Jews and Christians Under Islam

    July 2002            
Search the Jewish Magazine Site: Google


Search our Archives:

Opinion & Society



Reviewed by Aviv Goldstein

The Dhimmi is the Arabic term that refers to its non-Islamic embracing population that has the ignominious dishonor of living in Islamic conquered lands. In a similar manner to the Jewish reference to a non-Jew as being a goy, so too the term dhimmi refers to non-Muslims. However unlike the Jewish term, goy, and much more important, the dhimmi is a distinctly subjugated second class non-citizen almost slave who is subjected to dictatorial deprivation of any legal and human rights since he is a non-Muslim permanent resident in a Muslim state.

Dhimmi is also the name of a book written by Bat Ye'or, a pseudonym, of a woman who grew up in Egypt as a British citizen and observed first hand the Islamic treatment of non-Muslims. Based on serious research, Dhimmi was first published in French in 1971, translated into English in 1985, later into Hebrew and Russian, Dhimmi is a must reading for anyone seriously desiring an understanding of Middle-East politics and the rationale of the Arab mentality.

The first part of the book describes the state of affairs of the dhimmi, the basis and development for dhimmitude in Islam, and the relationship of the jihad, the war to conquer territory for Islam to the status of dhimmi.

Throughout earliest Islamic history, the conquered peoples by advancing Muslim armies were given the choice of either converting, being killed, or living as a conquered people, a dhimmi. These subjugated people were suspended in time and space, for dhimmitude meant being barely tolerated in your dispossessed land.

Both Jews and Christians alike suffered the ignominious life of having their fate decided upon the whim of despotic rulers. Although a legal definition of the dhimmi exists, that they must pay various taxes and tolls, that they must live a second class life and give deference to their Muslim neighbors, much of their tragic existence depended on the whims of despotic rulers and frenzied Arab mobs who denied them even the little that was given to them through Islamic law.

In 622 CE when Muhammad began his systematic conquering of pagan Arab populations and territories in the Arab desserts and peninsulas, he set up a precedent of conversion, death or servitude. Mixing war and religion, he utilized and abrogated relationships with non-Muslims to gain political and eventual territorial gains. A shrewd politician, Muhammad took advantage of non-belligerency pacts to attack and subjugate populations. In 628, after a long siege of Khaybar, lasting a month and a half, the inhabitants surrendered under terms of a treaty known as the dhimma. According to this agreement Muhammad allowed the Jews living there to continue to cultivate the land on the condition that they cede to him half of their produce, but he reserved the right to cancel the agreement and expel them whenever he desired. This became the prototype of all future subjugations. Hence making agreements and then breaking them to gain political gains became a hallmark of Muslim armies.

As the Muslims grew more powerful, their holy wars spread out beyond Arabia. The jihad became a war of conquest subject to a code which was the elimination of infidels. Truces were allowed, but never a lasting peace.

The jihad became a concept that divided the world into two separate groups. One was the dar al harab, the territory of war, and the other was the dar al Islam, the territory of Islam, which was the Muslim land where Islamic law reigns. Jihad is a normal state of being in the dar al harab which will only end with the conversion of the entire world to Islam.

The concept of jihad was simple - conquering the world for the true religion, Islam, translated into forced conversions, killings, taking slaves, seizing properties. This method enriched the perpetrators of the jihad, paid for their armies and brought wealth to the Arab nations. Participation in jihad was obligatory, either by participation or by aiding in one of many manners.

The manner in which the rules of dhimmitude were applied varied according to the political circumstances and the disposition of the ruler. There were periods of tolerance which gave a small degree of security to the dhimmis. However the fanaticism which could be riled up by the clergy could change the situation in small time. If the local Muslim population became intolerant or jealous of the successes of the dhimmi, then a pogrom would ensue. Communities could find themselves evicted, women raped, exorbitant ransoms placed on them, children abducted and forced to convert, and in other cases mass murders of the dhimmi population was condoned.

Rules would be formulated to deny the dhimmi due process of the law. Discriminatory and restrictive dress and behavior codes would be enacted and severely enforced to reduce the dhimmi into a state of despair and poverty. Dehumanization of the dhimmi was not uncommon, and generally the rule. Various forms of physical abuse were common.

Many times distinctive dress was specified to identify a dhimmi that he would be unable to either mix with a Muslim or even walk in a Muslim area of a city. Other rules specified such demeaning dress codes as not wearing shoes or sandals, not using certain colors, wearing stars on their clothing. Dhimmis were often prohibited from working in many occupations. Even rules were made as to how a dhimmi could ride a mule to distinguish him from a Muslim.

The non-observance of these rules would entail a severe beating. Often passing a Muslim on the wrong side would begin a beating that could leave a dhimmi mortally wounded. Since the dhimmis were denied the ability to testify against a Muslim, there was absolutely no recourse


The book is rich in sources both from Islam, from the communities subjected to dhimmitude, and from third party observations of the predicament that the restricted communities were subjected to. The author spent much time on research and documentation to produce a substantial look at the true face of Islam through the centuries in their relationship to other peoples living among them. The message is clear that Islam is not a tolerant religion; it fosters and condones belligerent and aggressive actions towards those people who choose not to embrace Islam.

This book is backed with much documentation of various dhimmi communities from all areas of Muslim rule. Included in the book are speeches of various influential Arabs, texts from various middle-age sources and reports taken from British consuls through out centuries from archives testifying to the conditions of the dhimmi communities.

Included in the book are rare pictures and photographs depicting the dhimmi and his community.

Dhimmi is easy reading and perhaps the most needed reading for the serious student of Middle Eastern politics in our time. The Dhimmi is published by Associated University Presses, 440 Forsgate Drive, Cranbury, New Jersey 08512. It can be ordered via the net, local bookstores, and should be in your local public library.


from the July 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

Please let us know if you see something unsavory on the Google Ads and we will have them removed. Email us with the offensive URL (

Remarkable apartment and fossil watches programs will lead you to success in the panerai watches and chanel watches. We also offer latest travel packages with 100% guarantee.