- Pact of Umar

Jerusalem falls to Muslim armies in the 630s, and Caliph Umar ibn Khattab issues a pact (the Pact of Umar) granting some legal protection and rights to people of other religions who believe in one G-d. Non-Muslim minorities, such as Jews and Christians, were classified as “dhimmis”. The term originates from the Arabic expression “ahl al-dhimma” – people of the contract. This status was based upon a teaching of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. That Ahl al-Kitab, or “People of the Book”- non-Muslims who were subjects of Muslim rulers and who practiced other monotheistic religions – should be granted rights as long as they accepted Islam’s political authority. Dhimmis would be allowed to own property, engage in a livelihood and practice their religion on the condition that they pay a special tax, or jizya, and do not assist the Muslim’s enemies.

In reality, despite these promises, the rights of dhimmis were limited. They faced many restrictions, including prohibitions on dress, riding horses and camels, and constructing, repairing, refurbishing or expanding houses of worship. Despite the numerous disadvantages faced by Jews under Muslim rule, there is no question that they fared far better than Jews in most other parts of the world at the time. They had full religious rights, were allowed to engage in a livelihood and own property, and, for the most part, were not physically abused.

Islam and dhimmi status is first introduced in Aleppo when the city falls to Abu Ubaidah, a Muslim army commander, in 637.

(Page from a register of jizya taxpayers [non-Muslim dhimmis] in Aleppo in 1628. Courtesy of the Ottoman Archive, Istanbul.)

  • Biblical Times
  • 950 BCE
  • 630s
  • 929
  • 1375
  • 1400s
  • 1492
  • 1527
  • 1565 c.
  • 1665
  • 1732
  • 1760 c.
  • 1840
  • 1869
  • 1892
  • 1909
  • 1911-1912
  • 1918
  • 1930s
  • 1935
  • 1944
  • 1945
  • 1946
  • 1947
  • 1948
  • 1949
  • 1950
  • 1951
  • 1956
  • 1956
  • 1957
  • 1958
  • 1964
  • 1965
  • 1967
  • 1972
  • 1974
  • 1975
  • 1975
  • 1980s
  • 1988
  • 1992
  • 1994