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     Question Forum :  Islam & Dhimmitude     Date Posted:  03 -May  -  2002




Dear Islamic Party,

Can you explain the rights of a dhimmi under Islamic rule? What is the pact of Caliph Omar on dhimmi rights? 

[If you have read the book by Bat Ye'or "ISLAM AND DHIMMITUDE" can you comment on that - I haven't read it, but I have read reviews] 

Given that Daniel Pipes recommends the book you mention, it is likely to contain polemics rather than analysis, but nobody here has read it either so far. 

The term "Dhimmi" (protected person) relates to a classification of citizenship only relevant within a state under Islamic rule. Because the Islamic state is governed by a religious ideology, those not subscribing to this ideology are not called upon to defend it and therefore not required to do military service. However, as they are nonetheless protected by the defences of the Islamic state, they pay the "Jizya" (compensation) as a tax applying specifically to them for that purpose. In turn they are exempt from Muslim-specific taxes like Zakat, which is used to help Muslims in need. 

The concept has to do with Islam's understanding and treatment of minorities and particularly the special status of other monotheistic religions, namely Judaism and Christianity. It must first be remembered that some 6 centuries before King John in his Magna Carta reluctantly gave some basic rights to the freemen of England, which is hailed as the first ever constitution, the city state of Madina had a proper constitution which included protection for minorities well beyond those offered by modern democracies today. The misunderstandings arise when one confuses the religion of Islam with the political ideology of Islam. 

Traditionally Islam is seen as a religion and a state, and public affairs are not separated from religious convictions. Naturally, as the Qur'an prescribes that there is no compulsion in religion, Islam does not interfere with the private beliefs of any of the citizen of the Islamic state, but it will restrict some of their public practices where they undermine the foundation of the state and its ideology. For example, a Muslim state will not permit the human sacrifice of idolatrous religions even though their adherents may believe them to be right and proper. Islam also forbids the public worship of idols as a degradation of humanity. The "people of the book", however, enjoy a special status in that they may opt to be governed by their own laws in private and family matters and all affairs between themselves. Their places of worship are protected, which includes the safety of their religious symbols, like the cross, even though the idea of Jesus' - peace be upon him -  crucifixion is abhorrent to Muslims. Islam concedes that these religions worship the same God, that they have a common origin with Islam, and it leaves it to God to judge their differences. 

Far from being an oppressive condition, the status of dhimmi permits Jews and Christians a measure of self-sufficiency and autonomy within the Muslim state, guaranteeing their protection but not requiring them to submit to the ideological and political postulates of Islam. When the second caliph of Islam, Omar, conquered Jerusalem he therefore gave a guarantee to the Christians for the safeguarding of their churches and rituals of worship, and he gave the inhabitants a free choice of accepting citizenship under Islamic rule whilst paying Jizya, or leaving with all their belongings without persecution. Most chose to stay. Not only does this differ from most conquests in history, but the Islamic rule over Jerusalem is also the only time where all three monotheistic faiths coexisted there peacefully. The Christian crusades and the Jewish occupation contrast the Muslim period by their brutality. That the status of Jewish and Christian minorities under Islam is by far preferable to the treatment either of those religions grant the minorities in their own midst is also borne out in Spain which under Muslim rule became known as the "golden period" of the Jews before they and Muslims were subjected to the most severe persecution during the Christian inquisition.

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