The Status of Non-Muslim Minorities Under Islamic Rule

Dhimmitude: the Islamic system of governing populations conquered by jihad wars, encompassing all of the demographic, ethnic, and religious aspects of the political system. The word "dhimmitude" as a historical concept, was coined by Bat Ye'or in 1983 to describe the legal and social conditions of Jews and Christians subjected to Islamic rule. The word "dhimmitude" comes from dhimmi, an Arabic word meaning "protected". Dhimmi was the name applied by the Arab-Muslim conquerors to indigenous non-Muslim populations who surrendered by a treaty (dhimma) to Muslim domination. Islamic conquests expanded over vast territories in Africa, Europe and Asia, for over a millennium (638-1683). The Muslim empire incorporated numerous varied peoples which had their own religion, culture, language and civilization. For centuries, these indigenous, pre-Islamic peoples constituted the great majority of the population of the Islamic lands. Although these populations differed, they were ruled by the same type of laws, based on the shari'a.

This similarity, which includes also regional variations, has created a uniform civilization developed throughout the centuries by all non-Muslim indigenous people, who were vanquished by a jihad-war and governed by shari'a law. It is this civilization which is called dhimmitude. It is characterized by the different strategies developed by each dhimmi group to survive as non-Muslim entity in their Islamized countries. Dhimmitude is not exclusively concerned with Muslim history and civilization. Rather it investigates the history of those non-Muslim peoples conquered and colonized by jihad.

Dhimmitude encompasses the relationship of Muslims and non-Muslims at the theological, social, political and economical levels. It also incorporates the relationship between the numerous ethno-religious dhimmi groups and the type of mentality that they have developed out of their particular historical condition which lasted for centuries, even in some Muslim countries, till today.

Dhimmitude is an entire integrated system, based on Islamic theology. It cannot be judged from the circumstantial position of any one community, at a given time and in a given place. Dhimmitude must be appraised according to its laws and customs, irrespectively of circumstances and political contingencies.

For books by Bat Ye'or, see www.dhimmi.org


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