Dhimmi Essay

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In Islamic ruled territories, Dhimmis were those religious minorities, or People of the Book (ahl al-kitab), who were protected under Islamic law. People of the Book included Jews, Christians (of all denominations), and sometimes Zoroastrians. As polytheists Hindus were not usually granted protected minority status.

Under Islamic law and customs adult males of sound mind who had protected status paid a poll tax in addition to the customary land tax but were exempt from military service. In Muslim societies nonbelievers were not forced to convert and had freedom of religious practice as well as extensive communal autonomy including education for their children; however, they were not considered as equals to their Muslim counterparts. Sometimes stipulations regarding the height of bell towers on churches and dress were enforced, particularly under intolerant or dogmatic rulers. Nor were nonbelievers allowed to proselytize. The treatment and status of nonbelievers in Muslim realms varied with time and place but was usually more open and tolerant than anywhere in medieval Europe.

Bibliography :

  1. Vaglieri, Laura Veccia. “The Patriarchal and Umayyad Caliphates,” The Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. 1, The Central Islamic Lands. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970;
  2. Tritton, A. S. The Caliphs and Their Non-Muslim Subjects. London: Oxford University Press, 1931; rep. London: Frank Case, 1970;
  3. Dennett, D. C. Conversion and the Poll-tax in Early Islam. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950;
  4. Hayland, Robert, ed. Muslims and Others in Early Islamic Society. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2004.

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