First of all, we would like to stress that a Muslim should have a kind relationship with all people, regardless of whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. This may explain why Muslim jurists both in past and present times have unanimously agreed that killing a dhimmi is one of the most heinous crimes in Islam.

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, he states the following: “Many texts have been reported to the effect that a Muslim cannot be killed for a non-Muslim. However, the general meanings of the Qur’anic verses in addition to the practice of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his great Companions support the view that a Muslim is to be killed in retaliation for murdering a non-Muslim.
As regards those texts that negate the fact that a Muslim can be killed if found guilty of murdering a non-Muslim, they refer to non-Muslim combatants who are at war with Muslims. It is a well-known fact that, under Islam, the People of the Book were given protection with regards to their souls, honor and properties.
Making this matter clear for every Muslim, we can quote the Hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that reads:“ He who kills a mu`ahad (a person who enjoys protection under a peace treaty with the Muslim state) will never smell the fragrance of Paradise. Indeed, its fragrance can be smelt at a distance of forty years walk.”(Reported by Ahmad and Al-Bukhari)
It was for this that Muslim jurists unanimously agreed that killing a Dhimmi is one of the most heinous crimes in Islam. However, they differed on whether a Muslim should be killed if found guilty for that crime or not.

The majority of scholars including Ahmad and Ash-Shafi` maintain the view that a Muslim cannot be killed for a non-Muslim. They support their view with the Hadith that reads: “A Muslim is not to be killed for a Kafir (unbeliever).” (Reported by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari and An-Nasa’i) They also quoted the Hadith that reads: “A believer is not to be killed for a disbeliever or for a person enjoying protection under a covenant.” (Reported by Ahmad, An-Nasa’i and Abu Dawood)

Ash-Sha`by, An-Nakh`y and Ibn Abi Layla are of the view that a Muslim is to be killed for murdering a Dhimmi, for the textual evidence on retaliation (Qisas) have general application in denoting that all souls of humans are sacred and inviolable. It was reported also that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) killed a Muslim for a mu`ahad and said: “I am the best to fulfill a covenant.”
In addition, it was reported that a Muslim was brought before `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) for murdering a Dhimmi. As the man was proven guilty, `Ali ordered for his killing. Then the brother of the man slain came and said: “I have waived my right (to retaliation).” `Ali asked him: “ Have you been subject to pressure or threat?” The man answered: “No, but killing him will never bring my brother back to me and they have given me a good compensation.” `Ali commented: “It is up to you anyway. But it should be known that he who has a covenant with us is equal to us in terms of the retaliation and blood money.” (Reported by At-Tabarani and Al-Bayhaqi)

It was for this that the scholars agree that a Muslim’s hand is cut off in case he steals the property of a Dhimmi. As for the Prophet’s saying that a Muslim should not be killed for a non-Muslim, it relates to non-Muslim combatants who are at war with Muslims.

This is the view applied in the Ottoman Caliphate in all its provinces. Here, we would like to note that Islam also protected non-Muslims against torture and persecution. They were not to be subject to any form of torture even if it occurred that they delayed paying their financial obligations like jizyah (tribute) and kharaj. This reflects the greatness of Islam, especially when compared to Islam’s conduct with Muslims who refuse to pay the Zakah. Muslim scholars allowed only for the Dhimmis who refuse to pay tribute, a brief imprisonment as a way of admonishing that is free from all kinds of torture or hard labour.

Caliph `Ali ibn Abi Talib wrote to one of his governors who was responsible for kharaj : “When you go to them (non-Muslims), never put their clothes to sale (for not paying kharaj) neither in winter nor in summer, nor sell their provisions nor their beasts. Never hit any of them with a whip for even a dirham they default on. You shall not punish anyone of them for that. Also, you are not allowed to confiscate any of their property for defaulting on kharaj. We have been ordered to forgive them. If you fail to follow my commands, Allah will punish you severely. If I am informed that you disobey my orders, I will oust you.” The governor replied: “Okay. Then I will quit the whole job, for spare the rod and spoil the child.” (i.e. this leniency will avail not with the masses, and they are to be dealt with harshly)`Ali remarked: “Then, you can quit if you like.”