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					                                 The Classical Opinion of the Rights of the Dhimmis                   1
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                The Classical Opinion of the Rights of the Dhimmis

                          Dr. Amini Amir Abdullah and Dr. Siti Zobidah Omar
                                      Universiti Putra Malaysia

                                                  Abstrak

Kertas ini membincangkan beberapa perkara dasar berkenaan dengan pendapat-
pendapat klasik mengenai hak-hak golongan dhimmi. Beberapa contoh diberikan
mengenai kebebasan beragama dan kebebasan hak golongan dhimmi. Golongan ini
dilayan secara sama rata jika dibandingkan dengan komuniti Islam dalam soal
pengadilan jenayah. Hak untuk terlibat dalam soal pemerintahan struktur tertinggi bagi
golongan dhimmi agak terhad. Bagi jawatan yang berada di bawah arahan dan kuasa
Imam (ketua tertinggi negara) secara langsung, jawatan ini boleh diisi oleh golongan
dhimmi. Dalam konteks sekarang, konseps Ahl al-Dhimmah perlu dilihat dari sudut
pemahaman kontekstual dan juga bersekali dengan pemahaman tekstual.


Introduction.



Abu Hamid Abu Sulaiman defines dhimmah as "a sort of permanent agreement between

Muslim political authorities and non-Muslim subjects which provides protection for

Muslims and peaceful internal relations with non-Muslim subjects. In return the latter

accepted Islamic rule and paid al-jizyah in lieu of serving in the army"1. The classical

opinion regarding non-Muslim citizens in an Islamic state can be divided into three

categories. First, those who become subject to the Islamic state because of a treaty or

agreement. Second, those who become subject because of being defeated in war. Third,

those who become citizens of the Islamic state in other ways from the above categories.




1
 See Abdul Hamid Abu Sulaiman, "Al-Dhimmah and Related Concepts in Historical
Perspective", Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 1, January
1988, p. 9. Hereinafter cited as Abu Hamid: "Al-Dhimmah…"
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Jizyah2 is imposed on those who are involved in warfare with the Muslims or those who

are strong and have the potential to fight the Muslims. Those who are not involved such

as women, children, old, disable, blind, and slave, and incapacitated males who are

unable to fight are exempt from the payment of jizyah.3 The dhimmis, they have several

specific rights. As soon as the state received jizyah from them, it is an obligatory

responsibility for every Muslim to protect their properties and dignity. Even Muslims

should fulfill the agreement with them and should fight only against those who are

against them.



With the acceptance of jizyah, the sanctity of their properties and life are guaranteed and

the state or the Muslim public has no right to violate their properties, dignity and life. The

Prophet said: "Whoever oppresses one with whom a treaty has been made, or imposes on

him a burden beyond his capacity, then I shall defend him".4 In similar way 'Umar al-

Khattab r.a. said: "I will make a will to the Caliph after me to do good with dhimmis,

observe the treaty with them, to fight against others than them and not to burden them

beyond their capacity".5 The dhimmis also enjoyed their right of ownership and their

heirs have an absolute right on the properties. They also enjoy full authority on the sale,

transferring, grant, and mortgage of their properties and the Islamic state has no right to

bother them.6


2
  Head tax imposed by Islam on all non-Muslims living under the protection of an Islamic
government.
3
  For further details see ‘Abd al-Qadir 'Audah [1994], Islamic System of Social Justice,
(trans. S.M. Hasnain), New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, p. 43.
4
  Abu Yusuf [1979] (trans. Abid Ahmad Ali), Kitab-Ul-Kharaj (Islamic Revenue Code),
Lahore: Islamic Book Centre, p. 251. Hereinafter cited as Abu Yusuf: Kitab-Ul-Kharaj…
5
  Ibid., p. 253.
6
  Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry [1992], Taxation in Islam and Modern Taxes, Lahore:
Impact Publications International, p. 62. Hereinafter cited as Chaudhry: Taxation in
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The amount of jizyah should take into consideration their financial position or what they

can bear. Those who have a strong financial position have to pay quite a reasonable

amount but for those who are poor or do not have any permanent job or are elderly who is

incapable of doing work and have no income are exempted.7 According to Abu Yusuf,

the case whereas 'Umar al-Khattab imposed more jizyah on the people of Syria than on

the people of Yaman is evidence that the government may increase or reduce the taxes in

accordance with what tax-payers can bear.8



The dhimmi's blood is equal to the Muslims. If a Muslim murdered a dhimmi, the case

must be treated the same as if the dhimmi murdered the Muslim. During the time of the

Prophet Muhammad s.a.w., the Prophet ordered a Muslim to be killed as he murdered a

dhimmi. The Prophet s.a.w. said: "I am responsible for obtaining redress for the weak."

During the reign of Khalifah 'Umar al-Khattab r.a. who was known as administrator par

excellence, there was a Muslim who killed a dhimmi. The murderer was given to the

family of the victim for adequate treatment. The same with Khalifah Ali k.w., he once

said: "Whosoever is a dhimmi his blood is a sacred as our own and his property is as

inviolable as our own property". Since dhimmis are equal to Muslims, their position

before criminal and public law is also equal to the Muslims. However, there are several

exemptions to Islamic law for dhimmis and this is sort of an alleviation given by Islam.

Among others, dhimmis can produce, distribute and drink alcohol, take part in fortune


Islam and …See also 'Abd al-Karim Zaidan [1976], Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin wa al-
Musta'minin, Beirut: Muassasah al-Risalah, p.p. 130-131. Hereinafter cited as Zaidan:
Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin…
7
  Abu Yusuf: Kitab-Ul-Kharaj…, pp. 246-247. For further details on those who are
exempted from jizyah see Chaudry: Taxation in Islam…, pp. 58-59.
8
  See Abu Yusuf [1965] (trans: A. Ben Shemesh), Taxation in Islam, Leiden: E.J. Brill,
vol. II, p. 44.
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telling, and make contracts among them involving interest. They can also sell and eat

pork. That is not all, Muslims who are proven to damage alcohol beverages or pork must

pay compensation. According to Ibn 'Abidin, if a Muslim spoils the wine of a dhimmi or

harms his pigs he will have to pay for them. Islam also gives serious attention to the

matter of the protection of honour and the inviolability of guarantees, assaulting, abusing

the dhimmi and verily back-biting them is considered blameworthy in Islam.9



The agreed mutual consent between dhimmi and Muslims is inviolable. It is only broken

when a dhimmi commits a serious unlawful crime such as leaving an Islamic state in

order to join the enemy or cause an open revolt on the state or try to demolished it. The

sentences are heavy. They can be driven away from the state as the Prophet did to the

Jews in Madinah. It is permissible to fight the unbelievers (non-Muslims) on the ground

of their tyranny and transgression but not on that of their disbelief. Therefore, war with

infidels is not permissible in any other circumstances. Ibn Taimiyyah referring to Imam

Malik r.h., Imam Ahmad r.h., Imam Abu Hanifah r.h. and others, and majority of 'ulama'

and Aimmah (majority of the Imams), said that "…fighting with disbelievers is allowed

only if they are bent upon oppression and tyranny."10 Ibn Taimiyyah also mentioned that

Imam Shafi'e r.a. is of the opinion that war with the unbelievers is grounded on their

disbelief and therefore, fighting is obligatory with them simply because they are infidels.




9
  See Muhammad Amin Ibn 'Abidin [1966], Hashiyah Radd al-Muhtar 'ala al-Durr al-
Mukhtar, Cairo: Matba'ah al-Babi al-Halabi, vol. 3, pp. 244-246. See also Yusuf al-
Qaradawi [1977], Ghair al-Muslimin fi al-Mujtama' al-Islami, Cairo: Maktabah
Wahbah, p. 16. Hereinafter cited as al-Qaradawi: Ghair al-Muslimin fi…
10
   Quoted in S.A. Rahman [1996], Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, New Delhi: Kitab
Bhavan, p.p. 21-22.
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Nevertheless, in this regard, Ibn Taimiyyah considered the opinion of the majority to be

correct.11



On the question when do Muslims fight, the Holy Al-Quran answers this question so that

all people may understand that Islam, the religion of peace is neither imposed upon

people nor are they compelled to adopt it. The word of Allah warns:


        Say: O ye that reject faith! I worship not that ye worship, nor will ye
        worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye
        have been wont to worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
        To you be your way, and to me mine. 12


The unbelievers deny the unity of God but we Muslims believe in it. That is their religion

and this is ours. Each of us is free to follow the creed which he is satisfied with. Allah

will not be harmed by the false convictions and beliefs of the unbelievers and if Allah had

wished, all the men on the earth would have believed in Him. 13 The Muslims were

ordered not to fight unless they were attacked, Allah says:



        To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight),
        because they are wronged, and verily, God is Most Powerful for their
        aid. (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in
        defence of right (for no cause) except that they say, Our Lord is God.14


Allah who has full information, understanding, and knowledge, and is well versed in all

things, has informed the Muslims that the unbelievers would do their utmost to turn the

Muslims away from their faith when he says: "Nor will they cease fighting you until they

11
   Ibid., p. 22.
12
   Surah al-Kafirun: 109: 1-6.
13
    For further explanation on this verse see Yusuf Ali: The Holy Quran… p. 1284
especially footnote 6289, 6290 and 6291.

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turn you back from your faith".15 Then Allah said: "Fight in the cause of God those who

fight you but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors".16 It is clear from

these verses that there is neither compulsion nor transgression in Islam except against the

oppressors who harass and fight the Muslims. Only then does Allah order them to fight,

to defend themselves so that they may not be transgressors who are hated by Allah.



Islam respects and gives freedom to the non-Muslims in the matter of personal law. The

same applies in religious rites and places of worship, the non-Muslims have their own

freedoms.17 But they cannot build their places of worship in locality occupied by majority

Muslim populations. However the regulation does not apply to places which are not fully

dominated by the Muslims. There are also opinions prohibiting the dhimmis from

exposing their religious symbols and rites such as processions with the Cross in public or

ringing the church bells in areas of majority Muslim populations. On these questions, the

prohibition is based more on general interest (Maslahah 'Ammah), so as not to cause

defamation and disharmony in the society. This prohibition is not specifically pointed to

dhimmis religious rites but to the impact on the society generally. 18 In places where

Muslims are minorities, the dhimmis will not be stopped from selling wine or pork19 or

from processions with the Cross, or from blowing conches or ringing the church bells.




14
   Surah al-Hajj: 22: 39-40.
15
   Surah al-Baqarah: 2: 217.
16
   Surah al-Baqarah: 2: 190.
17
   Yusuf al-Qaradhawi: Ghair al-Muslimin fi…, p. 95.
18
   For further account on this topic see Zaidan: Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin…, pp. 96-99. See
also Yusuf al-Qaradawi: Ghair al-Muslimin fi…, p. 20.
19
   See Muhammad al-Sadiq 'Afifi [1986], Al-Islam wa al-'Alaqah al-Dawliyyah, Beirut:
Dar al-Ra'id al-'Arabiyyi, p.p. 333-335.
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Dhimmis are not forced to defend the country and are exempted from joining the army

services. But they are obligated to join the monetary share in the defence of the state.

This jizyah payment is also a symbol of loyalty to the state. If the state fails to protect

them, the jizyah must be refunded. In matters regarding the rights and privileges of the

non-Muslims, the Muslims cannot anticipate or decrease them. In the field of economy,

which often becomes the source of conflict between individuals or groups, Islam

prohibits any form of discrimination. The non-Muslims enjoy extensive freedom to

develop their economic potentialities in every field as long as their activities do not

contradict the state laws and regulations.20 In an Islamic state, the non-Muslims' children

are allowed to learn their own religion in their own schools.21 But the non-Muslims are

not allowed to establish their own schools unless the curriculum is compatible with the

curriculum and spirit of the state's schools [Islamic state national curriculums]. 22 Other

rights such as the right to organize assemblies or to form group activities are permitted as

long as they comply with the restrictive power of the Islamic state.23 The dhimmis also

have the right of access to any public infrastructures and facilities.



In an Islamic state, the dhimmis have the right to choose their own choice of court or

jurisdiction. If they wish to be judged in the Muslim court, they have to apply for that

according to their own will. The decision will be made based on the allocations in Islamic

laws. Before their case is decided, they should be reminded on this matter. If they agree,

then the court will proceed but if they disagree, they should then refer the matter to the


20
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi: Ghair al-Muslimin fi…, p. 22. See also Zaidan: Ahkam al-
Dhimmiyyin…, pp. 110-111.
21
   Zaidan: Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin…, p. 110.
22
   Siddiqui: Islam and Other Faiths…, p. 297-298.
23
   For further details, see Zaidan: Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin… p. 101.
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allocation in their own religion. The Hanafi's 'ulama' does not give any choice to them.

They are allocated under Islamic laws in all aspects of life from daily affairs to criminal

matters.24 If their case is to be judged by the state law (Islamic law), they should be

treated as equal to the Muslims. They should be treated fairly and equitably.25



In the matters of representative and political representation, freedom of speech,

government services and other policies, Islam has its own rules and regulations.26 There

is only one limitation regarding the freedom of the non-Muslims, i.e. in their involvement

in politics and government, they haven't got the power to make decisions on the questions

of ummah security and welfare. They can hold any position in the government except

positions related to Islamic affairs, higher rank of leadership in the government and army,

Muslim jurisprudence and laws, and the administration of zakah.27 This is because the

administration of government is a responsibility, not the right of the citizen. These

important positions are related to the Muslim faith and therefore to avoid any miscarriage

or misunderstanding only Muslims can understand their own religious teachings and

affairs.28 The Prophet s.a.w. once appointed a wathani (idol worshipper) for a vital task,

spying on the enemy's strength. This shows that the dhimmis could hold positions in the

public administration if they could cope with certain conditions such as the ability to

work, honesty and trustworthiness.29




24
   For further details see Abu al-Ma'ati Hafiz Abu al-Futuh [1976], Al-Nizam al-'Iqabi
al-Islami, Cairo: Dar al-Ansar, p. 282-284.
25
   Surah Al-Maidah, 5:42.
26
   Zaidan: Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin…, p. 101.
27
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Ghair al-Muslimin fi…, p. 23.
28
   Zaidan: Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin…, p. 78. See Surah Ali-'Imran 3:118.
29
   See Zaidan: Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin…, pp. 79-80.
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According to Al-Mawardi, an executory minister (wazir tanfidh) may be of the dhimmah,

although not a delegatory minister (wazir tafwid).30 The authority of wazir tanfidh is

restricted to the judgement and direction of the Imam (head of the State). The executory

minister is a mediator between him and his subjects, carrying out his commands,

executing his instructions, enacting what he decides and announcing any governmental

appointments or military preparations of the armies. He acts in accordance with the

Imam's command. He is appointed for the purpose of execution of affairs but not to

organise them. The executory minister's task is to transmit things to the Head of the state

and to transmit things from the head of the state to the others. This position also demands

seven qualities such as trustworthiness, trustfulness, unselfishness, lack of abhorrence or

animosity between him and the people, retentive memory, acuteness and astuteness, and

finally, lack of craving and desire.31 The authority of this kind of minister is restricted to

the judgement and command of the highest power of the state.32 On the other hand, what

was defined as the role and position of a delegatory minister was where the imam

appoints a minister to whom he delegates authority for the organisation of affairs in

accordance with his judgement such that he effects them properly by his own efforts.33

The dhimmis also can be appointed to collect the jizyah and kharaj.34 The dhimmis also

can be appointed as an ambassador or state's representative to foreign countries. 35




30
   Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi [1996] (trans: Asadullah Yate) Al-Ahkam As-Sultaniyyah,
The Laws of Islamic Governance, London: Taha Publishers, p. 44. Hereinafter cited as
Al- Mawardi: Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah…
31
   Ibid.
32
   Yusuf al-Qaradawi:, Ghair al-Muslimin fi…, p. 24.
33
   Al-Mawardi: Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah…, p. 37.
34
   Zaidan: Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin…, p. 80.

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Ahl Al-Dhimmah In The Modern Context



With regards to the Muslim-non-Muslim relations and al-dhimmah in the modern

context, Abu Hamid points out that the al-dhimmah agreement between the Prophet and

the Christians of Najran and the Constitution of Madinah, and the word saghirin in

Surah al-Taubah [9: 29] should be taken respectively to determine the nature of Muslim-

non-Muslim relations.36 In his another publication, he suggest that:



       Muslim thinkers of the present have to achieve a clear, workable,
       abstract framework of the Islamic social system and social sciences and
       their relationship to the external world. The model of the social system
       laid down by the Prophet (PBUH), and his companions, which
       constitutes the body of the Sunnah, although it constitutes an important
       aid for understanding and consequently abstracting the values and the
       basic outlook of Islam, cannot be applied or compares issue by issue
       with the social system that must be built to meet today's needs, realities,
       and challenges.37


This is where the contextual reading of the text is very important.



Conclusion



If the principles of justice as emphasized by al-Qur'«n and al-Sunnah are truly grasped,

it is guaranteed that any form of murder or discrimination based on ethnic differences

will not be permitted. Disturbance, disorder and conflict only occur when the Muslims

diverge from the teachings of Islam or the non-Muslims no longer obey the Islamic laws.


35
   Ibid., p. 82.
36
   Abu Hamid: "Al-Dhimmah…", p. 10.
37
   Abu Hamid Abu Sulaiman [1987], The Islamic Theory of International Relations,
Herndon, Virginia: IIIT, p. 82.
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Bibliography

Abu al-Ma'ati Hafiz Abu al-Futuh [1976], Al-Nizam al-'Iqabi al-Islami, Cairo: Dar al-
Ansar.

Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi [1996] (trans: Asadullah Yate) Al-Ahkam As-Sultaniyyah,
The Laws of Islamic Governance, London: Taha Publishers.

Abu Hamid Abu Sulaiman, "Al-Dhimmah and Related Concepts in Historical
Perspective", Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 1, January
1988.

Abu Hamid Abu Sulaiman [1987], The Islamic Theory of International Relations,
Herndon, Virginia: IIIT.

Abu Yusuf [1965] (trans: A. Ben Shemesh), Taxation in Islam, Leiden: E.J. Brill, vol.
II.

Abu Yusuf [1979] (trans. Abid Ahmad Ali), Kitab-Ul-Kharaj (Islamic Revenue Code),
Lahore: Islamic Book Centre.

‘Abd al-Qadir 'Audah [1994], Islamic System of Social Justice, (trans. S.M. Hasnain),
New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan.

'Abd al-Karim Zaidan [1976], Ahkam al-Dhimmiyyin wa al-Musta'minin, Beirut:
Muassasah al-Risalah.

Muhammad al-Sadiq 'Afifi [1986], Al-Islam wa al-'Alaqah al-Dawliyyah, Beirut: D«r
al-R«'id al-'Arabiyyi.

Muhammad Amin Ibn Abidin [1966], Hashiyah Radd al-Muhtar 'ala al-Durr al-
Mukhtar, Cairo: Matba'ah al-Babi al-Halabi, vol. 3.

Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry [1992], Taxation in Islam and Modern Taxes, Lahore:
Impact Publications International.

S.A. Rahman [1996], Punishment of Apostasy in Islam, New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan.

Siddiqui, Ataullah (ed.) [1998], Ismail Raji al-Faruqi: Islam and Other Faiths,
Leicester: Islamic Foundation.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi [1977], Ghair al-Muslimin fi al-Mujtama' al-Islami, Cairo:
Maktabah Wahbah.




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