Sourcebook: Pact of Umar, 7th Century ?
The Status of Non-Muslims Under Muslim Rule
After the rapid expansion of the Muslim dominion in the 7th century,
Muslims leaders were required to work out a way of dealing with
Non-Muslims, who remained in the majority in many areas for
centuries. The solution was to develop the notion of the "dhimma",
or "protected person". The Dhimmi were required to pay an extra tax,
but usually they were unmolested. This compares well with the
treatment meted out to non-Christians in Christian Europe. The Pact
of Umar is supposed to have been the peace accord offered by the
Caliph Umar to the Christians of Syria, a "pact" which formed the
patter of later interaction.
We heard from 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghanam [died 78/697] as follows: When
Umar ibn al-Khattab, may God be pleased with him, accorded a peace
to the Christians of Syria, we wrote to him as follows:
In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate. This is a letter
to the servant of God Umar [ibn al-Khattab], Commander of the
Faithful, from the Christians of such-and-such a city. When you came
against us, we asked you for safe-conduct (aman) for ourselves, our
descendants, our property, and the people of our community, and we
undertook the following obligations toward you:
We shall not build, in our cities or in their neighborhood, new
monasteries, Churches, convents, or monks' cells, nor shall we
repair, by day or by night, such of them as fall in ruins or are
situated in the quarters of the Muslims.
We shall keep our gates wide open for passersby and travelers. We
shall give board and lodging to all Muslims who pass our way for
We shall not give shelter in our churches or in our dwellings to any
spy, nor bide him from the Muslims.
We shall not teach the Qur'an to our children.
We shall not manifest our religion publicly nor convert anyone to it.
We shall not prevent any of our kin from entering Islam if they wish
We shall show respect toward the Muslims, and we shall rise from our
seats when they wish to sit.
We shall not seek to resemble the Muslims by imitating any of their
garments, the qalansuwa, the turban, footwear, or the parting of the
hair. We shall not speak as they do, nor shall we adopt their
We shall not mount on saddles, nor shall we gird swords nor bear any
kind of arms nor carry them on our- persons.
We shall not engrave Arabic inscriptions on our seals.
We shall not sell fermented drinks.
We shall clip the fronts of our heads.
We shall always dress in the same way wherever we may be, and we shall
bind the zunar round our waists
We shall not display our crosses or our books in the roads or markets
of the Muslims. We shall use only clappers in our churches very
softly. We shall not raise our voices when following our dead. We
shall not show lights on any of the roads of the Muslims or in their
markets. We shall not bury our dead near the Muslims.
We shall not take slaves who have beenallotted to Muslims.
We shall not build houses overtopping the houses of the Muslims.
(When I brought the letter to Umar, may God be pleased with him, he
added, "We shall not strike a Muslim.")
We accept these conditions for ourselves and for the people of our
community, and in return we receive safe-conduct.
If we in any way violate these undertakings for which we ourselves
stand surety, we forfeit our covenant [dhimma], and we become liable
to the penalties for contumacy and sedition.
Umar ibn al-Khittab replied: Sign what they ask, but add two clauses
and impose them in addition to those which they have undertaken.
They are: "They shall not buy anyone made prisoner by the Muslims,"
and "Whoever strikes a Muslim with deliberate intent shall forfeit
the protection of this pact."
from Al-Turtushi, Siraj al-Muluk, pp. 229-230.
[This was a from hand out at an Islamic History Class at the
University of Edinburgh in 1979.
Source of translation not given.]