Preface: This article, whilst a separate piece in it's own right, forms part of my series on Jihad which comprises the articles: Jihad – the four forms and the West, “Greater Jihad”, “Lesser Jihad” and “Jihad in the Way of Allah”, The Pact of Umar and Allah’s war covenant with the Muslims, pt.1, pt.2 and pt.3.

As such this article demonstrates that the attitudes inherent in, and the aims of, Jihad as set out in the previous articles were put into practice from the earliest post-Muhammad period of Islam, which thus provides historical validation of the previous articles.


Whilst Muslims (reasonably enough) use their own sources as to the behaviour of early Islam in the attempt to show that it was either peaceful or only “fighting defensively against the multitude of enemies, hell-bent on Islam's annihilation, that surrounded it”, what is less well known is that there are a number of non-Muslim sources that view the advent of Islam from an external perspective.

That these sources are mostly Christian should not be a surprise given that by 600 A.D. the whole of the Mediterranean basin was part of Christian lands that stretched from Ireland to China and from Axum (Ethopia) and Nubia in the South to Scotland in the North{1}.

A second, much rarer source of such evidence comes from Jewish writers.

Robert G. Hoyland in 1997 published an important book entitled Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam. This is a comprehensive source.

Peter Kirby wrote this summary (2003): in which he abstracted the references themselves. His article, though well worth a read, is over 20,000 words long.

Thus I thought it worthwhile to condense this further and summarise what the various sources said.

To place this work into its historical context I have included a limited Islamic time-line below which shows the main Theological developments within Islam across this period.


Islamic Time-line

Death of Muhammad: 632 A.D.

Uthman's Koran:    ~650 A.D. (compiled during Uthman's Caliphate. It is probably the textus receptus.)

First Islamic Civil War:    656–661 A.D.{2}. Fought between Ali and Muawiyah.

Caliph Muawiyah:    661 A.D.  Crowned as caliph in Jerusalem. First Ummayid Caliph.

Earliest Sharia "school":    ~750 A.D. Hanifi school of jurisprudence.

First extant Sharia work:    ~820 A.D. The Risaala of al-Shaafi'i

Earliest Biography:    ~830 A.D. This is that of ibn Hisham and is a recension of the earlier (no  longer extant) work of Ibn Ishaq. It is known under both names.

Major Sunni Hadiths:    ~850 A.D. The “two Sahihs”, Bukhari and Muslim.

First Tafseer:    ~900 A.D. Al-Tabari. The partial Tafseer of Tustari dates to ~890 A.D.


Early non-Muslim writers on Islam

The earliest of all writings is the Doctrina Jacobi which dates to 634 A.D., a mere two years after Muhammad's death. It recounts the excitement in the Jewish community of Ceasarea that news of the “appearance of the Prophet” produced. However when the eponymous Jacob meets someone who has actually encountered “the saracens”{3} he discovers that “He is false, for the prophets do not come armed with a sword {4} [and] there was no truth to be found in the so-called prophet, only the shedding of men's blood.” What is clear is that “the Saracens” were pursuing a violent path   in Syria.

Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, writing 634-639 A.D. again recounts how the Saracens “ravage all with cruel and feral design, with impious and godless audacity [and how the Christians] are prevented from entering Bethlehem by way of the road. Unwillingly, indeed, contrary to our wishes, we are required to stay at home, not bound closely by bodily bonds, but bound by fear of the Saracens.” He goes on to lament “Why has there been so much destruction and plunder? Why are there incessant outpourings of human blood? Why have churches been pulled down? Why is the cross mocked?” and partially answers himself “Those God-fighters boast of prevailing over all, assiduously and unrestrainedly imitating their leader” Muhammad, whom Sophronius sees as being “the devil”.

Another anonymous writer of the mid. 630's made a (now fragmentary) marginal note on a manuscript that “In January {the people of} Hims took the word for their lives and many villages were ravaged by the killings of {the Arabs of} Muhammad (Muhmd) and many people were slain and {taken} prisoner from Galilee as far as Beth. . . .”. This same fragment also links to the battle of Yarmuk (636 A.D.) in which the Muslims scored a stunning victory over Byzantine forces. A phrase that deserves elucidation is “took the word for their lives”, this phrase means that the people of Hims either accepted Islam or dhimmitude{5} for fear of their lives.

This battle is also described by Fredegar, a Frankish Chronicler (c.650s). His account parallels that of Sophronius, but he also describes the post-battle actions of “the Hagarenes, who are also called Saracens [then] proceeded, as was their habit, to lay waste the provinces of the empire that had fallen to them.”

Thomas the Presbyter (640 A.D.) records that “The Arabs climbed the mountain of Mardin and killed many monks there in [the monasteries of] Qedar and Bnata.

Maximus the confessor (mid. 630's) is so horrified by events that he writes “What is more terrible [than] to see a barbarous people of the desert overrunning another's lands as though they were their own; to see civilization itself being ravaged by wild and untamed beasts whose form alone is human.”{6}

Whilst there may well be a degree of hysteria, exaggeration and hyperbole in these accounts they demonstrate that the first contact between the Christian and Muslim worlds show the Muslims ravaging Syria and killing many civilians, not just soldiers, destroying Churches and crosses and killing Monks and Priests.

By the 640s the action of “the Saracens” are recorded in “The Homily on the Child Saints of Babylon” as follows: “Let us not fast like ... the Saracens who are oppressors, who give themselves up to prostitution, massacre and lead into captivity the sons of men, saying: "We both fast and pray." The “prostitution” mentioned here is the Islamic practice of taking captured women as sex-slaves. The anonymous writer of the homily sees such a practice as incompatible with truly god-fearing folk.

John, Bishop of Niciu (Egypt), probably writing in the 640s: “Then the Muslims arrived in Nikiu [along the Nile]… seized the town and slaughtered everyone they met in the street and in the churches—men, women, and children, sparing nobody. Then they went to other places, pillaged and killed all the inhabitants they found… But let us say no more, for it is impossible to describe the horrors the Muslims committed…” He goes to lament how some Christians “embraced the religion of the Moslem, the enemies of God, and accepted the detestable doctrine of the beast, this is, Muhammad, and they erred together with those idolaters, and took arms in their hands and fought against the Christians.” he is particularly incensed with an ex-Monk “John ... of the Convent of Sinai, embraced the faith of Islam, and quitting his monk's habit he took up the sword, and persecuted the Christians who were faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ”. What is pertinent, along with the inevitable mass-slaughter, is that the Muslim converts were immediately required to engage in sword-jihad{7} against their former co-religionists.

A Chronicler of Khuzistan (otherwise unidentified) writing in the 660s about events approx. 20 years earlier (i.e. 640s) states “Then God raised up against them the sons of Ishmael... whose leader (mdabbrana) was Muhammad (mhmd).... The Arabs gained control of Mahoze and all the territory. They also came to Byzantine territory, plundering and ravaging the entire region of Syria. ...When the Catholicos Isho'yahb saw that Mahoze had been devastated by the Arabs ... and that those who remained were wasting away from hunger, he left and took up residence in Beth Garmai, in the town of Karka.” What is of note is that this piece refers to “Isho'yab” as witnessing the destruction caused by the “sons of Ishmael” and fleeing as a result. This is probably the same Isho'yahb quoted below, who by 659 was in a more comfortable place.

Thus by the time that the Uthmanic Koran was compiled and literally centuries before the major Hadith compilations, Koran commentaries, Biographies or Sharia Law was codified or  written we see offensive (and brutal) sword-jihad and slave-taking embedded within Islam. The consequence of which was that the conquered territories were “ravaged” and “laid waste” and the Jizya and other taxes were enforced on peoples violently subjugated by Islam.

Isho'yahb III of Adiabene (d. 659) wrote “For the Muslim Arabs (tayyaye mhaggre) do not aid those who say that God, Lord of all, suffered and died. ... So perform all things wisely, my brothers; give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.” There are two points of interest here: whilst “the Arabs do not aid the” Christians, neither does he speak of active persecution. But he also counsels them to act “wisely” and pay the Jizya{8} (“give unto Caesar what is Caesar's”) to avoid problems. The second point is the meaning of “mhaggre”. This word derives from the Arabic “Muhajir” which means “immigrant” and with which “the Muslim Arabs” described themselves. Thus we see Arabs settling in the captured lands by this time. Whilst the Muslims “may not aid” Christians, Isho'yahb states they do not persecute them either: “Not only do they not oppose Christianity, but they praise our faith, honour the priests and saints of our Lord, and give aid to the churches and monasteries.” and in reference to a Persian town “The Arabs have not compelled them to abandon their faith, but only asked them to give up half of their possessions in order to keep their faith.” In Persia, then, in the reign of Muawiyah we see a more peaceful situation, now that the initial bloody frenzy of sword-jihad is over. What is interesting is that the initial levy of 50% of the possessions of non-Muslims must be in addition to regular Jizya payments and is in line with the earlier treatment of the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir post Khayber.

Sebeos, Bishop of the Bagratunis writing in the 660s dispassionately recounts the military triumphs of the Muslims between 632 and 661 A.D. In his account he makes this interesting statement about a supposed sermon of Muhammad's “He said: "God promised that country ['Palestine'] to Abraham and to his son after him, for eternity. And ... you are the sons of Abraham, and God shall fulfil the promise made to Abraham and his son on you. Only love the God of Abraham, and go and take the country which God gave to your father Abraham. No one can successfully resist you in war, since God is with you."” He also recounts part of a letter sent to “the Byzantine emperor, saying: "God gave that country as the inherited property of Abraham and of his sons after him. We are the sons of Abraham. It is too much that you hold our country.” In case anyone should doubt that “that Country” is “Judea and Samaria”, Heraclious apparently replied "The country is mine. Your inheritance is the desert [of Arabia]. So go in peace to your country".

Thus, from the outset the Muslims believed they had a 'divine right' to the lands of Judea and Samaria and that, even prior to conquest, it “belonged” to them. (See also the hadith of AbuDawud 14: 2477).

Note further that “No one can successfully resist you in war, since God is with you” is not a statement about defensive war, but rather one about offensive war.

In other parts of his account he records the sack of Dwin in which the Muslim army “put most of the city to the sword. Then, taking the loot and booty of the city, they departed [with a] multitude of captives..., some 35,000 souls.” In other places he recounts how after the defeat of a Persian army the Muslims “pursued them, putting them to the sword.” and how after conquest “they burned every country, taking loot and booty” including (sex-)slaves.

George of Resh'aina (d. ca. 680) wrote “the Arabs seized control of the islands of the sea and entered Cyprus and Arwad, ravaging them and taking captives. They gained control over Africa and subdued almost all the islands of the [Mediterranean] sea”.

John bar Penkaye writing in the middle to late 690s is the most “pro-Arab” of the sources to date. However, I have to disagree with both Hoyland and Kirby who write “John notes the leniency of the Arabs towards the Christian population. The Christian religion and its members were respected”. This ignores Penkaye's broader view. He states “Who can relate the carnage they effected in Greek territory, in Kush, in Spain, and in other distant regions, taking captive their sons and daughters and reducing them to slavery and servitude” (Bk.14) and in Book 15 he writes that the Arabs were “a barbarian kingdom against us, a people who would not hear supplications, who knew no compromise, no peace, and disdained flattery and meanness. Its delight was in shedding blood without reason, and its pleasure laying hands on everything. Its passion was raiding and stealing, and its food [was] hatred and anger; it was never appeased by offerings made to it ... it had subjected brutally all the peoples and brought their sons and daughters into a bitter slavery”. This is hardly a commendation of the Muslims and the murder, enslavement and despoliation of Christians is not a demonstration that “The Christian religion and its members were respected”!

Penkaye then records that the Muslim civil war, 656–661 A.D., was “to punish the sons of Hagar{2} for the ravages they had made... they were united until they had subjected the whole earth, but when they returned to tranquillity and rested from war, they fought one another.” Once Muawiyah won, however, Penkaye concedes that dhimmi Christians were well treated, but he also notes that the Muslims' “robber bands went annually to distant parts and to the [Mediterranean] islands, bringing back captives from all the peoples under the heavens” thus showing that even though “Justice flourished in his time and there was great peace in the regions under [the] control” of Muawiyah there was annual offensive cross-border raiding and slaving. He also writes “they kept to the tradition of Muhammad …to such an extent that they inflicted the death penalty on anyone who was seen to act brazenly against his laws”. This could mean that the Muslims killed any Muslim who broke their laws, but it could also mean that they killed any Dhimmi who broke his Dhimmah contract{9}.

After Muawayah died his son Yazid became Caliph. Pankaye regards Yazid as rather dissolute and ineffective, he writes “The empire began to totter...[Yazid] used up our wealth through taxes{10}...”

The rest of Penkaye's account (setting aside it's rather feverish “repent, ye sinners” plot) describes a whole series of internecine Muslim Feuds that effectively prevented much external aggression for a time.

The Syriac Apocalypse of Pseudo-Ephraem (post-692?) refers to the Muslim armies as “The plunderers will spread over the earth...and they will enslave women, children and men, old and young [much emotive description of killing, looting and enslavement ensues] They will plunder to the ends of creation … lands will be ravaged and corpses abound upon the earth. All peoples will be laid low before the plunderers. ... they (the plunderers) will exact tribute [a reference to Jizya] and all will indeed fear them. Injustice will increase upon the earth and obscure the clouds.” In the Syriac Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius (690s) we find that “the sons of Ishmael will come out of the desert of be a chastisement in which there will be no mercy...performing their task, [of] captivity and slaughter...exacting tribute even from the dead who lie in the ground ... they will not pity the sick nor have compassion for the weak, they will tether their cattle in the shrines of the martyrs and in the burial places of the saints.” The magnitude of the horrors is explained by the fact that "these barbarian rulers are not men, but sons of destruction and they set their faces toward destruction."{6}. Like all such writings the language is hyperbolic, but also like all such writings, they are intended as a source of comfort in a time of great distress. As such, whilst the “evil” of the Muslims is undoubtedly exaggerated, it nevertheless reflects an overblown account of their actions.

An otherwise unknown Maronite Chronicler records that by 659 A.D. “So it became a custom for the Jacobite bishops that every year they give that sum of gold [20,000 denarii] to Mu'awiya so that he not loose his hand upon them.” In other words this was the annual tribute (Jizya) demanded by Muawiyah for not killing the Jacobites. Note the implication that failure to pay the Jizya would have meant the slaughter of the Jacobites and, thus, what the Dhimmi, a “protected person”, is protected from. In 661 A.D. he records that “Once Mu'awiya had consolidated power, "he reneged on the peace with the [Byzantine] Romans and did not accept peace from them any longer, but said: 'If the Romans want peace let them surrender their weapons and pay the tax [Jizya].'” Thus Mu'awiya re-declares war on Byzantium. What is interesting is the implication that Byzantium would have accepted peace with the Muslims along the then-current borders. It is the Muslims who are seeking to expand their realm through the renewal of offensive sword-jihad.

Coptic Apocalpyse of Pseudo-Athanasius (ca. 715). That this is a Coptic apocalypse is pertinent in that the indigenous Coptic Christians of Egypt were persecuted as heretics by the Byzantine Christians. Muslims often make much of how the Copts regarded them as liberators...

After these things the good God will become angry ... and will stir up upon the earth a mighty people, numerous as the locusts. This is the fourth beast which the prophet Daniel saw. . . . That nation will rule over many countries and they will pay a tax [Jizya] to it. It is a brutal nation with no mercy in its heart … [numerous iniquities detailed] … Many Christians, Barbarians, Greeks, Syrians from all tribes will go and join them in their faith, wanting to become free from the sufferings that they will bring upon the earth ... The name of that nation is Saracen, one which is from the Ishmaelites, the son of Hagar, maidservant of Abraham”. Thus within 90 years the Muslims have gone from “liberators”{11} to an agent of the anti-Christ in the eyes of the Copts.

Up until this time the (mainly) Christian sources are universally negative on the impact of the Muslims and Islam on the Christian world. The Muslims are seen as brutal, merciless ravagers and desolaters of Countries, killing, despoiling, taking (sex-)slaves and demanding tribute (Jizya).

The Muslims' attitude to Christians varies: sometimes they show toleration, at others persecution. But tolerance only follows after brutal subjugation.


John of Damascus writing in the 730s A.D. (and therefore nearly a century after the initial conquest) notes “They [Muslims] call us associators (hetairiastas) because, they say, we introduce to God an associate by saying Christ is the Son of God and God. To them we say that the prophets and the scripture have transmitted this, and you, as you affirm, accept the prophets … Again we say to them: "How, when you say that Christ is the Word and Spirit of God, do you revile us as associators? For the Word and the Spirit are inseparable … So we call you mutilators (koptas) of God … They misrepresent us as idolaters because we prostrate ourselves before the cross, which they loathe. And we say to them: "Why then do you rub yourselves on a stone at your Ka'ba (Chabatha) and hail the stone with fond kisses?" … This, then, which they call "stone," is the head of Aphrodite, whom they used to worship and whom they call Chabar.” Here we see the an early reference to Christian-Muslim dialogue. By this time a leading Christian like John felt comfortable enough to respond to Muslim attacks on Christianity. Interestingly, he makes this comment on female genital mutilation (FGM) “He [Muhammad] prescribed that they be circumcised, women as well” which indicates that this practice was foreign to Syria before the Muslims arrived.

At about the same is the record of the Monk of Beth Hale, Disputation, fol.1a. In which a Muslim who “was one of the chief men before the emir Maslama” is impressed with the piety of the Monks saying “you outdo us in prayer and fasting and in your petitions to God”. What follows is a civilised and inquiring exchange of views in which the Monk feels empowered to dispute with the Muslim notable. For example when the Muslim says “What is the reason that you adore the cross when he did not give you such a commandment in his Gospel?" The Monk replies “I think that for you, too, not all your laws and commandments are in the Qur'an which Muhammad taught you; rather there are some which he taught you from the Qur'an, and some are in surat albaqrah{12} and in gygy{13} and in twrh{14}. So also we, some commandments our Lord taught us, some the Holy Spirit uttered through the mouths of its servants the Apostles, and some by means of teachers who directed and showed us the Way of Life and the Path of Light.” In this we see a civilised interchange of views.

Isho'bokht, Metropolitan of Fars (ca. 730-780) tells that Shariah law was becoming codified: “the Jews in every place have one law ... and likewise also those who now rule over us [Muslims]”.

But the violence of earlier times is not forgotten. Stephen of Alexandria (775-785) reminds his flock that “In the desert of Ethrib there had appeared a certain man from the so-called tribe of Quraysh (Korasianou), of the genealogy of Ishmael, whose name was Muhammad and who said he was a prophet. He appeared in the month of Pharmuti, which is called April by the Romans, of the 932nd year (from the beginning of Philip [~571 CE]). He has brought a new expression and a strange teaching, promising to those who accept him victories in wars, domination over enemies and delights in paradise.” which is a neat summary of the main strands of early Islam.

About the same time three Greek writers comment on the Islamic paradise:

Theophanes: “He said that this paradise was one of carnal eating and drinking and intercourse with women, and had a river of wine, honey and milk, and that the women were not like the ones down here, but different ones, and that the intercourse was long-lasting and the pleasure continuous.”

Dionysius: “They say that there is carnal eating and drinking in it, and copulation with glamorous courtesans, beds of gold to lie upon with mattresses of gold and topaz, and rivers of milk and honey.

Agapius:He mentioned that in paradise there is food and drink, marriage, rivers of wine, milk and honey, and black-eyed women untouched by man or spirit.

Again these are accurate, if unflattering, description of the Islamic paradise. Thus it is clear that Muslims and Christians were discussing their respective beliefs.

The T'ung Tien, a massive work published in China in 801 A.D. describes the crushing of Persia and Byzantium and the Islamic expansion into India. It also records that Muslim women have to wear the Niqab{15}and records part of a sermon delivered to the Muslim faithful: “All who are killed in battle against the enemies [of Islam] will achieve paradise. Kill the enemies and you will receive happiness beyond measure.” The T'ung Tien notes that the “law is applied only with leniency”. It also notes that “Today [the Arabs] have absorbed forty or fifty countries, all of them reduced to subjugation, [the Arabs] parcelling out their troops so as to secure their territory all the way to the Western ocean.” Perhaps the most interesting point here is the mix of zealotry and leniency ascribed to the Muslims by this writer.

Bundahishn, in a work redacted in the 9th century, but possibly of late 7th century origin, writes “From the beginning of creation till this day no evil more grievous than this [the Muslims] has come, since by reason of their evil deeds, distress and desolation and lamentation have made their abode [in Iran]. By reason of their wicked laws and wicked faith, [there is] pestilence and want and other evils”.



At the time of the advent of Islam the Christian Church was thoroughly established throughout the fertile crescent of the Mediterranean basin and thus we must take due account of its natural dislike for, and resistance to, the upsetting of the status quo. We can see a marked difference between those Christians who suffered the first contacts between an aggressively expanding Islamic hegemony and those who were accustomed to living life as Dhimmis under Muslim subjugation.

These later accounts show that once the Muslim “Muhajirs” (immigrants) were settled in subjugated lands and were sufficiently remote from Islam's borders as to be freed from the need for continual sword-jihad that courteous and inquiring dialogue between the Dhimmi Christians and their Muslim overlords took place. Some, such as John of Damascus, are quite courageous though careful to avoid any “insult” in their challenges, which can only be a reflection of the confidence that they felt in their “protected” status as Dhimmis and probably the decreasing religious fervour of the later generations of Muslims themselves.

As such this reflects one aspect of the non-Muslim experience of being under Islamic domination.

But those who suffered the first contacts recount a different aspect of Islam.

There can be little doubt that the first contacts between nascent Islam and the Christian world were one-sidedly violent and bloody and that they brought much suffering on the populations of the Christian Countries attacked.

These accounts show that offensive sword-jihad was the modus vivendi of the early Muslims and that sack, pillage, the taking of (sex-)slaves and the ravaging of the land were commonplace{16}.

The sources also show that the Muslim sense of a “god-given” entitlement to Judea-Samaria, and thus modern Israel, goes back to the foundations of Islam itself.

There is evidence of the establishment of Dhimmitude and payment of Jizya{8,9} and other taxes{10} that destroyed the wealth of the non-Muslims.

The explanations for much of this can be found within the Koran, Biographic and Hadith literature.{17,18}.

Some Modern Muslims are inclined to say that the Hadith and Biographies are “inaccurate” or that they “reflect the views of the Muslims of the times [a century or more after Muhammad] rather than the truth about Islam”. What the above demonstrates is that the “views” expressed in the Ahadith and Biographies reach back to, if not the time of Muhammad himself, then to within a year or two of his death.

Given that the early records date to before the time of the textus receptus of the Koran and thus pre-date by centuries other Muslim sources and further that they reflect the actions of the Sahaba{19}, we can be quite certain that the attitudes in the later Muslim sources which reflect these earlier sources are genuine in that they are accurately accounting the beliefs of the Sahaba.

What this means is that the violence towards non-Muslims that we find in the Islamic Canon{20}is not, as some Muslims would have us believe, any later accretion as a result of the wider world's violence towards Islam, but rather a true reflection of the militant attitudes and beliefs of the first Muslims as reflected in their violence towards the wider world.


Notes and references

  • ·I am not saying that all people within that geographic area were Christian. What I am saying is that those were (roughly) the borders of Christianity. “Westerners” tend to ignore the ancient African and Asian (Indian and Chinese) Churches that existed independently of either Rome or Bzyantium.
  • ·Also called the “First Fitna”. A series of revolts fought against Ali ibn Abi Talib, the last of the “rightly guided Caliphs”. They lasted throughout his reign.
  • ·Throughout the early period the Arabs are referred to as “Saracens”, “Arabs”, “sons of Hagar”, “Hagarenes” or “Ishmaelites”. The name “Muslims” is generally not found.
  • ·Some Old Testament prophets and the “Judges” also wielded the sword, though the later Jewish prophets did not.
  • ·Different commentators on this fragment suggest both interpretations. What is clear is that without some official recognition of Islamic domination, their lives were forfeit.
  • ·Whilst I deplore these descriptions of Muslims as sub-human animals, neither can I fail to hear the echo of the Koran's descriptions of non-Muslims in these words.
  • ·Jihad is a complex matter that includesjihad bis Saif” (sword-jihad) also called “qital fee sabeeli Allahi” (killing in the way of Allah). Thus whilst it is incorrect to say “jihad is fighting” it is correct to say that “jihad includes fighting” and to note that most references to Jihad in the Islamic canon mean sword-jihad,
  • ·The Jizya is often called a “poll tax”. However, in modern usage this is a poor description since a “poll tax”, where levied, is usually the means by which the payee is enfranchised politically. Instead it is preferable to call the Jizya a “head tax” since it was, in at least one system, levied per head of able-bodied male Dhimmis. Its prime purpose, as alluded to above, was to allow non-Muslims to retain their lives. Thus payment kept the non-Muslim's head on his shoulders, which makes the terming of the Jizya as a “head tax” doubly appropriate.
  • ·A Dhimmah is a written contract made between the Muslims and a subjugated population of (e.g.) a town. For an exemplar see “The Pact of Umar”. A key point in this is “If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah [promise of protection] is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.” What this means is “if we break our Dhimmah, you can kill, enslave and despoil us.” The Dhimmah institutes the condition of Dhimmitude – i.e. the subjugation of the non-Muslim population.
  • ·The taxes, plural, referred to are the Jizya  (8, above), “Kharaj” – a land “rent” paid by non-Muslim peasants to the Muslims for the privilege of continuing to live on their land and “Ushr” a 'tithe' paid on the produce of the land. Taking the three together this meant tax-rates on non-Muslims were often much higher than those on Muslims and sometimes outright ruinous.
  • ·This phenomenon – that of the general populace hailing invaders as “liberators” - is well documented in history. When a large army turns up on the door-steps of your village or town even the most stupid of people realises that it will pay to “make nice” to the men with the big clubs, swords or guns. Sometimes, of course, they actually are liberators.
  • ·The Chapter of the Cow (al-baqara), now the second and longest in the Qur'an, is evidently considered by the monk to be a separate source of law. In the “legend of Bahira (the Monk)” it appears as the name of the whole Book, and in the Muslim tradition too there are indications that it had a certain distinctiveness. For example, at the battle of Hunayn, 'Abbas calls his men to arms with the cry: "O followers of the Chapter of the Cow."
  • ·Probably a corruption of “Injil”, the Muslim name for the “Book of Iesa”, i.e. the 'Gospel' purported to have been “sent down” to the Islamic prophet Iesa, (Jesus). It should be noted that the Jesus of the Gospels and the Iesa of the Koran are very different people.
  • ·Almost certainly the Torah.
  • ·Niqab, here a full body covering, not just a head-scarf. The book specifies the complete covering of the face.
  • ·That this occurred is demonstrable in North Africa. Recent archaeological evidence, including a distinctive layer of silt in ancient (and abandoned) harbours, shows that the desertification of much of this area took place relatively shortly after the invasion of the area by the Muslims.
  • ·I do not refer to Shariah law since this is primarily drawn from the Koran and ahadith and was mostly codified later in history. We must also not lose sight of the fact that these events, whilst reflected in the Koran and hadith, took place before either of them, or the surviving biographies, were written down – thus creating something of a “chicken and egg” conundrum.
  • ·See for example: K.9:5,29,111,120,123; 21:43-44; 33:25-27; 47:35;  Bukhari Vol.1 Bk.8 No.387; ibid. Vol.4 Bk.52 No.44, 46,196,220; Muslim 1:31; ibid.4:1062; ibid.19:4294, 4360; ibid.31:5917; AbuDawud 14: 2477; Sunan Al-Nasa'i 3099; Sunan Ibn Majah 2763, 2794; “The life of Muhammad” translated Guillame, p.208, ibid.959.
  • ·The Sahaba or “companions of the prophet” from amongst whom are drawn the “four rightly guided Caliphs” are regarded within Islam as being the most faithful and “upright” of all Muslim generations.
  • ·Koran, Sunnah and Shariah.

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