AHL AL-KITÂB - أهل الكتاب
Literally: Ahl is a man's family. A household. A kindred. Friends. People. A nation. A man's family and descendants. A wife. The people of a place, condition, profession, religion or quality. A person or thing closely related to some particular thing mentioned.
Literally: Kitâb is a book. A letter. An epistle. A writing. The Sacred Scriptures. The Qur'an.
Ahl Al-Kitâb is a believer in the revealed books, as distinguished from pagans. The people of the book. The people who believe in the books sent by Allah (‘Azza wa jalla). Muslims, Jews and Christians. (The people who still believe in real and true Christianity and Judaism.)
1 وَمَا اُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ : Know that the descriptions like these both comprise encouragement and constructive injunctions: "Believe in such-and-such… Make no distinction…"
The phrase's positioning and its ties comprise four subtle points:
Firstly: To refer the deduction to the evidence. It is like this:
"O, man! If you believe in the Qur'an, believe also in the previous books, for the Qur'an confirms their veracity and testifies to them." This is indicated by مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ2
Secondly: To refer the evidence to the deduction. It is like this:
“O Ahl al-Kitâb! If you believe in the former Prophets and previous books, you should also believe in the Qur'an and Muhammad ‘Alayhissalâm, for they gave the good tidings of Muhammad ‘Alayhissalâm coming. Moreover, confirmation of the former Prophets and previous books and their revelation and evidences of their nubuwwah are to be found more perfectly in the Qur'an with their haqiqah and rûh and more clearly in Muhammad ‘Alayhissalâm. Thus, according to this excellent reasoning, the Qur'an is the Kalâm of Allâh and Muhammad ‘Alayhissalâtu Wassalâm is His Rasûl.”
Thirdly: In this is an indication that the possession of the Qur'an — that is Islam which emerged from it in the Era of Bliss — is like a tree the origin of which is fastened in the depths of the past. Its spreading roots are fed from the water sources of that time yielding life and strength. And with its trunk in the skies of the future, its spreading branches are laden with fruit. That is to say, Islam embraces the past and the future.
Fourthly: In this is an indication for urging Ahl al-Kitâb to îmân, making it familiar and easy to them. It is as though it says: “O Ahl al-Kitâb! There should not be any difficulty in entering this way, for you are not casting away your shell, but only completing your beliefs and building on the fundamentals you already possess.” Because the Qur'an equalizes and perfects the fundamentals and aqâid; it combines in itself the virtues of all the previous books and the essentials of all the previous Sharî’ahs. It only establishes new ordinances in secondary matters, which are subject to change due to differences in time and place. Because just as with the change of seasons, food and dress and many other things are changed, and the manners of education and tarbiyyah change according to the stages of a person's life, in the same way, hikmah and benefit necessitate that religious laws concerning secondary matters change according to the stages of mankind's life. For very many of these are beneficial at one time yet harmful at another, and very many medicines were efficacious in mankind's infancy yet ceased being beneficial in its youth. This is the reason the Qur'an abrogated some of its secondary pronouncements. That is, it decreed that their time had finished and that the turn had come for other decrees.
Signs of Miraculousness - Îmân in the âkhirah - Âyah-4/108-109