Pact of Umar

By: George Boyden

The Pact of Umar is attributed to the eight century caliph Umar Abd al-Aziz (717-720) as a guide to treating dhimmis in conquered territory. Here are the regulations regarding those who do not convert to Islam:

Gates of dhimmis property shall be left open for passersby and travelers. Three days food and lodging will be provided free to any Muslims travelers who request it.

Shelter in churches or Christian homes will not be provided for spies, nor shall spies be hidden from Muslims.

The Koran will not be taught to children. (It would not be taught correctly).

No religious (non-Muslim) ceremonies will be held in public.

A seat or chair must be yielded to a Muslim, dhimmis must stand in the presence of a Muslim.

No attempt shall be made by a non-Muslim to resemble a Muslim in any way.

Riding animals with a saddle is forbidden.

Bearing swords or weapons of any kind is forbidden.

Selling wine is forbidden.

The forelocks of hair on the head shall be clipped for easy identification of non-Muslims.

Crosses or religious books must not be visible anywhere in Muslim areas or marketplaces.

Bells of clappers used in religious ceremonies will be sounded very quietly.

Voices will not be raised when reciting religious services, and when in the presence of Muslims, or in funeral services.

Non-Muslims will not build homes higher that Muslims’ homes.

Anyone who deliberately strikes a Muslim will forfeit the protection of this pact.

Even in religious affairs, Muslims could block appointments of priests or bishops. The argument that dhimmis enjoyed a secure and stable status with Muslims with pacts such is this, that they were forever protected and lived happily ever after, as perpetrated by Islamic apologists, depends on which side of the pact one is on.

These pacts were fragile, could be changed at anytime, to suit the Muslims, and proved to be under constant threat of change throughout time.

Dhimmis were in constant danger of being enslaved. When Amur conquered Tripoli in 643, he forced the Jews and Christians to hand over their women and children as slaves to the Arab army, and they were told to deduct this “handover” from the poll-tax, the dreaded “jizya.” Between 652 and 1276, Nubia was forced to send an annual contingent of salves to Cairo.

Treaties concluded under the Umayyads and the Abbasids with the towns in Transoxiana, Sijstan, Armenia, and later Fezzan (modern northwest Africa) all stipulated an annual tribute of slaves of both sexes. The principle source of the reservoir of slaves was constant raids on villages of “dar al-harb”. Military expeditions mopped up the villages of unbelievers, deporting captives en masse, to be used as slaves.

In 781, at the sack of Ephesus, 7,000 Greeks were deported into captivity. After the capture of Amorium in 838, there were so many captives that the caliph al-Mutasim ordered them to be auctioned in batches of five and ten captives. At the sack of Thessalonica in 903, 22,000 Christians were divided among Arab chieftains or sold into slavery. In 1054, the Seljuk Sultan, Alp Arslan, devastated Georgia and Armenia. Those he did not take as prisoners, he had executed.

Families who could not pay the crushing jizya or poll-tax were obliged to hand over their children and to “deduct” the value of the children as slaves from the jizya.

For more than 300 years, Christians suffered the humiliation not often discussed: a process known as “devshirme,” introduced by Ottoman Sultan Orkhan (1326-1359). It consisted of a periodic taking of a fifth of all Christian children in conquered territories. Converted to Islam, many of these children usually between the ages of fourteen and twenty, were trained to be janissaries or infantrymen. These periodic abductions eventually became an annual occurrence. Children were taken from among the Greek aristocracy and from Serbs, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Albanians, and often from among the children of priests.

Another way of supplying the caliphs with slaves, required on a fixed date in the year, all the fathers (unbelievers) were ordered to appear with their children in the public square of of the village. The recruiting agents chose the most sturdy and handsome children in the presence of a Muslim judge. Any father who shirked his duty to provide children was severely punished.

This system was open to all kinds of abuse. The recruiting agents often took more that the prescribed number of children and sold the “surplus” children back to their parents. Those parents unable to buy back their own children had to accept the children being sold as slaves. This system was abolished in 1656, however a parallel system in which young children between the ages of six and ten were taken to be trained in the seraglio of the sultan, continued into the 19th century. The number of children taken each year has been estimated as great as 8,000 but most probably an average of 1,000 children.

Whenever anyone argues that Islam treated dhimmis with compacts of fairness, such persons are either very uninformed or intentionally being in exact.

Source of information: Center for Religious Freedom, 1319 18th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. appearing in the July-December 2002 “The Copt Magazine.”

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