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The dhimma is the "pact of protection" entailing the social rights, responsibilities, and restrictions entailed by the status of being a "dhimmi." According to orthodox Islamic law (Shari'ah), those who are qualified for Dhimmi status within the Muslim society are the free (i.e non-slave) Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. Adherents of other religions, as well as those without religion, are asked to convert to Islam; if they refuse, they are to be forced to convert (or face execution, en masse).  Jews and Christians were required to pay the jizyah while pagans were required to either accept Islam or die. However, historically, adherents of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other religions, have lived as Dhimmis within Muslim states.
In the pre-Islamic northern Arabia of the prophet's predecessors, different tribes existed in a constant state of warfare, with peace being the exception to the general rule of unending warfare. The dhimma as a whole is conceived of in the Islamic tradition as "protection" of the non-Muslim from the endless state of jihad, itself a continuation of the war like state of the Arabs before Islam. If the conquered do not wish to pay or convert, their fate may very well be slavery (under which, rape is permitted) or death. Historically, non-Muslim residents of an Islamic state who failed to pay jizya or who broke their contract with the state could also be enslaved. The Pact of Umar also declares that dhimmis are forbidden to ride horses and camels, and may only ride donkeys, and only on packsaddles, and imposes many other restrictions besides these, all of which are meant to humiliate and humble the dhimmi while rendering his religion not a threat to Islam. In return the dhimmi receives the right to live and own property in the Islamic state. As such the Muslim jurists and scholars see it as a form of mercy and protection; in reality, though, the laws and strictures of the dhimma outlining legal discrimination against and limitations on religious minorities constitute a form of religious apartheid and second class citizenship. The limitations extend to but are not limited to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to marry the partner of one's choosing, freedom of movement, taxation without representation, the right to own and bear arms, and freedom from slavery and unpaid servitude. The implementation of these rules have varied over time, but Islamic scholars to this day continue to advocate for the implementation of the dhimma, and Islamist regimes in recent times such as the Islamic State, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have continued to implement elements of the dhimma in the modern age.
According to the Qur'an and hadith, the centerpiece of the dhimma contract is that the Jizyah tax must be paid by the dhimmis as a sign of submission. Legally, the payment of this tax grants the dhimmis some legal protection in return. As established by the Pact of Omar, dhimmis usually are not allowed to carry arms to protect themselves, serve in the army or government, display symbols of their faith, build or repair places of worship, they must wear distinctive clothing which includes the Zunar (a kind of belt) wherever they go (which parallels the Nazi practice of making Jews wear yellow badges), etc. Some of these laws are still enforced today in Muslim countries, like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which enforce various aspects of the Shari'ah, although the dhimma as a whole has not been enforced anywhere since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.
According to Islamic sources the pact of the dhimma originated with Muhammad himself after the battle of Khaybar. Muhammad, having defeated the Jews of the oasis, destroyed their forts, killed their leader, taken his wife as his own, tortured and killed various of their number in order to find their treasures, and cut down their palm trees, allowed the surviving Jews to remain there on the condition that they pay half their crop to him and the Muslims . This was the beginning of the jizyah and the dhimma. According to his biographer ibn S'ad, Muhammad would later write to a Christian ruler:
Here the beginnings of the tripartite offer can be glimpsed. The full trifecta of conversion to Islam, paying the Jizyah, or death would be finalized by the masterful Muslim general Khalid bin Al-Walid, the "Sword of Allah", in his jihad against the Christians of Iraq and their Zoroastrian overlords:
This tripartite offer of death, paying the jizya and accepting the dhimma, or converting to Islam would be copied by Islamic conquerors throughout the ages, from Spain to Indonesia, and is still found today in the declarations of war and "invitation" by Islamic terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda.
The Pact Of Umar
The Pact of Umar is a historical document preserved by Islamic historians such as Al-Tabari which lays out the rights and responsibilities of the non-Muslims living under the Islamic rule of the 2nd Rashidun Caliph Umar. According to the legend recorded by Tabari, Umar concluded the pact with the grateful Christian Patriarch of Jerusalem, who led him about the city and prayed with him. In reality, Sophronius's surviving writings make no mention of Umar or even Islam as a whole, but bear witness to the terrible destruction wrought by the Arab invaders in the city. Although clearly legendary in character and subject to multiple layers of redaction, the document lays out a number of rules and stipulations for the conquered Christian population of Jerusalem. It is a document which was utilized frequently by later jurists dealing with the subject of the dhimma . According to the body of the pact as preserved in later accounts, there were many rules that were placed on the newly minted Christian dhimmis of Jerusalem:
This is a writing to Umar from the Christians of such and such a city. When You [Muslims] marched against us [Christians],: we asked of you protection for ourselves, our posterity, our possessions, and our co-religionists; and we made this stipulation with you, that we will not erect in our city or the suburbs any new monastery, church, cell or hermitage; that we will not repair any of such buildings that may fall into ruins, or renew those that may be situated in the Muslim quarters of the town; that we will not refuse the Muslims entry into our churches either by night or by day; that we will open the gates wide to passengers and travellers; that we will receive any Muslim traveller into our houses and give him food and lodging for three nights; that we will not harbor any spy in our churches or houses, or conceal any enemy of the Muslims. [At least six of these laws were taken over from earlier Christian laws against infidels.]
That we will not teach our children the Qu'ran [some nationalist Arabs feared the infidels would ridicule the Qu'ran; others did not want infidels even to learn the language]; that we will not make a show of the Christian religion nor invite any one to embrace it; that we will not prevent any of our kinsmen from embracing Islam, if they so desire. That we will honor the Muslims and rise up in our assemblies when they wish to take their seats; that we will not imitate them in our dress, either in the cap, turban, sandals, or parting of the hair; that we will not make use of their expressions of speech, nor adopt their surnames [infidels must not use greetings and special phrases employed only by Muslims]; that we will not ride on saddles, or gird on swords, or take to ourselves arms or wear them, or engrave Arabic inscriptions on our rings; that we will not sell wine [forbidden to Muslims]; that we will shave the front of our heads; that we will keep to our own style of dress, wherever we may be; that we will wear girdles round our waists [infidels wore leather or cord girdles; Muslims, cloth and silk].
That we will not display the cross upon our churches or display our crosses or our sacred books in the streets of the Muslims, or in their market-places; that we will strike the clappers in our churches lightly [wooden rattles or bells summoned the people to church or synagogue]; that we will not recite our services in a loud voice when a Muslim is present; that we will not carry Palm branches [on Palm Sunday] or our images in procession in the streets; that at the burial of our dead we will not chant loudly or carry lighted candles in the streets of the Muslims or their market places; that we will not take any slaves that have already been in the possession of Muslims, nor spy into their houses; and that we will not strike any Muslim.All this we promise to observe, on behalf of ourselves and our co-religionists, and receive protection from you in exchange; and if we violate any of the conditions of this agreement, then we forfeit your protection and you are at liberty to treat us as enemies and rebels..
Amongst the most promiment of these rules were the restrictions on building new places of worship, the stipulations on the different clothing that the dhimmis were forced to wear, the prohibition on copying Muslims in style, and the limitations on worship which the Christians had to abide by. The pact ends with recognition of the fact that if it is broke, the dhimmis will lose their "protection" and the jihad will resume against them. Although enforcement varied throughout the ages, all of these laws found implementation at different times and different places in the modern world up until the middle of the 20th century.
The Dhimma as Social Contract
The law professor Antoine Fattal offered the following analysis of dhimmitude after close study of Islamic law:
Scriptural Basis in the Qur'an and Sunnah
The fuquhaa' (Islamic jurists) call on many sources in the Islamic canon of the Quran and Sunnah when dealing with the subject of the dhimma. The basis of the institution of the dhimma is found in the Qur'an:
Beyond this verse, the attitude of the Qur'an, particularly as read by later mufassirun and Islamic scholars, towards unbelievers including the so-called "People of the Book" is unremittingly negative. The main understanding (in the traditional Islamic reading) is that the Jews and Christians are cursed for rejecting the message of the prophet:
Ibn Kathir in his tafsir explains the meaning of the Jizya verse in surah at-Tauba (Surah 9):
The "Aman" or peace that the Islamic state affords to the conquered people comes with many conditions according to ibn Kathir:
Fiqh Around the Institution of the Dhimma
The Dhimma revolved around the payment of the Jizyah, which was both a source of income for the Muslims of the Islamic state and a source of humiliation and subjection for the conquered dhimmi people. Islamic scholar Abu Yusuf outlines the reason for this:
Magian [Zoroastrian], Sabean, or Samaritan from paying the tax, and no one can obtain a partial reduction. It is illegal for one to be exempted and another not, because their lives and possessions art: spared only onaccount of the payment of the poll tax, which serves in lieu of the kharaj related to their possessions. [p. 189]
The "protection" afforded to the dhimmis was conditional upon the payment of the jizya. As such the dhimmi was required to carry the receipt of his jizya on his person at all times, lest a Muslim demand to see proof of his "protection." Abu Yusuf outlines how this was to be accomplished
At other periods in Islamic history, the Dhimmi was also allowed to carry the receipt in paper form on their person.
Abu Yusuf further outlines the strictures of the pact of the dhimma:
Legal Theory and Framework
The main operative theory of the dhimma derives from the concept of jihad. Until the entire world is conquered for the religion of Allah, the blood and treasury of every infidel on earth is lawful to be taken by the Muslim ummah. The dhimma is a pact of "protection" between the Muslim state and the non-Muslim. In return for fay, jizya and kharaaj the Muslim state ceases the state of jihad upon the dhimmi and allows him to keep his family, safety and some of his property. The pact comes with many strings attached though: the stipulations of the dhimma entail many restrictions upon the life and freedoms of the dhimmi which are designed to protect and promote the Islamic religion.
Jizya, Kharaj and Fay
The classic trifecta of options that the jihadist presents to the enemies of Islam (conversion, death, or paying the jizya), were attributed to Muhammad but first offered to infidel people's in Iraq by the brilliant jihad general Khalid bin Al-Walid, the "Sword of God." The jizya is the operative legal condition of the dhimma; so long as the dhimmis pay it as the Qur'an says "saaghirun" (صاغرون) (surat 9, At-Tauba, verse 29), that is "subdued/in a position of submission", they are afforded the protections of the dhimmah. In order that they might feel "subdued", jurists have traditionally ruled that the tax must be rendered with the dhimmi kneeling in a submissive position, receiving ritual blows on both sides of his head, and in other ways suffering indignities meant to remind him of his lowly position.
The dhimmi is by definition not a slave; despite his ostensibly free status though, dhimmis were historically often subject to the collection of corvees or forced labor. In addition to this, later Islamic practices of recruitment of children from amongst the dhimmi populations such as the Turkish devshirme more or less amounted to a form of slavery. In many ways the believing slave was often superior in social position to the ostensibly free dhimmi; multiple Islamic dynasties such as the Mamluks in Egypt found their origin in Muslim slave warriors, but dhimmis were always limited in what they could accomplish and how far they could rise in Muslim states.
Rights and Role of the Dhimmi Clergy
The jurists established strict rules for the interactions between the Muslim ummah and the dhimmi populations, and these rules designated the clergy as the intermediary through which Muslim emirs would rule their cowed dhimmi subjects. As such Muslim authorities took great interest in the elections of Christian and Jewish clergy to their offices, often favoring one party or the other, and as a consequence many favored Christian clergy were the willing agents of the dhimma's humiliation and exploitation of their flocks.
Implementation varied from Muslim state to Muslim state. The weakness of Muslim and instability of Muslim states often prompted the intensification of the persecution of the dhimmis. There was often tension between the emirs of Muslim states who wished to lighten the burden of the dhimmah on their dhimmah subjects in the interest of economic objectives and later to appease the powerful European Christian states which came to dominate them, and the Ulema who generally agitated for more faithful and stricter implementation of the strictures of the dhimmah.
Scholar Bat Ye'or see the social rules, restrictions, and customs originating in and evolving from the dhimmah as producing a state of what she calls Dhimmitude in the subject peoples. This fearful state was characterized by obedience to the dhimmis' Muslim masters, acceptance of the assumptions underlying the dhimmah (about such things as the superiority of Islam), behavior which sought to mollify and please the dhimmis' Muslim masters, and inter-dhimmi rivalry, bigotry and even bloodshed aimed at securing a more favored position vis-a-vis the Muslim ummah. In her book Understanding Dhimmitude she offers the following characteristics of Dhimmitude:
The main characteristics of the dhimmi condition brought by this situation are: in the legal domain:
a) the Islamic notion of protection; b) the notion of toleration;in the economic domain: the notion of fay (booty); and in the social domain: the notion of vilification.
By Islamic protection, she refers to the operative theory of Jihad in Islamic Law. All people of the earth live in two realms: Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam (the Abodes of War and Peace). The residents of the Abode of War, Dar-al-Harb, are the harbis. Their blood is legal for the Muslims; that is they are allowed to kill them wherever they find them. This is natural state of the world according to the fuquha'. The dhimma, a cessation of this state, this constitutes protection from this never ending jihad. Instead of their Shirk being stomped out by force, their erroneous religions are allowed, graciously, to exist by the Muslims. As such, they ought in fact to be grateful for the dhimma. This "right" granted by the dhimma is the right to life, which is contingent on the payment of the Jizyah poll tax. Most of the jurists agree that failure to this tax must result in the continuation of the state of jihad upon the dhimmi, that is in his death :
By fay she uses the Arabic word (فيء) fay' which means the booty of war. According to the rules of jihad, the imam (leader) of the Muslims is to keep the fay has a waqf (وقف) or collective trust of the entirety of the Ummah (the community of Muslims). In accordance with these rules, the conquered people, their wealth, their women and children, their land, their property, and the fruit of their labor constitute the communal fay of the Muslim ummah or national communi9ty. The dhimma is this a structured way of leveraging this communal property according to the 8th century Muslim jurist Abu Yusu :
The 11th century jurist Ibn Hazm elaborates:
The dhimmis are not to be reduced to slavery, but their economic output is to be harvested by the Muslims through the jizyah and the kharaaj and the other taxes and duties imposed on them, as well as through corvees or forced labor.
By vilification, Ye'or refers to the rituals, rules, laws, and regulations of the dhimma which are meant to humiliate the dhimmi and his religion, thus Ye'or brings the examples of the legal status of dhimmis vis-a-vis Muslims in the Islamic polity. Dhimmis were not allowed to hit or strike a Muslim, even in defense, and even in situations where their life was threatened by the Muslim; furthermore, in cases of criminal import, their testimony was inadmissible in Muslim courts; in fact in such cases dhimmis were often forced to buy the testimony of Muslims for the sake of their defense . The requirement that dhimmis be struck about the neck and head when rendering the jizaya were also part of this vilification. These stipulations were meant to humiliate and vilify the conquered people, thus pushing them inexorably to convert to Islam throughout the ages.
- Dhimmi dot org-- A Collection of Articles about Dhimmis and the Institution of the Dhimma
- Dhimmitude dot org-- A Collection of Articles about the idea of Dhimmitude
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