Al-Malik Al-Salih - Decree Against the Dhimmi


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The Pact of Umar, a document of dubious authenticity, set forth the supposed conditions under which Christians, Jews and Zoroastrian "dhimmi" could reside among Muslims and be granted protection by their conquerors and occupiers, These conditions were enforced imperfectly. Sometimes and in some places Jews and Christians were granted more than the usual amount of liberty. In other cases, a dynasty or ruler would decide upon massed forced conversion of the dhimmi, or conversion of those who could not pay the Jizya tax. The liberal times always ended with the accusation that the dhimmi had violated the pact.

This "imperial rescript" was issued, according to Norman Stillman (The Jews of Arab Lands, 1979, pp. 273-4), by Al Malik Al Salih, ruler of Egypt, in 1354. The ruler referred to is probably al-Salih Salah al-Din Ben Muhammad, a Bahri Mamluk who ruled from 1351 to 1354, and should not be confused with an earlier Ayyubid monarch Al Salih. As Al Salih was deposed in the same year that this decree was issued, it is unclear what effect it had. However, the dhimmi had already been subject to persecution in those years, since, as noted, al Malik al Nasir had reformed the civil service by firing the dhimmi, but they had since returned. Therefore, it is unlikely that the decree before us was only the work of an abberant eccentric.  

Ami Isseroff

January 11, 2010

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 Al Malik al Salih's rescript concerning the Dhimmi

Then they (the dhimmi) returned to civil service posts some time later (i.e. following the extensive purges of Al Malik al Nasir in 1301). However, the Sultan al-Malik al-Slih, the son of al-Malik al-Nasir, enacted measures to prevent them from this, and he reimposed the Stipulations of 'Umar upon them. For this purpose, he had a Noble Rescript written. Copies of it were sent to the provincial governors, and it was read out from the pulpits of the mosques. It read as follows:

A Noble Rescript commanding that all the Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan communities in the land of Egypt,  the divinely protected territories of Islam, and their provinces, are to conform to the authority of the Pact of the Command of the Faithful 'Umar bin al Khattab - may Allah be pleased with him -- which he accorded to their forebears. Namely, they are not to build in the Islamic lands any new monasteries, churches, or hermitages, neither are they to rebuild any such buildings which have fallen into ruin. Furthermore, they are not to harbor any spy, or anyone suspected by the Muslims. They are not to conceal any treachery from the Muslims. They may not teach their children the Qur'an. They may not make any public show of polytheism [This was a deliberate insult, degrading Christianity and Judaism to polytheistic religions. Even the fabricated Pact of Umar does not refer to polytheism, but simply forbids Christian and Jewish worship that may interfere with Muslims]. They may not try to prevent any of their kin who wish to embrace Islam from doing so. They may not resemble the Muslims in their dress. They must wear blue and yellow distinguishing costumes. They may not ride on saddles. They are not to wear swords. They are not to ride horses or mules, but only on donkeys, seated sidesaddle on litters. They are not to sell wines.

Furthermore, they are required to wear their special dress wherever they are. They shall bind the Zunnar [Zunnar or Zunar is a belt, mentioned in the Pact of Umar that Christians and apparently Jews as well were forced to wear. It was an item of apparel that did not exist at the time of Umar bin al Khatib, suggesting that the "Pact of Umar" was composed by someone else] which may not be of silk around their waists. Christian women who appear in public are to wear a linen izar [the izar is a large flowing enveloping outer garment similar to the ghalabieh] dyed blue and Jewish women a yellow izar. None of them is to enter a public bath unless he is wearing a sign around his neck that distinguishes them from a Muslim, such as a ring of iron, lead or the like. They are not to build homes higher than Muslim homes. They may not even be the same height, but only lower. They may only beat the clapper softly and are not to raise their voices in their churches. They may not be employed in the service of our noble state -- may Allah make its foundation firm. They may not serve in the employ of any of its emirs -- may exalted Allah strengthen them. None of them may occupy any position that would give them authority over a single Muslim. The Jurisdiction over the estates of their deceased shall be according to the noble Sha'aria [Muhammedan Religious Law]. The administrative regulations regarding confiscation apply to them, just as they do to the estates of deceased Muslims. Dhimmi women may not enter baths with Muslim women. Separate bathhouses shall be made for them, and only these may they enter.

This is in accordance with the scholars of the noble Sha'aria [Religious Law] as it has been interpreted.  

al-Qalqashandi, Subh al A'sha, vol 13 (Cairo, 1293, 1918) pp 378-9. Translation adapted from Stillman, Norman, The Jews of Arab lands, 1979, pp 273-4. 

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