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A dhimmi ([ˈðɪmːiː]; Arabic: ذمي‎, collectively أهل الذمة ahl al-dhimmah, "the people of the dhimma or pact of protection"; Ottoman Turkish & Urdu zimmi, "one whose zimma [responsibility of protection] has been taken") is a non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with sharia law. The term connotes an obligation of the state to protect the individual, including the individual's life, property, and freedom of religion and worship, and required loyalty to the empire,[1] and a poll tax known as the jizya.

This status was originally only made available to non-Muslims who were People of the Book (i.e. Jews and Christians), but was later extended to include Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Mandeans, and, in some areas, Hindus[2] and Buddhists.[3][4] Dhimmi had fewer legal and social rights than Muslims, but more rights than other non-Muslim religious subjects.[5] This status applied to millions of people living from the Atlantic Ocean to India from the 7th century until modern times.[6][7][8] Conversion by a dhimmi to Islam was generally easy, and almost without exception emancipated the new convert from all legal impairments of his previous dhimmi status. Violently forced conversion was rare or unknown in early Islamic history, but increased in frequency in later centuries, such as in the Almohad dynasty of North Africa and al-Andalus.[7][8]


The word dhimmi (plural dimam) literally means "protection, care, custody, covenant of protection, compact; responsibility, answerableness; financial obligation, liability, debt; inviolability, security of life and property; safeguard, guarantee, security; conscience" and ahl-dhimmi is "the free non-Muslim subjects living in Muslim countries who, in return for paying the capital tax, enjoyed relative protection and safety."[9]

Treatment of Dhimmis

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Dhimmis were allowed to "practice their religion, subject to certain conditions, and to enjoy a measure of communal autonomy" and guaranteed their personal safety and security of property. Taxation from the perspective of dhimmis who came under the Muslim rule, was "a concrete continuation of the taxes paid to earlier regimes"[10] (but now lower under the Muslim rule[11][12][13]) and from the point of view of the Muslim conqueror was a material proof of the dhimmi's subjection.[10] Various restrictions and legal disabilities were placed on Dhimmis, such as prohibitions against bearing arms or giving testimony in courts in cases involving Muslims.[14] Most of these disabilities had a social and symbolic rather than a tangible and practical character.[15] Although persecution in the form of violent and active repression was rare and atypical,[16] the limitations on the rights of dhimmis made them vulnerable to the whims of rulers and the violence of mobs.[17]

While recognizing the inferior status of dhimmis under Islamic rule, Bernard Lewis states that in most respects their position "was very much easier than that of non-Christians or even of heretical Christians in medieval Europe."[18] For example, dhimmis rarely faced martyrdom or exile, or forced compulsion to change their religion, and with certain exceptions they were free in their choice of residence and profession.[19] Yet there were constraints; the Muslims reserved the right to control the military and agriculture, leaving trade and business to the dhimmis.[20]

Development of the dhimma in the early Islamic period

Peace terms

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.[21]

A classic precedent of the dhimma was an agreement between Muhammad and the Jews of Khaybar, an oasis near Medina. Khaybar was the first territory attacked and conquered by the Muslim state ruled by Muhammad himself. 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 of 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.[22]

Byzantine precedents

In the 9th century, the Muslim historian Baladhuri drew parallels between the dhimma and Byzantine legislation, writing that Jews had been the dhimmis of Christians.[23] Modern historians also agree that laws relating to Jews and non-Melkite Christians in the Byzantine Empire and those applying to Jews and Christians in the Sassanid Persian Empire were used as sources of dhimmi regulations, although Islamic jurists never explicitly acknowledge these sources.[24][Need quotation to verify] Numerous provisions of the Theodosian Code of 438 and the Justinian's Code of 529 appear to have migrated into Islamic law virtually unchanged. Under Byzantine rule, Jews were obliged not to pray loudly; their prayers were not to be audible in the nearby church. Building new synagogues (and repairing existing ones) was likewise prohibited, unless the buildings threatened to collapse and a special permission was obtained. Jews were banned from all public offices and the army; they were prohibited from criticizing Christianity, marrying a Christian, or owning a Christian slave. Furthermore, Jews paid distinctive taxes, possibly the precursors of jizya. Such regulations, justified by Hadith — Bat Ye'or states, worsened on specific factors — came to be imposed upon Christians under the dhimma arrangements, after Byzantine lands were occupied by Muslim forces.[25]

Relevant texts

Qur'anic verses that support religious tolerance

Lewis states that verse "…there is no compulsion in religion…" [Qur'an 2:256], has usually been interpreted in the Islamic legal and theological traditions to mean that the followers of other religions should not be forced to adopt Islam. He also holds that verse "…To you your religion, to me my religion…"[Qur'an 109:6] has been used as a "proof-text for pluralism and coexistence" and that the verse [Qur'an 2:62] has served to justify the tolerated position accorded to the followers of Christianity, Judaism, and Sabianism under Muslim rule.[26]

Qur'anic verse 9:29

The consensus opinion of Muslim scholars justifies the imposition of tribute on non-Muslims who fall under the Muslim rule in terms of Sura 9:29 of the Qur'an.[27] The verse reads: "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold forbidden that which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued [Arabic: صاغرون 'saghiroon']." [Qur'an 9:29].[28]

The Arabic word saghiroon, appearing at the end of verse [Qur'an 9:29],[28][29] was used to justify the imposition of tribute on non-Muslims who fell under the Muslim rule.[27] The verse is translated slightly differently in three common English-language translations: ([Qur'an 9:29])

Yusuf Ali: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

Pickthal: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.

Shakir: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.


The following principle was established in the form of Muhammad's saying: He who wrongs a Jew or a Christian will have myself as his accuser on the day of judgment.[30] Bernard Lewis cites a hadith "One who kills a man under covenant will not even smell the fragrance of Paradise", as a foundation for the protection of the People of the Book in Muslim-ruled countries, but his view is that the position of dhimmis was in general insecure.[31] Majid Khadduri cites a similar hadith in regard to the status of the Dhimmis: Whoever wrongs one with whom a compact has been made [i.e., a dhimmi] and lays on him a burden beyond his strength, I will be his accuser.[32]

Pact of Umar

The supposed Pact of Umar between caliph Umar I and the conquered Christians was another source of regulations pertaining to dhimmis. The document enumerates the obligations and restrictions that the Christians purportedly proposed to the Muslim conquerors as conditions of surrender.[33] However, Western orientalists doubt the authenticity of the Pact, arguing that it is usually the victors, not the vanquished, who propose, or rather impose, 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 that 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.[34]

Interpretations by jurists and commentators

Sunni Muslims tend to follow the opinion of the 7th and 8th century scholars Hanbali, Hanafi, Maliki and Shafi, in contrast to Shias who believe that only a living scholar must be followed.[35]

The jurists of the 7th and 8th centuries CE took a relatively humane and practical attitude towards dhimmis compared to the 11th century commentators writing when Islam was under threat both at home and abroad.[36]

While al-Zamakhshari, an 11th-century commentator, gives a very humiliating procedure of exacting jizya (See the Humiliation section below for a list of quotes), the 8th-century jurist Abu Ubayd, author of a classical treatise on taxation, insists that dhimmis must not be burdened beyond their capacity or caused to suffer. The great jurist Abu Yusuf, also of the 8th century, also rules against a humiliating procedure of exacting jizya. He states: "No-one of the people of dhimma should be beaten in order to exact payment of the jizya (Taxation), nor made to stand in the hot sun, nor should hateful things inflicted upon their bodies, or anything of that sort.. Rather they should be treated with leniency." Abu Yusuf however insisted that the specified tax must be exacted from Dhimmis and prescribed imprisoning for those who do not pay the tax completely.[37]

Yaqub Jafari, a Shia scholar, in Tafsir Kosar states that saghiroon is understood in the following ways:[38]

  • Some jurists hold that saghiroon implies that jizya should be collected with humiliation (e.g. dhimmi's should not be told about the exact amount of jizya they have to pay beforehand so that they become worried, although these jurists hold that jizya must not be burdensome for the dhimmis)
  • Other jurists such as Sheykh Tousi however hold that saghiroon only implies dhimmis' commitment to the Islamic laws.[39]
  • Also some have understood sagharoon to imply that the dhimmi should pay jizya standing while the Muslim collector is sitting.[40]

Historical status of dhimmis

Legal and social status

Dhimmis were subject to legal and social inferiority, and discrimination was, necessary, and "inherent in the system and institutionalized in law and practice," due to the fact that Dhimmis were not allowed to testify against a Muslim in court. Dhimmis were often subject to violence and crimes committed by Muslims; despite strict regulations to keep them on a lower status than that of Muslims, they often managed to secure considerable economic wealth and occasionally (though extremely rarely) some measure of political power.[41] Lewis also notes that, although the regulations and restrictions imposed on dhimmis by the many Islamic communities "did not always conform to the high morals and religious principles of Islam," in practice the actual treatment and social realities of the dhimma under Islamic rule were sometimes better than the written regulations would suggest.[42]

In his classic treatise on the principles of Islamic governance, the 11th-century Shafi'i scholar Al-Mawardi divided the conditions attached to ‘’dhimma’’ on top of the requirement to pay tribute into compulsory and desirable. The compulsory conditions included prohibitions on blasphemy against Islam, entering into sexual relations or marriage with a Muslim woman, proselytizing among Muslims, and assisting the enemies of Islam. The desirable conditions included a requirement to wear distinctive apparel, a prohibition to visibly display religious symbols, wine, or pork, ringing church bells, or loudly praying, a requirement to bury dead bodies unobtrusively, and finally, a prohibition on riding horses or camels, but not donkeys.[43] The latter restrictions were largely symbolic in nature and were designed to highlight the inferiority of dhimmis compared to Muslims.[44]

Friedmann holds that the principle that "Islam is exalted, and nothing is exalted above it" (as Bukhari puts it) had many practical effects on the relationship between Muslims and unbelievers in Muslim lands.[45] According to Lewis, it would have been a theological and logical absurdity for traditional Islamic societies to give the "same treatment to those who follow the true faith and those who willfully reject it."[46]

The treatment of dhimmis, including the enforcement of restrictions placed on them, varied over time and space, depending on both the goodwill of the ruler and the historical circumstances. The "dhimma" was the most oppressive in Morocco, where Jews were subjected to what Norman Stillman called “ritualized degradation”,[47] as well as in Yemen and Persia.[48] The periods when Islamic states were strong generally coincided with more relaxed attitude towards dhimmis; however, treatment of non-Muslims usually became harsher when Islam was weak and in decline.[31][49] Over time, the treatment of dhimmis tended to develop in cycles, such that periods of when restrictions imposed on dhimmis were relaxed were immediately followed by the periods of pious reaction when such restrictions came to be enforced again.[50]

Religious aspects

Conversions to Islam

The spread of the Muslim faith in the first centuries of the Islamic rule was mainly by persuasion, long term selective taxation, and other inducements, though at times there were attempts at forcible conversions. Many Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians converted to Islam, however there were significant differences among the conversion rate and scale of these three religions. Most Zoroastrians converted rather rapidly , while the conversion of Christians was gradual. Judaism however on the whole survived throughout Islamic lands. Lewis explains that the reason for rapid conversion of Zoroastrians was the close association of the Zoroastrian priesthood and the structure of power in ancient Iran, and also 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 assimiliation into the dominant culture caused their gradual conversion. For many of them, transition from a dominant to a subject status, which involved disadvantages, 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 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."[7] Jewish Encyclopedia reports the 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 also 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.[51]

Freedom of religion and forced conversions

From an Islamic legal perspective, the pledge of protection granted dhimmis the freedom to practice their religion and spared them forced conversions. Furthermore, the dhimmis were also serving a variety of useful purposes, mostly economic, which was another point of concern to jurists.[52] Indeed, in the first several centuries after the Islamic conquest and subsequently in the Ottoman Empire, forcible conversions were rare. Subsequently, rulers frequently broke the pledge and dhimmis were forced to choose between conversion to Islam and death. Forced conversions occurred mostly in the Maghreb, especially under the Almohads, a militant dynasty with messianic claims, as well as in Persia, where Shi'a Muslims were generally less tolerant than their Sunni counterparts.[53]

In the 12th century, rulers of the Almohad dynasty 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.[54][55] 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.[56] During the Cordoba massacre of 1148, the Jewish philosopher, theologian, and physician Maimonides ruled that one may save his own life by faking conversion to Islam; he himself never converted or ever described himself as Muslim, in fact in his writing he was extremely critical of Islamic outlooks. As a result of Almohad persecutions and other forced conversions that took place in Morocco afterwards, several Muslim tribes in the Atlas Mountains, as well as many Muslim families in Fez, have Jewish origin.[55]

Although Lewis claims they were very rare overall, most forced conversions of dhimmis that did happen occurred in Persia.[57] 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.[58] 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.[59] In 1839, Jews were massacred in Mashhad and survivors were forcibly converted.[60] 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.[59]

The Almohads and Muslim authorities in Yemen practiced forcible conversion of children. Ye'or and Parfitt believe that this practice was based on the belief that every child is born a Muslim.[61] Suspecting a lack of sincerity on the part of Jews who were forcibly converted to Islam, Almohad rulers took Jewish children from their parents and raised those children as Muslims.[62] In Yemen, a 1922 Zaydi statute known as the Orphans Decree obligated the state to take under its protection and convert any dhimmi child whose parents had died (later extended to include fatherless children).[63] Although possibly intended to alleviate the plight of orphaned children, the Jewish community was dismayed,[64] and Jewish leaders who helped hide orphans were imprisoned and sometimes tortured.[65] Despite this, the Jews in Yemen generally continued to feel that their position in society was secure.[64]

Sporadic waves of forced conversion occurred at different times and places: for example, in Libya in 1558-89, in Tabriz in 1291 and 1338, and in Baghdad in 1333 and 1344.[55]

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 was the ringing of church bells or the trumpeting of shofars.[66]

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 subject to the approval of the Muslim authorities, who sometimes blocked candidates or took the side of the party that offered the larger bribe.[67]

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.[33]

As required by the Pact of Umar, dhimmis had to bury their dead without loud lamentations and prayers.[33] Incidents of harassment of dhimmi funeral processions by Muslims, involving pelting with stones, battery, spitting, or cursing, even by Muslim children, were common regardless of place and time.[68]

Places of worship

According to Islamic law, the permission for dhimmis to retain their places of worship and build new ones depended upon the circumstances in which the land fell under the Muslim rule.

There was no consensus in Islamic jurisprudence as to whether it was permissible for dhimmis to repair churches and synagogues. 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",[33] and Ibn Kathir adhered to this view.[69] At the same time, al-Mawardi wrote that dhimmis may "rebuild dilapidated old temples and churches".[70] As in the case of building new houses of worship, the ability of dhimmi communities to repair churches and synagogues usually depended upon its relationship with local Muslim authorities and its ability to pay bribes.[71] According to the Shafi'i Islamic jurist al-Nawawi, dhimmis could not use churches and synagogues if their land was conquered by attack. In such lands, as well as in towns founded after the conquest, or where inhabitants voluntarily converted wholesale to Islam, Islamic law does not allow dhimmis to build new churches and synagogues, or expand or repair existing ones, even if they fall into ruin. If the country submitted by capitulation, al-Nawawi wrote, dhimmis were permitted to build new houses of worship only if the capitulation treaty stated that dhimmis remained owners of their land. In observance of this prohibition, Abbasid caliphs al-Mutawakkil, al-Mahdi and Harun al-Rashid ordered the destruction, in their realms, of all churches and synagogues built after the Islamic conquest. In the 11th century, the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim oversaw over the demolition of all churches and synagogues in Egypt, Syria and Palestine, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. However, al-Hakim subsequently allowed the rebuilding of the destroyed buildings.[71]

Nevertheless, dhimmis sometimes managed to expand churches and synagogues and even build new ones, albeit at the price of bribing local officials in order to get permissions.[72] When non-Muslim houses of worship were built in cities founded after the Islamic conquests, Muslim jurists usually justified such evasions of the Islamic law by claiming that those churches and synagogues had existed in the earlier settlements. This logic was applied to Baghdad, which was built on the place of an eponymous Persian village, as well as to some other cities.[73]


In the 7th century, freedom of expression was declared in the Rashidun Caliphate by the second Caliph, Umar:[74]

"Only decide on the basis of proof, be kind to the weak so that they can express themselves freely and without fear, deal on an equal footing with litigants by trying to reconcile them."

In the 9th century, freedom of speech was declared in the Abbasid Caliphate by Caliph Al-Ma'mun's cousin Al-Hashimi:[75]

"Bring forward all the arguments you wish and say whatever you please and speak your mind freely. Now that you are safe and free to say whatever you please appoint some arbitrator who will impartially judge between us and lean only towards the truth and be free from the empery of passion, and that arbitrator shall be Reason, whereby God makes us responsible for our own rewards and punishments. Herein I have dealt justly with you and have given you full security and am ready to accept whatever decision Reason may give for me or against me. For "There is no compulsion in religion" (Qur'an 2:256) and I have only invited you to accept our faith willingly and of your own accord and have pointed out the hideousness of your present belief. Peace be with you and the blessings of God!"

In later times, 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.[76] Al-Mawardi treated blasphemy as a capital crime.[43]

Many dhimmis were executed as a result of accusations that they insulted Islam.[77] Although some deliberately sought martyrdom, many blasphemers were insane or drunk; 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 toward Muslims.[78] 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".[79] 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.[80]


Dhimmi communities were subjected to the payment of taxes in favor of Muslims — a requirement that was central to dhimma as a whole. Sura 9:29 stipulates that jizya be exacted from non-Muslims as a condition required for jihad to cease. Failure to pay the jizya could result in the pledge of protection of a dhimmi's life and property becoming void, with the dhimmi facing the alternatives of conversion, enslavement or death (or imprisonment, as advocated by Abu Yusuf, the chief qadi — religious judge — of Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid).[81]

Taxation from the perspective of Dhimmis who came under the Muslim rule was "a concrete continuation of the taxes paid to earlier regimes" and from the point of view of the Muslim conqueror was a material proof of Dhimmi's subjection.[10] Lewis states that it seems that the change from Byzantine to Arab rule was welcomed by many among the Dhimmis who found the new yoke far lighter than the old, both in taxation and in other matters. Some even among the Christians of Syria and Egypt preferred the rule of Islam to that of Byzantines.[13]

The importance of dhimmis as a source of revenue for the Muslim community is illuminated in a letter ascribed to Umar I and cited by Abu Yusuf: "if we take dhimmis and share them out, what will be left for the Muslims who come after us? By God, Muslims would not find a man to talk to and profit from his labors."[82] The two main taxes imposed on dhimmis are known as jizya — a poll tax — and kharaj — a land tax. Early chronicles use these terms indiscriminately; only later did the kharaj emerge as a tax payable by a farmer regardless of his religion.[83]

In an important early account, Malik's Muwatta reports that the jizya was collected from men only, dhimmis were exempt from zakat, and additional taxes were to be levied against dhimmis who travelled on business:

"The Sunnah is that there is no jizya due from women or children of people of the Book, and that jizya is only taken from men who have reached puberty. The people of dhimma ... do not have to pay any zakat ... This is because zakat is imposed on the Muslims to purify them and to be given back to their poor, whereas jizya is imposed on the people of the Book to humble them...If in any one year they frequently come and go in Muslim countries then they have to pay a tenth every time they do so, since that is outside what they have agreed upon, and not one of the conditions stipulated for them. This is what I have seen the people of knowledge of our city doing." (Template:Muwatta-usc)

Most Islamic scholars agree that jizya must be levied only upon adult males. Another interpretation is that jizya was only paid by men because it was an exchange for the dhimmi's life: as it was only the adult males whose lives were forfeit in defeat, so only they had to pay the jizya.

The 8th-century scholar Abu Ubayd advised that dhimmis must not be burdened above their capacity or caused to suffer.[81] Al-Nawawi, however, dissents, demanding "the poll tax to be paid by dying people, the old, … the blind, monks, workers, and the poor, incapable of practicing a trade." The latter view was often applied in practice, as contemporary non-Muslim sources give witness of taxation even of dead persons, widows, and orphans. Al-Nawawi demands that the unpaid amount of poll tax remain a debt to the dhimmi's account until he becomes solvent.[84] In the Ottoman Empire, dhimmis had to carry a receipt certifying their payment of jizya at all times or be subject to imprisonment.

Although in general dhimmis had to pay higher taxes (despite not having to pay zakat), Lewis notes that there are varying opinions among scholars as to how much of an additional burden this was.[81] According to Norman Stillman: "Jizya and kharaj were a crushing burden for the non-Muslim peasantry who eked out a bare living in a subsistence economy."[85] Ultimately, the additional taxation was a critical factor that drove many dhimmis to accept Islam.[7]

Legal aspects

Use of Muslim and dhimmi courts

Dhimmis were allowed to operate their own courts following their own legal systems in cases that did not involve other religious groups, or capital offences or threats to public order. However, in the Ottoman Empire of the 18th and 19th centuries dhimmis frequently attended the Muslim courts. This was not only when their appearance was compulsory (for example in cases brought against them by Muslims) but also in order to record property and business transactions within their own communities. Cases were taken out against Muslims, against other dhimmis and even against members of the dhimmi's own family. Dhimmis often took cases relating to marriages, divorces and inheritance cases to the Muslim courts so that these cases would be decided under shari’a law. Oaths sworn by dhimmis in the Muslim courts were sometimes the same as the oaths taken by Muslims, sometimes tailored to the dhimmis’ beliefs.[86]

Prohibition on testimony

When a case pitched a Muslim against a dhimmi, the word of Muslim witnesses nearly always carried more weight than that of dhimmis. According to Hanafi jurists dhimmi testimony and oaths were not valid against Muslims.[86] On the other hand, Muslims could testify against dhimmis.[87] This legal disability put dhimmis in a precarious position where they could not defend themselves against false accusations leveled by Muslims, except by hiring Muslim witnesses and bribing qadis. Bat Ye'or believes that apart from breeding corruption, the prohibition on non-Muslim testimony deepened the rift between communities, as dhimmis sought to reduce the possibility of conflict by limiting contact with Muslims.[88]

Punishment for murder of a dhimmi

The Hanafi school, which represents the vast majority of Muslims, believes that the murder of a dhimmi must be punishable by death, citing a hadith according to which Muhammad ordered the execution of a Muslim who killed a dhimmi. In other schools of Islamic jurisprudence the maximum punishment for the murder of a dhimmi, if perpetrated by a Muslim, was the payment of blood money; no death penalty was possible. For Maliki and Hanbali schools of jurisprudence, the value of a dhimmi's life was one-half the value of a Muslim's life; in the Shafi'i school, Jews and Christians were worth one-third of a Muslim and Zoroastrians were worth just one-fifteenth.[89][90]

A peculiar practice developed in Yemen, where Arab tribes collected jizya from Jews, offering them protection. If a Muslim from one tribe killed a Jew protected by another tribe, then the other tribe could retaliate by killing a Jew protected by the tribe of the murderer. As a result, two Jews were murdered, while no direct sanctions were imposed on the Muslims.[91]


The general rule in Islamic law is that a difference in religion is an obstacle to inheritance, so that neither dhimmis can inherit from Muslims, nor Muslims can inherit from dhimmis. However, some jurists maintain that a Muslim can inherit from a dhimmi, while a dhimmi cannot inherit from a Muslim. Shi'a scholars went so far as to argue that if a dhimmi dies leaving even one Muslim heir, all the estate belongs to the Muslim heir at the expense of any dhimmi heirs. This provision was a subject of frequent complaints from Persian Jews.[92]

Personal safety

In accordance with the Pact of Umar, dhimmis had no right to bear arms of any kind.[33] The few exceptions to this rule were some Jewish tribes in the Atlas Mountains and in the Central Asia.[93] Despite the prohibition to carry weapons, Muslim jurists allowed using a dhimmi as an auxiliary soldier "as one would use a dog".[94] In the border provinces, dhimmis were sometimes recruited for military operations. In such cases, they were exempted from jizya for the year of service;[95] however, they were not entitled to a share in the booty, receiving only a fixed stipend.[96]

Being forbidden to bear arms, non-Muslims relied on the Muslim authorities for personal safety. Usually these authorities managed to protect dhimmis from violence, but such protection was likely to fail at times of public disorder.[97] In the Maghreb during changes of reign and periods of instability, Jewish quarters were pillaged and their inhabitants either massacred or abducted for ransom.[62]

Outbreaks of violence, including massacres and expulsions, directed against dhimmis became more frequent from the late 18th century onwards. In 1790, Jews were massacred in Tetouan and then in 1828, in Baghdad. In mid-19th century a wave of violence and forced conversions of Jews swept across Persia: in 1834, Jews were massacred in Safed, in 1839 in Mashhad, and in 1867 in Barforoush. Other outbreaks followed in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and other Arab countries of the Middle East.[98] In 1860, 5,000 Christians were massacred in Damascus.[99] In 19th-century Iraq, especially in the area of Mosul, both Jews and Christians lived in a state of constant insecurity.[100]


The Islamic law and custom prohibited the enslavement of free dhimmis within the Islamic lands.[101] An exception to the right of personal freedom guaranteed by the dhimma was the practice of enslavement of young non-Muslim boys for the ruler's slave army. The practice goes back to the Abbasids, who recruited such slave warriors mainly from non-Muslim Turkic populations; descendants of those slaves later formed the Mamluk dynasties.[102] The Ottoman Empire practiced a similar system, known as devshirmeh, by annually enslaving young boys from the Christian population of its Balkan provinces, to muster Janissary troops.

Social and psychological aspects

Humiliation of dhimmis

Jurists and the Qur'anic commentators had different views regarding the manner of payment jizya. Jurists were more humane and practical toward the Dhimmis while commentators usually mentioned humiliating procedures for the collection of Jizya.[36]

Views of commentators

In his commentary on Sura 9:29, Ibn Kathir writes that dhimmis must be:

disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of the dhimma or elevate them above Muslims, for they [dhimmis] are miserable, disgraced, and humiliated.[103]

Friedmann sees some Quranic verses as suggesting that Muslims inflict humiliation and misery on unbelievers in support of the goal of making Islam prevail over all other religions.[104] According to 14th-century Egyptian scholar Ibn Naqqash: "[T]he prior degradation of the infidels in this world before the life to come — where it is their lot — is considered an act of piety."[105] In societies where honor plays a critical role, denigration of dhimmis was supposed to reduce them to the lowest level of human life, helping to generate many conversions among dhimmis of upper classes.[106] Bernard Lewis comments:

The Qur’an and tradition often use the word dhull or dhilla (humiliation or abasement) to indicate the status God has assigned to those who reject Mohammad, and in which they should be kept for so long as they persist in that rejection.[107]

As recommended by many Muslim scholars, jizya was to be collected in a humiliating procedure:

[T]he collector remains seated and the infidel remains standing…, his head bowed and his back bent. The infidel must place money on the scales, while the collector holds him by his beard and strikes him on both cheeks.(Al-Nawawi)[108]

Jews, Christians, and Majians must pay the jizya… on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]… (Al-Ghazali)[109]

Following this [the handing over of the jizya payment] the emir will strike the dhimmi on the neck with his fist; a man will stand near the emir to chase away the dhimmi in haste; then a second and a third will come forward to suffer the same treatment as well as all those to follow. All [Muslims] will be admitted to enjoy this spectacle. (Ahmad al-Dardi al-Adawi)[110]

On the day of payment they [the dhimmis] shall be assembled in a public place … They should be standing there waiting in the lowest and dirtiest place. The acting officials representing the law shall be placed above them and shall adopt a threatening attitude so that it seems to them, as well as to the others, that our object is to degrade them by pretending to take their possessions. They will realize that we are doing them a favor in accepting from them the jizya and letting them go free. They then shall be dragged one by one for the exacting of payment. When paying, the dhimmi will receive a blow and will be thrown aside so that he will think that he has escaped the sword through this. This is the way that the friends of the Lord, of the first and last generations, will act toward their infidel enemies, for might belongs to Allah, to His Prophet, and to the believers. (Muhammad Abd al-Karim al-Maghili)[111]

The dhimmis posture during the collection of the jizya – [lowering themselves] by walking on their hands, reluctantly; on the authority of Ibn ’Abbas (al Tabari).[112]

Some scholars explicitly link this ritual to the interpretation of Sura [Qur'an 9:29], that jizya was not merely to be a tax, but also a symbol of humiliation:[107]

[Saaghiruuna means] submissively… by coercion… [’an yadin means] directly, not trusting the trickery of an intermediary… by force… without resistance… in an unpraiseworthy manner… while you stand [and the dhimmi] sits with the whip in front of you [you take] the money while he has dirt on his head. (Al-Suyuti's tafsir on Sura 9:29)[113]

Echoing a saying attributed to Muhammad (Sahih Muslim Template:Muslim-usc), Hasan al-Kafrawi, an 18th-century scholar, advises that "if you [Muslims] encounter one of them [dhimmis] on the road, push him into the narrowest and tightest spot".[114] Both Muslim sources and European travelers to the Middle East describe humiliations and insults of dhimmis, and especially of the Jews.[107][115] Throwing of stones at dhimmis was a favorite amusement of Muslim children in many places from early times until nowadays.[97][116]

The annual payment ritual was not followed in parts of the Ottoman Empire, where jizya was collected from individuals by representatives of the dhimmi communities themselves.[84] Dhimmis were frequently referred to by derogatory names, both in the official and in the everyday speech. In the Ottoman Empire, the official appellation for dhimmis was "raya", meaning "a herd of cattle". In the Muslim parlance, "apes" was the standard epithet for the Jews, while Christians were frequently denoted as "pigs". These animalistic parallels were rooted in the Qur'anic verses describing some People of the Book being transformed into apes and pigs (Qur'an [Qur'an 5:60]).[117]


Abu Ubayd, author of a classical treatise on taxation insists that the taxation must not be burdensome beyond the capacity of dhimmis, nor should the dhimmis suffer.[118] The jurist Abu Yusuf, the chief judge of the Caliph Harun Al-Rashid, rule the following regarding the manner of collecting the jizya [118]

No one of the people of the dhimma should be beaten in order to exact payment of the jizya, nor made to stand in the hot sun, nor should hateful things be inflicted upon their bodies, or anything of that sort. Rather they should be treated with leniency.

Distinctive clothing

See also Jewish hat

For dhimmis to be clearly distinguishable from Muslims in public, Muslim rulers often prohibited dhimmis from wearing certain types of clothing, while forcing them to put on highly distinctive garments, usually of a bright color. The scholars cited the Pact of Umar in which Christians supposedly took an obligation to "always dress in the same way wherever we may be, and… bind the zunar [wide belt] round our waists". Al-Nawawi required dhimmis to wear a piece of yellow cloth and a belt, as well as a metallic ring, inside public baths.[119]

Regulations on dhimmi clothing varied frequently to please the whims of the ruler. Although the initiation of such regulations is usually attributed to Umar I, historical evidence suggests that it was the Abbasid caliphs who pioneered this practice. In 849 al-Mutawakkil ordered dhimmis to put a yellow veil on their heads and shoulders and wear a wide belt. He also required them to wear small bells in public baths. In the 11th century, the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim ordered Christians to put on half-meter wooden crosses and Jews to wear wooden calves around their necks. In the late 12th century, Almohad ruler Abu Yusuf ordered the Jews of the Maghreb to wear dark blue garments with long sleeves and saddle-like caps. His grandson Abdallah al-Adil made a concession after appeals from the Jews, relaxing the required clothing to yellow garments and turbans. In the 16th century, Jews of the Maghreb could only wear sandals made of rushes and black turbans or caps with a red piece of garment on it.[120]

Ottoman sultans were similarly diligent and inventive in regulating the clothings of their non-Muslim subjects. In 1577, Murad III issued a firman forbidding Jews and Christians from wearing dresses, turbans, and sandals. In 1580, he changed his mind, restricting the previous prohibition to turbans and requiring dhimmis to wear black shoes; Jews and Christians also had to wear red and black hats, respectively. Observing in 1730 that some Muslims took to the habit of wearing caps similar to those of the Jews, Mahmud I ordered the hanging of the perpetrators. Mustafa III personally helped to enforce his decrees regarding clothes. In 1758, he was walking incognito in Istanbul and ordered the beheading of a Jew and an Armenian seen dressed in forbidden attire. The last Ottoman decree affirming the distinctive clothing for dhimmis was issued in 1837 by Mahmud II. Discriminatory clothing did not exist only in those Ottoman provinces where Christians were in majority, e.g. in Greece and the Balkans.[120]


Dhimmis were forbidden to ride horses or camels; they were only allowed to ride donkeys and only on packsaddles, a prohibition that has its roots in the Pact of Umar.[33] In the 18th century, Damanhuri, rector of Al-Azhar University, summed up the consensus of Islamic jurists: "Neither Jew nor Christian should ride a horse, with or without saddle. They may ride asses with a packsaddle."[121] An additional requirement for dhimmis was not ride astride, but only sidesaddle, like a woman.[97] In the Mamluk Egypt, where non-Mamluk Muslims were not allowed to ride horses and camels, dhimmis were prohibited even from riding donkeys inside cities.[122] The same prohibition imposed on dhimmis was recorded in the 19th century in Damascus,[123] as well as in Tunisia.[124]

European travelers passing through the Middle East in the 18th and 19th centuries left ample evidence of the careful enforcement of prohibitions on horseback riding. Danish traveler Carsten Niebuhr wrote in 1761 that in Egypt, Jews and Christians were forced to alight while passing the houses of notable Muslims and when meeting such notables in the street.[125] A Frenchman visiting Cairo in 1697 recorded the same situation. In Yemen and in the rural areas of Morocco, Libya, Iraq, and Persia, dhimmis had to dismount from a mule when passing a Muslim.[123]

Dwelling places

The dhimmis’ obligation not to build houses higher than those of Muslims is one of the clauses of the Pact of Umar,[33] supported as a desirable condition of “dhimma” by the consensus opinion of Islamic scholars.[43] According to Bat Ye’or, the rule was not always enforced; for example, no such laws were recorded in Muslim Spain, and in Tunisia Jews owned fine houses.[93] Sometimes, Muslim rulers issued regulations requiring dhimmis to attach distinctive signs to their houses. In the 9th century, Abbasid caliph al-Mutawakkil ordered dhimmis to nail wooden images of devils to the doors of their homes.[126] At about the same time in Tunisia, a qadi of the Aghlabid dynasty compelled dhimmis to nail onto their doors a board bearing the sign of a monkey.[127] In Bukhara, Jews had to hang a piece of cloth out of their houses so that they could be distinguished from those of Muslims.[116]

Dhimmis were seldom prohibited from living in certain places, but there were some exceptions. In Morocco, where beginning from the 15th century and especially since the early 19th century, Jews were confined to mellahs — walled quarters, similar to European ghettos. Jews were also forced to live in separate quarters in Persia. Neither Jews nor Christians were allowed to live in Hejaz after Umar I had expelled them.[128]


Islamic jurists reject the possibility that a dhimmi man (and generally any non-Muslim) may marry a Muslim woman.[129] According to Friedmann, Islamic law regarding mixed marriages developed out of three Quranic verses — [Qur'an 2:221], [Qur'an 60:10], and [Qur'an 5:5]. As some early Muslim scholars put it, Friedmann relates, such a marriage would lead to an incompatibility between the superiority of a woman by virtue of her being a Muslim and her unavoidable subservience to a non-Muslim husband. Friedmann also claims that some traditionalists compare marriage to enslavement and thus just like dhimmis are prohibited from having Muslim slaves, so dhimmi men are not allowed to have Muslim wives; conversely, Muslim men were allowed to marry women of the "People of the Book" because the enslavement of non-Muslims by Muslims is allowed.[130] Azizah Y. al-Hibri states that the relevant hadith regarding marriage and slavery draw an analogy between the status of women and slaves in Muhammad's society in order to beseech the male audience to treat them kindly: "Be good to women; for they are powerless captives (awan) in your households. You took them in God’s trust, and legitimated your sexual relations with the Word of God, so come to your senses people, and hear my words..."[131]

The prohibition of marriage between Muslim woman and Dhimmi man was enforced with the utmost rigor,[132] with any violations of it, including a sexual relationship between a non-Muslim man and a Muslim woman, being punishable by death. All schools of Islamic jurisprudence, with the exception of Hanafi, treated dhimmis who married or engaged in sexual relations with Muslim women like adulterers, for whom the punishment is death by stoning.[133] In cases when a non-Muslim wife converts to Islam, while her non-Muslim husband does not, their marriage is annulled.[134]

Contact restrictions

Andrew Wheatcroft describes how some social customs such as different conceptions of dirt and cleanliness made it difficult for the religious communities to live close to each other, either under Muslim or under Christian rule.

For Muslims and Christians alike the experience of living in close proximity to unbelievers was disquieting. The social customs of each group invariably sought to minimize contact with the people of other faiths. Each often spoke of the other in terms of fear and sometimes disgust.[135]

Shia Ritual purity

Shi'a Islam devotes much attention to the issues of ritual purity — tahara. Strict Shi'as consider Non-Muslims ritually unclean — najis — so that certain physical contact with them or things they touched with wet hands would require purification before undertaking religious or ritual duties.[136] In Persia, where Shi'ism is dominant, these beliefs brought about restrictions that aimed at limiting physical contact between Muslims and dhimmis. In the late nineteenth-century, some very strict authorities in Iran forbade Jews to go out in rain or snow. "By the early years of the twentieth century such beliefs and the resulting practices were gradually being forgotten". However, Lewis, pointing out the view of Ruhollah Khomeini on ritual purity, states that such beliefs have been more recently remembered.[136] Opinions of modern Shi'a scholars range from Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's view that all non-Muslims are unclean[137] to the position held by Grand Ayatollahs Ali al-Sistani[138] and Fazel Lankarani[139] that Jews and Christians are clean.

Consequences of dhimma

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, Zoroastrian clergy quickly declined after it was deprived of the state support.[7]

For Christians, the process of conversion was slower — it is possible that as late as at the time of the Crusades Christians still constituted a majority of the population — but no less inexorable. 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, Yemen, and the Maghreb, when it was subjected to persecution by the Almohads. Christians continued to live in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, but their numbers were still 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; he suggests that many of them felt better under the early Muslim rule than under the Byzantines.[7]

Jews were the least affected. 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, not necessarily for the worse. Voluntary conversion among the Jews was rare, and they managed to preserve their religion all over the Muslim lands.[7]

Dhimma in the modern world

The status of 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.[140] While Muslims opposed abolishment of dhimma laws, continuing and growing pressure from the European powers and also pressure from Muslim reformers gradually relaxed the inequalities between Muslims and non-Muslims.[141]

The enforcement of the laws of the dhimma was widespread in the Muslim world until the mid-nineteenth century, when the Ottoman Empire significantly relaxed the restrictions 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.[142]

On November 3, 1839, an edict called the Hatt-i Sharif of Gulhane was put forth by the Sultan that, in part, proclaimed the principle of the equality of all subjects regardless of religion. Part of the motivation for this was the desire to gain support from the British Empire, whose help was desired in a conflict with Egypt.[143]

On February 18, 1856, another edict was issued called Hatt-i Humayan, which built 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 the equality of 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.[144][145][146]

During World War I, Christian minorities (Greek, Armenian, Assyrian) were persecuted in the Ottoman Empire. Beginning as forced expulsion, the Turkish government began conducting harsher pogroms against Christian minorities such as massacres of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians as early as 1914. In 1915, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., the U.S. ambassador to the Empire, reported that 350,000 Armenians had been killed or starved. Prior to the U.S. entry in the war, the Turkish government also expelled American Christian missionaries from the country.[147] The sum of these actions resulted in the Armenian Genocide, the Assyrian Genocide, the Greek genocide and the Mount Lebanon Genocide.

Views of modern Islamic scholars about Dhimmi

  • 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.[148] Bernard Lewis remarks about Khomeini that his main grievance against the Shah was that his legislation allowed the theoretical possibility of non-Muslims exercising political or judicial authority over Muslims.[149]
  • Allameh Tabatabaei, a prominent contemporary 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.[150]
  • 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.[151][152]
  • 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[153]
  • 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."[154]

Myth of dhimmitude

Bernard Lewis states that there are two well-established myths available in the literature about the position of Jews in the Islamic world.[155] Mark R. Cohen calls them the "Myth of an interfaith utopia" (lachrymose) and "countermyth of the Islamic persecution of Jews" (neo-lachrymose).[156]

The first myth states that medieval Islam provided a peaceful haven for Jews while Christendom relentlessly persecuted them.[157] "A golden age of equality, of mutual respect and cooperation, especially but not exclusively in Moorish Spain"[155]

The other myth is the story of "dhimmitude" (a term coined by Bachir Gemayel and introduced into Western discourse by Bat Ye'or), of subservience and persecution and ill treatment.[155]

Lewis says these are myths and that like many myths, both contain significant elements of truth.[155] According to Cohen they equally distort the past.[158]

See also

  • Itmaam-i-hujjat

Related concepts

  • Dhimmitude
  • Aljama
  • Protection money

Related historical events

Related to Islamic Law

Terms used for people of other faiths

Related to restrictions

  • Ottoman Millet system
  • Minority religion
  • Second-class citizen
  • Yellow badge
  • Recusancy
  • Najis


  • Dhimmi Watch


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  2. Bat Ye'or (1985), p. 45
  3. The Chach Nama English translation by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg. Delhi Reprint, 1979.
  4. Annemarie Schimmel (2004), p.107, "The conqueror Muhammad Ibn Al Qasem gave both Hindus and Buddhists the same status as the Christians, Jews and Sabaeans the Middle east". They were all "dhimmi" ('protected people')"
  5. Lewis 1984 p. 62
  6. Lewis 1984 p. 62–66
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  12. Lewis 1984 p.18
  13. 13.0 13.1 Lewis (2002) p.57
  14. Lewis (1987), p. 9, 27; Bat Ye'or (2002), p. 74
  15. Lewis (1984) p. 26
  16. Lewis (1984) p. 8,62
  17. Tritton (1930), p. 49
  18. Lewis (1984) p. 62, Cohen (1995) p. xvii
  19. Lewis (1999) p.131
  20. Hür, Ayşe (2008-03-02). "Ermeni mallarını kimler aldı?" (in Turkish). Taraf. Retrieved 2008-08-27. "Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nun kuruluşundan itibaren Müslüman-Türk unsurlar kendilerine sadece çiftçiliği ve askerliği yakıştırmışlar... Gayrı Müslimler de başka yolları kalmadığı için ticaret ve zanaata yönelmişlerdi." 
  21. Courbage and Fargues (1995), p. 2
  22. Lewis (1984), pp. 10–11; Bat Ye'or (2002), p. 41
  23. Bat Ye’or (1985), p. 68
  24. Lewis (1984), pp. 18–19; Stillman (1979), p. 26; Goddard (2000), p. 47
  25. Bat Ye’or (2002), pp. 111–113
  26. Lewis p. 14
  27. 27.0 27.1 Al-Mawardi (2000), p. 158; Bat Ye'or (2202), p. 51; Lewis (1984), p. 14
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  58. Lewis (1984), p. 152; Littman (1979), p. 3
  59. 59.0 59.1 Littman (1979), p. 4
  60. Littman (1979), p. 4; Lewis (1984), p. 168; Stillman (1979), p.76
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  82. Lewis (1984), pp. 30–31; see Bat Ye’or (1985), p. 170, for a full English translation of the letter
  83. Lewis (2002), p. 81
  84. 84.0 84.1 Bat Ye’or (2002), pp. 69–71
  85. Stillman (1979), p. 28
  86. 86.0 86.1 al-Qattan (1999)
  87. Friedmann (2003), pp. 35–36
  88. Bat Ye’or (2002), p. 74
  89. Bat Ye’or (2002), p. 75
  90. Asaf Ali Asghar Fyzee, Outlines of Muhammadan Law, Oxford University Press, 1964, p.62
  91. Bat Ye’or (2002), p. 79
  92. Lewis (1984), pp. 26–27; see also Friedmann (2003), p. 35
  93. 93.0 93.1 Bat Ye’or (1985), p. 62
  94. Al-Mawardi (2000), p. 66; the expression in quotes is from al-Sarakhsi, translated in Lewis (1984), p. 199; see also Friedmann (2003), p. 36
  95. "Djizya (i)", Encyclopaedia of Islam Online
  96. Lewis (1984), p. 199
  97. 97.0 97.1 97.2 Lewis (1984), p. 36
  98. Lewis (1984), p. 168
  99. Stillman (1979), p. 104
  100. Stillman (1979), p. 102
  101. Lewis (2002), p.92
  102. Lewis (2002), p. 90
  103. Ibn Kathir. "Tafsir". Retrieved 2006-05-14. 
  104. Friedmann (2003), p. 34
  105. Ibn Naqqash, English translation in Bat Ye’or (1985), p. 188
  106. Bat Ye’or (2002), p. 90; Stillman (1979), p. 73
  107. 107.0 107.1 107.2 Lewis (1984), p. 14
  108. Al-Nawawi, Minhadj, quoted in Bat Ye’or (2002), p. 70
  109. Kitab al-Wagiz fi Fiqh Madhab al-Imam al-Safi’i, English translation cited in Andrew Bostom (2005), p. 199.
  110. Ahmad ad-Dardi el-Adaoui. Fetowa [1772]: ‘Réponse à une question’ Translated into French by François-Alphonse Belin. Journal Asiatique, 4th ser. 19 (1852): 107–8. English translation from Bat Ye’or (1996), pp. 361–362.
  111. Georges Vajda. “Un Traité maghrébin ‘Adversus Judaeos’. Ahkam ahl al-Dhimma [Laws relating to the dhimmis] du Shaykh Muhammad b. Abd al-Karim al-Maghili.” In Etudes d’Orientalisme dédiées à la mémoire de Lévi-Provençal. 805–813. Paris: Masionneuve & Larose. English translation from Bat Ye’or (1996), p. 361
  112. Tabari, Ja: mi ’al-Baya:n …, ed. M. Sha: kir (Beirut, 1421/2001), vol. 10, pp. 125–6. English translation from Andrew Bostom (2005), p. 128.
  113. From Al-Suyuti’s Durr al-Manthu:r … (Beirut, n.d.), vol. 3, p. 228. English translation from Andrew Bostom (2005), p. 127.
  114. "Jewish History Sourcebook: Islam and the Jews: The Status of Jews and Christians in Muslim Lands, 1772 CE". Retrieved 2006-05-13. 
  115. Bat Ye’or (1985), p. 64; see Lewis (1984), pp. 164–166, Stillman (1979), pp. 315–316 for some specific examples.
  116. 116.0 116.1 Bat Ye’or (1985), p. 64
  117. Stillman (1979), p. 214; "Kird" Encyclopaedia of Islam Online
  118. 118.0 118.1 Lewis (1984), p. 15
  119. Al-Nawawi, Minhadj, quoted in Bat Ye’or (2002), p. 91
  120. 120.0 120.1 Bat Ye’or (2002), pp. 91–96
  121. Bat Ye’or (2002), p. 97
  122. Stillman (1979), p. 471
  123. 123.0 123.1 Bat Ye’or (1985), p. 63
  124. Stillman (1979), p. 417
  125. Bat Ye’or (2002), p. 98
  126. Al-Tabari, Ta'rikh al-Rusul wa 'l-Muluk, translated in Stillman (1979), p. 167
  127. Al-Maliki, Riyad an-Nufus, translated in Bat Ye’or (1985), p. 186; see also "Kird", Encyclopaedia of Islam Online (2006)
  128. Lewis (1984), p. 28
  129. Al-Mawardi (2000), p. 161; Friedmann (2003), p. 161; Lewis (1984), p. 27; Bat Ye'or (1985), p. 62
  130. Friedmann (2003), pp. 161–162
  131. Azizah Y. al-Hibri (2003)
  132. Lewis (1984), p. 27
  133. Al-Mawardi (2000), p. 243
  134. Friedmann (2003), pp. 163–164
  135. Wheatcroft (2003) p. 73
  136. 136.0 136.1 Lewis (1984), pp. 33–34
  137. Lewis (1984), p. 34
  138. Official website of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani URL accessed on April 19, 2009
  139. Official website of Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani URL accessed on April 27, 2006
  140. Lewis (1984) p. 62
  141. Lewis 1984 summary of pp. 62–66. See p. 62 (second paragraph), p. 65 (third paragraph)
  142. "1839–61", The Encyclopedia of World History Online
  143. "1839 Nov. 3", The Encyclopedia of World History Online
  144. "1856, Feb. 18", The Encyclopedia of World History Online
  145. Lapidus (1988), p. 599
  146. Lapidus (2002), p. 495
  147. Power (2002), pp. 1-16
  148. Hukuma Islamiyya, n.p. (Beirut), n.d., pp. 30ff.; Vilayat-i Faqih, n.p., n.d., pp. 35ff.; English version (from the Arabic), Islamic Government (U.S. Joint Publications Research Service 72663, 1979), pp. 22ff.; French version (from the Persian), Pour un gouvernement islamique (Paris, 1979), pp. 31ff. Another version in Hamid Algar, Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini (Berkeley, 1981), pp. 45ff.
  149. Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam notes on page 3
  150. Tafsir al-Mizan on verses 2:83–88, Allameh Tabatabaei
  151. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, Chapter: The Islamic Law of Jihad, Dar ul-Ishraq, 2001. OCLC: 52901690 [1]
  152. Misplaced Directives, Renaissance, Al-Mawrid Institute, Vol. 12, No. 3, March 2002.[2]
  153. Selection of Tafsir Nemooneh, Grand Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi, p. 10, volume 2, on verse 9:29
  154. Who’s responsible for the stereotypes of Islam? Sudheendra Kulkarni, April 1, 2007
  155. 155.0 155.1 155.2 155.3 Lewis (2006)
  156. Stillman (1991) p.60
  157. Cohen (1995) p.3
  158. Cohen (1995) p.xvii


  • Al-Hibri, Azizah Y. (2003). "An Islamic Perspective on Domestic Violence". 27 Fordham International Law Journal 195. 
  • Bat Ye'or (2002). Islam and Dhimmitude. Where Civilizations Collide. Madison/Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press/Associated University Presses. ISBN 0-8386-3943-7. 
  • Bat Ye'or (1996). The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. From Jihad to Dhimmitude. Seventh-Twentieth Century. Madison/Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press/Associated University Presses. ISBN 0-8386-3688-8. 
  • Bat Ye'or (1985). The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam. Madison/Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 0-8386-3262-9. 
  • Bravmann, Meïr M. (1966). "The ancient background of the Qur’ānic Concept Al-Ğizyatu ‘an Yadin". Arabica 13: 307. doi:10.1163/157005866X00525. 
  • Bostom, Andrew, ed. (2005). The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims. Prometeus Books. ISBN 1-59102-307-6. 
  • Bosworth, C. E. (1982). The Concept of Dhimma in Early Islam In Benjamin Braude and B. Lewis, eds., Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society 2 vols., New York: Holmes & Meier Publishing. ISBN 0-8419-0520-7
  • Cahen, Claude. "Djizya (i)". in P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. 
  • Cohen, Mark (1995). Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01082-X. 
  • Courbage, Youssef and Fargues, Philippe (1995). Christians and Jews under Islam. London: I.B. Tauris Publishers. ISBN 1-86064-285-3. 
  • Friedmann, Yohanan (2003). Tolerance and Coercion in Islam: Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82703-5. 
  • Goddard, Hugh (2000). A History of Christian-Muslim Relations. Chicago: New Amsterdam Books. ISBN 1-56663-340-0. 
  • Eraqi-Klorman, Bat-Zion; Reeva Spector Simon (Ed.), Michael Menachem Laskier (Ed.), Sara Reguer (Ed.) (2003). The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times. Columbia, NY: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-10796-X. 
  • Karsh, Ephraim (2006). Islamic Imperialism: A History. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10603-3. 
  • Lapidus, Ira M. (2002). A History of Islamic Societies (2nd Edition). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-77933-2. 
  • Lewis, Bernard (2002). The Arabs in History. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280310-7. 
  • Lewis, Bernard (1984). The Jews of Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00807-8. 
  • Littman, David (1979). "Jews Under Muslim Rule: The Case Of Persia". The Wiener Library Bulletin XXXII (New series 49/50). 
  • Al-Mawardi (2000). The Ordnances of Government (Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya w’al-Wilayat al-Diniyya). Lebanon: Garnet Publishing. ISBN 1-85964-140-7. 
  • Parfitt, Tudor (2000). Israel and Ishmael : Studies in Muslim-Jewish Relations. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-22228-9. 
  • Power, Samantha (2002). A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. New York: Harper Perennial. ISBN 0-06-054164-4. 
  • al-Qattan, Najwa (1999). "Dhimmis in the Muslim Court: Legal Autonomy and Religious Discrimination". International Journal of Middle East Studies (University of Cambridge) 31 (3): 429–444. ISSN 00207438. 
  • Stillman, Norman (1979). The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America. ISBN 1-82760-198-1. 
  • Tritton, Arthur S. (1930). The Caliphs and their non-Muslim Subjects: a Critical Study of the Covenant of Umar. London: Humphrey Milford/Oxford University Press. 
  • Viré, F. "Kird". in P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912. 
  • Waines, David (2003). An Introduction to Islam. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521539064. 
  • Wehr, Hans (1976). J. Milton Cowan, ed.. ed. A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. Ithaca, New York: Spoken Language Services, Inc.. ISBN 0-87950-001-8. 
  • Wheatcroft, Andrew (2003). Infidels: A History of the Conflict between Christendom and Islam. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-025738-1. 

Further reading

  • Choksy, Jamsheed (1997). Conflict and Cooperation: Zoroastrian Subalterns and Muslim Elites in Medieval Iranian Society. New York. 
  • Fattal, Antoine (1958). Le statut légal des non-musulmans en pays d’Islam (in French). Beirut. 
  • Goitein, S. D. (1967-71). The Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza (4 vols.). Berkeley and Los Angeles. 
  • Bat Ye'or: Der Niedergang des orientalischen Christentums unter dem Islam. 7.-20. Jahrhundert. Gräfeling 2002, ISBN 3-935197-19-5
  • Karl Binswanger: Untersuchungen zum Status der Nichtmuslime im Osmanischen Reich des 16. Jahrhunderts. Diss. phil. München 1977, ISBN 3-87828-108-0
  • Mark. R. Cohen: Unter Kreuz und Halbmond. Die Juden im Mittelalter. München 2005, ISBN 3-406-52904-6
  • Nabil Luka Babawi: Les droits et les devoirs des chrétiens dans l'état islamique et leurs conséquences sur la sécurité nationale, thèse de doctorat.
  • Bat Ye'or: Le Dhimmi : profil de l'opprimé en Orient et en Afrique du Nord depuis la conquête arabe. Éditions Anthropos, Paris 1980, ISBN 2-7157-0352-X
  • Bat Ye'or: Les chrétientés d'Orient entre jihâd et dhimmitude : VII-XX siècle. Éditions du Cerf, Paris 1991, (L'histoire à vif), ISBN 2-204-04347-8
  • Yohanan Friedmann: Classification of Unbelievers in Sunnī Muslim Law and Tradition. In: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam. 22 (1998), S. 163–195
  • Mohammad Amin Al-Midani: La question des minorités et le statut des non-musulmans en Islam. In: La religion est-elle un obstacle à l'application des droits de l'homme?. colloque tenu les 10-11 décembre 2004 à Lyon.
  • Pessah Shinar: Some remarks regarding the colours of male Jewish dress in North Africa and their Arabic-Islamic context. In: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam. 24/2000, S. 380–395
  • M. Levy-Rubin: Shurut `Umar and its alternatives: the legal debate on the status of the dhimmis. In: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam. 30/2005
  • Bat, Ye'or (1996). The Decline of Eastern Christianity: From Jihad to Dhimmitude. Associated University Presses. 
  • Bat, Ye'or (2001). Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide. Associated University Presses. 
  • Bat, Ye'or (2003). The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam. Associated University Presses. 

External links