Pact of Umar

The Pact of Umar (also known as the Covenant of Umar, Treaty of Umar or Laws of Umar; Arabic: شروط عمر‎ or عهد عمر or عقد عمر), is an apocryphal treaty between the Muslims and the Christians of either Syria, Mesopotamia,[1] or Jerusalem[2] that later gained a canonical status in Islamic jurisprudence. It specifies rights and restrictions for non-Muslims (dhimmis) living under Islamic rule.

There are several versions of the pact, differing both in structure and stipulations.[3] While the pact is traditionally attributed to the second Rashidun Caliph Umar ibn Khattab,[4] other jurists and orientalists have doubted this attribution[3] with the treaty being attributed to 9th century Mujtahids (Islamic scholars) or the Umayyad Caliph Umar II. This treaty should not be confused with Umar's Assurance of safety to the people of Aelia (known as al-ʿUhda al-ʿUmariyya, Arabic: العهدة العمرية‎).

In general, the pact contains a list of rights and restrictions on non-Muslims (dhimmis). By abiding to them, non-Muslims are granted security of their persons, their families, and their possessions. Other rights and stipulations may also apply. According to Ibn Taymiyya, one of the jurists who accepted the authenticity of the pact, the dhimmis have the right "to free themselves from the Covenant of 'Umar and claim equal status with the Muslims if they enlisted in the army of the state and fought alongside the Muslims in battle."[5]

Origin and authenticity

According to Abu-Munshar, the historical origin of the document may lie in an agreement made between the Muslim conquerors and the Christians of Jazira or Damascus which was later extended to Dhimmis elsewhere.[1] He further writes that, "The humiliating conditions enumerated in the so-called “Pact of Umar” are utterly foreign to the mentality, thoughts and practices of this caliph...The deficiencies [in the textual integrity] support the contention that Umar was not the originator of the document."[6] Some Western historians suggest that the document was based on Umar's Assurance, a treaty concluded between Umar ibn Khattab and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius following the capture of Jerusalem by the Rashidun Caliphate (637),[2] while others believe the document was either the work of 9th century Mujtahids or was forged during the reign of the Umayyad Caliph Umar II (717-720),[7] with other clauses added later. Other scholars concluded that the document may have originated in immediate post-conquest milieu and was stylized by later historians.[1]

Western scholars' opinions varied about the Pact's authenticity. According to Anver M. Emon, "There is intense discussion in the secondary literature" about the Pact's authenticity, With scholars disagreeing on whether it might have originated during the reign of Umar b. al-Khattab or was "a later invention retroactively associated with Umar -- the caliph who famously led the initial imperial expansion -- to endow the contract of dhimma with greater normative weight?"[7] A.S. Tritton is one scholar who has "suggested that the Pact is a fabrication" because later Muslim conquerors did not apply its terms to their agreements with their non-Muslim subjects, which they would have if the pact had existed earlier. on the other hand Another scholar Daniel C. Dennet believes that the Pact was "no different from any other treaty negotiated in that period and that it is well within reason that the Pact we have today , as preserved in al-Tabari's chronicle is an authentic version of that early treaty."[7] Historian Abraham P. Bloch writes that, "Omar was a tolerant ruler, unlikely to impose humiliating conditions upon non-Muslims, or to infringe upon their religious and social freedoms. His name has been erroneously associated…with the restrictive Covenant of Omar."[8]

According to Thomas Walker Arnold, the pact "is in harmony" with Umar's "kindly consideration for his subjects of another faith,[9][10]

"A later generation attributed to ‘Umar a number of restrictive regulations which hampered the Christians in the free exercise of their religion, but De Goeje and Caetani have proved without doubt that they are the invention of a later age; as, however, Muslim theologians of less tolerant periods accepted these ordinaces as genuine ....

The book Classical Islam: a Sourcebook of Religious Literature, quotes a version of the Pact from Kitab al-Umm of al-Shafi'i (d.204/820) that it says may be "a forerunner to the later document which gained something of a canonical status, making it applicable in many locations ..."[11]


There are several different versions of the pact that differ both in their language and stipulations.[12]

The points:[1][2][13][14][15][16]

  • The ruler would provide security for the Christian believers who follow the rules of the pact.
  • Prohibition against building new churches, places of worship, monasteries, monks or a new cell. (Hence it was also forbidden to build new synagogues, although it is known that new synagogues were built after the occupation of the Islam, for example in Jerusalem and Ramle. The law that prohibits to build new synagogues was not new for the Jews, it was applied also during the Byzantines. It was new for the Christians.)
  • Prohibition against rebuilding destroyed churches, by day or night, in their own neighborhoods or those situated in the quarters of the Muslims.
  • Prohibition against hanging a cross on the Churches.
  • Muslims should be allowed to enter Churches (for shelter) in any time, both in day and night.
  • Obliging the call of prayer by a bell or a kind of Gong (Nakos) to be low in volume.
  • Prohibition of Christians and Jews against raising their voices at prayer times.
  • Prohibition against teaching non-Muslim children the Qur'an.
  • Christians were forbidden to show their religion in public, or to be seen with Christian books or symbols in public, on the roads or in the markets of the Muslims.
  • Palm Sunday and Easter parades were banned.
  • Funerals should be conducted quietly.
  • Prohibition against burying non-Muslim dead near Muslims.
  • Prohibition against raising a pig next to a Muslims neighbor.
  • Christian were forbidden to sell Muslims alcoholic beverage.
  • Christians were forbidden to provide cover or shelter for spies.
  • Prohibition against telling a lie about Muslims.
  • Obligation to show deference toward Muslims. If a Muslim wishes to sit, non-Muslim should be rise from his seats and let the Muslim sit.
  • Prohibition against preaching to Muslims in an attempt to convert them from Islam.
  • Prohibition against preventing the conversion to Islam of some one who wants to convert.
  • The appearance of the non-Muslims has to be different from those of the Muslims: Prohibition against wearing Qalansuwa (kind of dome that was used to wear by Bedouin), Bedouin turban (Amamh), Muslims shoes, and Sash to their waists. As to their heads, it was forbidden to comb the hair sidewise as the Muslim custom, and they were forced to cut the hair in the front of the head. Also non-Muslim shall not imitate the Arab-Muslim way of speech nor shall adopt the kunyas (Arabic byname, such as "abu Khattib").
  • Obligation to identify non-Muslims as such by clipping the heads' forelocks and by always dressing in the same manner, wherever they go, with binding the zunar (a kind of belt) around the waists. Christians to wear blue belts or turbans, Jews to wear yellow belts or turbans, Zoroastrians to wear black belts or turbans, and Samaritans to wear red belts or turbans.
  • Prohibition against riding animals in the Muslim custom, and prohibition against riding with a saddle.
  • Prohibition against adopting a Muslim title of honor.
  • Prohibition against engraving Arabic inscriptions on signet seals.
  • Prohibition against any possession of weapons.
  • Non-Muslims must host a Muslim passerby for at least 3 days and feed him.
  • Non-Muslims prohibited from buying a Muslim prisoner.
  • Prohibition against taking slaves who have been allotted to Muslims.
  • Prohibition against non-Muslims to lead, govern or employ Muslims.
  • If a non-Muslim beats a Muslim, his Dhimmi is removed.
  • The worship places of non-Muslims must be lower in elevation than the lowest mosque in town.
  • The houses of non-Muslims must not be taller in elevation than the houses of Muslims.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Roggema 2009, p. 361.
  2. ^ a b c Meri 2005, p. 205.
  3. ^ a b Abu-Munshar 2007, p. 63.
  4. ^ Thomas & Roggema 2009, p. 360.
  5. ^ Ipgrave, Michael (2009). Justice and Rights: Christian and Muslim Perspectives. Georgetown University Press. p. 58. ISBN 1589017226.
  6. ^ Maher Abu-Munshar, Islamic Jerusalem And Its Christians: A History of Tolerance And Tensions, pp. 79-80.
  7. ^ a b c Emon, Anver M. (2012). Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law: Dhimmis and Others in the Empire of Law. Oxford University Press. p. 71. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  8. ^ Abraham P. Bloch, One a Day: An Anthology of Jewish Historical Anniversaries for Every Day of the Year, p. 314. ISBN 0881251089.
  9. ^ Walker Arnold, Thomas (1913). Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith (PDF). Constable & Robinson Ltd. p. 73. It is in harmony with the same spirit of kindly consideration for his subjects of another faith, that 'Umar is recorded to have allowed an allowance of money and food to be made to some christian lepers, apparently out of the public funds.; (])
  10. ^ Walker Arnold, Thomas (1913). Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith. Constable & Robinson Ltd. p. 57. A later generation attributed to 'Umar a number of restrictive regulations which hampered the Christians in the free exercise of their religion, but De Goeje and Caetani have proved without doubt that they are the invention of a later age; (online)
  11. ^ Calder, Norman; Mojaddedi,, Jawid; Rippin, Andrew, eds. (2003). Classical Islam: A Sourcebook of Religious Literature. Routledge. p. 138. Retrieved 19 June 2015.
  12. ^ Abu-Munshar 2007, p. 63-4: "There are several versions of the Pact of ‘Umar, with similarities as well as differences in vocabulary or sentence order; some differ in detail, both in their stipulations and literary structure."
  13. ^ al Turtushi, Siraj al Muluk, Cairo 1872, pp 229-230.
  15. ^ Medieval Sourcebook: Pact of Umar, 7th Century? The Status of Non-Muslims Under Muslim Rule Paul Halsall Jan 1996
  16. ^ The Jews of Iran in the nineteenth century [electronic resource] : aspects of history, community, and culture / by David Yeroushalmi. Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2009.


External links

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Covenant of Umar may refer to:

Umar's Assurance of safety to the people of Aelia, known as al-ʿUhda al-ʿUmariyya, a 637 agreement between the second Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab and Sophronius of Jerusalem, the Patriarch of Jerusalem

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