Friday, July 28, 2006

The Dhimmi

"...Jews throve under Muslim rule, especially after Islam expanded into Byzantine lands, where Orthodox rulers routinely persecuted both Jews and non- Orthodox Christians for their religious beliefs, often forcing them to convert to Imperial Christianity under penalty of death. In contrast, Muslim law, which considers Jews and Christians 'protected peoples' (dhimmi), neither required nor encouraged their conversion to Islam. (Pagans and polytheists, however, were given a choice between conversion and death.)

"Muslim persecution of the dhimmi was not only forbidden by Islamic law, it was in direct defiance of Muhammad's orders to his expanding armies never to trouble Jews in their practice of Judaism, and always to preserve the Christian institutions they encountered. Thus, when Umar (Caliph and second successor to Muhammad) ordered the demolition of a mosque in Damascus that had been illegally constructed by forcibly expropriating the house of a Jew, he was merely following the Prophet's warning that 'he who wrongs a Jew or a Christian will have me as his accuser on the Day of Judgement.'

"...Islamic law did prohibit Jews and Christians from openly proselytizing their faith in public places. But...such prohibitions affected Christians more than they did Jews, who had been historically disinclined toward both proselytizing and public displays of their religious rituals. This may explain why Christianity gradually disappeared in most Islamic lands, while Jewish communities increased and prospered."

"(Muhammad) saw these differences (among the three religions) as part of the divine plan of God...Thus, to the Jews, God sent the Torah, 'which contains guidance and light'; to the Christians, God sent Jesus, who 'confirms the Torah', and finally, to the Arabs, God sent the Quran, which 'confirms the earlier revelations.' In this way, the ideological differences among the Peoples of the Book is (sic) explained by the Quran as indicating God's desire to give each people its own 'law and path and way of life.' "

Reza Aslan, No god but God, Random House, 2005, pp. 94-5, 101


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