Muslim, Islamic CONTRACT-CITIZENS "Dhimmis"

College Studies: COURSE-SOC-SCI-and-WOR-REL-221

Muslim, Islamic CONTRACT-CITIZENS "Dhimmis"

A dhimmi (ahl al-dhimmah), "the people of the dhimma" or "people of the contract") is a "non-Muslim subject", of a state-nation governed in accordance with Sharia law. The dhimma is a theoretical contract based on a widely held Islamic doctrine granting special status to Jewish, Christian, and other non-Muslim subjects.

> Dhimma provides "rights of residence" in return for taxes.[1]

> Dhimmi have fewer legal and social rights than Muslims in the same state-nation,

> but Dhimmis have more rights than other non-Muslims who do not make the "contract" to pay higher taxes for more rights.[2]

> The Dhimmis are excluded from the specifically Muslim duties, and otherwise equal under the laws of property, contract and obligation.[3]

Dhimmi status was originally afforded to non-Muslims who were People of the Book (that is the Holy Bible, therefore, Dhimmi's are mostly Jews and Christians), and later came to include Zoroastrians, Mandeans, Hindus and Buddhists.[4][5]

Eventually, the largest school of Islamic legal thought applied this term to all non-Muslims living in Islamic lands outside the sacred area surrounding Mecca, Saudi Arabia.[6] This status therefore applied to millions of people living from Spain and Morocco on the Atlantic Ocean to Indonesia in the Pacific, and from the 7th century AD until modern times.[7]

Treatment of Dhimmis

The question of how tolerant Islam was, and is, towards other religions requires a definition of terms.

> If a lack of discrimination is the criteria for tolerance, one answer will emerge.

> If a lack of persecution, defined as active and violent repression, is the criteria, the question gets a different answer.[8]

Discrimination against dhimmis is institutionalized in traditional Islamic societies. Persecution, on the other hand, was rare and atypical.[9] The dhimmi communities had their own chiefs and judges, with their own family, personal and religious laws.[10]

Many of the dhimmi restrictions seem to go back to the early days of the Arab conquest, and to have been instituted as security precautions in order to protect occupying military and administrative personnel.[11] Most of the restrictions were social and symbolic in nature.[12]

Various restrictions, such as dress codes, building codes, and limits on openness of worship, were enforced unevenly on the dhimmi populations. A pattern of stricter, then more lax, enforcement developed over time. In times of external threat, or under a more pious ruler, the restrictions would be rigorously enforced for a while - then more lax enforcement would again return.[13]

The major financial disabilities of the dhimmi were

> the jizya poll tax and

> that dhimmis could not inherit from Muslims.[12]

The jurists and scholars of Islamic Sharia law called for humane treatment of the dhimmis, however the commentators were more severe.[14] Unlike the Jews and Muslims of reconquered Spain, the dhimmis did not have to choose between apostasy, exile and death.[9]

Islamic Domination of Religion

Islam has become the dominant religion in much of the world primarily through three avenues.

> First, a gradual process of religious conversion for material and spiritual reasons.

> Second, interfaith marriages, which require the children to be raised as Muslims.

> Third, and more recently, rapid rates of population growth among all nations.

There were no large scale massacres or expulsions of dhimmi populations until the dissolution of the Ottoman empire, and the resulting emergence of modern secular Turkey, in the twentieth century.[15]

The dhimma contract in the modern world

The dhimma contract and Sharia law

The dhimma contract is an integral part of traditional Islamic Sharia law. From the ninth century AD, the power to interpret and refine law in traditional Islamic societies was in the hands of the scholars (ulema). This separation of powers served to limit the range of actions available to the ruler, who could not easily decree or reinterpret law independently and expect the continued support of the community.[16]

Through succeeding centuries and empires, the balance between the ulema and the rulers shifted and reformed, but the balance of power was never decisively changed.[17] At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution introduced an era of European world hegemony that included the domination of most of the lands of Islam.[18][19]

At the end of the Second World War, the European powers found themselves too weakened to maintain their empires.[20] The wide variety of forms of government, systems of law, attitudes toward modernity and interpretations of Sharia are a result of the ensuing drives for independence and modernity in the Muslim world.[21][22]

Muslim states, sects, schools of thought and individuals differ as to exactly what sharia law entails.[23] In addition, Muslim states today utilize a spectrum of legal systems. Saudi Arabia and some Gulf Nations enforce their interpretations of classical Sharia law. Most states have a mixed system implementing certain aspects of sharia while acknowledging constitutional supremacy.

A few, such as Turkey, have declared themselves secular,[24] however they are moving back toward stricter religious control as of 2010.

Local and customary laws may take precedence in certain matters, as well.[25] Islamic law is therefore poly-normative,[26] and despite several cases of regression in recent years, the trend is towards modernization and liberalization.[27]

Questions of human rights and the status of minorities cannot be generalized with regards to Islam and the Muslim world. They must instead be examined on a case-by-case basis, within specific political and cultural contexts, using perspectives drawn from the historical framework.[28]

The status of the dhimmi "was for long accepted with resignation by the Christians and with gratitude by the Jews" but ceased to be so after the rising power of Christendom and the radical ideas of the French revolution caused a wave of discontent among Christian dhimmis.[29] While Muslims opposed the abolition of dhimma laws, continuing and growing pressure from the European powers combined with pressure from Muslim reformers gradually relaxed the inequalities between Muslims and non-Muslims.[30]

The collection of the jizya tax from non-Muslims was widespread throughout the history of Islam. In the mid-nineteenth century the Ottoman empire significantly relaxed the restrictions and taxes placed on its non-Muslim residents under Ottomanism. These relaxations occurred gradually as part of the Tanzimat reform movement, which began in 1839 with the accession of the Ottoman Sultan Abd-ul-Mejid I.

On November 3, 1839, the Hatt-i Sharif of Gulhane edict was put forth by the Sultan, in part proclaiming the principle of equality among all subjects regardless of religion. Part of the motivation for this was a desire to gain support from the British Empire, whose help was needed in a conflict with Egypt.

On February 18, 1856, the Hatt-i Humayan edict was issued, building upon the 1839 edict. It came about partly as a result of pressure from and the efforts of the ambassadors of England, France, and Austria, whose respective countries were needed as allies in the Crimean War. It again proclaimed the principle of equality between Muslims and non-Muslims, and produced many specific reforms to this end. For example, the jizya tax was abolished and non-Muslims were allowed to join the army.[31][32]

During World War I, Christian minorities (Greek, Armenian, Assyrian) began aiding invading foreign armies (chiefly the Russian) in the Ottoman Empire. Beginning as forced expulsion from the warzone, in Kurdish areas, many citizens took up arms against the Christian population, alleging that they were traitors. In 1915, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., the U.S. ambassador to the Empire, reported that 350,000 Armenians had been killed or starved.[edit] Views of contemporary Islamic scholars on the status of dhimmis in an Islamic society

* Ayatollah Khomeini in his book "On Islamic Government" indicates unequivocally that non-Muslims should be required to pay the poll tax, in return for which they would profit from the protection and services of the state; they would, however, be excluded from all participation in the political process.[33] Bernard Lewis remarks about Khomeini that one of his main grievances against the Shah was that his legislation allowed the theoretical possibility of non-Muslims exercising political or judicial authority over Muslims.[34]

* Allameh Tabatabaei, a prominent 20th century Shia scholar, commenting on a hadith that claims that the verse 9:29 has "abrogated" other verses asking for good behaviour toward dhimmis, states that "abrogation" could be understood either in its terminological sense or its literal sense. If "abrogation" is understood in its terminological sense, Muslims should deal with dhimmis strictly in a good and decent manner.[35]

* Javed Ahmed Ghamidi writes in Mizan that certain directives of the Qur’an were specific only to the Prophet Muhammad against peoples of his times, besides other directives, the campaign involved asking the polytheists of Arabia for submission to Islam as a condition for exoneration and the others for jizya and submission to the political authority of the Muslims for exemption from death punishment and for military protection as the dhimmis of the Muslims. Therefore, after the Prophet and his companions, there is no concept in Islam obliging Muslims to wage war for propagation or implementation of Islam.[36][37]

* The Shia jurist, Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi states in the selection of the Tafsir Nemooneh that the main philosophy of jizya is that it is only a financial aid to those Muslims who are in the charge of safeguarding the security of the state and Dhimmis' lives and properties on their behalf[38]

[edit] Views of prominent contemporary Muslims on the status of dhimmis in an Islamic society

* Legal scholar L. Ali Khan points to the Constitution of Medina as a way forward for Islamic states in his 2006 paper titled The Medina Constitution. He suggests this ancient document, which governed the status of religions and races in the first Islamic state, can serve as a basis for the protection of minority rights, equality, and religious freedom in the modern Islamic state. [39] [40]

* Dr. Zakir Naik, a prominent Islamic preacher from India has stated that "as far as the matters of religion are concerned we know for sure that only Islam is the true religion in the eyes of God. In 3:85 it is mentioned that God will never accept any religion other than Islam. As far as the second question regarding building of churches or temples is concerned, how can we allow this when their religion is wrong? And when worship is also wrong? Thus we will surely not allow such wrong things in our (i.e. an Islamic) country."[41]

[edit] Historical implications for non-Muslims living in Islamic lands

Over the course of many centuries, dhimma gradually led to the conversion of most Zoroastrians and Christians to Islam, but had a limited impact on the Jews. Zoroastrianism was the first to crumble after the Muslim conquest of Persia. Closely associated with the power structures of the Persian Empire, the Zoroastrian clergy quickly declined after they were deprived of state support.[42][edit] North Africa, the Near East and the Middle East[edit] Christianity

For Christians, the process of conversion was slower, but no less inexorable. It is possible that as late as the time of the Crusades Christians still constituted a majority of the population. The switch from a dominant to an inferior position proved too difficult for many Christians and they converted to Islam in large numbers. Christianity disappeared altogether in Central Asia and Yemen. It disappeared from the Maghreb, when it was subjected to persecution by the Almohads. Christians continued to live in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, but their numbers were reduced to a tiny minority. The relative resiliency of Christians in those countries stemmed from their subordinated position in the Byzantine Empire, which made them more amenable to accepting Muslim supremacy; many of them felt better off under early Muslim rule than under the Byzantines.[42]

In 1095 CE, Pope Urban II urged European Christians to come to the aid of their Christian brethren in Palestine. The subsequent Crusades brought Latin Christians into contact with Eastern sects of Christianity which held beliefs more different from their own than they had previously been aware. The Eastern Christians were also in a more comfortable position under the rule of the Muslim Fatimid dynasty than had been supposed by the Europeans. Consequently, the Eastern Christians provided little support to the Crusaders.[15] When the Arab East came under Ottoman rule in the sixteenth century CE, Christian populations and fortunes rebounded significantly. The Ottomans had long experience dealing with Christian and Jewish minorities, and were more tolerant towards religious minorities than the former Muslim rulers, the Mamluks of Egypt.[15] By the nineteenth century CE, European pressure had removed all dhimma restrictions Ottoman religious minorities. The ensuing modernizations and improvements in economic positions of the Arab Christians would eventually lead to a reduction in their relative numbers through a lowered birth rate among their population. The increase in wealth and freedom enjoyed by the former dhimmis would in turn lead to friction with the Muslim community.[15][edit] Judaism

Jews were the least affected by dhimma. Accustomed to survival in adverse circumstances after many centuries of Roman and Byzantine persecutions, Jews saw the Islamic conquests as just another change of rulers; this time, for the better. Voluntary conversion among the Jews was rare, and they managed to preserve their religion all over the Muslim lands.[42] Bernard Lewis, in "The Jews of Islam", states the Judaeo-Islamic tradition has been "destroyed."[43][edit] South Asia

By the tenth century CE, the Turks of central Asia had brought Islam to the mountains north of the Indic plains.[44] It was not long before they swept south across the Punjab. The Indus basin held a substantial Buddhist population in addition to the ruling Hindu castes, and most converted to Islam over the next two centuries. At the end of the twelfth century, the Muslims advanced quickly into the Ganges plain.[45] In one decade, a Muslim army led by Turkic slaves consolidated resistance around Lahore and brought northern India, as far as west Bengal, under Muslim rule.[46] From these Turkic slaves would come sultans, including the founder of the sultanate of Delhi. Muslims and dhimmis alike participated in urbanization and urban prosperity.[47]

By the fifteenth century, Islamic and Hindu civilization had evolved in a complementary manner, with the Muslims taking the role of a ruling caste in Hindu society. Nevertheless, the Muslims retained their Islamic identities, and were in some ways regarded by Hindus in much the same light as their own lowest castes.[48] By this time, most of the Indian subcontinent was under the influence of Islamic rulers, although resistance in the south continued. Bengal had a high rate of conversions to Islam, as Hinduism had not firmly established itself in this region. Across India, certain castes and trades converted to Islam en masse to attain equality and higher status. Areas where Buddhism was strong became strongly Muslim. There was a notable atrocity perpetrated upon Buddhist monks in a monastery in Bengal. Forced conversions were not the source of conversions among the Buddhists, although the Muslims did not hold them in high regard. The main source of conversions was among Buddhist peasants coming to the cities.[49]

In the sixteenth century CE, India came under the influence of the Mughals (Mongols). Babar, a petty ruler of the Mongol Timuri empire, established a foothold in the North which paved the way for further expansion by his successors.[50] Until it was eclipsed by European hegemony in the eighteenth century, the Timuri Moghul emperors oversaw a period of coexistence and tolerance between Hindus and Muslims. The emperor Akbar has been described as a universalist. He sought to establish tolerance and equality between all communities and religions, and instituted far reaching social and religious reforms.[51] Not all the Mughal emperors endorsed the ideals espoused by Akbar, indeed Aurangzeb was inclined towards a more traditional, communal approach.[52]

The entire subcontinent fell under European colonial rule during the eighteenth century. Independence from their former European colonial rulers, and the subsequent struggles for political power, have brought ethnic and religious strife to this area of the world in modern times.[edit] The Far East

The most populous Muslim country in the world is Indonesia, with a population of over 200 million people. The officially recognized religions in Indonesia are Islam (87% of the population), Protestant (6%), Catholic (3.5%), Hindu (1.8%) and other religious and spiritual groups (1.3%). There are 525 languages and dialects spoken.[53] Islam came to Indonesia with traders from India and Bangladesh, among other places, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. These Muslim traders cemented their positions in port cities through intermarriage with local inhabitants.[54][55] Christianity came later, with Dutch control of those ports in the eighteenth century.[56] Nowhere is cultural pluralism more pronounced than in Indonesia and the other countries of the Malaysian archipelago: Singapore and Malaysia. The history of Islam and Christianity in Indonesia has largely been one of peaceful coexistence.[57]

As is the case in India, independence from their former European colonial rulers and the subsequent struggles for political power have brought ethnic and religious strife to this area.[57][edit] Development of the dhimma in the early Islamic period[edit] Peace terms

A precedent for the dhimma contract was established with the agreement between the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the Jews of Khaybar, an oasis near Medina. Khaybar was the first territory attacked and conquered by Muslims. When the Jews of Khaybar surrendered to Muhammad after a siege, Muhammad allowed them to remain in Khaybar in return for handing over to the Muslims one half their annual produce. The Khaybar case served as a precedent for later Islamic scholars in their discussions on the issue of dhimma, even though the second caliph, Umar I, subsequently expelled the Jews from the oasis.[58]

As the early Muslims expanded their territory through conquest, they imposed terms of surrender upon some of the defeated peoples. Courbage and Fargues write:

Before launching an attack the ruler would offer them three choices - conversion, payment of a tribute, or to fight by the sword. If they did not choose conversion a treaty was concluded, either instead of battle or after it, which established the conditions of surrender for the Christians and Jews - the only non-Muslims allowed to retain their religion at this time. The terms of these treaties were similar and imposed on the dhimmi, the people ‘protected’ by Islam, certain obligations.[15]

After Mecca was brought under Islamic rule, deputations from tribes across Arabia came to make terms with Muhammad and the Muslims. Some tribes submitted to Islam and became Muslim, other Jewish and Christian tribes agreed to pay the poll tax in order to keep their religion and stay in their homes. Most of the Bedouin pagans were given no other choice but submission to Islam.[59]

One hundred years from its beginnings, the Islamic Arabian empire had expanded to include the lands of the Persians and the eastern half of Byzantine Rome. Sharia law was still in its infancy, and tribal law was more influential. The Arab conquerors included Christian as well as Muslim tribes. The Christian Arabs were regarded as fellow Arabs rather than dhimmis. The Arabs generally established garrisons outside towns in the conquered territories, and had little interaction with the local dhimmi populations for purposes other than the collection of taxes. The conquered Christian, Jewish, Mazdean and Buddhist communities were otherwise left to lead their lives as before.[60][edit] Byzantine and Persian precedents

As small minorities in the newly conquered territories of the Byzantine and Persian empires, the Muslim ruling class needed administrative personnel and expertise. In addition, the Islamic tradition carried the principles for governing these new subjects, but lacked the procedures. The existing personnel, procedures and traditions for ruling religious minorities were adapted to conform to Islamic principles, and used to govern these new dhimmi subjects.[61][edit] Relevant texts[edit] Qur'anic verses as a basis for Islamic policies toward dhimmis

Lewis states

* The phrase "…there is no compulsion in religion…", from [Qur'an 2:256], has usually been interpreted in the Islamic legal and theological traditions to mean followers of other religions should not be forced to adopt Islam.[62]

* The phrase "…To you your religion, to me my religion…", from [Qur'an 109:6], has been used as a "proof-text for pluralism and coexistence".[62]

* Verse [Qur'an 2:62] has served to justify the tolerated position accorded to the followers of Christianity, Judaism, and Sabianism under Muslim rule.[62]

* According to a consensus of Muslim scholars, imposition of tribute on non-Muslims under Muslim rule is mandated by Sura 9:29 of the Qur'an. This tribute, the jizya poll tax, is a symbol of dhimmi subservience as well as a source of state revenue.[63] [Qur'an 9:29]

[edit] Hadith

Bernard Lewis cites a hadith quotation from Muhammad, "One who kills a man under covenant (peace treaty) will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise", as a foundation for the protection of the People of the Book in Muslim ruled countries.[citation needed]

Majid Khadduri cites a similar hadith in regard to the status of the dhimmis: "Whoever wrongs one with whom a compact(treaty) has been made [i.e., a dhimmi] and lays on him a burden beyond his strength, I will be his accuser."[64][edit] Constitution of Medina

The Constitution of Medina, a formal agreement between Muhammad and all of the significant tribes and families of Medina (including Muslims, Jews and pagans), declared that non-Muslims in the Ummah had the following rights:[65]

1. The security (dhimma) of God is equal for all groups,[66] 2. Non-Muslim members have equal political and cultural rights as Muslims. They will have autonomy and freedom of religion.[67] 3. Non-Muslims will take up arms against the enemy of the Ummah and share the cost of war. There is to be no treachery between the two.[68] 4. Non-Muslims will not be obliged to take part in religious wars of the Muslims.[69]

[edit] Pact of Umar

The Pact of Umar, believed by many Muslims to be between caliph Umar I and the conquered Christians of Jerusalem, was another source of regulations pertaining to dhimmis.

The document enumerates the obligations and restrictions that the Christians proposed to the Muslim conquerors as conditions of surrender.[70] However, Western orientalists doubt the authenticity of the Pact, arguing it is usually the victors and not the vanquished who impose rather than propose, the terms of peace, and that it is highly unlikely that the people who spoke no Arabic and knew nothing of Islam could draft such a document. Academic historians believe the Pact of Umar in the form it is known today was a product of later jurists who attributed it to the venerated caliph Umar I in order to lend greater authority to their own opinions. The striking similarities between the Pact of Umar and the Theodesian and Justinian Codes suggest that perhaps much of the Pact of Umar was borrowed from these earlier codes by later Islamic jurists. At least some of the clauses of the pact mirror the measures first introduced by the Umayyad caliph Umar II or by the early Abbasid caliphs.[71][edit] Historical status of dhimmisQuestion book-new.svg This section needs additional citations for verification.Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2007)[edit] Gradual expulsion of dhimmis from the Arabian Peninsula

After Mecca was brought under Islamic rule, deputations from tribes across Arabia came to make terms with Muhammad and the Muslims. Some tribes submitted to Islam and became Muslim, other Jewish and Christian tribes agreed to pay the poll tax in order to keep their religion and stay in their homes. Most of the Bedouin pagans were given no other choice but submission to Islam.[59]

By the end of the Middle Ages, most Jews and Christians from the Arabian peninsula had been resettled in the Fertile Crescent, in spite of their protected status as dhimmis. There they were given land in compensation for their loss. Arabia was never completely cleared of all non-Muslims, but agreement was reached they should not be allowed in the vicinity of Mecca and Medina, even as visitors.[72]

Religious aspects

From an Islamic legal perspective, the pledge of protection granted dhimmis the freedom to practice their religion and spared them forced conversions. The dhimmis were also serving a variety of useful purposes, mostly economic, which was another point of concern to jurists.[73]

Religious minorities were free to do whatever they wished in their own homes, provided they did not engage in illicit sexual activity in ways that could threaten public morals.[74] In some cases, religious practices that Muslims found repugnant were allowed. One example was the Zoroastrian practice of incestuous "self-marriage" where a man could marry his mother, sister or daughter.

According to the famous Islamic legal scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292-1350), non-Muslims had the right to engage in such religious practices even if it offended Muslims, under the conditions that such cases not be presented to Islamic Sharia courts and that these religious minorities believed that the practice in question is permissible according to their religion.

This ruling was based on the precedent that the prophet Muhammad did not forbid such self-marriages among Zoroastrians despite coming in contact with them and having knowledge of their practices.[75]

Conversions to Islam

The spread of the Muslim faith in the first centuries of the Islamic rule was mainly by persuasion and inducement.[76] Many Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians converted to Islam, however there were significant differences among the conversion rates and scales of these three religions. Judaism, on the whole, survived throughout the Islamic lands. Lewis explains the reason for the rapid conversion of Zoroastrians was the close association of the Zoroastrian priesthood and the structure of power in ancient Iran, and neither possessing "stimulation of powerful friends abroad by the Christians, nor the bitter skill in survival possessed by the Jews."

For the Christians, the process of Arab settlement, of conversion to Islam and assimilation into the dominant culture caused their gradual conversion. For many of them, transition to a inferior status, which involved disadvantages and discrimination, was too much to endure. In some places, like the Maghreb, Central Asia, and southern Arabia, Christianity died out completely. Jews in contrast were more accustomed to such adversity. For them, the Islamic conquest was just a change of master. They had already learned how to adapt themselves and "endure under the conditions of political, social and economic disability."[42]

Jewish Encyclopedia reports a high rate of conversion to Islam of informed Jews in the twelfth century. Kohler and Gottheil in Jewish Encyclopedia agree with Grätz who thinks the reason was 'the degeneracy that had taken hold of Eastern Judaism, manifesting itself in the most superstitious practises,' and their being 'moved by the wonderful success of the Arabs in becoming a world-power.' Jewish Encyclopedia also reports outward conversions of Jews to Islam at around the year 1142 in southwestern Europe due to the rise of the Almohades.[77]

Forced conversions

Maimonides (pictured) the eminent scholar and philosopher was a victim of forced conversion at one point

In the first several centuries after the Islamic conquest and subsequently in the Ottoman Empire, forced conversions were rare. Forced conversions occurred mostly in the Maghreb, especially under the Almohads, a militant dynasty with messianic claims, as well as in Persia.[78]

In the 12th century, rulers of the Almohad dynasty purged Muslims who would not submit to their particular brand of Islam, and killed or forcibly converted Jews and Christians in Al-Andalus and the Maghreb, putting an end to the existence of Christian communities in North Africa outside Egypt.[79] In an effort to survive under Almohads, most Jews resorted to practicing Islam outwardly, while remaining faithful to Judaism; they openly reverted to Judaism after Almohad persecutions passed.[80] Maimonides, the great Jewish author and philosopher, was among those forced to profess allegiance to Islam for a period of time. He wrote about the theological basis for the outward practice of Islam by Jews in terms of the perceived similarities between the strict monotheism of Judaism and Islam as compared to Christianity.[81]

Although Lewis claims they were very rare overall, most forced conversions of dhimmis that did happen occurred in Persia.[82] In 1656, Shah Abbas I expelled the Jews from Isfahan and compelled them to adopt Islam, although the order was subsequently withdrawn, possibly because of the loss of fiscal revenues.[83] In the early 18th century, Shia'a clergy attempted to force all dhimmis to embrace Islam, but without success. In 1830, all 2,500 Jews of Shiraz were forcibly converted to Islam.[84] In 1839, Jews were massacred in Mashhad and survivors were forcibly converted.[85] The same fate awaited the Jews of Barforoush in 1866, even though they were allowed to revert to Judaism after an intervention from the British and French ambassadors.[84]

Restrictions on practice

Although dhimmis were allowed to perform their religious rituals, they were obliged to do so in a manner not conspicuous to Muslims. Display of non-Muslim religious symbols, such as crosses or icons, was prohibited on buildings and on clothing (unless mandated as part of distinctive clothing). Loud prayers were forbidden, as were the ringing of church bells or the trumpeting of shofars.[86]

Dhimmis had the right to choose their own religious leaders: patriarchs for Christians, exilarchs and geonim for Jews. However, the choice of the community was sometimes subject to the approval of the Muslim authorities, who might blocked candidates that were more likely to instigate political instability.

Dhimmis were prohibited from proselytizing on pain of death. Neither were they allowed to obstruct the spread of Islam in any manner. Other restrictions included a prohibition on publishing or sale of non-Muslim religious literature and a ban on teaching the Qur’an.[70]

Places of worship

The Pact of Umar puts an obligation on dhimmis not to "restore, by night or by day, any [places of worship] that have fallen into ruin",[70] and Ibn Kathir adhered to this view.[87] At the same time, al-Mawardi wrote that dhimmis may "rebuild dilapidated old temples and churches".[88] As in the case of building new houses of worship, the ability of dhimmi communities to repair churches and synagogues usually depended upon their relationship with local Muslim authorities and their ability to pay the relevant taxes.[89]

Islamic doctrine prohibited the construction of new churches and synagogues. Abbasid caliph al-Mutawakkil ordered the destruction of all churches and synagogues built after the Islamic conquest.[90] In the 11th century, the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim ordered the demolition of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.[89]

When non-Muslim houses of worship were built in cities founded after the Islamic conquests, Muslim jurists usually justified such evasions of Islamic law by claiming that those churches and synagogues had existed in the pre-existing non-Muslim settlements. This reasoning was applied in Baghdad, which was built on the grounds of an eponymous Persian village, as well as in some other cities.[91]


Blasphemy by both Muslims and by dhimmis was severely punished. The definition of blasphemy included defamation of Muslim holy texts, denial of the prophethood of Muhammad, and disrespectful references to Islam. Scholars of the Hanbali and Maliki schools, as well as the Shi’ites, prescribed a death penalty for blasphemy, while Hanafis and to some extent Shafi’is advocated flogging and imprisonment in some cases, reserving the death penalty only for habitual and public offenders.[92] Al-Mawardi treated blasphemy as a capital crime.[93]

In general, prosecutions and condemnations for this crime were not common, but they occurred. [94] Although some deliberately sought martyrdom, many blasphemers were insane[95] or drunk[96]; it was not uncommon for the blasphemy accusation to be made due to political considerations or private vengeance, and the fear of a blasphemy charge was a big factor in the fearful and subservient attitude of dhimmis under Muslim rule.[97]

As Edward William Lane put it, describing his visit to Egypt: "[Jews] scarcely ever dare to utter a word of abuse when reviled or beaten by the meanest Arab or Turk; for many a Jew have been put to death upon a false and malicious accusation of uttering disrespectful words against the Kuran or the Prophet".[98] Accusations of blasphemy provoked acts of violence against the entire dhimmis communities, as it happened in Tunis in 1876, Hamadan in 1876, Aleppo in 1889, Sulaymaniya in 1895, Tehran in 1895, or Mosul in 1911.[99]


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