The “Temple” of Ignorance: A Response to Ken Temple on Dhimmis, Jizyah, and Islam, Part I
Originally posted on the Quran and Bible Blog
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم
“Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.”
– The Quran, Surah At-Tawba, 9:29
This article is a response to the copy/paste ramblings of the Trinitarian apologist Ken Temple in his article “The Concept of Dhimmi in Islam”. As we will see, Temple engaged in poor research and half-truths in a vain effort to demonize Islam. But the truth will come out and Temple will be exposed, inshaAllah! Due to its length, the article will be divided into 3 parts. Part I will respond to Temple’s discussion of the so-called “Pact of Umar”. Part II will respond to Temple’s claims about the jizyah and the Islamic conquests of the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires. Finally, Part III will respond to Temple’s shameless propaganda about the first Gulf War.
Unveiling the “Temple” of Ignorance – The “Pact of Umar”
Temple, being the lazy apologist, simply begins his rant…by pasting a link to another pseudo-scholar, the infamous David Wood. He also makes a false statement right from the get-go:
“[o]ne should read all of the links to the articles below to understand Dhimmi and Dhimmitude. It developed from Surah 9:28-29 and from the Pact of Umar I (Umar/Omar Ibn Al Kattab, the Second Caliph, 634-644 AD) and was further developed under another Umar/Omar – Umar Ibn Abdul Azziz [sic], who was Caliph from 717-720 AD.)”
Temple refers to the so-called “Pact of Umar I”, and then claims that the concept of “dhimmitude” was “further developed under…Umar Ibn Abdul Azziz [sic]…” But Temple did not research the history behind the so-called “pact”.
Before we discuss the historicity of the “Pact of Umar”, we need to delineate exactly what it required of Christians. Here is a simplified list, as provided by Professor Maher Abu-Munshar in his book Islamic Jerusalem and Its Christians: A History of Tolerance and Tensions:
- Restrictions on Christian places of worship.
- Hospitality, including the serving of food, to Muslim travelers.
- No harm to Muslims and Islam.
- Christians should not imitate Muslims in dress.
- Prohibition on “doing and saying certain things.”
- Restrictions on “commercial relationships” between Christians and Muslims.
Let us now discuss whether the “Pact of Umar” is authentic or not. According to Abu-Munshar, while many jurists and historians (such as Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Asakir, Ibn al-Qayyim, and Ibn Kathir) believed that the pact “could be attributed to Umar”, there were others who did not (such as Al-Salih). Not only that, but Abu-Munshar notes that the earliest documentation of the “Pact of Umar” was by Al-Khallal (d. 311 AH/923 CE), while even earlier scholars did not seem to know anything about it, despite the fact that they did discuss the conquests in their historical accounts. These include Al-Baladhuri, Al-Waqidi, Al-Ya’qubi, Al-Tabari, Al-Azdi, Ibn Al-A’them, and Ibn Al-Athir. This is one reason to doubt that the “pact” originated with Umar (may Allah be pleased with him).
Another reason to doubt the authenticity of the “Pact of Umar” is in its chain of narrators. Abu-Munshar notes that the famous scholar Al-Albani “has doubted the pact’s chain of narrators”. Also, Ibn Asakir (one of the scholars who accepted the authenticity of the “pact”) reported five different narrations of it, four of which were found “to contain some problems in their chains of narrators”. As for the fifth version, Abu-Munshar points out that while this version is similar to the versions mentioned by other scholars, for some mysterious reason “it is narrated without specifying the name of the city”. Instead, it merely states “such and such a city”. This causes Abu-Munshar to raise a logical question: “how could such an important document omit the name of the city that it addresses?” According to Ibn Kathir, the pact was agreed upon by Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and the Christians of “Ash-Sham” (i.e., Syria):
“[t]he scholars of Hadith narrated from `Abdur-Rahman bin Ghanm Al-Ash`ari that he said, “I recorded for `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, the terms of the treaty of peace he conducted with the Christians of Ash-Sham…”
It is hard to believe that the pact would say “such and such a city” instead of saying something like “the people of Damascus”.
Still another reason to doubt the authenticity of the document is that the famous scholar Al-Shafi’i cited two versions of how Christians were supposed to be treated by Muslims. In his book Kitab Al-Umm, he cited the guidelines in the “Pact of Umar”, but also a different set of guidelines which were not found in the “pact”:
“[t]he government must not interfere with any practice of the dhimmis, although contrary to Muslim law as long as it is not done in public notice. So, in a town where there are no Muslims living, Christians may build churches and tall houses, and no one may interfere with their pigs and festivals. A dhimmi may lend money at interest to another or contract a marriage not recognized by Muslim law, and no one can interfere…”
Finally, Abu-Munshar notes that the requirements of the “pact” contradict Umar’s known policies towards non-Muslims. Abu Yusuf (d. 798 CE) related that Umar once came across an old Jewish beggar. When he asked the man what had caused him to beg, the man replied that he needed the money to pay the jizyah. Umar immediately gave him some money and instructed the treasurer to no longer take any jizyah from the man.
Al-Baladhuri also related a story about how the caliph ordered special treatment for Christians who were stricken with diseases:
“…Umar…passed by certain Christians smitten with elephantiasis and he ordered that they be given something out of the sadakahs and that food stipends be assigned to them.”
Naturally, these Christians would not have had to pay the jizyah.
It is for these reasons that Abu-Munshar concludes that the “Pact of Umar” was not actually issued by Umar himself, but was developed by “unknown people…to include conditions that have no relevance or link to the period of the early Muslim conquests.” Rather, he states that these “conditions” began in the time of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (Umar II) and continued to the time of Al-Mutawakkil (d. 861 CE), the latter of which was known to be extreme in his dealings with Christians and Jews. Another theory is that it was the Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim (d. ~1021) who was the “originator of the more discriminatory conditions” in the so-called “pact”. Abu-Munshar also notes that Al-Hakim ordered Christians “to wear clothes that distinguished them from Muslims” and that “small mosques should be built on the roofs of churches”.
An even more interesting theory, suggested by some modern scholars, is that the inspiration for the “pact” came not from Islamic sources but from Christian ones. The two main Christian sources which have been said to exert such influence are the Codex Theodosianus and the Code of Justinian. As the late Jewish scholar Jacob R. Marcus stated:
“[t]he real significance of Roman law for the Jew and his history is that it exerted a profound influence on subsequent Christian and even Muslim legislation. The second-class status of citizenship of the Jew, as crystallized in the Justinian code, was thus entrenched in the medieval world, and under the influence of the Church the disabilities imposed upon him received religious sanction and relegated him even to lower levels.”
This theory has some interesting strengths. When comparing some of the stipulations of the Christian laws concerning Jews and other non-Christians, we can see some clear parallels with the “Pact of Umar”. For example, the Novella III of the Codex Theodosianus forbade the building of new synagogues. A similar law was enacted by Justinian as well:
“…where a heretic (and among heretics We include Nestorians, Acephali, and Eutychians) builds a house for the celebration of his worship, or a new Jewish synagogue, the most holy church of the diocese shall seize the building.”
Another similarity is that the “Pact of Umar” forbade Christians from “taking slaves who have been allotted to Muslims”. A similar law was enacted by Christians:
“A Jew Shall Not Possess A Christian Slave. If anyone among the Jews has purchased a slave of another sect or nation, that slave shall at once be appropriated for the imperial treasury. If, indeed, he shall have circumcised the slave whom he has purchased, he will not only be fined for the damage done to that slave but he will also receive capital punishment. If, indeed, a Jew does not hesitate to purchase slaves-those who are members of the faith that is worthy of respect [Christianity] then all these slaves who are found in his possession shall at once be removed. No delay shall be occasioned, but he is to be deprived of the possession of those men who are Christians.”
Regardless of the true origin of the “Pact of Umar”, it is becoming increasingly clear that the origin does not lie with Umar (may Allah be pleased with him). This is the view of most modern scholars. However, the Christian scholar Jurji Zaydan was of the view that the “pact” or “Charter of Omar” could be ascribed to the second caliph, but that it only applied to the Christians of Syria. According to Zaydan:
“…the reason of its severity is to be found in Omar’s fear of the Christians of Syria, who among the Easterns came nearest to the Byzantine Church. The Copts hated the Byzantine Church, and aided the Moslems to conquer Egypt and oust the Byzantines. The charter, then, was not dictated by fanatical hatred of Christianity or the desire to persecute. Afterwards, however, its conditions were extended by the Moslems to the whole of the people of the Covenant, whereas Omar had intended it only for the Christians of Syria.”
So even if it could be reasonably attributed to Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), which is unlikely, it was not meant to be applied to all Christians, but only the Christians of Syria, and as previously mentioned, Ibn Kathir indeed stated that the “well-known conditions” of the so-called “pact” were originally addressed to the Christians of Syria. Later on, it was extended to include all Christians, which was not the original intent.
Before we move on, it is pertinent to ask: if the “Pact of Umar” is not authentic and does not represent the actual Islamic rules regarding dhimmis, then what are the actual rules?
According to Imam Al-Mawardi (d. 362 AH/972 CE), the payment of the jizyah guaranteed two main “rights” for dhimmis: they would be “left in peace” and “their domestic security” and “defence from external attack” would be guaranteed. It also exempted a dhimmi from military service. Conversely, serving in the military absolved the dhimmi of paying the jizyah for each year of service.
As an example of this exemplary attitude towards dhimmis, we can point to the example of Sheikh Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH/1328 CE). When the Tartars (Tatars) were advancing on Damascus, Ibn Taymiyyah asked the Tartar leader Qazaan (who claimed to be a Muslim) to spare his people. The Tartar leader agreed to this only with regard to Muslims. However, since the Jews and Christians were under the protection of the Muslims, Ibn Taymiyyah insisted that they be spared as well. The Tartar leader agreed and released all non-Muslim prisoners of war.
Another scholar, Ibn Juzay (d. 741 AH/1340 CE), stated that “Muslims should not interfere with the churches of Christian dhimmis or with their lifestyle, such as drinking wine and eating pork, as long as they did not do this in public”. He also stated that non-Muslims should be “governed by their own personal laws”.
According to Imam Al-Mawardi, being a dhimmi required six obligatory conditions to be followed:
- Prohibition against disparaging or misquoting the Quran.
- Prohibition of accusing the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) of being a liar or insulting him in any way.
- Prohibition against speaking against Islam “with slander or calumny”.
- Prohibition of committing fornication with a Muslim woman, or marrying a Muslim woman.
- Prohibition against undermining “the faith of a Muslim” or to “cause harm to Muslim assets and property”.
- Prohibition against helping the enemy of Muslims.
Abu Yusuf also narrated a letter sent from the first Caliph Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) to the Christians of Najran, which contradicts the strict rules of the “Pact of Umar” and reflects a moderate attitude towards Christians. The letter, as narrated by Abu Yusuf, states:
“In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is the written statement of God’s slave Abu Bakr, the successor of Muhammad, the Prophet and Messenger of God. He affirms for you the rights of a protected neighbor, in yourselves, your lands, your religious community, your wealth, retainers, and servants, those of you who are present or abroad, your bishops and monks, and monasteries, and all that you own, be it great or small. You shall not be deprived of any of it, and shall have full control over it.”
Interestingly, Abu Yusuf also related an agreement between Khalid Ibn Al-Walid and Christians which allowed the latter to “ring their bells at any time of the day or night, except at the Islamic prayer times.” This is in stark contrast to the stipulation of the “Pact of Umar” which prohibited Christians from even clapping outside of their churches.
As we can see, these rules are very different from the so-called “Pact of Umar”. There are other scholarly views as well, with minor differences. For example, the Hanbali jurist Ibn Qudama (d. 630 AH/1233 CE) included the rule that dhimmis should wear distinctive clothing and try to avoid drinking alcohol in public, but he said nothing about prohibiting the upkeep of places of worship.
Finally, there is another important document that is also attributed to Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and was addressed to the Christians of Jerusalem (Aelia). The document is known as Al-Uhda al-Umariyyah, which Abu-Munshar describes as a document of “great importance”. However, it should be stated outright that the authenticity of this document is also a matter of debate, just as with the “Pact of Umar”. Nevertheless, it is interesting that this document is discussed by some of the earliest scholars we mentioned previously, none of whom seemed to know of the “Pact of Umar”. The reader should recall that the earliest Islamic scholar to mention the “Pact of Umar” was Al-Khallal (d. 311 AH/923 CE). But Al-Uhda was mentioned by Al-Waqidi (d. 207 AH/822 CE) and Al-Baladhuri (d. 279 AH/892 CE), though they did not provide the text of the agreement. But some later scholars did discuss the text as well, including Al-Ya’qubi (d. 284 AH/897 CE) and even the Christian patriarch of Alexandria, Eutychius (d. 328 AH/940 CE).
Al-Tabari (d. 310 AH/922 CE) also mentioned the document as well as the text. His version is the longest one. More importantly, the chain of narration for Al-Tabari’s version is quite strong, in contrast to the unreliable chain for the “Pact of Umar”.
So what did Al-Uhda al-Umarriyah state with regard to the Christians of Jerusalem? In Al-Tabari’s version, in exchange for paying the jizyah, the Christians were given “an assurance of safety for their lives and possessions”, including their churches. They were given assurances that they would not be “compelled in religion” or “maltreated”. They were also given the choice of either staying in Jerusalem or leaving with the Byzantines. If they chose the latter, they were allowed to take all their possessions. Finally, an interesting caveat of the document is that “[n]o Jews should reside with [the Christians] in Aelia.” According to Kennedy:
“…the fact that a Muslim source records it suggests that the Christian negotiators had played a strong hand.”
Regardless, it is of course well-known that Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) did indeed allow a small number of Jews to reside in Jerusalem. It is for this reason that he is celebrated among Jewish sources. As the Jewish scholar Rabbi Reuven Firestone states:
“[Umar] ended Christian rule over Jerusalem and allowed Jews to legally re-enter and live in the holy city for the first time since the failed Bar Kokhba rebellion in the 2nd century.”
So, in contrast to the unreliable “Pact of Umar”, which Temple subjectively and uncritically implied was a reflection of authentic Islamic attitudes towards dhimmis, there is another document with far more historical credibility that he was seemingly completely unaware of (or deliberately ignored). In any case, now that the facts have been presented, it is hoped that the ignorant Temple will update his article to reflect the historical reality, and not cling to his poorly-researched opinions. The funny thing is that Temple claimed that “early Muslim jurists” attributed the “pact” to Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), but as we have seen, this is a deceptive statement since the “earliest” jurists in fact did not even MENTION the “pact”. They were not aware of it at all! Even the article from “Faith-Freedom” that Temple linked to admitted that the document was “…unlikely to have been written by Umar I”. One then wonders what the point of even bringing a misattributed document into the discussion was in the first place.
This concludes Part I of this series. Part II will discuss the Islamic concepts of dhimmis and jizyah and also refute Temple’s biased assessment, inshaAllah.
 Maher Y. Abu-Munshar, Islamic Jerusalem and Its Christians: A History of Tolerance and Tensions (London: Tauris Academic Studies, 2007), p. 65.
For a full-text of the “pact”, see pp. 63-64.
 Abu-Munshar, op. cit., p. 63.
 Ibid., p. 75.
 Ibid., p. 71.
 Ibid. p. 66.
 Ibid., p. 68.
 Ibid., pp. 68-69.
But as we have already seen, the hadith has different versions and problems with its isnad (chain of narration).
 Ibid., p. 75.
 Ibid., pp. 78-79.
 Ahmad Ibn Yahya Baladhuri, The Origins of the Islamic State: Being a Translation from the Arabic Accompanied With Annotations Geographic and Historic Notes of the Kitab Futuh Al-Buldan, Volume I, trans. Philip K. Hitti (New York: Columbia University, 1916), p. 198.
 Abu-Munshar’s book lists Al-Mutawakkil’s death in the year 232 AH/786 CE, but this is definitely a typo, as the year 232 AH of the Islamic calendar would have corresponded to around 847 CE.
 Ibid., pp. 76-77.
However, it should be noted that even Umar II was known to be relatively lenient with dhimmis. In a letter sent by the Caliph to one of his governors, he stated:
“[p]ay attention to the condition of the Protected (non-Muslims), treat them tenderly. If any of them reaches old age and has no resources, it is you who pay for his keeps. If he has relatives, demand these latter to pay for his keeps. Apply retaliation if anybody commits tort against him. This is as if you have a slave who reaches old age; you should pay for his keeps until his death or liberate him”” (Maher Younes Abu-Munshar, “A Historical Study of Muslim Treatment of Christians in Islamic Jerusalem at the Time of Umar Ibn Al-Khattab and Salah Al-Din With Special Reference to Islamic Value of Justice” (PhD diss., University of Abertay Dundee, 2003, 57, https://rke.abertay.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/15104389/Abu_Munshar_2003_A_historical_study_of_Muslim_treatment_PhD.pdf).
In another letter, he instructed fairness when collecting the jizyah:
“[p]urify the registers from the charge of obligation (i.e., taxes levied unjustly); and study old files (also). If any injustice has been committed regarding a Muslim or a non-Muslim, restore him his right. If any such person should have died, remit his rights to his heirs’” (Ibid.).
He was also quoted as saying:
“[l]et it be known that the Almighty, Glorified be His Name, allowed jizyah to be taken from those who decline to embrace Islam and prefer the great loss of polytheism. However, you should exempt those who are unable to pay and encourage people to reform and plough their lands, for tilled land adds to their happiness and reinforces their energy to fight against their enemies. I want you to check the status of each and every individual among ahl al-dhimmah and whosoever you find to be too old, too feeble to earn a living or impoverished for any reason….to each of them allocate money as is necessary to ease their financial plight” (Sayed Afzal Peerzade, “Jizyah: A Misunderstood Levy,” JKAU: Islamic Econ.) 23, no. 1 (2010): 158, https://iei.kau.edu.sa/Files/121/Researches/58914_29185.pdf).
 Abu-Munshar, op. cit., p. 184, n. 2.
 Abu-Munshar, op. cit., p. 64.
 Jurji Zaydan, Umayyads and Abbasids: Being the Fourth Part of Jurji Zaydan’s History of Islamic Civilization, trans. D.S. Margoliouth (London: Luzac & Co., 1907), p. 136.
 Abu-Munshar, op. cit., p. 33.
 Ibid., p. 25.
 Ibid., p. 35.
 Abu-Munshar, op. cit., p. 34.
 Abu-Munshar, op. cit., p. 36.
 Ibid., p. 88.
 Unlike Temple’s subjective and propaganda-based article, this article is concerned with the ascertainable facts and an honest assessment of history.
 Ibid., p. 89.
 Ibid., pp. 93-94.
The strength of the narration is based on the reliability of two particular narrators, Khalid Ibn Mi’dan al-Shami (d. 108 AH/726 CE) and Ubadah Ibn Nusai (d. 118 AH/736 CE), whom Abu-Munshar describes as “trustworthy followers (tabi’is) of the first generation after the companions of the Prophet (p. 94).
 Ibid., p. 92.
For the full text, see pp. 92-93. See also Kennedy, op. cit., pp. 91-92.
 Kennedy, op. cit., p. 92.
 Reuven Firestone, An Introduction to Islam for Jews (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2008), p. 47.