historical term referring to non-Muslims living in an Islamic state with legal protection

A dhimmi (Arabic: ذمي‎ ḏimmī, IPA: [ˈðɪmmiː], collectively أهل الذمة ahl ul-ḏimmah/dhimmah "the people of the dhimma") is a historical term referring to non-Muslims living in an Islamic state with legal protection.


  • The overwhelming majority of moderate Muslims reject the dhimma system as ahistorical, in the sense that it is inappropriate for the age of nation-states and democracies.
    • Abou El Fadl, Khaled (23 January 2007). The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. HarperOne. p. 214. ISBN 978-0061189036.
  • No one of the people of the dhimma should be beaten in order to exact payment of the jizya, nor made to stand in the hot sun, nor should hateful things be inflicted upon their bodies, or anything of that sort. Rather they should be treated with leniency.
    • Abu Yusuf, quoted in Lewis, Bernard (1984). The Jews of Islam. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-00807-3.
  • A non-Muslim, therefore, cannot be a citizen of the State; he is a member of a depressed class; his status is a modified form of slavery. He lives under a contract (zimma) with the State: for the life and property that are grudgingly spared to him by the Commander of the Faithful he must undergo political and social disabilities, and pay a commutation-money (jaziya). In short, his continued existence in the State after the conquest of his country by the Muslims is conditional upon his person and property being made subservient to the cause of Islam.
    • Jadunath Sarkar , History of Aurangzib, Vol III.
  • He must pay a tax for his land (kharaj), from which the early Muslims were exempt; he must pay other exactions for the maintenance of the army, in which he cannot enlist even if he offers to render personal service instead of paying the poll-tax; and he must show by humility of dress and behaviour that he belongs to a subject class. No non-Muslim (zimmi) can wear fine dresses, ride on horseback or carry arms; he must behave respectfully and submissively to every member of the dominant sect.
    • Jadunath Sarkar , History of Aurangzib, Vol III.
  • The zimmi is under certain legal disabilities with regard to testimony in lawcourts, protection under criminal law, and marriage. The State, as the other party in the contract (zimma), guarantees to him security of life and property and a modified protection in the exercise of his religion :—he cannot erect new temples, and has to avoid any offensive publicity in the exercise of his faith. But everything short of open physical persecution,—everything that would not be a flagrant breach of the contract of protection, can be legitimately practised by the Muslim ruler to reduce the number of the undesirable alien sect.
    • Jadunath Sarkar , History of Aurangzib, Vol III.
  • A Dhimmi is a non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance to sharia law. The term connotes an obligation of the state to protect the individual, including the individual's life, property, and freedom of religion and worship, and required loyalty to the empire, and a poll tax known as the jizya, which complemented the Islamic tax paid by the Muslim subjects, called Zakat.
    • Glenn, H. Patrick (2007). Legal Traditions of the World. Oxford University Press. pp. 218–219.
  • "According to the dhimma status system, non-Muslims must pay a poll tax in return for Muslim protection and the privilege of living in Muslim territory. Per this system, non-Muslims are exempt from military service, but they are excluded from occupying high positions that involve dealing with high state interests, like being the president or prime minister of the country. In Islamic history, non-Muslims did occupy high positions, especially in matters that related to fiscal policies or tax collection".
    • Abou El Fadl, Khaled (2007). The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. HarperOne. p. 204. ISBN 978-0061189036.
  • 'As the tokens of Islam (such as public prayers, festivals, and so forth) appear in the cities, Zimmis should not be permitted to celebrate the tokens of infidelity there.'
    • The Hedaya (Guidance), a Muslim Law Book , quoted in Ram Swarup in: Hindu Temples, what happened to them. [1]
  • The letter of my dear nephew Muhammad Kasim has been received and the fact understood. It appears that the chief inhabitants of Brahmanabad had petitioned to be allowed to repair the temple of Budh and pursue their religion. As they have made submission, and agreed to pay taxes to the Khalifa, nothing can be properly required from them. They have been taken under our protection (dhimmi), and we cannot in any way stretch out our hands upon their lives or property.
    • Hajjaj's letter to Muhammad bin Qasim, in which "Hindus were, thus, accepted as dhimmi subjects, which spared them from conversion by the sword". Sharma SS (2004) Caliphs and Sultans: Religious Ideology and Political Praxis, Rupa & Co, New Delhi. Page 109. As quoted in Khan, M. A. (2011). Islamic Jihad: A legacy of forced conversion, imperialism and slavery.
  • The Sultan then asked, "How are Hindus designated in the law, as payers of tributes or givers of tribute? The Kazi replied, "They are called payers of tribute, and when the revenue officer demands silver from them, they should tender gold. If the officer throws dirt into their mouths, they must without reluctance open their mouths to receive it. By doing so they show their respect for the officer. The due subordination of the zimmi is exhibited in this humble payment and by this throwing of dirt in their mouths. The glorification of Islam is a duty, and contempt of the Religion is vain. God holds them in contempt, for he says, "keep them under in subjection". To keep the Hindus in abasement is especially a religious duty, because they are the most inveterate enemies of the Prophet, and because the Prophet has commanded us to slay them, plunder them, and make them captive, saying, 'Convert them to Islam or kill them, enslave them and spoil their wealth and property.'No doctor but the great doctor (Hanifa), to whose school we belong, has assented to the imposition of the jizya (poll tax) on Hindus. Doctors of other schools allow no other alternative but 'Death or Islam.'"
    • Qazi Mughisuddin's reply to Sultan Alauddin Khalji. Tarikh-i Firoz Shahi, of Ziauddin Barani in Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 184, chapter 15 [2]. Quoted in B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946).
  • T. P. Hughes, who served as a missionary in India, wrote in his influential Dictionary of Islam under zimmi: "With regard to the idolatry of a non-Arabic country . . . ash-Shafil maintains that destruction is incurred by them also; but the other learned doctors agree that it is lawful to reduce them to slavery, thus allowing them, as it were, a respite during which it may please God to direct them into the right path, but making, at the same time, their persons and substance subservient to the cause of Islam."
    • T.P. Hughes Dictionary of Islam, London, 1895, 710. quoted in **Hardy, P. (1977). Modern European and Muslim Explanations of Conversion to Islam in South Asia: A Preliminary Survey of the Literature. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 2, 177–206.
  • There is another mandate relating to those subjects who are unbelievers and protected people (zimmis). For their goverance, the observance of those conditions that the Caliph ‘Umar laid down in his agreement for establishing the status of the fire worshipers and the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], and which gave them safety, is obligatory on rulers and governors. Rulers should impose these conditions on the zimmis of their dominions and make their lives and their property dependent on their fulfillment. The twenty conditions are as follows:
    1. In a country under the authority of a Muslim ruler, they are to build no new homes for images or idol temples.
    2. They are not to rebuild any old buildings that have been destroyed.
    3. Muslim travelers are not to be prevented from staying in idol temples.
    4. No Muslim who stays in their houses will commit a sin if he is a guest for three days, if he should have occasion for the delay.
    5. Infidels may not set as spies or give aid and comfort to them.
    6. If any of their people show any inclinations toward Islam, they are not to be prevented from doing so.
    7. Muslims are to be respected.
    8. If zimmis are gathered together in a meeting and Muslims appear, they are to be showed st the meeting.
    9. They are not to dress like Muslims.
    10. They are not to give each other Muslim names.
    11. They are not to ride on horses with saddle and bridle.
    12. They are not to possess swords and arrows.
    13. They are not to wear signet rings and seals on their fingers.
    14. They are not to sell and drink intoxicating liquor openly.
    15. They must not abandon the clothing that they have had as a sign of their state of ignorance so that they may be distinguished from Muslims.
    16. They are not to propagate the customs and usages of polytheists among Muslims.
    17. They are not to build their homes in the neighborhood of those of Muslims.
    18. They are not to bring their dead near the graveyards of Muslims.
    119. They are not to mourn their dead with loud voices.
    20. They are not to buy Muslim slaves.
    At the end of the treaty it is written that if zimmis infringe any of these conditions, they shall not enjoy security and it shall be lawful for Muslims to take their lives and possessions as though they were the lives and possessions of unbelievers in a state of war with the faithful.
    • [From Shaikh Hamadani, Zakhirat ul-Muluk, folios 943-953] quoted in Ainslie T. Embree - Sources of Indian Tradition_ Volume One_ From the Beginning to 1800.
  • ZIMMI. , a member of the Ahlu 'z-Zimmah, a non Muslims subject of a Muslim government, belonging to the Jewish, Christian, or Sabean creed. who, for the payment of a poll— or capitation-tax, enjoys security of his person and property in a Muhammadan country. One of the most urgent duties enjoined by Muhammad upon the Muslim or true believer, was the Jihad fi Sabili 'llahi, or exertion in the road of God, i.e. warfare for the spread of Islam, amongst the infidels within and without Arabia [JIHAD]; thus the whole world came to be regarded as divided into two great portions, the Daru 'l-Harb and Daru 'l-Islam [DARU 'L-HARB, DARU 'L-ISLAM] —the territories of War and the territories of Peace. These two divisions, one of which represented the land of infidelity and darkness, the other that of light arid faiths, were supposed to be in a continual state of open or latent belligerency, until the Daru 'l-Islam should have absorbed the Daru 'l-Harb and faith conquered unbelief. Infidelity, however, admits of degrees. Its worst shape is idolatry, that is, the worship of idols instead of or Insides the one true God; and this, again, is a crime most abominable on the part of of Arabs, "since the Prophet was sent amongst them, and manifested himself in the midst of them, and the Qur'an was delivered down in their language." Of an equally atrocious character is the infidelity of apostates, "because they have become infidels, after having been led into the way of faith, and made acquainted with its excellence." In the case of neither, therefore, is a compromise admissible they must accept or re-embrace the faith, or pay with their lives the full penalty of their crime. With regard to the idolaters of a non-Arabic or 'Ajam country, which latter expression in the times of early Islam particularly the applied to the Persian Empire, ash-Shafi'i maintains that destruction is incurred by them also; but the other learned doctors law agree that it is lawful to reduce them to slavery, thus allowing them, as it were, a of respite during which it may please God to direct them into the right path, but making, at the same time, their persons and substance subservient to the cause of Islam.
    The least objectionable form of infidelity in the eyes of Muhammad and his followers, Abu is that of the Kitabis or people of the Book ahlu 'l-kitab), i.e. the Jews as possessors of the Old Testament, or Taurat, and the Christians, to whom. Moreover, the Injil (Gospel, was revealed. As they are not guilty of an absolute denial, but only of a partial perversion of the truth, only part of the punishment for disbelief is their due, and it is imposed upon them in the shape of a tribute. called poll- or capitation tax [JAZYAH.], by means of which they secure protection for their property, personal freedom, and religious toleration from the Muslim Government. The same privilege is extended to the Majusi or Sabeans whose particular form of worship was more leniently judged by Muhammad and the Traditionists than that if the idolaters of Persia. This is the state of things in a country inhabited by such infidels be conquered by a Muslim army: theoretically, the inhabitants, together with their wives and children are considered as plunder and property of the State, and it would be lawful to reduce them to slavery. In practice, however, the milder course prevails, and by paying the stipulated capitation-tax.. the subdued people become, in the quality of Zimmis. free subjects of the conquering power, whose condition is but little inferior to that of their Muslim fellow-subjects.
    • T P Hughes, Dictionary of Islam
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