Search This Blog

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Islam and the dhimma pact

This article was published in the National Observer.  It is a condensation of Chapter 6 of The Third Choice, which discusses the theological and legal status of the dhimma pact, in the light of Sura 9:29 of the Quran.

National Observer, Australia, No. 82 (March - May 2010)

Islam and the dhimma pact

by Mark Durie
National Observer
Australia's independent current affairs online journal
No. 82 (March - May 2010).

Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahud, jaish Muhammad sa ya ‘ud
"Remember Khaybar, O Jews, Muhammad’s army will return!"

— A popular Arabic chant.

The word Islam means “submission”, and there are two kinds of submission to Islam. One is the submission of the convert, who accepts Islam as his or her way of life, and follows Muhammad. The other is the surrender of the defeated non-believer.

Bassam Tibi, professor of international relations at Göttingen University, defines the mission of Islam to wage war until non-Muslims accept conversion or surrender:

“At its core, Islam is a religious mission to all humanity. Muslims are religiously obliged to disseminate the Islamic faith throughout the world. ‘We have sent you forth to all mankind.’ (Quran 34:28). If non-Muslims submit to conversion or subjugation, this call (da‘wa) can be pursued peacefully. If they do not, Muslims are obliged to wage war against them. In Islam, peace requires that non-Muslims submit to the call of Islam, either by converting or by accepting the status of a religious minority [sic] (dhimmi) and paying the imposed poll tax, jizya. World peace, the final stage of the da‘wa, is reached only with the conversion or submission of all mankind to Islam.”[1]
As Islamic jurists have stated down through the centuries, and numerous scholars of Islam have reported, it was Muhammad and his followers who adopted the mission of fighting against non-believers to extend the power and rule of Islam:
“Narrated Ibn ‘Umar
“Allah’s Messenger said: ‘I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, ... so if they perform all that, then they save their lives and property from me....’”[2]
This is the institution of jihad, a struggle to impose the supremacy of Islam throughout the world, and to establish the Dar al-Islam, or house of Islam, which is the region where Islam rules.
After Pope Benedict delivered a lecture in Regensburg, referring to the claim that Islam was spread by the sword, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh ‘Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, issued a protest on the official Saudi news service. The Grand Mufti’s objection was that the sword was only a last resort, if the non-Muslims refused to convert or surrender to the armies of Islam:
“[Muhammad] gave three options: either accept Islam, or surrender and pay tax, and they will be allowed to remain in their land, observing their religion under the protection of Muslims.”[3]
Two options are simple, and clear: Islam or the sword. But what does the third choice mean? What does it mean to be “allowed to remain in their land”? What follows after surrender, apart from taxes? What does it mean to live as a non-Muslim under Islamic rule?

Remembering Khaybar

The Islamic Sharia, or “way”, is based upon the example of Muhammad, the Sunna. The Sunna also forms the basis for Islam’s treatment of conquered but yet unconverted peoples. Through what might be regarded as an accident of history, the fate of millions of Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and later Hindus under Islam was determined by how Muhammad treated conquered peoples, and in particular his conquest of the Jewish farming community at Khaybar.[4]

The Khaybar Oasis was fertile, and mainly inhabited by Jews. Muhammad’s forces attacked and after a siege were victorious. At the end the remaining Jewish combatants negotiated a surrender. They pointed out that only they had the skill of cultivating the land to maintain its productivity and they asked to be allowed to remain on the land — which henceforth belonged to the Muslims — tending it, and paying a tax of half their harvest to Muhammad.

In return for these privileges, the remaining Jews of Khaybar would be spared future jihad attack from the Muslims — giving them “protected” status — and, what is most important, they would be allowed to keep their Jewish faith.

The dhimma pact

This pact of surrender came to be known as a dhimma or “covenant of liability”.

Based on the precedent of Khaybar, and also on the way Muhammad treated conquered Jewish farmers of Fadak, Tayma and Wadi-l Qura, the institution of the dhimma was developed in Sharia law to provide for those of the conquered “People of the Book” who refused to convert to Islam.

Any community which negotiated a surrender to Islamic armies and became incorporated into the Dar al-Islam, was subject to a dhimma pact. This fixed the legal, social and economic place of non-Muslims in the Islamic state. In return, the people of the pact, known as dhimmis, were required to pay tribute (jizya) and other taxes in perpetuity to the Muslim Community (the Umma), and to adopt a position of humble and grateful servitude to it.
This was enshrined in verse 9:29 of the Quran:
“Fight against those who do not believe in Allah ... of those who have been given the Book [i.e., Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya [tribute] out of hand and are humbled.”
The dhimma pact assured the defeated Jewish and Christian communities of a place under Islamic law: it granted them a degree of religious freedom and promised to spare them from further attacks, subject to certain conditions.

The jizya tax was administered as a head tax, levied on each adult non-Muslim male, and paid for the benefit of the Muslim community. Until the modern period, every non-Muslim living under Islam was required to pay this annual tribute in recognition of their defeated status.

It is important that the “divine” revelation of Q9:29 defines an inseparable link between fighting (jihad) and the dhimma pact. Within the Islamic state all non-Muslims who are not objects of war are considered to be dhimmis, people who are allowed to exist within the Dar al-Islam by virtue of their community’s surrender under the conditions of a dhimma pact at some time in the past. These are the conquered peoples of Islam.

Paying the jizya

The phrase “until they pay the jizya out of hand and are humbled” in Q9:29 is of crucial importance for understanding the whole dhimmi condition. This verse is the foundation of the whole treatment of dhimmis in Islamic law.

The concept of a tribute paid in perpetuity by people dwelling in their own ancestral lands can seem so strange to the modern mind that special care is taken here to draw out the implications of these words for the reader, using the interpretations of Muslim scholars themselves down the centuries.
There are two elements to consider in Q9:29 which we will consider here: the jizya tribute itself, and the concept of being “humbled” (saghirun).

What was the significance of the jizya as a form of revenue for Muslims? Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) classified the revenues of the Islamic state into three categories. These categories of revenues are:
  • booty looted from enemies by force, under war conditions (ghanima),
  • contributions paid by Muslims as a religious duty (sadaqa), and 
  • fay income — including the jizya — which consists of resources released by the infidels without having to be taken by force.[5]
Derived from a root meaning to “return to a good state” or “restore”, Lane reports that Muslim scholars defined fay as “such, of the possessions of the unbelievers, as accrues to the Muslims without war ... or such as is obtained from the believers in a plurality of gods after the laying-down of arms”.[6] This bloodless booty is what Allah has:
“... restored [as though it were theirs of right — Lane] to the people of his religion, of the possessions of those who have opposed them, without fighting, either by the latter’s quitting their homes and leaving them vacant to the Muslims, or by their making peace on the condition of paying a poll-tax [jizya] or other money or property to save themselves from slaughter.”[7]
According to Ibn Taymiyya, as a part of the fay, the jizya was a restitution of an “inheritance”, of which the Muslim “was deprived” because it had been unlawfully held by infidels. Through victory in warfare Allah has “restored” these resources to benefit the Muslim community and thus the service of Allah:
“These possessions received the name of fay since Allah had taken them away from the infidels in order to restore them to the Muslims. In principle, Allah has created the things of this world only in order that they may contribute to serving Him, since He created man only in order [for Allah] to be ministered to. Consequently, the infidels forfeit their persons and their belongings which they do not use in Allah’s service to the faithful believers who serve Allah and unto whom Allah restitutes what is theirs; thus is restored to a man the inheritance of which he was deprived, even if he had never before gained possession.”[8]
From this perspective, taking jizya from dhimmis is an act of liberation, in which Muslims receive back compensation for what was rightfully theirs as Allah’s servants. According to the definitions of Arabic lexicographers, jizya is “the tax that is taken from the free non-Muslim of a Muslim government whereby they ratify the compact [the dhimma pact] that ensures them protection, as though it were a compensation for their not being slain”.[9]

The Baghdadi commentator al-Alusi (d. 1854) confirms this definition:
“[jizya] comes from the root j-z-y i.e. ‘pay off one’s debts’ or ‘I reward him for what he has done to me’. For they pay it as a reward to those who gave them a pardon from death.”[10]
Writing in 1799, William Eton, referring to the jizya payment ritual as administered under Ottoman rule, reported that:
“The very words of their formulary, given to the Christian subjects on their paying the capitation tax [jizya], import, that the sum of money received, is taken as compensation for being permitted to wear their heads that year.”[11] [Eton’s emphasis]
The link between the jizya and the idea of paying compensation for one’s life is also seen in the principle of Islamic law that if the jizya is not paid, the jihad must be restarted, as the Shafi‘i jurist of Baghdad al-Mawardi (d. 1058) makes clear:
“They make a payment every year in which case it constitutes an ongoing tribute by which their security is established. ... It is not permitted to resume the jihad against them as long as they make the payments. ... If they refuse to make payment, however, the reconciliation ceases, their security is no longer guaranteed and war must be waged on them — like any other persons from the enemy camp.”[12]
Ibn Qudama explains that in case of non-compliance with the dhimma pact, the dhimmi’s life and possessions are forfeit:
“A protected person who violates his protection agreement, whether by refusing to pay the head tax [jizya] or to submit to the laws of the community ... makes his person and his goods ‘licit’ [halal — freely available to be killed or captured by Muslims].”[13]

“Belittled” — ritual humiliation

The expression “belittled” (or “humbled”) translates the Arabic saghir of Q9:29 meaning “small”. Islamic legal thought strongly identified the jizya with the concept of belittlement.

The commentator al-Baghawi (d. 1122) stated that being “small” can refer to the way the payment of jizya is enforced upon dhimmis, but also (citing Shafi‘i) to “the application of the Islamic laws upon them”.[14] Thus “small” refers to the whole manner of life of the dhimmi under the Islamic Sharia, as well as specifically to the manner of paying the jizya.

For the dhimmi, the annual jizya payment was a powerful and public symbolic expression of the jihad-dhimmitude nexus, which fixed the horizon of the dhimmi’s world. Although the ritual varied in its specific features, its essential character was an enactment of a beheading, in which one of the recurrent features was a blow to the neck of the dhimmi, at the very point when he makes his payment.
The great Persian commentator al-Baydawi (d. 1316) attributed the neck-striking ritual to the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas (d.687):
“According to Ibn ‘Abbas, the dhimmi is struck on the neck (with the hand) when the tribute is collected from him....”[15]
A detailed 15th-century description of this ritual is provided by the Moroccan jurist al-Maghili (d. 1504):
“On the day of payment they [the dhimmis] shall be assembled in a public place like the suq. 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 realise that we are doing them a favour (again) in accepting from them the jizya and letting them (thus) go free. They then shall be dragged one by one (to the officer responsible) 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 (insult). This is the way that the friends of the Lord [sayyid: Muhammad], of the first and last generations will act toward their infidel enemies, for might belongs to Allah, to His Prophet, and to the believers.”[16]
Historical sources from the 19th century — four centuries after al-Maghili — show that this ritual of defeat continued to be practiced in Morocco right up to the beginning of the modern era. James Riley, an American captain, who was shipwrecked off the coast of North Africa, captured and enslaved, and escaped to tell the tale, described a jizya ceremony which took place at Mogodore in 1815. He relates how each Jew, on paying the jizya, was struck a “smart blow” to the head.[17] Eighty years later, in 1894, an Italian-protected Jew also describes being required to undergo this ritual in Marrakesh.[18]
Muslim commentators provide various elaborations of features of the jizya ritual, all designed to degrade the dhimmi and represent his vulnerability under the Muslims’ hand. Commentators refer to two distinct blows to the neck (on the back of the neck or under the ear), which are execution gestures, corresponding to different methods of decapitation, as is taking hold of the beard.[19] The word labbaba, used in many commentaries on Q9:29 to describe dragging the dhimmi by the throat, also symbolises killing, but in a different way.

A typical collection of jizya ritual features is provided by the Persian Hanafi jurist Nasafi (d. 1310):
“‘belittled’ i.e., they have to be degraded and belittled by making him [the dhimmi] come in person, walking and not riding. He should hand [the jizya] over while standing and the receiver should be seated down, and he should be shaken violently, agitated and in turmoil. He should be dragged by the throat (labbaba), and told ‘Perform jizya you dhimmi!’ This is followed by a strong blow to the back of the neck.”[20]

The majority of Quranic commentaries include a reference to a blow in their explanation of Q9:29. Accounts of the jizya payment from both Muslim and non-Muslim sources which mention some kind of blow to or interference with the neck or head range from the 10th to the 20th centuries, across the whole geographical range of the Muslim world, from Morocco to Bukhara, and from Andalusia to Persia.

The practice continued as late as 1950 in Afghanistan, where Landshut describes the jizya payment being “accompanied by humiliating ceremonies as laid down in Sura IX, 29 of the Koran”.[21]

For more than a millennium after initial Islamic conquest, and in widely spread localities throughout the Islamic world, there continued to be humiliating rituals, involving ritual enactment of a decapitation, to show that the jizya was a compensation for the dhimmi’s head. The procedure thus stands for fourteen centuries of ritualised defeat.

The significance of this length of time is hard for us to grasp today. Imagine if, after the Norman invasion in 1066, the Normans had required Anglo-Saxons to line up once a year on every village green of England to pay war reparations and be ritually stabbed in the heart. Imagine too that this practice is still current today, it has been endorsed by every Archbishop of Canterbury since 1066, it will continue in England more than four centuries hence, and when it finally stops, this will only be due to the military intervention of a foreign power.

Such was the plight of the Jews of Morocco — and of non-Muslims all over the Islamic world — for more than a thousand years until European occupation brought an end to it. For the Jews of Yemen and Afghanistan it was only the exodus to Israel after 1948 that finally released them from the humiliations of the jizya ritual.

The jizya ritual was hated by dhimmis; no doubt it was psychologically very damaging. The 18th-century Moroccan commentator Ibn ‘Ajibah said that it represented the death of the “soul”, through the dhimmi’s execution of their own humanity:
“[The dhimmi] is commanded to put his soul, good fortune and desires to death. Above all he should kill the love of life, leadership and honour.... [He] is to invert the longings of his soul, he is to load it down more heavily than it can bear until it is completely submissive. Thereafter nothing will be unbearable for him. He will be indifferent to subjugation or might. Poverty and wealth will be the same to him; praise and insult will be the same; preventing and yielding will be the same; lost and found will be the same. Then, when all things are the same, it [the soul] will be submissive and yield willingly what it should give.”[22]
The intended result of the jizya ritual is for the dhimmi to lose all sense of his own personhood. In return for this loss, the dhimmi was supposed to feel humility and gratitude towards his Muslim masters. Al-Mawardi said that the jizya head tax was either a sign of contempt, because of the dhimmis’ unbelief, or a sign of the mildness of Muslims, who granted them quarter (instead of killing or enslaving them): so humble gratitude was the intended response:
“The jizya, or poll tax, which is to be levied on the head of each subject, is derived from the verb jaza, either because it is a remuneration due by reason of their unbelief, for it is exacted from them with contempt, or because it amounts to a remuneration because we granted them quarter, for it is exacted from them with mildness. This origin of this impost is the divine text: ‘Fight those who believe not in God...’ [Q9:29]”[23]
Although some today falsely claim that the jizya tax was simply a tax like any other tax, or merely a payment to exempt dhimmis from “military service”,[24] the remarks of al-Mawardi and Ibn ‘Ajibah make clear that its true meaning is to be found in psychological attitudes of inferiority and indebtedness imposed upon non-Muslims living under Islam, as they willingly and gratefully handed over the jizya in service to the Muslim community.

The conditions: dhimmi laws

As al-Baghawi pointed out, the belittling of dhimmis was achieved, not only through the jizya ritual, but also through the whole system of Sharia law as it applied to the dhimmi community.
In addition to the reality that the taxes, allocated to support the Muslim community, were often severely crippling and caused extreme impoverishment,[25] further legal provisions were applied to dhimmis ensuring their humiliation and inferiority.[26] Although these were many and varied, the regulations had a consistency and constancy across vast expanses of geography and time, which meant that similar conditions were imposed upon dhimmis communities everywhere.
The regulations characteristically included:
  • Restrictions relating to conversion
  • Restrictions on marriage
  • Restrictions on worship and public displays of religious symbols
  • Prohibition of criticism of Islam
  • Legal disabilities, for example dhimmi testimony was not valid against a Muslim, and a dhimmi’s blood was worth less in law than a Muslim’s
  • A requirement to render assistance and loyalty to Muslims
  • No dhimmi could exercise authority over a Muslim
  • Many restrictions on housing, public appearance, status and behaviour (such requiring distinctive clothing or coloured patches to mark dhimmi status — the yellow patch for Jews was a medieval Islamic invention)
  • Purity regulations (especially in Shi’ite areas) which limited the movement and participation of dhimmis in society.
It must be acknowledged that Islamic law demanded that dhimmis be protected. Muhammad had stated that whoever kills a dhimmi would not “smell the smell of Paradise”.[27] Also the caliph ‘Umar had advised Muslims to keep their covenant with the dhimmis because of self-interest, dhimmis being a source of financial support for the Muslims.
“... fulfill Allah’s Dhimma as it is the Dhimma of your Prophet and the source of the livelihood of your dependents (i.e., the taxes from the Dhimmi).”[28]
Despite ‘Umar’s advice, the combined impact of the dhimma principles proved most pernicious and destructive for the non-Muslim communities.

The risk of destruction

If dhimmi communities were judged to have broken their pact, either through non-payment of the jizya or by breaching any of the Sharia regulations applying to them, they become subject once again to jihad, which meant looting, captivity and enslavement for women and children, and death for men over puberty.

A particularly dangerous circumstance for dhimmis was when there were hostilities between Muslims and external enemies. For example, the Turkish genocide of the Armenians during World War I was spurred on by the Allied attack on the Dardanelles. When the British and their allies — whom the Turks considered to be Christian — attacked Turkey, this was taken as a further cause to justify attacks against the Christian Armenians, for “collaborating” with the enemy.[29]

This pattern has been repeated many times in history, and is being replayed in Iraq today, where Shi’ite-Sunni conflict, combined with US-European military occupation, is associated with appalling attacks by Muslims from both sides against the local Christian population, who pose absolutely no threat to the Muslims of Iraq.

The CBS news program 60 Minutes broadcast a segment on June 29, 2008 on the Christians of Iraq. Anglican minister Canon Andrew White, known as the “vicar of Baghdad”, was ministering to an underground congregation composed mainly of women and children. The interviewer, Scott Pelley, asked: “The room is full of children, it’s full of women, but I don’t see the men. Where are they?” To this White answered, “They are mainly killed. Some are kidnapped. Some are killed.... Here in this church, all of my leadership were originally taken and killed.”[30] Later in the same segment, Pelley interviewed Colonel Gibbs, a US army commander in Durah, a municipality with thirteen abandoned and ruined churches. Col. Gibbs explained that the occupation force has a “hands-off-policy” for all religious sites. Consequently, churches were not protected. Moreover, “The Christians do not want us to guard the churches openly”, because “they feel that if we are overtly protecting the churches that someone underground covertly will come in and murder the Christians because they’re collaborating with the US forces”.

In a tragic unfolding of destruction, we are seeing the motifs of the dhimma being played out before the eyes of the world in Iraq today. The selective killing of adult males is consistent with the Sharia requirement that men, but not women or children, be put to death in jihad. Also the Christians’ fear that they would be victimised for receiving US protection is entirely consistent with one of the provisions of the dhimma, that non-Muslims must not receive protection from anyone but the Umma.
Under dhimma conditions violence could be life-threatening, but often it was designed to humiliate and demean. Many visitors to Jerusalem and to other parts of the Muslim world in 19th and early 20th centuries reported that it was common for Muslim children to throw stones at Jewish men and women, and to abuse them verbally, without fear of reprisal or correction, much as one might throw stones at a stray dog.[31] I myself have met many Christians from the Middle East who have had stones thrown at them by Muslim children. The throwing of stones at Jewish worshippers and Israeli police at the Temple Mount in September 2002 — the act which started the intifada — could be interpreted as a continuation of this centuries-old gesture of contempt for dhimmis.

A world view of curses

In 1836 Edward Lane published his classic work, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. He reports that cursing of dhimmis was taught as part of a Muslim’s educational formation:
“I am credibly informed that children in Egypt are often taught at school, a regular set of curses to denounce upon the persons and property of Christians, Jews, and all other unbelievers in the religion of Mohammad.”[32]
These curses are recorded by Lane in an appendix. In essence they describe looting, killing of men and enslavement of women and children, which is the lot of dhimmis when they have no protection and are subjected to jihad. These curses are in fact a prayer that the dhimma will be set aside and as such they served to impart the theological requirements of the dhimma to the minds of Muslim children.
This world view is far from dead. On March 6, 2009, Al-Rahma TV in Egypt presented a broadcast in which a child calls down curses upon Jews in similar fashion, expressing a wish that the men will be killed, women widowed, and children orphaned[33]
“Oh Allah, completely destroy and shatter the Jews. Oh Allah, torment them with a disease that has no cure or remedy. Send a thunderbolt down upon them from Heaven. Oh Allah, torment them with every kind of torment.... Oh Allah, turn their women into widows — just like Muslim women were widowed. Allah, turn their children into orphans — just like Muslim children were orphaned.”[34]
The story of dhimmi communities under Islamic rule is a sad history of dispossession and decline, which Griffith has referred to as a “long slide into demographic ... insignificance”.[35] However this was the intended outcome of the institution of the dhimma, a system designed to attract conversions to Islam, and to promote the gradual diminishment of all non-Muslim faiths under Sharia conditions.

The Revd Mark Durie, PhD, is an Australian scholar and vicar of St Mary’s Anglican Church in Caulfield, Victoria, Australia. The above article is an extract from his internationally-acclaimed new book, The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom (Melbourne: Deror Books, 2010). Paperback: 260 pages. ISBN: 9780980722307.
For a review and purchase link, see:


[[1]] Bassam Tibi, “War and peace in Islam”, p.129. Note that of course initially the dhimmi populations were the majority: it took centuries for them to be reduced to minority status. (See Sidney H. Griffith, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam, Princeton University Press, 2008, p.11.).
[[2]] Sahih al-Bukhari. Book of Belief (i.e. Faith) (Kitab al-Iman) 1:2:25. See also Sahih Muslim. The Book of Faith (Kitab al-Iman). 1:10:29-35.
[[3]] P.K. Abdul Ghafour, “Learn about Islam, Mufti tells Benedict”, Arab News, September 18, 2006, viewed May 4, 2010.
See also “Saudi mufti defends spirit of jihad”, Middle East Times, September 18, 2006, viewed 8 June 2009.
[[4]] Bat Ye’or points out this link in The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985), pp.44-46 and The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: from Jihad to Dhimmitude (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996), p.38: “Muslim jurisconsults subsequently derived the status of the tributaries from the treaty concluded between Muhammad and the Jews who farmed the Khaybar oasis.”
[[5]] Henri Laoust, French trans., Le traité de droit public d’Ibn Taymiya (Beirut: Institut Français de Damas, 1948) p.27. English trans. in Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam, op. cit., p.296.
[[6]] E.W. Lane, An Arabic-English Lexicon (London: Williams and Norgate, 1863), Book 1, p.2468.
[[7]] Ibid, Book 1, p.2468, citing Abu ‘Ubayd al-Qasim b. Sallam al-Baghdadi (d. 837), the Mughrib of al-Mutarrizi (d. 1213) and al-Misbah al-Munir of Ahmad b. Ali al-Fayyumi (d. 1364).
[[8]] Henri Laoust, op. cit., p.36. English trans. in Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam, op. cit., p.297.
[[9]] E.W. Lane, op. cit., Book 1, p.422, citing al-Nihaya fi Gharib al-Hadith by Majd al-Din ibn Athir (d. 1210), and others.
[[10]] Ruh al-Ma’ani. Commentary on Q9:29, viewed February 21, 2008.
[[11]] William Eton, A Survey of the Turkish Empire (London: Cadell and Davies, 2nd edition, 1799), p.104.
[[12]] Asadulah Yate, The Laws of Islamic Governance [al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah by al-Mawardi] (London: Ta-Ha, 1996), pp.70-78.
[[13]] Ibn Qudama, “Legal war”, in Andrew Bostom (ed.), The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2005), p.163. English trans. Michael J. Miller. (Excerpted from Henri Laoust, trans., Le Précis de droit d’Ibn Qudama, Beirut: Institut Français de Damas, 1950).
[[14]] Ma’alam al-tanzil. Commentary on Q9:29, viewed 21 February 2008.
Similar observations are also made by al-Tha‘labi in his commentary Q9:29, viewed 21 February 2008.
[[15]] Helmut Gätje, The Qur’an and its Exegesis: Selected Texts with Classical and Modern Muslim Interpretations (Oxford: Oneworld, 1996), p.139. However, Abu Hayyan attributes the blow on the neck to al-Kalbi. See Tafsir Bahr al-Muhit. Commentary on Q9:29, viewed 21 February 2008.
[[16]] George Vajda, French trans. “Adversos Judaeos”, a treatise from Maghrib — “Ahkam ahl al-Dhimma” by Sayh Muhammad b. “Abd al-Karim al-Magili”, p.811. English trans. by Paul Fenton in Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, op. cit., p.201.
[[17]] James Riley, An Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig Commerce (Hartford, 1817), p.333. Riley also related that the poorest class of Jews, if unable to pay, were beaten and arrested, and, if not ransomed, forced to convert to Islam.
[[18]] Letter from a Marrakesh Jew, February 25, 1894, in Bulletin, Alliance Israélite d’Études Universelle (January-February 1894). Trans. in Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, op. cit., p.327.
[[19]] On this last point, see Riley’s account of a beheading in Mogodore in 1815, in which the executioner took hold of the beard of the victim by the left hand, and “very leisurely” cut through the neck. (An Authentic Narrative of the Loss of the American Brig Commerce, op. cit., p.335.).
[[20]] Madarik al-Tanzil. Commentary on Q9:29, viewed February 21, 2008.
Bostom appears to be mistaken when he reports that Hanafi jurisprudence did not sanction the blow on the neck. See Bostom (ed.), The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: from Sacred Text to Solemn History (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2008), note 580, p.195).
[[21]] S. Landshut, Jewish Communities in the Muslim Countries of the Middle East (London: The Jewish Chronicle, 1950), p.67.
[[22]] Tafsir al-Bahr al-Madid fi Tafsir al-Quran al-Magid by Ibn ‘Ajibah. Commentary on Q9:29, viewed February 21, 2008.
[[23]] Edmond Fagnan, trans., Al-ahkam as-Sultaniyya (Les statuts gouvernementaux), p.300. English trans. in Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam, op. cit., p.324.
[[24]] See, for example, Bassam Zawadi, “Is the jizya tax oppressive?”, viewed June 8, 2009.
In addition to claiming that zakat was “in lieu of military service”, Zawadi argues that the jizya is just, because it is equivalent to modern taxes: “In America if someone does not pay their taxes they can go to jail. Does that make America unjust?”
[[25]] Shlomo Dov Goitein, “Evidence on the Muslim poll tax from non-Muslim sources: a geniza study”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 6.3, 278-95.
[[26]] The landmark study of the legal status of non-Muslims under the Shariah is Antoine Fattal’s Le statut légal des non-musulmans en pays d’ Islam (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1958).
[[27]] Sahih al-Bukhari. The Book of al-Jizya and the Stoppage of War. 4:58:3166.
[[28]] Ibid. 4:58:3162.
[[29]] “Professor outlines Armenian connection to Gallipoli”, PM interview with Robert Manne, ABC radio, February 12, 2007, viewed May 4, 2010.
[[30]] “Vicar: dire times for Iraq’s Christians”, 60 Minutes, CBS (United States), June 29, 2008, viewed May 4, 2010.
[[31]] Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, op. cit., p.64, p.76, note 47.
[[32]] E.W. Lane, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (London: John Murray, 5th edition, 1860), note 1, p.276.
[[33]] “Egyptian cleric teaches a child to memorize antisemitic messages on Al-Rahma TV and explains: the understanding of what he said will come”, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) TV clip #2093. Al-Rahma TV, March 6, 2009, viewed May 4, 2010:
[[34]] Ibid: transcript.
[[35]] Griffith, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque, op. cit., p.13.

National Observer, Australia, No. 82 (March - May 2010)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Islamic Reformation and Playing Cards

I have been thinking a lot about women in Islam recently, challenged by the message of Wafa Sultan's book "The God who hates", which I recently reviewed.  Will the lot of Muslim women improve through a 'reformation' of Islam?

Trying to reform Islam from Islam's own sources is like playing cards with the Qur'an and Sunna[1] as trumps[2].  Reformers may hold the five, six or seven of trumps (verses of the Qur'an or sayings of Muhammad which appear to support equality and reason) but Islamic religious leaders hold the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, ten, nine and eight of trumps.  In such a game, it is the would-be reformers who have the losing hand.  Those who seek to promote egalitarian principles from the Qur'an and the Sunna are like a player who keeps announcing 'I have a six of trumps!' or 'I have a seven of trumps!', but what they cannot grasp is that their opponent's hand is full of the highest trump cards.

There is a different game which could be played, in which reasonableness and recognized principles of reciprocity and equality between people are trumps.  Such a game could be won by those who want to see change in Islam, for even a 2 in the suit of reason would defeat the Ace and King of Qur'an and Sunna.

The problem is, pious Muslims, true believers in the example and message of Muhammad, will never consent to playing such a game.

Why is this so?  The Qur'an puts the matter very clearly:
It is not for any believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have the choice in the affair. Whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has gone astray into manifest error. (Q33:36)
What this is saying is that 'Allah and His Messenger' are trumps. No-one has any power left to choose for themselves once the trump card of the Qur'an and Sunna has been played.   

The great difficulty for people in the West is that they cannot comprehend a world in which the Qur'an and Sunna are trumps.  They cannot even imagine what such a game looks like.  They are convinced that the game is the same no matter what is trumps; that all religions are the same.   Worse than this, they are often deceived by Muslims who say that they are playing with reason and tolerance as trumps, but all the while supremacy is given to the Qur'an and the Sunna.

Attaturk well understood this problem, so he forced modern secular values on the people of Turkey. He banned the game where the Qur'an and Sunna are trumps and punished those who tried to play that way. Of course there are many Muslims today who would prefer Attaturk's approach, putting religion in a (very limited) place, and where it could not control public life.  However recent decades have not produced a new secularization movement of this kind.  In fact the trend has been mostly in the opposite direction with political Islamist movements capturing the hearts and minds of so many of the upcoming generation across the Muslim world.

During the Christian reformation in Europe, protestant reformers did appeal to reason, but their great trump card, which enabled them to win much of Europe to their cause, was the Bible.  They declared that the Bible trumped church tradition, and this made all the difference.

The challenge for Islamic reform is that making the Qur'an and Sunna trumps just takes the world back to sharia law.

And this is very bad news for the women of Islam.

[1] The Sunna is the teaching and example of Muhammad.  This is held up as having canonical authority in determining Islamic law.
[2] For those who do not play cards, here is my attempt to explain.  In many card games, higher cards 'beat' lower cards.  Ace is highest, then King, then Queen, then Jack, then 10 down to 2.  However if one 'suit' is declared 'trumps', then it beats all other cards.  E.g. if Hearts are trumps, then a 2 of Hearts (the lowest Heart) beats all Clubs, Spaces and Diamonds.  The Ace of trumps will be the highest card of all, and will beat all other cards, including all the other trump cards.  The choice of trumps determines who wins the game.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Name of Israel Will Be Remembered No More!?

by Daniel Shayesteh, former Iranian Revolutionary Guard and co-founder of Hezbollah in Iran.

I never cease to be amazed at how the enemies of Israel have been trying to destroy her for thousands of years, aiming to annihilate her, so that no record of her name, Biblical values and God would remain in history.  Yet amazingly she still survives.  As an ex-fundamentalist Muslim, reading the following passage for the first time, I was astonished by what the Psalmist wrote:

They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, so that the name Israel may be remembered no more.” For with one heart they have plotted together; they have made a covenant against You-- the tents of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarites; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the people of Tyre; and Assyria has joined with them; they have helped the sons of Lot (Psalms 83:4-8).
Who are these nations who were drawn into such unity against Israel? To my amazement, they are the forefathers of the Saudi Arabians, Palestinians, Jordanians and non-Aryan Iraqis, who were living in the area centuries before the rise of Islam.

Eventually, Islam revealed itself as the best servant of hostility and established itself as the political religion of these nations, employing all available means to destroy Israel and remove her name from the face of the earth. It is quite remarkable that despite millennia of opposition to Israel, she is still a nation, has a land to govern with the rule of law, and will be around until the end of history.

Why? What is the secret behind the survival of Israel?


About Daniel Shayesteh:

Dr Shayesteh was born into a Muslim family in Northern Iran. He became a radical Muslim leader and teacher of Islam in the militant Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, closely supporting Ayatollah Khomeini.
However, after falling out of favor with Khomeini’s political group, he escaped to Turkey where there began an amazing journey to faith in Jesus Christ.
Daniel's mission is to help others understand and lovingly respond to those who do not know Christ.
Daniel is also deeply concerned for the future of Western societies, their loss of confidence in Judeo-Christian values, and their persistent naivete about the implications of the world-wide Islamic revival.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Review of Wafa Sultan's "A God who Hates"

Wafa Sultan describes herself as an atheist. Her autobiographical A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam is a witness statement concerning Islam's God, of whom she writes "I did see the influence he wielded, and in order to dispel his influence, I have to deal with him as if he exists" (p.46).

At the heart of Sultan's courageous book is a testimony concerning the treatment of women in Muslim societies. This, as she experienced it, was horrific. She tells of how her grandmother was forced to welcome her grandfather's second wife by dancing at their wedding; of harrowing insights into family sexual abuse - many instances of incest rape came to her attention when pregnancy brought the female victims into her surgery; of the murder of women who had the misfortune to fall pregnant, often at the hands of the very same male relative who had raped them; of abuse by the medical profession and employers; of sexual harassment of single women in public places - the movements of female students on a bus 'resembled those mice attempting to flee from a malicious cat' (p.29); of the oppressive system of guardianship which men exercise over women in Islam; and, perhaps most movingly of all, of the self-rejecting words she heard coming from the mouths of abused female patients.

A question that cries out from this litany of suffering is 'Why?' After many years of observation and study, Sultan came to what seemed to her to be the inescapable conclusion that all the abuses she was observing around her were due to Islam and its God.

Sultan offers this warning to the world: 'The status of women in Muslim countries is a human catastrophe that the world has ignored for centuries, and for which it is now paying a high price for ignoring.' The price, she suggests, is that oppressed and subjugated women cannot raise emotionally well and mentally healthy men. The 'invisible Muslim woman' ... is ... 'the hen who incubates the eggs of terrorism.' (p.135) Sultan's answer to the post 9/11 question 'Why do they hate us?' is 'Because Muslims hate their women, and any group who hates their women can't love anyone else.' Why do they hate their women? 'Because their God does.' (p.7)

Sultan believes that the retrograde features of the God of Islam were originally due to the harsh desert environment in which he was created by the minds of the Arabs, so many centuries ago. She contends that the harsh and fear-oriented desert mind-set is merely a primitive backwardness, which must be replaced by a more enlightened world view. The desert God of fear and hate, she says, must be displaced. This is for her an inevitable and necessary product of human progress.

Sultan holds America up as her dream land of freedom and human dignity, a vision of the progress which she hopes the Muslim world will enjoy. However the evil of abuse of women is not limited to Islamic societies and there is something naive about Sultan's trust in progress.

Sultan provides many references to the Koran and traditions of Muhammad, in order to make clear how Islamic teachings condition Muslim men to ill-treat Muslim women. However A God Who Hates
is not a reference work on Islamic law. Rather it is an intensely personal document, the diary of a soul walking a long, difficult and dangerous journey out of darkness into hard-won freedom. The author is a compassionate and brave woman, who writes with terrible frankness about her experiences, but dares to dream and hope for a better world, shaped by a loving God.