Bakr tribe killed a Christian of Hira, his verdict was that the killer be handed over to the heir of the deceased who could either accept blood money or kill him. The heir decided to take his revenge and the Muslim was killed. Obviously because of the deterrence such incidents were rare. However when a similar incident happened in the time of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, the fate of the killer was the same. The unequivocal legal Islamic verdict was that the life of a dhimmi was equal to the life of a Muslim and so was his blood money. Caliph Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) spelled out this principle: “Whoever has accepted our protection (dhimma) his blood is like our blood and his blood money is like our blood money.” This was not a sound byte meant for the media. It was the law of the land.