Some Applications of
to The Military Jihad:
Six Examples of Early Muslim Treaties With Conquered Lands
by David Dakake
[ excerpt from The Myth of Militant Islam*
1.) Treaty with the city of Damascus
Balâdhurî reports that after the surrender of Damascus, Khalid ibn al-Walîd wrote for the inhabitants of the city a document stating:
In the Name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.
This is what Khâlid would grant to the inhabitants of Damascus, if he enters therein: he promises to give them security for their lives, property and churches. Their city shall not be demolished; neither shall any Muslim be quarted in their houses. Thereunto we give to them the pact of Allah and the protection of his Prophet
and the "Believers". So long as they pay the poll-tax,
nothing but good shall befall them.
2.) Treaty with the city of Jerusalem
In addition to these accounts, al-Tabarî records the "Covenant of `Umar, a document apparently addressed to the people of the city of Jerusalem, which was conquered in the year 15 A.H. / 636 C.E. The document states:
This is the assurance of safety (aman
) which the servant of God `Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has granted to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and the healthy of the city, and for all the rituals that belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited [by Muslims] and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their crosses, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted [ ... ] The people of Jerusalem must pay the poll tax like the people of [other] cities, and they must expel the Byzantines and the robbers [ ... ].
These conditions, respecting Christian practices and places of worship, were also given to other towns throughout Palestine, according to al-Tabarî.
In regard to the Armenian front, we have references to treaties made with Jewish and Christian as well as Zoroastrian inhabitants of the region. It is noteworthy that both al-Tabarî and Ibn Kathir in their Qur'an commentaries mention Zoroastrians (al-majûs
) within the classification of "People of the Book"
- Zoroastrianism being the other major faith, besides Judaism and Christianity, that was encountered by the Muslim armies as they spread out of Arabia and which, like Judaism and Christianity, possessed a sacred text.
3.) Treaty with the town of Dabîl
Balâdhurî mentions the treaty conduded by the Companion of the Prophet, Habîb ibn Maslamah al-Fihrî
(d. 42 A.H. / 662 C.E.), with the people of the town of Dabîl which states:
In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.
This is a treaty of
Habib ibn Maslamah with the Christians, Magians [i.e., Zoroastrians], and
Jews of Dabil, including those present and absent. I have granted for you
safety for your lives, possessions, churches, places of worship, and city wall.
Thus ye are safe and we are bound to fulfill our covenant, so long as ye
fulfill yours and pay the poll-tax [ ... ].
In addition to this, al-Tabarî mentions treaties that the Muslims made with the Armenians of al-Bab and Muqan in the Caucasus Mountains guaranteeing "their possessions, their persons, [and] their religion"
Turning to the region of Persia, Balâdhurî mentions two agreements,
one with the people of Rayy,
and the other with the people of Adhârbayjân.
The texts of each of these agreements guarantee the safety of the lives of the inhabitants, as well as offering a promise not to "raze any of their fire temples", a reference to Zoroastrian âtashkâdas. In al-Tabarî's "History" as well, treaties are recounted involving the town of Qûmis,[6o]
the peoples of Dihistân in the province of Jurjân,
and the people of Adhârbayjân
, each treaty granting "safety [...] for their religion."
4.) Treaty with the city of Alexandria
Finally in Egypt we can point to the example of `Amr ibn al-`Âs,
a companion of the Prophet and the commander of the Muslim forces on the Egyptian front. He concluded a treaty with the Bishop of Alexandria on the orders of the Caliph `Umar
, guaranteeing the safety of the city and agreeing to return certain Christian captives taken by the Muslims after an initial skirmish. According to al-Tabarî, `Umar's instructions to Amr were as follows:
[ ... ] propose to the ruler of Alexandria that he give you the jizya
in the understanding that those of their people who were taken prisoner and who are still in your care be offered the choice between Islam and the religion of their own people. Should any one of them opt for Islam, then he belongs to the Muslims, with the same privileges and obligations as they. and he who opts for the religion of his own people has to pay the same jizya
as will be imposed on his co-religionists.
5.) Treaty with the Metropolitan of Misr (Egypt)
'Amr also concluded an agreement with Abu Maryam, the Metropolitan of Misr. Al-Tabarî quotes Amr's words in an apparent face to face meeting with the Metropolitan:
We call upon you to embrace Islam. He who is willing to do so will be like one of us. To him who refuses, we suggest that he pay the jizya
and we will give him ample protection. Our Prophet
[ ... ] has determined that we keep you from harm. lf you accept our proposition, we will give you constant protection.
6.) Treaty with the people of Misr (Egypt)
AI-Tabarî then quotes the actual text of the treaty agreed to between them as follows:
In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.
This is the text of the covenant that Amr b. al-'As has granted the people of Misr concerning immunity for themselves, their religion, their possessions, churches, crucifixes, as well as their land and their waterways [...] .
lt is incumbent upon the people of Misr, if they agree on the terms of this covenant and when the rise of the Nile water comes to a halt to afford the jizya
[ ... ]. He who chooses [not to agree to these terms but] to depart will enjoy immunity, until he has reached his destination where he can be safe, or has moved out of the territory where our authority prevails.
The poll-tax or jizya
was required to be paid by the People of the Book to the Islamic state according to verse 9:29 of the Qur'an and certain hadith. This tax, unlike feudal taxation in Europe, did not constitute an economic hardship for non-Muslims living under Muslim rule. The tax was seen as the legitimate right of the Islamic state, given that all peoples - Muslim and non-Muslim - benefited from the military protection of the state, the freedom of the roads, and trade, etc. Although the jizya
was paid by non-Muslims, Muslims were also taxed through the zakat, a required religious tax not levied on other communities.
Balâdhurî, Futûh al-buldûn
, trans. P.Hitti as The Origins of the Islamic State [New York: AMS Press], vol. 1, p. 187.
Al-Tabarî, The History of al-Tabarî, vol. XII: The Battle of al-Qadisiyya and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine, trans. Y. Friedmann (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985). p.191. The use of the word "Byzantines" here should not be conflated with "Christians". "Byzantines" refers to those people who were the administrators of Byzantine authority in the lands that were now conquered by the Muslims. The very fact that the word "Byzantines" is used, and not "Christians" is significant. This shows that it was not "Christianity" but rather the military and political opposition of Byzantium that was at issue. It was because of this opposition that the Byzantines needed to be expelled. Byzantine administrators and officials, like the "robbers" also mentioned in the quotation, were a possible source of social unrest and political chaos. Just as there cannot be two kings ruling a single kingdom, the Muslims needed to remove any vestiges of Byzantine political authority in the land they now controlled. This did not mean the removal of the vestiges of "Christianity" from those lands, for the quotation itself also mentions preserving the rights of Christians to practice their faith and maintain their churches, crosses, etc., under the new Islamic government.
Ibid., pp. 191-192. Al-Tabarî indicates that similar letters were written to "all the provinces" around Jerusalem as well as to the "people of Lydda and all the people of Palestine."
Al-Tabarî, Jâmi'al-bayân, vol. 3, pp. 24-25; Ibn Kathir, Tafsîr, vol 2, pp.457-458. This position has been generally agreed upon by most of the early scholars of Islamic law; see for instance, the comments of Ibn Rushd in his Bidâyat al-mujtahid
, in Peters, Jihâd, p. 24.
Balâdhurî, Origins, vol. 1, P. 314
Al-Tabarî, The History of al-Tabarî, v. XIV. The Conquest of Iran, trans. G. Rex Smith (Albany: SUNY Press, 1994) pp.36-38.
Balâdhurî, Origins, vol 2, p.4.
Ibid., p. 20.
Al-Tabarî, The History of al-Tabarî, v. XIV. The Conquest of Iran, p. 28.
Ibid., p. 29
Ibid., p. 33
Al-Tabarî, The History of al-Tabarî, v. XIII. The Conquest of Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt, trans. G. H. A. Juynboll (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985), pp. 164-165
Ibid., pp. 167-168
The issue as to whether the Muslims may accept the jizya
from the mushrikûn
or polytheists, thereby granting them protected ( dhimmî
) status under the Islamic state, like the status of the People of the Book, has been debated by the scholars of Islamic law. For various opinions on this issue see Ibn Rushd, Bidâyat al-mujtahid
, in Peters, Jihâd, p. 24-25.
David Dakake: The Myth of Militant Islam; in:
The State We Are In: Identity,Terror and the Law of Jihad
< Published by Amal Press, Bristol UK >
editor: Aftab Ahmad Malik
with permission by the author and by the editor