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Six Examples Of Early Muslim Treaties

With Conquered Communities/ Lands

Some Applications of
Quranic Principles to The Military Jihad

by David Dakake

Excerpt from The Myth of Militant Islam*

Ed. OmarKN

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”Thereunto we give to them the pact of Allah and the protection of his Prophet (the blessings and peace of Allah upon him) the caliphs and the believers. So long as they pay the poll-tax, nothing but good shall befall them.”

1. Treaty with the city of Damascus

Balādhurī reports that after the surrender of Damascus, Khalid ibn al-Walīd wrote for the inhabitants of the city a document stating:

In the Name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.

This is what Khālid would grant to the inhabitants of Damascus if he enters therein: he promises to give them security for their lives, property and churches. Their city shall not be demolished; neither shall any Muslim be quartered in their houses. Thereunto we give to them the pact of Allah and the protection of his Prophet ﷺ the caliphs رضي الله عنهم  and the "Believers". So long as they pay the poll-tax,[51] nothing but good shall befall them.[52]

2. Treaty with the city of Jerusalem

In addition to these accounts, al-Tabarī records the "Covenant of ʿUmar, a document addressed to the people of the city of Jerusalem, which was conquered in the year 15 A.H. / 636 C.E. The document states:

This is the assurance of safety (aman) which the servant of God ʿUmar, the Commander of the Faithful, has granted to the people of Jerusalem. He has assured them of safety for themselves, for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and the healthy of the city, and for all the rituals that belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited [by Muslims] and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their crosses, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted [ ... ] The people of Jerusalem must pay the poll tax like the people of [other] cities, and they must expel the Byzantines and the robbers [ ... ].[53]

These conditions, respecting Christian practices and places of worship, were also given to other towns throughout Palestine, according to al-Tabarī.[54] Regarding the Armenian front, we have references to treaties made with Jewish and Christian as well as Zoroastrian inhabitants of the region. It is noteworthy that both al-Tabarī and Ibn Kathir in their Qur'an commentaries mention Zoroastrians (al-majūs) within the classification of "People of the Book"[55] - Zoroastrianism being the other major faith, besides Judaism and Christianity, that was encountered by the Muslim armies as they spread out of Arabia and which, like Judaism and Christianity, possessed a sacred text.

3. Treaty with the town of Dabīl

Balādhurī mentions the treaty concluded by the Companion of the Prophet, Habīb ibn Maslamah al-Fihrī رضي الله عنه    (d. 42 A.H. / 662 C.E.), with the people of the town of Dabīl which states:

In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful.

This is a treaty of Habib ibn Maslamah with the Christians, Magians [i.e., Zoroastrians], and Jews of Dabil, including those present and absent. I have granted your safety for your lives, possessions, churches, places of worship, and city wall. Thus ye are safe and we are bound to fulfil our covenant, so long as ye fulfil yours and pay the poll-tax [ ... ].[56]

In addition to this, al-Tabarī mentions treaties that the Muslims made with the Armenians of al-Bab and Muqan in the Caucasus Mountains guaranteeing "their possessions, their persons, [and] their religion"[57]

Turning to the region of Persia, Balādhurī mentions two agreements, one with the people of Rayy,[58] and the other with the people of Adhārbayjān.[59] The texts of each of these agreements guarantee the safety of the lives of the inhabitants, as well as offering a promise not to "raze any of their fire temples", a reference to Zoroastrian ātashkādas. In al-Tabarī's "History" as well, treaties are recounted involving the town of Qūmis,[6o] the peoples of Dihistān in the province of Jurjān,[61] and the people of Adhārbayjān[62], each treaty granting "safety [...] for their religion."

4. Treaty with the city of Alexandria

Finally in Egypt, we can point to the example of ʿAmr ibn al-ʿās, رضي الله عنه    a companion of the Prophet and the commander of the Muslim forces on the Egyptian front. He concluded a treaty with the Bishop of Alexandria on the orders of the Caliph ʿUmar رضي الله عنه  , guaranteeing the safety of the city and agreeing to return certain Christian captives taken by the Muslims after an initial skirmish. According to al-Tabarī, ʿUmar's instructions to Amr were as follows:

[…] propose to the ruler of Alexandria that he give you the jizya in the understanding that those of their people who were taken prisoner and who are still in your care be offered the choice between Islam and the religion of their people. Should any one of them opt for Islam, then he belongs to the Muslims, with the same privileges and obligations as they. and he who opts for the religion of his people has to pay the same jizya as will be imposed on his co-religionists.[63]

5. Treaty with the Metropolitan of Misr (Egypt)

'Amr also agreed with Abu Maryam, the Metropolitan of Misr. Al-Tabarī quotes Amr's words in an apparent face to face meeting with the Metropolitan:

We call upon you to embrace Islam. He who is willing to do so will be like one of us. To him who refuses, we suggest that he pay the jizya and we will give him ample protection. Our Prophet ﷺ [ ... ] has determined that we keep you from harm. If you accept our proposition, we will give you constant protection.[64]

6. Treaty with the people of Misr (Egypt)

AI-Tabarī then quotes the actual text of the treaty agreed to between them as follows:
In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.
This is the text of the covenant that Amr b. al-'As has granted the people of Misr concerning immunity for themselves, their religion, their possessions, churches, crucifixes, as well as their land and their waterways [...].
lt is incumbent upon the people of Misr, if they agree on the terms of this covenant and when the rise of the Nile water comes to a halt to afford the jizya [ ... ]. He who chooses [not to agree to these terms but] to depart will enjoy immunity until he has reached his destination where he can be safe or has moved out of the territory where our authority prevails.[65]

7. The Achtiname of Muhammad ﷺ

This document is a charter ratified by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ granting protection and other privileges to the monks of Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt.[66]
”This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”[66]
Source: Wikipedia refers to the document at Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai.[66]

8. Guaranteeing the protection of Christians at St Catherine's Monastery

[There also seems to be evidence] that Prophet Muhammad - may Allah bless him and grant him peace - entered a covenant guaranteeing the protection of Christians!

One actual covenant [or a copy of the original] is located at Saint Catherine's Monastery in Egypt.

”Did you know that Prophet Muhammad entered a covenant guaranteeing the protection of Christians? One actual covenant is located at Saint Catherine's Monastery in Egypt. This @60Minutes piece covers it in detail. Muslims today continue to honour & faithfully apply this agreement.” @CraigCons

Watch this short video: CBS video

9. Prophet Muhammad's encounters with ancient Christians

People of the Book - Prophet Muhammad's Encounters with Christians

A video how Muhammad's relationship with Christians provide sociological and theological insight on how today's Christians and Muslims can bridge the gap to resolve conflicts around the world. (From the blurb).
By the award winning professor and best-selling author based at Rice University, Dr. Craig Considine.

10. Notes

[50] By David Dakake, excerpt from The Myth of Militant Islam - see below

[51] The poll-tax or jizya was required to be paid by the People of the Book to the Islamic state according to verse 9:29 of the Qur'an and certain hadith. This tax, unlike feudal taxation in Europe, did not constitute an economic hardship for non-Muslims living under Muslim rule. The tax was seen as the legitimate right of the Islamic state, given that all peoples - Muslim and non-Muslim - benefited from the military protection of the state, the freedom of the roads, and trade, etc. Although the jizya was paid by non-Muslims, Muslims were also taxed through the zakat, a required religious tax not levied on other communities.

[52] Balādhurī, Futūh al-buldūn, trans. P.Hitti as The Origins of the Islamic State [New York: AMS Press], vol. 1, p. 187.

[53] Al-Tabarī, The History of al-Tabarī, vol. XII: The Battle of al-Qadisiyya and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine, trans. Y. Friedmann (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985). p.191. The use of the word "Byzantines" here should not be conflated with "Christians". "Byzantines" refers to those people who were the administrators of Byzantine authority in the lands that were now conquered by the Muslims. The very fact that the word "Byzantines" is used, and not "Christians" is significant. This shows that it was not "Christianity" but rather the military and political opposition of Byzantium that was at issue. It was because of this opposition that the Byzantines needed to be expelled. Byzantine administrators and officials, like the "robbers" also mentioned in the quotation, were a possible source of social unrest and political chaos. Just as there cannot be two kings ruling a single kingdom, the Muslims needed to remove any vestiges of Byzantine political authority in the land they now controlled. This did not mean the removal of the vestiges of "Christianity" from those lands, for the quotation itself also mentions preserving the rights of Christians to practice their faith and maintain their churches, crosses, etc., under the new Islamic government.

[54] Ibid., pp. 191-192. Al-Tabarī indicates that similar letters were written to "all the provinces" around Jerusalem as well as to the "people of Lydda and all the people of Palestine."

[55] Al-Tabarī, Jāmi'al-bayān, vol. 3, pp. 24-25; Ibn Kathir, Tafsīr, vol 2, pp.457-458. This position has been generally agreed upon by most of the early scholars of Islamic law; see, for instance, the comments of Ibn Rushd in his Bidāyat al-mujtahid, in Peters, Jihād, p. 24.

[56] Balādhurī, Origins, vol. 1, P. 314

[57] Al-Tabarī, The History of al-Tabarī, v. XIV. The Conquest of Iran, trans. G. Rex Smith (Albany: SUNY Press, 1994) pp.36-38.

[58] Balādhurī, Origins, vol 2, p.4.

[59] Ibid., p. 20.

[60] Al-Tabarī, The History of al-Tabarī, v. XIV. The Conquest of Iran, p. 28.

[61] Ibid., p. 29

[62] Ibid., p. 33

[63] Al-Tabarī, The History of al-Tabarī, v. XIII. The Conquest of Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt, trans. G. H. A. Juynboll (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985), pp. 164-165

[64] Ibid., pp. 167-168

[65] The issue as to whether the Muslims may accept the jizya from the mushrikūn or polytheists, thereby granting them protected ( dhimmī ) status under the Islamic state, like the status of the People of the Book, has been debated by the scholars of Islamic law. For various opinions on this issue see Ibn Rushd, Bidāyat al-mujtahid, in Peters, Jihād, p. 24-25.

[66] The Achtiname or Covenant of Muhammad ﷺ

11. Source

David Dakake: The Myth of Militant Islam; in:

SWcover The State We Are In: Identity, Terror and the Law of Jihad
Published by formerly Amal Press, Bristol UK
editor: Aftab Ahmad Malik
With permission by the author and by the editor.

→ update:
"The Myth of a Militant Islam” is included in the anthology Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition.
David Dakake | Karamah

See also: Omar's Conduct
Towards The Dhimmis, by Maher Y. Abu-Munshar



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* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *