The Conditions of OmarYet knowledge of the particulars of Islam’s three-fold choice has been available for centuries; early Western peoples were much acquainted with it, including the now much maligned “Orientalists.”
Whereas Koran 9:29 provides divine sanction to fight the “People of the Book” (namely, Christians and Jews) “until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued,” the lesser known Conditions of Omar (also known as the Pact of Omar) lays out in detail how they are to feel themselves subdued.
Named after the second caliph, Omar bin al-Khattab (r. 634 to 644), the Conditions was purportedly agreed upon between the caliph and a community of Christians conquered by invading Muslims, ironically in the region of Syria. It has since been referenced in most major works on the treatment of dhimmis—non-Muslims living under Islamic authority.
There are different versions of the text of the Conditions, varying only slightly. Excerpts from one of the most authoritative versions follow (my translation). As in most versions, the conquered Christians appear to be speaking and agree:
Not to build a church in our city—nor a monastery, convent, or monk’s cell in the surrounding areas—and not to repair those that fall in ruins or are in Muslim quarters;To “become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition” simply meant that, if any stipulation of the Conditions was broken, the Christians would resume their natural status as non-submitting infidels who “resist and cause sedition” against Islam—becoming, once again, free game for killing or enslavement.
Not to clang our cymbals except lightly and from the innermost recesses of our churches;
Not to display a cross on them [churches], nor raise our voices during prayer or readings in our churches anywhere near Muslims;
Not to produce a cross or [Christian] book in the markets of the Muslims;
Not to congregate in the open for Easter or Palm Sunday, nor lift our voices [in lamentation] for our dead nor show our firelights with them near the market places of the Muslims;
Not to display any signs of polytheism, nor make our religion appealing, nor call or proselytize anyone to it;
Not to prevent any of our relatives who wish to enter into Islam;
Not to possess or bear any arms whatsoever, nor gird ourselves with swords;
To honor the Muslims, show them the way, and rise up from our seats if they wish to sit down;
We guarantee all this to you upon ourselves, our descendants, our spouses, and our neighbors, and if we change or contradict these conditions imposed upon ourselves in order to receive safety, we forfeit our dhimma [covenant], and we become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition.
Far from being merely a historical or theoretical text, the Conditions are very much on the minds of some Muslims. Aside from the new reports that jihadis are enforcing the Conditions—and to a tee—on the Christians of Raqqa, Syria, consider the following words of Saudi Sheikh Marzouk Salem al-Ghamdi, spoken once during a Friday mosque sermon:
If the infidels live among the Muslims, in accordance with the conditions set out by the Prophet—there is nothing wrong with it provided they pay Jizya to the Islamic treasury. Other conditions are . . . that they do not renovate a church or a monastery, do not rebuild ones that were destroyed, that they feed for three days any Muslim who passes by their homes . . . that they rise when a Muslim wishes to sit, that they do not imitate Muslims in dress and speech, nor ride horses, nor own swords, nor arm themselves with any kind of weapon; that they do not sell wine, do not show the cross, do not ring church bells, do not raise their voices during prayer, that they shave their hair in front so as to make them easily identifiable, do not incite anyone against the Muslims, and do not strike a Muslim. . . . If they violate these conditions, they have no protection.—–
From here, one can understand why all around the Islamic world Christians are under attack—their churches bombed, burned, or simply denied permits to exist or renovate, and their Bibles, crosses, and other symbols of “polytheism” confiscated and/or destroyed; why Christians who openly speak of Christianity are accused of proselytizing or blaspheming—both which can lead to execution; and why Christians are being forced to pay tribute or else convert to Islam or die.
Just the other day in Pakistan, Christians “began the construction of a church on land donated by the Christian Akber Masih, a resident in the area. They built the walls of the building and placed a cross in front of the main gate of the small construction yard.” But “when a large group of Islamic extremists saw the Christian symbol they arrived unexpectedly with bulldozers and started demolishing the building.” Although the Christians notified police and authorities, “the perpetrators were not arrested.” As for the aggrieved Christians, they “have received threats and have to abandon the idea of the project to build a church.”
Thanks to Western intervention in the colonial era, the Conditions largely disappeared—not least because Muslim leaders and elites were themselves westernizing. But today, as Muslims turn back to their Islamic heritage and its teachings—not least because Western leaders and elites are urging them to, in the name of multiculturalism if not moral relativism, the Conditions are returning; and woe to the Christian minority who dares break them by exercising religious freedom—what I call the “How Dare You?!” phenomenon, which is responsible for the overwhelming majority of Islamic attacks on non-Muslims.
Even so, thanks to the “progressive” dissembling of academia, media, and government—the supposed guardians and disseminators of truth and knowledge—such simple facts about Islam remain a great mystery in the West, to our own detriment.
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