The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam is a book by historian and expert on Islamic culture Bat Ye'or.
In the first part of the book the author provides historical survey of the effects and consequences of enforced dhimmitude on the Jewish and Christian communities living under the Muslim rule in the Middle East .
The second part presents 244 pages of historical documents and primary sources from various dhimmi communities from all parts of Muslim world, including speeches of various influential Arabs, texts from various middle-age sources and eye-witness reports taken from British consuls through out centuries from archives testifying to the conditions of the dhimmi communities. The book also contains rare pictures and photographs depicting the dhimmi and his community.
The author traces the historical origins of Dhimmitude
to 622 CE when Muhammad, the founder of Islam, began a systematic conquest of pagan
Arab populations and territories in the Arab desserts and peninsulas. It is at that time that 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. The author contends that Muhammad took advantage of non-belligerency pacts to attack and subjugate populations. In 628, after a 45 day long siege of Khaybar
, the inhabitants capitulated under terms of a treaty known as the dhimma
. According to this pact Muhammad allowed the Jews
living there to continue to cultivate the land on the condition that they pay tribute of half of their produce, but he reserved the right to break the covenant and expel them whenever he desired. This became the precedent to all future subjugations. Thus making agreements and then breaking them to gain tactical advantage became a hallmark of Muslim armies.
Muslim attitudes towards non-muslims
In the book the author describes the 3 territorial divisions of the world from the perspective of Islam.
- House of war:The land of the non-believers (harbis), called the lands of war dar al-harb where infidels to be fought because they oppose the establishment of Islamic law in their lands. As enemies of Allah they are accorded no rights: they, themselves and their property becomes fair game (mubah) for all Muslims. They can be taken as slaves, kidnapped for ransom, robbed, raped, maimed or killed with impunity. War is to be waged against them in order to Islamize their territory which, according to the beliefs of Islam, must be conquered for Allah. If they resist, Islamic law provides for the deportation or massacre of the men and the enslavement of women and children.
- House of truce:The land of non-believers currently under truce which is in respite between wars dar al-hudna. In principle, a truce with non-believers must not last more than ten years, after which jihad should resume. There are only two circumstances that justify that a truce be engaged with infidels by the Islamic authority. The first circumstance is one is where the Muslims forces are too weak to vanquish the infidels and the truce will allow them to regroup and restrengthen and the second one is whereby infidel states pay a tribute to the Muslims or contribute by numerous services to the advancement of Islam.In other words the truce is authorized only if it helps improve the Muslim’s situation and weakens the infidels. Truce is not a natural condition; it is bought by tribute. If the infidels cannot provide economic advantages in exchange for the truce, hostilities are resumed. Furthermore, only treaties that conform to Islamic prescriptions are valid; if these conditions are not fulfilled the treaty is worthless.
- Land of Islam:The land under control of Islam,dar al-Islam] where formerly free non-believers, (harbis) must surrender their lands and independence without resistance in exchange for their lives and a cessation of the Jihad against them. These people are granted a status known as dhimmis and they are subjected to special provisions that permit them to privately practice their faith under restricted conditions, requiring them to pay a poll tax and often requiring them to wear distinctive clothing and to subscribe to a protocol of conduct that that gave deference to the Muslim population. 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 of the Dhimmi
- 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.
Penalties for breaking the rules
- 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
Conclusions of the author
Bat Ye'or contends in the book the imposition of the Islamic laws on the dhimma (non-muslim community) that has been the reason for the decline of the Jewish
communities in the Middle East from the mid-seventh century to the twentieth century.
Author and Scholar Daniel Pipes
- In a profound study culminating three decades of scholarship, Bat Ye’or shows the debilitating consequences of the Muslim sense of superiority toward peoples of other religions. In the author’s words, this is a ‘painful history of hatred, suffering, death, heroism, betrayal, and cowardice;’ it is also a history that is very much alive even today and needs squarely to be confronted if Muslims are truly to live in harmony with non-Muslims. For this reason, Bat Ye’or’s work is of major importance. Daniel Pipes, Director, Middle East Forum (Philadelphia)