The daily scholarly meeting of Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Sadiq al-Hosseini al-Shirazi was held on Saturday, the 17th of Jumadi al-Awwal. In this session, like the previous meetings, the Marja answered the questions of the attendees about various Jurisprudence issues.
Grand Ayatollah Shirazi discussed the rulings of the People of the Book and their difference from polytheists, and said: In the Holy Qur’an, the People of the Book are referred to as polytheists, as it is stated in verse 63 of Surah al-Namal: [Is there a deity besides Allah? (never), the Almighty God is much superior and higher than what (ignorant polytheists) consider as his partner]. However, our hadiths have made a distinction between the rulings of the People of the Book and other polytheists.
His Eminence pointed out that polytheists include idolaters, atheists, and adherents to similar thoughts and beliefs, and said: polytheists do not have a Divine book and they themselves have no claim in this regard. But as the People of the Book seemingly follow a Divine book, even though distorted, the Shariah Lawmaker has made a difference in their rulings. Therefore, polytheists are divided into two categories: polytheists other than Jews, Christians, and Magi, and polytheists who are Jews, Christians, and Magi, and they are termed as the People of the Book.
He went on to say: The Immaculate Imams (peace be upon them) have also distinguished between polytheists and the People of the Book, which is recorded in our hadiths, so we have divided non-Muslims into two categories, the People of the Book and others, including pagans, atheists and the like.
Grand Ayatollah Shirazi then commented on the Ritual Purity of the People of the Book, and said: This issue is a point of disagreement among jurists, but the predominant Opinion is that the People of the Book are not “ritually Taher”, although some groups of the early and late Jurists have ruled on their “Taharah”. However, in my opinion, this issue has an extension: for those who frequently associate with the People of the Book, that is, their spouses or employees, or partners in their life and work, are people of the book, in such a way that they cannot avoid them, I believe these people follow the ruling of “Taharah Out of Necessity”, so it is not necessary to avoid them. But this ruling does not apply to others from the People of the Book.