Should we reckon that the Malay - Muslims in East Java will be bringing more Blessings to Others this year and for years to come??
This is support for the imposition of dhimma status was claimed in the Qur'an, specifically sura 9:29 and its mandates that non-believers should pay the jizya and be subdued. (See "Sura 9:29," right)
Dhimmi Life under Shari'a
Law plays a major role in the life of Muslims and in the historical development of the Islamic faith. The term for law, shari'a, means literally, "the path leading to the watering place." Islamic law was developed as a means of actualizing submission to the divine will in daily life and jurisprudence. As such, it is required of Muslims that they submit to the shari'a that governs every facet of life, from the great affairs of state and diplomacy to the smallest concerns of the average person, and that makes no distinction between the affairs of church and those of state. (See "Bernard Lewis on Islam," page 10)
In some periods, non-Muslims were treated with tolerance; in others, persecutions, pogroms, and oppression were commonplace. There were forced conversions in some places, such as under the Almohad Dynasty of Spain and North Africa in the 12th century. The worst persecutions were in the Maghreb (comprised of modern Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco), Persia (where Zoroastrianism and Nestorian Christianity once flourished), and Arabia (the birth place of Islam). In these regions, Christianity was all but exterminated.
Custom distinguished between the "People of the Book" (Jews and Christians who are monotheists) and other religions, such as Hindus and Zoroastrians. The "People of the Book" are granted a level of toleration not accorded to polytheists. For example, Muslims are permitted to dine with the "People of the Book" and even marry their chaste women (sura 5:5). Moreover, Muslim legal authorities disagree whether pagans, communists, or atheists should ever be offered the status of dhimma as they do not believe in God. Some, in fact, propose that they should be given only two choices: embrace Islam or die.
As is evident, the very nature of the dhimma status was complex and open to extreme interpretations. At its heart, however, the idea of the dhimma was to certify by law, custom, and practice that non-Muslims were second-class in the eyes of Islamic law.
Living under the dhimma is an all-encompassing way of life in which shari'a is an omnipresent reminder of a diminished legal status.
The chief symbol of this position is the jizya, the tax that means literally "punishment." So crucial was it historically that in many Islamic lands, such as the once vast Ottoman Empire, dhimmis were required always to carry a receipt certifying that they had paid the jizya or face imprisonment.
In return, non-Muslims are supposed to receive security, assistance from the government when needed, and supposed legal equality with Muslims. This is not a uniformly recognized practice, of course. The collection of the jizya was also often accompanied by public spectacles of humiliation (on the basis of some interpretations of sura 9:29). In some places, such as in Armenia, those unable to pay the jizya were condemned to slavery, including their wives and children, against Islamic law. In many Islamic states, such as the early Ottoman Empire, conversion of the dhimmis was discouraged because of the potential loss of revenue to the government.
Aside from the jizya, the dhimmis faced a host of legal disabilities and limitations on life and practice. (See "Restrictions on Dhimmis," right)
Separate and Unequal
In matters of civil law, both Muslims and dhimmis were subject essentially to the same requirements and penalties for murder, adultery, theft, and damage. However, some legal schools argue that a Muslim who kills a dhimmi should not be put to death, as that would suggest a legal equality between the Muslim and non-Muslim. Rather, a blood price is to be paid.
Equally, a dhimmi was forbidden from testifying against a Muslim in court as his testimony was deemed unreliable, even in cases where a dhimmi is the only witness in a case involving two Muslims. The dhimmi were permitted their own courts for such matters as marriage and divorce, and appeal to a Muslim court was generally not permissible. When a Muslim judge agreed to hear an appeal, Islamic law and not the religious law of the dhimmi was then applied.
As for marriage, Muslim males were permitted to marry a dhimmi girl, although a dhimmi male was not allowed to marry a Muslim girl. Any children produced from the union were to be raised as Muslims. This rule extends as well to conversion. If the wife of a dhimmi became a Muslim, she received automatic custody and could divorce her husband. Equally, a Muslim male had the right in some legal traditions to keep his dhimmi wife locked at home and also to restrain her from going to her place of worship.
Finally, there were the perpetual dangers of having the "safety" of dhimmi status stripped away, along with all of the thin protections that it offered. Failure to pay the jizya abrogated the status, as did a number of other "crimes": encouraging a Muslim to convert to Christianity, taking up arms against a Muslim government, or committing blasphemy. What constitutes blasphemy was (and still is) open to wide interpretation — including the simple proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Son of God as this was denied in the Qur'an. Penalties ranged from fines and loss of property to slavery, torture, and death. All sentences, of course, were set aside if the condemned converted.
This background of the dhimma is an essential context for appreciating the difficult situation facing Christians in Islamic lands today. The dhimmitude is the chief reason why the once-majority Christian populations in North Africa, Anatolia, and the Middle East are now mere tiny minorities in overwhelmingly Muslim countries. By persecution, legal handicaps, social and economic pressure, and the grinding life of the dhimmis, Christian families died out, watched loved ones convert to avoid execution and to put food on the table, or stood by helplessly as some Islamic governments claimed orphaned Christian relatives to raise them as Muslims.
The dhimma is not a mere tradition of the past: Radical Muslims openly call today for a pan-Islamic embrace of shari'a and the return to the dhimma and the jizya. History is poised to repeat itself, and the very survival of Christianity in Muslim lands may be at stake.