A Buddhist friend and I got engaged in a discussion on dhimmitude, the second-class status some non-Muslims have in an Islamic state. During our discussion, she asked me, bluntly, if a Muslim is required to kill her if she were to refuse to convert to Islam after being offered to adhere to the faith.
A complex issue (as historically applied), but I’m sharing a relatively simplified response here for everyone’s reference. Feel free to make use of the material on this post, but please note that I may make additions and corrections to it as needed.
In general, dhimmitude applied only for Christians and Jews. Zoroastrians were also allowed to live as dhimmis:
… ‘Umar did not take the Jizya from the Magian infidels till ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Auf testified that Allah’s Apostle had taken the Jizya from the Magians of Hajar.
(Magians practiced the predominant form of Zoroastrianism between the 3rd and 7th centuries.)
Out of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, only one (Maliki) allowed dhimmitude to be extended to all non-Muslims.
The Qur’anic reference to dhimmitude is in 009 : 029:
Three of the most recognized English translations of the verse are:
YUSUFALI: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
PICKTHAL: Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
SHAKIR: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.
Historically, Muslims have applied the dhimmitude system to Buddhists and Hindus, although they were not mentioned in the early Islamic books. Muslims sometimes did kill them in the Middle Ages though. In theory, pagans must convert, be killed, or be enslaved. Such cases did appear in history but it depends on the practicability.
A few more notes:
- Are Buddhists and Hindus considered pagans by Muslims? Well, they have sacred books, but on the other hand, they can be considered as idol worshippers from an Islamic point of view.
- When Islamic countries waged war against ‘pagans’ in East Asia, they did not massacre the women and children. Instead, they were taken as slaves who do not even have possession of their bodies. This is a topic on its own which I may write on someday:
- When Muhammad conquered Mecca in 630 A.D., he gave the pagans of Mecca four months to convert. Those who did not convert after the four-month safety guarantee were to be killed:
And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.
But again, it was sometimes not strictly applied with Muslim expansion in Asia.
(This is a declaration of) immunity by Allah and His Messenger towards those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement.
So go about in the land for four months and know that you cannot weaken Allah and that Allah will bring disgrace to the unbelievers.
And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah and His Messenger are free from liability to the idolaters; therefore if you repent, it will be better for you, and if you turn back, then know that you will not weaken Allah; and announce painful punishment to those who disbelieve.
Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up any one against you, so fulfill their agreement to the end of their term; surely Allah loves those who are careful (of their duty).
So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
Furthermore, on his death bed, one of his wishes was that the pagans must be turned out of the Arabian Peninsula:
Narrated Said bin Jubair:
… The Prophet on his death-bed, gave three orders saying, “Expel the pagans from the Arabian Peninsula, respect and give gifts to the foreign delegates as you have seen me dealing with them.” I forgot the third (order)” (Ya’qub bin Muhammad said, “I asked Al-Mughira bin ‘Abdur-Rahman about the Arabian Peninsula and he said, ‘It comprises Mecca, Medina, Al-Yama-ma and Yemen.” Ya’qub added, “And Al-Arj, the beginning of Tihama.”)
Another hadith from the Religion of ToleranceTM:
It has been narrated by ‘Umar b. al-Khattib that he heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim.
I am not an expert on the history of Jihad and dhimmitude in Asia, but I agree that it does deserve as serious an investigation as has been done for dhimmitude in Christian Europe. Buddhists and Indian historians should publish on these topics today, especially with the recent revival of fundamentalism trends in Pakistan, Indonesia, etc.