Dhimma System and Dhimmis

Islam     Session Twenty

Dhimma System and Dhimmis

When Muslims conquered a territory the non-Muslims who came under their control were given two choices; (1) convert to Islam or, (2) death or slavery.  However, a third option was available to Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians (“People of the Book”).  They could choose to come under a pact of surrender known as a dhimma or ‘covenant of liability’. (#3, P. 122)

Sura 9:29 authorizes this “protected” status for (primarily) Jews and Christians and Muhammad set the precedents for its implementation.

Ibn Kaathir (a 14th century Sunni scholar) gives this exegesis of Sura 9:29:

“Allah said, ‘until they pay the jizya,’ if they do not choose to embrace Islam, ‘with willing submission,’ that is, in defeat               and subservience, ‘and feel themselves subdued,’ that is, disgraced, humiliated, and belittled.  Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the dhimmis or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced, and humiliated.  Sahih Muslim (a canonical hadith collection) recorded from Abu Hurraira that the Prophet said, ‘Do not initiate the Salam (peace greeting) to Jews and Christians, and if you met any of them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley.’  This is why the Leader of the Faithful, (the second caliph) Omar bin al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, conditions that ensured their continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace.” (#7, P. 23)

Omar bin al-Khattab (aka Umar bin al-Khattab), the second of the four “rightly guided caliphs” originated a set of conditions which must be observed by the dhimmi in order to live in Muslim controlled areas.  These conditions have come to be known as “The Conditions of Omar”and by their observation, enforcement and teaching have attained the status of Islamic law.  Below is a listing of these conditions, written as if being spoken by a Christian dhimmi, as disclosed by Raymond Ibrahim in his book, “Crucified Again”.

Introduction to the conditions:   “When you came to our countries, we asked you for safety for ourselves and the people of our community, upon which we imposed the following conditions on ourselves for you:

“Not to build a church in our city – nor a monastery, convent, or monk’s cell in the surrounding areas – and not to repair those that fall in ruins or are in Muslim quarters;

Not to prevent Muslims from lodging in our churches, by day or night, and to keep their doors wide open for (Muslim) passersby and travelers;

Not to harbor in them (churches, monasteries) or our homes a spy, nor conceal any deceits from Muslims;

Not to clang our cymbals except lightly and from the innermost recesses of our churches;

Not to display a cross on them (churches), nor raise our voices during prayer or readings in our churches anywhere near Muslims;

Not to produce a cross or (Christian) book in the markets of the Muslims;

Not to congregate in the open for Easter or Palm Sunday, nor lift our voices (in lamentation) for our dead nor show our firelights with them near the market places of Muslims;

Not to bring near to them (Muslims) pigs or alcohol;

Not to display any signs of polytheism, nor make our religion appealing, nor call or proselytize anyone to it;

Not to take anything of (or ‘be involved with’) the slave conquered by the Muslims;

Not to prevent any of our relatives who wish to enter into Islam;

To distinguish ourselves wherever we are and not to resemble Muslims in dress – whether in headgear, turbans, sandals, hair-parting, or modes of transportation;

Not to speak like them (Muslims), or adopt their surnames;

To clip our foreheads and not part our forelocks;

To tighten our zunanir (a type of belt) around our waists and not to engrave our signet rings in Arabic nor ride on saddles;

Not to possess or bear any arms whatsoever, nor gird ourselves with swords;

To honor Muslims, show them the way, and rise up from our seats if they wish to sit down;

Not to come upon them in their homes, nor teach our children the Koran;

None of us shall do business with a Muslim unless the Muslim commands it;

To hosts every traveling Muslim for three days and feed him adequately;

We guarantee all this to you upon ourselves, our descendants, our spouses, and our neighbors, and if we change or contradict these conditions imposed upon ourselves in order to receive safety, we forfeit our dhimma (covenant), and we become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition.” (#7, PP. 25-27)

Although these conditions are written as if self-imposed by Christians (and Jews); they are obviously imposed by the Muslims; and are, in effect, the largest in scope and most onerous “protection racket” in history.  In form and substance they deliberately reduce these non-Muslims who live under Islamic control to the status of subservient, humiliated, less than human subjects.  Conversely, the very tenor of these conditions elevates Muslims to an almost godlike level; superior to non-Muslims in all respects.  Also, the last phrase of the “guarantee” paragraph above imposes the death penalty (or slavery) upon any dhimmi who would violate any of the conditions.  Over almost 1400 years, millions of non-Muslims (mostly Christians) have lived under these cruel and degrading regulations.

Next session we will further discuss the dhimma system including the jizya and the precedents set by Muhammad.