The pact of subjection
Durie then takes us through the doctrine and history of the dhimmi, those who lived under the third choice, the dhimma pact. He starts by noting that Mosaic law requires the Israelites to treat the aliens amongst them well, a point reiterated by Jesus in his parable of the good Samaritan (Pp 117-8):
In contrast to the Biblical principle of compassion for the alien, the traditional Islamic attitude to non-believers living under Islamic rule is based on non-reciprocity, the superiority of the Umma and the necessity to discriminate accordingly between Muslims and non-Muslims. Non-Muslims are to be tolerated, but only as inferiors to Muslims (p.118).There are two types of submission in Islam: the submission of the believer to Allah and surrender of the defeated non-believer. The final stage of the call to Allah (da’wa) is the conversion or submission of all mankind to Islam (Pp119-20).
Jihad is the:
… struggle to impose the supremacy of Islam throughout the world, and to establish the Dar al-Islam, or house of Islam, which is the region where Islam rules (p.119).The notion that the “inner jihad” of strengthening one’s own submission to Allah is somehow a substitute for “outer jihad”, extending the territory of Islam, of the submission to Allah, is a theological and historical nonsense. That jihad as fighting until the entire world submits to Islam is fundamental to mainstream Islamic theology Durie can establish from various Muslim authorities past and present, including a former Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia (who died in 1981) and the response of the current Saudi Grand Mufti to Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Speech (Pp119-121).
Durie notes various contemporary Muslim citations of Khaybar (including Hezbollah’s “Khaybar” rocket). Khaybar was the first example of the dhimma or ‘covenant of liability’. Based on Muhammad’s (by definition exemplary) actions here and towards the conquered Jewish farmers of Fadak, Tayma and Wadi-l Qura, the institution of dhimma was developed in Shar’ia:
According to the laws of jihad, the alternatives to the dhimma were conversion, slavery or death. … The dhimma pact fixed the legal, social and economic place of non-Muslims in the Islamic state. In return, the people of the pact, known as dhimmis, were required to pay tribute (jizya) and other taxes, including a land tax (kharaj), in perpetuity to the Muslim Community (the Umma), and to adopt a position of humbl and grateful servitude to it (p.123).Jizya was a head tax levied on every non-Muslim male in recognition of their defeated status. At first applying only to Jews and Christians (paganism being forcibly extirpated in Arabia) it was later extended to Zoroastrians (declared by the Shafi’i school to be ‘people of the book’) and then to pagan Hindus (in accord with the Hanafi school of Islam) (Pp123-4).
Durie takes us carefully through the implications of the phrase in verse Q9:29:
until they pay the jizya out of hand (’an yadin) and are humbled (saghirun).Taking us through a series of Islamic authorities and scholars of Islam, Durie establishes that the jizya is compensation paid by the conquered non-believer for not having his head and property taken, part of the logic being the world and everything in it “really” belongs to those who submit to Allah, the Muslims.
… taking jizya from dhimmis is an act of liberation, in which Muslims receive back in compensation what was rightfully theirs as Allah’s servants (p.126).The word itself means ‘compensation’ or ‘reparations’, as a series of Islamic authorities state (p.127). Those who are liable for the tax are the same as those who can be killed in the course of jihad (p.128). Though practice did not necessarily obey the restrictions of theory. Either way, failure to pay jizya means that jihad could be restarted (p.129).
The phrase ‘out of hand’ (’an yadin) has been interpreted as meaning it is a gift for living, that it be given submissively or that it must be paid in person (p.130). Islamic jurists have used the expression of being humbled or belittled (saghirun) to strongly associate jizya with belittlement. So payment of jizya was often associated with ritual expression invoking the beheading that the payment was avoiding, such that striking on the neck remains a deeply insulting gesture in Arab culture to this day (p.131). Other gestures or ritual symbols used for the same purpose—reaching back into pre-Islamic Arabic practice—was cutting the forelock or the wearing of neck-seals, though neck striking was more common and continued until the C20th (Pp132ff). The jizya thus becomes a blood oath or pact who ritualised payment establishes the humiliation of the dhimmi, as it is intended to (Pp140-1).
But humiliation of the dhimmi was a central and pervasive feature of Shar’ia: it was very much an intended feature and openly stated by Muslim jurists to be such. The aim and the effect was to squeeze out other religious communities and promote conversion to Islam. There were restrictions on:
• worship and practice of faith,
• on opposition to Muslims,
• exercise of authority,
• on housing, public appearance, status and behaviour.
As well there were also:
• imposed vulnerability and legal disability,
• requirements to render assistance and loyalty to Muslims,
• prohibition on critiquing Islam.
All of which Durie takes the reader through (Pp141ff).
The structure of laws took centuries to evolve (p.147) but to a fairly clear inner logic of humiliation and subordination. It is fairly clear that some were adapted from the Code of Justinian of 534. As Durie notes:
It is one of history’s bitter ironies that a legal system designed to oppress Jews and heretics came to be turned back against Christians by their Muslim conquerors (p.147).And in reverse: when the Normans conquered they reversed the system they found and applied it to Muslims some of which was then applied by the later Spanish rulers or Sicily to the New World (Pp147).
There are passages from the Qur’an which are used to justify the dhimmi system along with many hadith. The problem with the latter is that it is not always clear which came first, aspects of the dhimmi regulations or the justifying hadith since some hadith were clearly developed to provide convenient justifications in the early centuries of Islam before the first compilations were written (Pp148-9). After all, the compilations carefully state the provenance of hadith precisely because of the problems of authenticity.
There were injunctions from Muhammad and the early Caliphs to protect dhimmis but these were significantly vitiated by the structure of the dhimmi laws and their consequences. Dhimmis were particularly vulnerable in times of conflict between Muslims or between Muslims and non-Muslims: a repeated pattern in history which incorporates the Armenian genocide and violence against Christians in present-day Iraq (Pp149ff).
Added to all this is a pervasive spiritual hostility, with cursing dhimmis a widespread historical pattern in Islamic societies. As Durie notes:
It is a crushing psychological and spiritual burden to live from generation to generation under a culture of curses and withholding of blessings (p.153).Generations of queer folk cannot but agree with him.
Durie then moves on to what he calls The Lived Reality. He starts with a quote from an Islamic cleric objecting strongly to President Bush II claiming that Islam is peace:
I am astonished by President Bush when he claims there is nothing in the Quran that justifies violence in the name of Islam.The dhimma pact is one that operates to end a past war but always operates under the shadow of a future one—if the dhimmis break any part of the pact. At which point, in accordance with the sunna (example) of Muhammad, the men can be slaughtered, the women and children enslaved and their property confiscated. Moreover, jihad against dhimmis who have broken the dhimma pact is a personal obligation on all Muslims. Indeed, this can extend even to anticipated breaches of the pact, remembering that the Qur’an categories unbelievers as oath-breakers. There is thus a long history of massacres of dhimmis (Pp155ff).
Is he some kind of Islamic scholar?
Has he ever actually read the Quran (p.155).
Durie notes that the Armenian genocide followed a (recent and continuing) history of massacres and coincided both with war against Christian enemies and breaching the dhimma pact by aspiring to equal treatment. For a key element of the dhimma pact is that it is communal: both in structure and in implications if broken. This led to continuing concern to do nothing to provoke Muslim hostility since one individual being held to have broken the pact could provoke communal reprisals: a continuing pattern in our time. For, as Durie notes:
It must be emphasized that there need not be actual dhimmi laws in place for reprisals to be enacted which accord with the pattern of the dhimma pact. The dhimma is not merely a legal construct: it is a religious institution which informs and influences the culture and behaviour of whole societies, whether the political authorities uphold the dhimma or not. This was repeatedly demonstrated throughout the Muslim world after the Ottomans officially revoked the dhimma, and the principle continues to be shown today in the enforcement of many dhimma conditions against non-Muslims in Islamic nations (p.161).Durie cites a Muslim attack on Taiba, a Christian Palestinian village in September 2005 as a contemporary manifestations of these patterns.
Durie goes through various features of the lived reality of dhimmitude including:
• abduction of children,
• rape and abduction of dhimmi women,
• seizure of property
with plenty of C20th examples (Pp161ff).
The actual burden of jizya taxation could be crushing. In the C8th in Egypt, jizya taxes were 1-3 months wages for labourers compared to the tax rate of about one week’s wages for Muslims: remembering that the money went to the benefit of the Muslim community: this without considering all the other taxes and contributions also levied. Since jizya was often levied on whole villages, if one family converted that increased the burden on other families, creating cascading mass conversions (Pp167ff).
Durie examines the more recent pattern of concealment and denial of this historical record by both Muslim and non-Muslim commentators, the former often doing so to defend the dogma of Muslim superiority (Pp169ff).
The impact of the dhimma system was severe. Some dhimmi communities simply disappeared, others declined to shadows of their former selves (p.179). Some of the other effects are more subtle: such as the psychological effect on both dhimmis and Muslims. The latter having a sense of superiority and mastery that inhibits understanding (Pp179ff). Durie examines the tendency of dhimmis to imitate Muslims to “fit in”: to the extent of defending Islam (Pp181ff).
The decline and retreat of Muslim power and the rise of Western power was reflected in a slow process of the retreat from the dhimma system, which reached a peak with the Western imperial occupation of the much of the Islamic world in the C20th. While there are no states currently imposing jizya taxation, there are Muslims who advocated its reinstatement, there have been examples of Muslims levying such taxes on their Christian neighbours and aspects of dhimmitude are beginning to return in the Muslim world (Pp184ff).
Durie points out that about 200million Christians around the world are subject to religious persecution, with Islam being by far the largest source of persecution: a persecution that extends to other religious, including other versions of Islam. With the trend, particularly for Christians in Muslim countries, tending to get worse over the last half-century (Pp187-8).
The patterns of persecution tracks quite closely the dhimma regulations (p.189). There is also advocacy for returning to the dhimma: for example by Sayyid Qutb. The Iranian Revolution moved non-Muslims into legal dhimmi status and there are reports of jizya payments being extorted from Christian and other non-Muslim communities across the Islamic world (Pp189ff).
There has been a growing tendency for Sharia to be re-introduced as the basis for law in Muslim countries. This is then followed by increased discrimination against non-Muslims, examples of which Durie sets out at some length (Pp194ff).
Durie then examines what he calls the dhimmis mimetic tendency. For example, the way Christian Arabs were prominent in promoting Arab nationalism—which has since become a vehicle for Islamization. He cites Edward Said’s Orientalism as a prime example:
By levelling the charge of ‘racism’ against generations of Western scholars of Islam, Said has intimidated many researchers into silence. By blaming the problems of the Arab world on ‘orientalism’—the wicked West’s allegedly racist perspective on the East—he made it very difficult for non-Muslims to critique Islamic theology. By demonizing the West, and silencing a whole generation of Western critics of Islam, Said has ‘encouraged Islamic fundamentalists’ (p.202).The silly, indeed offensive, term ‘Islamophobia’ does much the same.
Dhimmis being banned from criticising Islam has expanded into a pattern of silence and denial where non-Muslims are afraid to speak up to avoid hostile attention, scholarship and local leaders gloss over or deny the problems while “street-level” intimidation is a fact of life (Pp202ff). There is also a history of Western scholarship obfusticating the situation of dhimmis and the implications of the dhimma for a wide range of reasons. The result is:
A regime of silence has descended over the subject of the history of dhimmi peoples. Today many who write and speak about Islam, if they refer to the dhimma, will describe it in glowing terms which are nothing but misleading, and which do not accurately reflect fourteen hundred years of Islamic thought and practice on this subject, let alone the suffering of millions of non-Muslims (p.210).One wonders if pointing out that the dhimmi regulations are clearly substantively based on anti-Jewish laws of the Christian Roman Empire might change perspectives?
Durie analyses Western responses to Islam has often displaying the patterns of dhimmitude:
The requirement that non-Muslims—at least those that are not enemies—embrace dhimmitude, and affirm, appease and serve Islam, greatly limits the repertoire that Christians can have towards it (p.210).And non-Christians too. Either way, gross injustices are either passed over, or seem somehow excusable (p.211). The speech of Western leaders shows dhmmitude patterns. In one particularly telling example, he cites excerpts from a speech by Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, that display the classic dhimmitude patterns of gratitude, praise and denial of criticism. The UN more generally tends to buy into such patterns, the term ‘Islamophobia’ being a particularly useful weapon (Pp211ff).
There is a pattern of “Islamizing” history, playing down Muslim aggression and persecution while playing up Western indebtedness to Islam for the transmission of Greek learning. There have also been some privileging of Islam and Muslim communities in policy and the implementation of law in the West (Pp216ff). (All of which is, of course, particularly distressing to refugees from Muslim persecution.)
While Durie makes some powerful points, his history betrays him a bit here. Christianisation had disrupted the transmission and development of Greek science well before the Muslim conquests, which were not, contra Durie’s citing of the Pirenne thesis, in any way responsible for the Dark Ages.
His analysis does raise questions of how things are construed. So when the Episcopalian primate in the US talked of the US as being a ‘superservant’ rather than a ‘superpower’, that played straight into Muslim attitudes of the proper role of dhimmis, so his speech was much relayed in the Muslim world (Pp220-1). Similarly, Western aid to the Muslim world could be construed as a form of jizya (Pp213-4).
Durie argues that the patterns of dhimmitude are not a healthy way for the West to interact with Islam, for either party:
Dhimmitude is also bad for Muslims, for many reasons. It feeds a widespread pattern of Muslims claiming the role of victim, while blaming others for problems they themselves have responsibility for (p.223).The destruction of any sense of responsibility damages the social and economic development of the Muslim world.
If one side has a structure requiring subordination of outsiders built into its religious worldview that the other side is ignorant of, or otherwise ignores, then there is a real risk that such a framework will become imposed on interactions between them (p.223). Hence the “truth empowerment” that Durie is seeking to provide.
Struggling against dhimmitude
Durie concludes with a short chapter A Way Forward. He starts with an excellent example of mutual miscomprehension: an interfaith service held in Boston shortly after 9/11. The way the event was construed by the Episcopalian minister was utterly different from that of the presiding Musim cleric, who completely interpreted it in terms of Islamic theology of dhimmi gratitude and acceptance of the key points of Islam and Islam’s superiority (Pp226-7). The same cleric, in another letter, noted with satisfaction that the rate of conversion to Islam in the West had doubled since 9/11, reports with satisfaction alleged signs of deteriorating Jewish-Christian relations, cites Jewish interest in interfaith dialogue as being motivated by fear of the implications of Christian-Muslim dialogue and all this as a sign of the humiliation of non-Muslims unless they are under the Muslim covenant of protection (Pp227-9).
The only way out, Durie argues, is the path of truthful engagement—one where truth and love anchor each other—so that both Muslim and non-Muslim can avoid the patterns of the dhimma (Pp231-3). Which still leaves the awkward question of how much that can be done within Islam and how many Muslims have enough reasons or incentives to follow that path. The latter, of course, is affected by what incentives the West generates to follow one alternative over the other.
On the former point, Michael J. Totten made an instructive comment:
One reason non-Arab Muslims tend to be more moderate is because they have non-Arab cultural traditions which clash with the religion. Islam takes up a much smaller psychological and cultural space outside Arab lands.Engagement with Malay or Bengali Islam (or a post-mullahocray Iran) might well be a lot easier than Arab Islam.
Durie’s analysis of the burden of Islam fits in very well with the comments of a son of a founder of Hamas who converted to Christianity and spied for Israel:
"The problem is not in Muslims," he continues. "The problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to."Salvation in Christianity is about love for God and loving treatment of others. Success (falah) in Islam is about submitting to God and treating others according to their submission status. Love is about personal agency and respecting the other person-as-a-person. Submission is about the negation of agency; about status and social role. The former seeks to build a web of moral reciprocity, the latter a structure of hierarchal order. The former sees proper authority as something that is attentive to people, the latter as something people are attentive to. They are profoundly different ways of looking at the world, with very different consequences.
I have read a great deal about Islam, but no book has been as clear in setting out its basic structure as Mark Durie’s The Third Choice.