GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY (WASHINGTON, D.C.) Reiss Building 103 – Oct.22, 2002, 19:15 – 21:30 Lecture subject: The Ideology of Jihad, Dhimmitude and Human Rights BAT YE’OR : 19:30 – 20:00 – Q/A SESSION DAVID LITTMAN : 20:15 – 20:45 – Q/A SESSION MODERATOR : Prof. Alan Parra (Human Rights Law)

In the History of al-Tabari (Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk), (The History of al-Tabari (Ta’rikh al rusul wa’l-muluk), ed. by Ehsan Yar-Shater, vol. 12, transl. and ann. by Yohanan Friedman, State University of New York Press, 1992) in the volume describing the conquest of Iraq by the Arab-Muslim armies, we read the recommendation given by Umar b. al-Khattab to the commander of the troops he sent to al-Basrah (636 C.E.). Umar said: “Summon the people to God; those who respond to your call, accept it from them, (This is to say, accept their conversion as genuine and refrain from fighting them) but those who refuse must pay the poll tax out of humiliation and lowliness. (Qur’an 9:29) If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency. Fear God with regard to what you have been entrusted.”

This is the pattern of the jihad war. Tabari was a great Muslim scholar, author of a monumental historical work on the Arab-Muslim conquest, among other prestigious works. He died in 923, and by then the Muslim empire had expanded from Portugal to India. After Tabari’s death, the Muslim conquests continued in Asia, as well as on Christian eastern European lands. The Christian kingdoms of Armenia, Byzantium, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Albania [and] parts of Poland and Hungary were conquered. The Muslim armies were stopped at the gates of Vienna in 1683. The jihad lasted over a millennium.

Such tremendous military success gave rise to a triumphalist jihad literature. Muslim historians recorded in details the number of slain infidels, the enslavement of the populations, the booty in captives, cattle and movable goods, the cities which were destroyed, razed or spared and taken by treaty and the countryside pillaged or set on fire. There are countless descriptions by Muslim historians on the jihad wars. Battles and victories have been described from Portugal to India, from Budapest to Sudan.

This information is not only available in Muslim sources, but also in Christian sources, which complement the Muslim perspective by giving the evidence of the victims of jihad wars. Those Christian sources are Coptic, Armenian, Jacobite, Greek, Slave, Spanish, Italian, etc.

So one sees that the jihad wars, the war of conquest of infidel’s territory, that had lasted for over a millennium and had expanded on three continents, is a very well documented historical field. Thus, it is astonishing when this well-characterized historiography is largely ignored, or even denied, in scholarly works. One is amazed to see that sometimes it is denied, even in scholarly books.

Jihad, therefore, was an ongoing historical process that brought vast Christian territories, with their population and civilization, under the rule of Islamic law, transforming them from a Christian civilization into an Islamic civilization, as we know them today in Turkey, the Middle East and in North Africa.

If jihad has been pursued century after century, it is because jihad, which means “to strive in the path of Allah,” embodied an ideology and a jurisdiction. Both were conceived by uslim jurists consults from the eighth to ninth centuries onward. Briefly presented, the ideology of jihad separates the world into two irreconcilable entities: dar al-Islam (the land of Islam) and dar al-Harb (the land of war), controlled by the infidels. The duty of the Muslims is to impose the Islamic law on the whole world, either by persuasion or by war, and those efforts which imply sacrifices represent the “fight in the path of Allah.”

For Muslim theologians, jihad is a religious duty that unites the Muslim community together, imposing on individual different obligations, according to circumstances.

In his book The Laws of Islamic Governance, (Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, The Laws of Islamic Governance, transl. by Asadullah Yate, Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd. London, 1996) Mawardi (d. 1058) a renowned jurist, examines in his chapter “The Amirate of Jihad” the characteristics of Islamic lands in relation to its tax assessment and to its population. Since all Islamic lands, except Arabia, were conquered by jihad, he examines several war situations. First he expounds the aim of jihad and the types of enemies of the dar al-harb. Who are the enemies, one may ask?

The enemies of the dar al-harb, he says, are of two sorts:

1. Those whom the call of Islam has reached, but they have refused it and have taken up arms: “The amir of the army has the option of fighting them in one of two ways, that is in accordance with what he judges to be in the best interests of the uslims and most harmful to the mushrikun (infidels, polytheists): the first, to harry them from their houses and to inflict damage on them day and night, by fighting and burning, or else to declare war and combat them in ranks.” (Mawardi 60) 2. Those whom the invitation to Islam has not reached. If they still refuse to accept Islam after it has been explained to them, “war is waged against them and they are treated as those whom the call has reached.” (Mawardi 60)

He distinguished three war situations:

1. The enemies accept to convert to Islam, in this case they and their land become part of dar al-Islam. 2. The enemies are vanquished but they refuse to convert, “in which case their women and children are taken prisoner, and their wealth is taken as booty and those who are not made captive are put to death. As for the captives, the amir has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first, to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale or manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them. Allah, may He be exalted, says, `When you encounter those who deny [the Truth] then strike [their] necks'” (Mawardi 76, quotation and brackets in the text). 3. “The enemy make a payment in return for peace and reconciliation.”

Mawardi here distinguishes two cases: 1. Payment is made immediately and is treated like booty, “it does, however, not prevent a jihad being carried out against them in the future.” (Mawardi 76). 2. Payment is made yearly and will “constitute an ongoing tribute by which their security is established.” Reconciliation and security last as long as the payment is made. If the payment ceased, the war resumes.

A treaty of reconciliation can only last for four months; it may be renewable but must not exceed 10 years. Islamic law prohibits the killing of children, women, the elderly and priests if they have not fought.

In another chapter “The Division of the Fay and the Ghaneemah” (booty), Mawardi examines the regulations pertaining to the land taken from the infidels. Those lands, he says, are of three sorts:

1. Land “seized by force and violence, when its inhabitants abandon it by their own deaths, or they are taken captive, or they emigrate.” 2. Land acquired from them “without violence because they have abandon it out of fear.” 3. Land taken through treaty. In this case he examines two possibilities: either the infidels convert or they pay the poll tax and their life and belongings are protected (Mawardi 200-01).

This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel population must recognize Islamic ownership on their land, submit to Islamic law and accept to pay the poll tax. In return, their fundamental rights to life and security are recognized by a treaty, the dhimma, a treaty of submission, which guarantees their rights.

We see therefore that dhimmitude is the outcome of a war that ends in three ways: conversion; tribute for peace; submission and poll tax. The basic element of dhimmitude is a land expropriation through a pact: land for peace. The vanquished populations were protected, providing they recognized the Islamic ownership on their lands and that they submit to Muslim authority. Protection is abolished if they refuse to pay the poll tax, if they blaspheme or if they rebel and ally themselves with the dar al-harb.

The characteristics of dhimmitude are numerous. Only a few will be mentioned here. They concern the prohibition of arms for the vanquished non-Muslims (dhimmis), of church bells, the restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches and synagogues, the inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims in regard to taxes, offences and penal law, the refusal of dhimmi testimonies by Muslim courts, the obligation for Jews and Christians to wear special clothes, their humiliation and abasement. In practice, dhimmis suffered, at periods, from slavery (devshirme for Christians), abductions, deportations. In some regions the legislation was more severe, like for instance in Morocco, Persia, Yemen or in remote countries. In others, like certain European provinces of the Ottoman Empire, it was attenuated.

These are the classical interpretations of jihad and dhimmitude, as they were written down by Muslim theologians and jurists in the iddle Ages. Today most Muslims probably, do not know them.

The principle of toleration initiated by the system of dhimmitude is opposed to the values expressed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those latter stress the equality of all human beings and the inalienability of their rights, whereas the principle of protection emerges from a war of conquest. It concedes limited rights to the vanquished, asserts conditions and can be revoked by the dominant group.

For its time, the system of dhimmitude had its positive and negative aspects, which cannot be discussed now. It main features were set in the eighth to ninth centuries. Dhimmitude was abolished during the 19th and 20th centuries under European pressure or by colonization. However we see now the return of the spirit of jihad, in the wars in Sudan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Algeria, Israel and in global terrorism. Non-Muslim minorities suffer also from grave discriminations in Iran, Egypt, Pakistan and in countries, which apply the shari’a law or whose constitution recognize that the shari’a is the main source of law.

Bat Ye’or is the author of three books on dhimmitude. Additional writings can be found at This is the summary of the presentation based on her written notes.

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