(Editors Note: The historical dhimmis needs assessing in relation to the conditions in which it was introduced and enforced. This can be compared with Christian/Civil Europe and their restrictions through Jewish expulsions, extra taxation, limited work, attempts to change their belief and restricted living (ghettoes)
Today, in our Internet world, communication is much faster and events publicised so a few ‘radical believers’ can have a major impact. One example is additional security at airports.)
The Dhimmi is the Arabic term that refers to its non-Islamic embracing population that has the ignominious dishonor of living in Islamic conquered lands. In a similar manner to the Jewish reference to a non-Jew as being a goy, so too the term dhimmi refers to non-Muslims. However unlike the Jewish term, goy, and much more important, the dhimmi is a distinctly subjugated second class non-citizen almost slave who is subjected to dictatorial deprivation of any legal and human rights since he is a non-Muslim permanent resident in a Muslim state.
Dhimmi is also the name of a book written by Bat Ye'or, a pseudonym, of a woman who grew up in Egypt as a British citizen and observed first hand the Islamic treatment of non-Muslims. Based on serious research, Dhimmi was first published in French in 1971, translated into English in 1985, later into Hebrew and Russian, Dhimmi is a must reading for anyone seriously desiring an understanding of Middle-East politics and the rationale of the Arab mentality.
The first part of the book describes the state of affairs of the dhimmi, the basis and development for dhimmitude in Islam, and the relationship of the jihad, the war to conquer territory for Islam to the status of dhimmi.
Throughout earliest Islamic history, the conquered peoples by advancing Muslim armies were given the choice of either converting, being killed, or living as a conquered people, a dhimmi. These subjugated people were suspended in time and space, for dhimmitude meant being barely tolerated in your dispossessed land.
Both Jews and Christians alike suffered the ignominious life of having their fate decided upon the whim of despotic rulers. Although a legal definition of the dhimmi exists, that they must pay various taxes and tolls, that they must live a second class life and give deference to their Muslim neighbors, much of their tragic existence depended on the whims of despotic rulers and frenzied Arab mobs who denied them even the little that was given to them through Islamic law.
In 622 CE when Muhammad began his systematic conquering of pagan Arab populations and territories in the Arab desserts and peninsulas, he set up a precedent of conversion, death or servitude. Mixing war and religion, he utilized and abrogated relationships with non-Muslims to gain political and eventual territorial gains. A shrewd politician, Muhammad took advantage of non-belligerency pacts to attack and subjugate populations. In 628, after a long siege of Khaybar, lasting a month and a half, the inhabitants surrendered under terms of a treaty known as the dhimma. According to this agreement Muhammad allowed the Jews living there to continue to cultivate the land on the condition that they cede to him half of their produce, but he reserved the right to cancel the agreement and expel them whenever he desired. This became the prototype of all future subjugations. Hence making agreements and then breaking them to gain political gains became a hallmark of Muslim armies.
As the Muslims grew more powerful, their holy wars spread out beyond Arabia. The jihad became a war of conquest subject to a code which was the elimination of infidels. Truces were allowed, but never a lasting peace.
The jihad became a concept that divided the world into two separate groups. One was the dar al harab, the territory of war, and the other was the dar al Islam, the territory of Islam, which was the Muslim land where Islamic law reigns. Jihad is a normal state of being in the dar al harab which will only end with the conversion of the entire world to Islam.
The concept of jihad was simple - conquering the world for the true religion, Islam, translated into forced conversions, killings, taking slaves, seizing properties. This method enriched the perpetrators of the jihad, paid for their armies and brought wealth to the Arab nations. Participation in jihad was obligatory, either by participation or by aiding in one of many manners.
The manner in which the rules of dhimmitude were applied varied according to the political circumstances and the disposition of the ruler. There were periods of tolerance which gave a small degree of security to the dhimmis. However the fanaticism which could be riled up by the clergy could change the situation in small time. If the local Muslim population became intolerant or jealous of the successes of the dhimmi, then a pogrom would ensue. Communities could find themselves evicted, women raped, exorbitant ransoms placed on them, children abducted and forced to convert, and in other cases mass murders of the dhimmi population was condoned.
Rules would be formulated to deny the dhimmi due process of the law. Discriminatory and restrictive dress and behavior codes would be enacted and severely enforced to reduce the dhimmi into a state of despair and poverty. Dehumanization of the dhimmi was not uncommon, and generally the rule. Various forms of physical abuse were common.
Many times distinctive dress was specified to identify a dhimmi that he would be unable to either mix with a Muslim or even walk in a Muslim area of a city. Other rules specified such demeaning dress codes as not wearing shoes or sandals, not using certain colors, wearing stars on their clothing. Dhimmis were often prohibited from working in many occupations. Even rules were made as to how a dhimmi could ride a mule to distinguish him from a Muslim.
The non-observance of these rules would entail a severe beating. Often passing a Muslim on the wrong side would begin a beating that could leave a dhimmi mortally wounded. Since the dhimmis were denied the ability to testify against a Muslim, there was absolutely no recourse
The book is rich in sources both from Islam, from the communities subjected to dhimmitude, and from third party observations of the predicament that the restricted communities were subjected to. The author spent much time on research and documentation to produce a substantial look at the true face of Islam through the centuries in their relationship to other peoples living among them. The message is clear that Islam is not a tolerant religion; it fosters and condones belligerent and aggressive actions towards those people who choose not to embrace Islam.
This book is backed with much documentation of various dhimmi communities from all areas of Muslim rule. Included in the book are speeches of various influential Arabs, texts from various middle-age sources and reports taken from British consuls through out centuries from archives testifying to the conditions of the dhimmi communities.
Included in the book are rare pictures and photographs depicting the dhimmi and his community.
Dhimmi is easy reading and perhaps the most needed reading for the serious student of Middle Eastern politics in our time. The Dhimmi is published by Associated University Presses, 440 Forsgate Drive, Cranbury, New Jersey 08512. It can be ordered via the net, local bookstores, and should be in your local public library.
Still, as "People of the Book," Jews (and Christians) are protected under Islamic law. The traditional concept of the "dhimma" ("writ of protection") was extended by Muslim conquerors to Christians and Jews in exchange for their subordination to the Muslims. Peoples subjected to Muslim rule usually had a choice between death and conversion, but Jews and Christians, who adhered to the Scriptures, were allowed as dhimmis (protected persons) to practice their faith. This "protection" did little, however, to ensure that Jews and Christians were treated well by the Muslims. On the contrary, an integral aspect of the dhimma was that, being an infidel, he had to openly acknowledge the superiority of the true believer--the Muslim.
In the early years of the Islamic conquest, the "tribute" (or jizya), paid as a yearly poll tax, symbolized the subordination of the dhimmi. Later, the inferior status of Jews and Christians was reinforced through a series of regulations that governed the behavior of the dhimmi. Dhimmis, on pain of death, were forbidden to mock or criticize the Koran, Islam or Muhammad, to proselytize among Muslims or to touch a Muslim woman (though a Muslim man could take a non Muslim as a wife).
Dhimmis were excluded from public office and armed service, and were forbidden to bear arms. They were not allowed to ride horses or camels, to build synagogues or churches taller than mosques, to construct houses higher than those of Muslims or to drink wine in public. They were not allowed to pray or mourn in loud voices-as that might offend the Muslims. The dhimmi had to show public deference toward Muslims-always yielding them the center of the road. The dhimmi was not allowed to give evidence in court against a Muslim, and his oath was unacceptable in an Islamic court. To defend himself, the dhimmi would have to purchase Muslim witnesses at great expense. This left the dhimmi with little legal recourse when harmed by a Muslim.
Dhimmis were also forced to wear distinctive clothing. In the ninth century, for example, Baghdad's Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany.y.(
Accustomed to survival in adverse circumstances after many centuries of discrimination and persecution within the Roman Empire, both pre-Christian and Christian, Jews saw the Islamic conquests as just a change of rulers, that "brought peace to peoples demoralized and disaffected by the casualties and heavy taxation that resulted from the years of Byzantine-Persian warfare".
María Rosa Menocal argues
that the Jewish dhimmis living under the caliphate, while allowed fewer rights than Muslims, were still better off than in the Christian parts of Europe. Jews from other parts of Europe made their way to al-Andalus, where in parallel to Christian sects regarded as heretical by Catholic Europe, they were not just tolerated, but where opportunities to practice faith and trade were open without restriction save for the prohibitions on proselytization.
Bernard Lewis states:
Generally, the Jewish people were allowed to practice their religion and live according to the laws and scriptures of their community. Furthermore, the restrictions to which they were subject were social and symbolic rather than tangible and practical in character. That is to say, these regulations served to define the relationship between the two communities, and not to oppress the Jewish population.
Professor of Jewish medieval history at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hayim Hillel Ben-Sasson, notes:
The legal and security situation of the Jews in the Muslim world was generally better than in Christendom, because in the former, Jews were not the sole "infidels", because in comparison to the Christians, Jews were less dangerous and more loyal to the Muslim regime, and because the rapidity and the territorial scope of the Muslim conquests imposed upon them a reduction in persecution and a granting of better possibility for the survival of members of other faiths in their lands.
According to the French historian Claude Cahen, Islam has
"shown more toleration than Europe towards the Jews who remained in Muslim lands."
Comparing the treatment of Jews in the medieval Islamic world and medieval Christian Europe, Mark R. Cohen notes that, in contrast to Jews in Christian Europe, the "Jews in Islam were well integrated into the economic life of the larger society", and that they were allowed to practice their religion more freely than they could do in Christian Europe.
According to the scholar Mordechai Zaken,
tribal chieftains (also known as aghas) in tribal Muslim societies such as the Kurdish society in Kurdistan would tax their Jewish subjects. The Jews were in fact civilians protected by their chieftains in and around their communities; in return they paid part of their harvest as dues, and contributed their skills and services to their patron chieftain.
The dhimma and the jizya poll tax (payment obligated Muslim authorities to protect dhimmis in civil and military matters. Sura 9 (At-Tawba), verse 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, death or imprisonment, as advocated by Abu Yusuf, the chief qadi (Islamic judge) of Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid who ruled over much of modern-day Iraq) are no longer imposed in Muslim majority countries. In the 21st century, jizya is widely regarded as being at odds with contemporary secular conceptions of citizen's civil rights and equality before the law, although there have been occasional reports of religious minorities in conflict zones and areas subject to political instability being forced to pay jizya.
In 2009 it was claimed that a group of militants that referred to themselves as the Taliban imposed the jizya on Pakistan's minority Sikh community after occupying some of their homes and kidnapping a Sikh leader.
As late as 2013, in Egypt jizya was reportedly being imposed by the Muslim Brotherhood on 15,000 Christian Copts of Dalga village.
In February 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) announced that it intended to extract jizya from Christians in the city of Raqqa, Syria, which it controls. Christians who refused to accept the dhimma contract and pay the tax would have to either convert to Islam or die. Wealthy Christians would have to pay half an ounce of gold, the equivalent of USD 664 twice a year; middle-class Christians would have to pay half that amount and poorer ones would be charged one-fourth that amount. In June, the Institute for the Study of War reported that ISIL claims to have collected jizya and fay.On July 18, 2014 the ISIL ordered the Christians in Mosul to accept the dhimma contract and pay the Jizya or convert to Islam. If they refused to accept either of the options they would be killed.
Arabs sometimes claim that, as ‘Semites’ they cannot possibly be anti-Semitic. This, however, is a semantic distortion that ignores the reality of Arab discrimination and hostility toward Jews. Arabs, like any other people, can indeed be anti-Semitic.
The term ‘anti-Semite’ was coined in Germany in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr to refer to the anti-Jewish manifestations of the period and to give Jew-hatred a more scientific sounding name. ‘Anti-Semitism’ has been accepted and understood to mean hatred of the Jewish people.
While Jewish communities in Arab and Islamic countries fared better overall than those in Christian lands in Europe, Jews were no strangers to persecution and humiliation among the Arabs and Muslim. As Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis has written: "The Golden Age of equal rights was a myth, and belief in it was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam." (see Golden Age)
Muhammad, the founder of Islam, travelled to Medina in 622CE to attract followers to his new faith. When the Jews of Medina refused to convert and rejected Muhammad, two of the major Jewish tribes were expelled; in 627, Muhammad's followers killed between 600 and 900 of the men, and divided the surviving Jewish women and children amongst themselves.
The Muslim attitude toward Jews is reflected in various verses throughout the Koran, the holy book of the Islamic faith. "They [the Children of Israel] were consigned to humiliation and wretchedness. They brought the wrath of God upon themselves, and this because they used to deny God's signs and kill His Prophets unjustly and because they disobeyed and were transgressors" (Sura 2:61). According to the Koran, the Jews try to introduce corruption (5:64), have always been disobedient (5:78), and are enemies of Allah, the Prophet and the angels (2:97 98).