This is the second part of a three part rebuttal of Robert Spencer on the topic of dhimmitude. Check out part 1 here, here, and here.
During the Middle Ages, a forged document–known as the Pact of Umar–came into existence; it stipulated certain very restrictive conditions that governed the lives of non-Muslims living under Islamic rule. Robert Spencer outlines these humiliating conditions:
This Pact is worth close examination, because it became the foundation for Islamic law regarding the treatment of the dhimmis. With remarkably little variation, throughout Islamic history whenever Islamic law was strictly enforced, this is generally how non-Muslims were treated. Working from the full text as Ibn Kathir has it, these are the conditions the Christians accept in return for “safety for ourselves, children, property and followers of our religion” – conditions that, according to Ibn Kathir, “ensured their continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace.” The Christians will not:
1. Build “a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk”;
2. “Restore any place of worship that needs restoration”;
3. Use such places “for the purpose of enmity against Muslims”;
4. “Allow a spy against Muslims into our churches and homes or hide deceit [or betrayal] against Muslims”;
5. Imitate the Muslims’ “clothing, caps, turbans, sandals, hairstyles, speech, nicknames and title names”;
6. “Ride on saddles, hang swords on the shoulders, collect weapons of any kind or carry these weapons”;
7. “Encrypt our stamps in Arabic”
8. “Sell liquor” – Christians in Iraq in the last few years ran afoul of Muslims reasserting this rule;
9. “Teach our children the Qur’an”;
10. “Publicize practices of Shirk” – that is, associating partners with Allah, such as regarding Jesus as Son of God. In other words, Christian and other non-Muslim religious practice will be private, if not downright furtive;
11. Build “crosses on the outside of our churches and demonstrating them and our books in public in Muslim fairways and markets” – again, Christian worship must not be public, where Muslims can see it and become annoyed;
12. “Sound the bells in our churches, except discreetly, or raise our voices while reciting our holy books inside our churches in the presence of Muslims, nor raise our voices [with prayer] at our funerals, or light torches in funeral processions in the fairways of Muslims, or their markets”;
13. “Bury our dead next to Muslim dead”;
14. “Buy servants who were captured by Muslims”;
15. “Invite anyone to Shirk” – that is, proselytize, although the Christians also agree not to:
16. “Prevent any of our fellows from embracing Islam, if they choose to do so.” Thus the Christians can be the objects of proselytizing, but must not engage in it themselves;
17. “Beat any Muslim.”
Meanwhile, the Christians will:
1. Allow Muslims to rest “in our churches whether they come by day or night”;
2. “Open the doors [of our houses of worship] for the wayfarer and passerby”;
3. Provide board and food for “those Muslims who come as guests” for three days;
4. “Respect Muslims, move from the places we sit in if they choose to sit in them” – shades of Jim Crow;
5. “Have the front of our hair cut, wear our customary clothes wherever we are, wear belts around our waist” – these are so that a Muslim recognizes a non-Muslim as such and doesn’t make the mistake of greeting him with As-salaamu aleikum, “Peace be upon you,” which is the Muslim greeting for a fellow Muslim;
6. “Be guides for Muslims and refrain from breaching their privacy in their homes.”
The Christians swore: “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.”
Today, the Islamophobes believe this document to be of critical importance, and it forms one of the pillars of their anti-Islam ideology. Notice how Spencer calls the document “the foundation for Islamic law regarding the treatment of the dhimmis.” Spencer et al. believe–or at least they would like you to believe–that Muslims are on the verge of once again implementing the Pact of Umar upon non-Muslims. Spencer’s goal, as enunciated by his comrade-in-arms Pamela Geller, is to “scare the bejeezus outta ya.” It is necessary then, these Islamophobic bigots argue, to get “them” before “they” get you. (Most forms of hate revolve around instilling senseless fear.)
The Pact of Umar Has Fallen into Disuse and Obscurity
Admittedly, the Pact of Umar did reach some level of significance during the Middle Ages. It is found in the books of many classical Islamic jurists, and was also implemented (inconsistently) to various degrees. (Please read this here.) Yet, the reality is that the Pact of Umar has fallen into disuse and obscurity. Whereas some of the medieval jurists gave importance to the document–such as Ibn Taymiyyah who went so far as to call it the foundation of Muslim-dhimmi relations–it is now virtually non-existent in modern day Islamic texts. Mention of the document has now been relegated to two basic categories: reprints of medieval texts, and responses to critics of Islam.
I myself contacted several Muslim clerics, asking them about their opinion on the Pact of Umar. The majority of them responded that they had no knowledge of the document (i.e. “I’d have to look it up”), or had only heard the name in passing. In fact, the Pact of Umar has in the Islamic world fallen into such disuse and obscurity that the vast majority of Muslims have never heard of it. Those who do know what it is almost invariably heard of it first from critics of Islam; many of them will then look up the Muslim responses to these anti-Islam attacks. (How many Christians–including priests–have heard of the Church’s doctrine of Perpetual Servitude?)
The idea, furthered by lunatics like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, that Muslims are secretly instructed in the Pact of Umar (the “stealth Jihad” is coming to get you!) is not only conspiratorial but absurd. Ninety-nine percent of Muslims have never heard of it–until of course Robert Spencer et al. inform them of it. Zaid Shakir, an Islamic scholar from the Zaytuna Institute, said:
There is this absurd idea spread by these bigots that Muslims want to implement this pact today. Most Muslims have never even heard of it! 
Robert Spencer et al. knows this very well. So don’t be fooled by this Islamophobic conspiracy talk. It is calculated fear-mongering.
But could it be that the Pact of Umar is inherently part of the Islamic religion, even if the vast majority of Muslims are not aware of this? One only needs to read the Islamic responses to the anti-Islam ideologues to know that this is not the case.
Contemporary Muslims Recognize the Pact of Umar as a Forgery
The document is attributed by medieval jurists to Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph (secular leader) of the early Muslim community. However, modern day Islamic scholars–such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi , Maher Abu-Munshar, and Abdulaziz Sachedina–reject the authenticity of the Pact of Umar. Abu-Munshar writes:
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. In addition to the remarkable care and concern displayed in Umar’s attitute to dhimmis confirms the rejection of the so-called Pact of Umar as attributable to Caliph Umar Ibn al-Khattab. The Pact of Umar was not the work of Umar Ibn al-Khattab. 
It is a historical fact that the Prophet condemned oppression of the ahl al-dhimma [dhimmis] as a sinful deviation declaring in no uncertain terms, “On the Day of Judgment I myself will act as the accuser of any person who oppresses a person under the protection [dhimmi] of Islam, and lays excessive [financial or other social] burdens on him”. In the most highly rated compilation of Hadith among the Sunni Muslims, the Sahih of al-Bukhari, there is a chapter-heading that reads, “One should fight for the protection of the ahl al-dhimma and they should not be enslaved.” Under this heading Bukhari narrates the following instructions on the authority of Umar b. al-Khattab, when the latter was stabbed anddied of the wound inflicted upon him by a Persian slave: “I strongly recommend him [the next caliph] to take care of those non-Muslims who are under God and His Prophet’s protection [dhimmat allah wa dhimmat rasulih] in that he should remain faithful to them according to the covenant with them, and fight on their behalf and not burden them [by imposing high taxes] beyond their capacity. After reading these instructions, left by the caliph as the head of Muslim state to honor the sacred covenant offered by God and his emissary to the people of the Book, it is hard to believe that the Pact of Umar ascribed to the second caliph could be authentic in its representation of the situation of the non-Muslims in the early days of Islam. 
These Muslims argue that as a forgery the document has no religious value at all and ought to be ignored. They believe that in actuality Umar ibn al-Khattab ratified the tolerant Umari Treaty, and not the restrictive Pact of Umar. The Umari Treaty explicitly prohibits Muslims from degrading or belittling non-Muslims; the text reads (emphasis is mine):
In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Beneficent.
This is what the slave of God, Umar b.Al-Khattab, the Commander of the Faithful, has offered the people of Illyaa’ of security granting them amaan (protection) for their selves, their money, their churches, their children, their lowly and their innocent, and the remainder of their people:
Their churches are not to be taken, nor are they to be destroyed, nor are they to be degraded or belittled, neither are their crosses or their money [to be harmed], and they are not to be forced to change their religion, nor is any one of them to be harmed…
Upon what is in this book is the word of God, the covenant of His Messenger, of the Caliphs and of the believers if they gave what was required of them of the poll tax. 
Ibn Kathir, an Islamic exegist of the medieval era, writes that the Pact of Umar stipulated “conditions that ensured [the] continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace” of the People of the Book (see Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 9:29). Surely then, argue contemporary Muslims, the Pact of Umar–which advocated “humiliation, degradation, and disgrace”–conflicted with the Umari Treaty, which categorically prohibited “degrad[ation] and belittle[ment]” of non-Muslims.
Western scholarship itself considers the Pact of Umar to be a forgery, falsely attributed to Umar ibn al-Khattab. In fact, Umar was known for his relative mildness towards non-Muslim subjects, and the Umari Treaty is much more in line with his views than the Pact of Umar. It is known that generally “the [Four] Rightly Guided Caliphs left the people of the protected religions alone.” 
Historian Abraham P. Bloch concludes:
Omar ibn al-Khattab (634-644), the second caliph, conquered Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Persia, and Egypt. Jews and Christians were permitted to continue their communal existence. 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. 
Interestingly, not even Robert Spencer contests the doubtful historicity of the document. Spencer writes:
Now: did I actually say the thing was historical? Nope…I wasn’t actually dealing with the question of whether or not it was a real seventh-century document. I was and am interested in the patent and manifest fact that it became the basis for Islamic law regarding dhimmis. Whether the law came first and then was read into a fictional pact Umar made, or whether there really was a Pact of Umar and the fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) regarding dhimmis was influenced by it, simply doesn’t concern me, except as a matter of historical interest.
If we were debating the historical treatment of dhimmis, then Spencer’s point makes some sense. I conceded as much in my rebuttal. But now I will use Spencer’s own logic and conclude as follows: the actual historicity of the document is largely irrelevant so long as contemporary Muslims view it as a forgery. (But in this case, the matter is even clearer: the document is a forgery and contemporary Muslims agree with that.)
In other words, if you witness a debate between an Islamophobe and a Muslim–with the former claiming that the Pact of Umar is authentic and/or that the classical scholars viewed it that way, and with the latter claiming that it is a forgery and therefore religiously invalid as a source–that in itself invalidates the Islamophobic line of argumentation. Remember: their end game is to prove that Muslims today want to reimpose the dhimmitude as defined in the Pact of Umar. But if contemporary Muslims view the document as a forgery–and this much is evidenced by their participation in the debate–then that’s all that matters. If contemporary Muslims don’t view it as authentic (regardless of what the true historicity of the document is and/or what the classical scholars said), they would have no reason to reimpose it.
In conclusion, contemporary Islamic responses view the Pact of Umar as a forgery, and instead look to the tolerant Umari Treaty as more in line with the Islamic view.
The Pact of Umar is not a Part of Islamic Canon
There are of course some conservative Muslims (a small minority) who have written responses to the Pact of Umar and are unwilling to reject the historicity of the document, due to the fact (as pointed out by Spencer) that many classical scholars viewed it as authentic. Does this fact prove Spencer’s point? No. Just because the document is viewed as authentic does not mean it is binding upon Muslims from a religious perspective. The Pact of Umar is not contained in the Quran nor in the Sunnah, the twin canonical sources of Islam. In other words, the document is not a religious document at all, but a secular and temporal agreement made between a secular/temporal authority (the caliph) and his subjects. (I say “secular/temporal” because there is no pope in Islam; the caliph of the Muslims is their leader in worldly affairs, not religious ones.)
The pact was a political agreement made between two parties, not a divinely revealed religious text from God or His Messenger. In fact, the document was said to be dictated by the Christians themselves, who supposedly said: “We made a condition on ourselves…” The conservative Salafi/”Wahhabi” apologist Bassam Zawadi remarked: “How can the Pact of Umar be considered religiously inspired when it was from the mouths of the Christians themselves?”  In other words, Muslims believe that their religious doctrines come from God (the Quran) and His Messenger (the Sunnah). How then can a Muslim take the words of a Christian–who doesn’t even believe in the prophethood of Muhammad–as being authoritative in matters of faith? The Christians supposedly thought of the conditions themselves and requested them; how then can a Muslim think of these conditions as being from God or His Messenger? (The idea that the Christians themselves requested such terms is of course absurd, which is why modern day scholarship considers the pact as a forgery; but the point here is: those conservative Muslims who refuse to reject the authenticity of the document believe that the document was from the words of the Christians and as such they do not view it as being divine, infallible, or religiously binding.)
The classical scholars did debate whether the Pact of Umar ought to be “inherited” by the children of the Christians or be renegotiated each time. Some of them did say that it does not need to be renegotiated but remained in effect for the children. But the document was not binding because of the religious nature of the document; as discussed above, the Pact of Umar is not considered canonical. Rather, the document was binding because of the religious obligation to fulfill covenants. The Pact of Umar was a (secular and temporal) covenant of security between that particular government and the residents of the area. It was to be fulfilled, as all covenants of security are binding. (This is why I argue here that Muslim Americans are obligated to fulfill their covenant of security with the U.S. government.)
The jurisprudential tradition of Islam is known for its (sometimes excessive) reliance on legalism, much like the Jewish rabbinical tradition. The classical scholars did argue that the mandatory conditions of the Pact of Umar had to be enforced, but at the same time they also forbade any additions to it. The medieval jurist Imam al-Shawkani, a follower of the heterodox Zaydi Shi’ite sect , decreed that dhimmis ought to be forced to clean the latrines of the city. This came to be known as the Latrines Decree. Interestingly, the mainstream Muslim jurists of that era refuted Imam al-Shawkani and forbade such an addition, which they considered to be a violation of the Pact of Umar. (One cannot add conditions to a document after it has been ratified.) Jan Platvoet writes:
The Latrines Decree became an issue of judicial controversy…It caused confrontation between Muslim scholars (such as al-Shawkani and al-Kawkabani) almost all of whom belonged to the dominant Zaydi Shi’a…Most of them criticized the Decree, arguing that nothing can be added to or modified in the dhimma status…According to this line of argument, non-Muslims should be treated neither more leniently nor more harshly…These scholars felt they could not stand aloof while seeing the ardent wish of al-Shawkani and the authorities to worsen the dhimma stipulations. 
The purpose here is not to justify the discriminatory views of the medieval jurists: clearly, the need to protect the rights of minorities is morally more important than blindly enforcing a document. But the point I am trying to make here is that the Pact of Umar was enforced not because it was viewed as being divine, canonical, or infallible, but because it was a temporal/secular covenant agreed upon by two parties, and thus ought to be honored like all covenants. This is why modern day Muslims (even conservative ones) have no right to force the Pact of Umar on non-Muslims living in Muslim majority lands, since they [the non-Muslims] did not agree to such stipulations. Remember: the classical jurists argued that the dhimmis ought to be fulfill the conditions of the Pact of Umar because “they themselves requested these terms!”
The Objectives Resolution (now a part of the Constitution of Pakistan) reads:
Adequate provision shall be made for the minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures…Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality; Wherein adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes.
This enlightened piece of legislation is referred to as “The Islamic Provisions of the Constitution.” Clearly, contemporary Muslims believe freedom of religion and protection of minority rights to be inherently part of their religion. The Objectives Resolution is a covenant of security that guarantees protection to non-Muslims. Enforcing the discriminatory conditions of the Pact of Umar would be impermissible in Islam because it would contradict the rights granted above. Remember: additions to the covenant are not allowed, which is why the classical scholars forbade the Latrines Decree. The modern day Pakistani government has a covenant that they must fulfill.
The conservative Salafi/”Wahhabi” instructor Ayman bin Khaled writes:
The Pact [of Umar] itself is just [because both sides agreed to it] and it is a contract like any other contract[;] if both sides agree to it then it is valid. No one was forced to accept such pact esp. knowing it was suggested by people of the book themselves. 
In other words, even the conservative Muslims who hold the document to be authentic believe that it cannot be enforced upon peoples against their will. It was only historically applied, according to these conservative Muslims, because the Christians accepted the terms. Not only this, but the Christians were the ones who came up with the terms to begin with. (This, according to the traditional belief in the Islamic jurisprudential tradition.)
Critics may argue that Umar ibn al-Khattab set a precedent, which could be emulated by Muslims today. After all, Umar was one of the early caliphs of the Muslim community. Yet, one could similarly argue that the manner in which the papacy treated Jews–the doctrine of Perpetual Servitude–could be considered precedent, which could be emulated by Christians today. The papacy, unlike the caliphate, exerts far more power from a religious perspective than do caliphs. Caliphs are not considered infallible, ever.
Furthermore, the Pact of Umar is not the only historical precedent Muslims can turn to. Historically, there were many other covenants of security which were forged between the Islamic government and non-Muslim populations. The very first constitution in Muslim history, the Constitution of Medina, is one such example. In this document, signed by the Prophet Muhammad, the non-Muslims were granted “help and equality”; the document reads (emphasis is ours):
In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful.
This is a document from Muhammad the prophet (governing the relations) between the believers and Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib, and those [non-Muslims] who followed them and joined them and labored with them.
They are one community (umma) to the exclusion of all men…
To the Jew who follows us belong help and equality. He shall not be wronged nor shall his enemies be aided. 
There are about forty-seven points enumerated in this document, and not a single one of them places any discriminatory or humiliating restrictions upon the non-Muslims. They were not forced to wear certain clothing or hair cuts, nor forced to give up their chairs for Muslims, etc. In all respects, they were treated as “equal[s]” and citizens of the same “nation” (ummah) as the Muslims, with similar rights and obligations as the Muslims.
After the Constitution of Medina, there is the example of the Treaty of Khaybar, signed between the Muslims and Jews of Khaybar. Had the Prophet Muhammad wanted to “degrade” the non-Muslims with such “humiliating” restrictions as found in the Pact of Umar, then surely this would have been the time to do it, considering that–according to Islamic sources–the Jews of Khaybar had been found guilty of high treason. Yet, we find in the Treaty of Khaybar none of the discriminatory laws of the Pact of Umar. Similarly, the Prophet Muhammad signed the Treaty of Tabuk and the Treaty of Najran, two separate documents which afforded protection to non-Muslims without any mention of discriminatory laws, as long as taxes were paid to the government.
The Constitution of Medina promised Jews “equality”; another document attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, known as the Achtiname of Muhammad, afforded inalienable rights to Christians. A copy of this document, sealed with an imprint representing the Prophet’s hand, is preserved in the library of St Catherine. The Achtiname of Muhammad reads:
This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far: we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the (Islamic) nation is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day. 
The tone of voice in this document is 100% contrary to that in the Pact of Umar. Nowhere does it say for Christians to be humiliated or degraded; in fact, Muslims are instructed to “hold out against anything that displeases” the Christians, and nothing can be done “that they hate.” (Surely, the humiliating conditions in the Pact of Umar would fall under this category, argue contemporary Muslims.) Even more specifically, the Achtiname of Muhammad forbids preventing Christians from repairing their churches; the Pact of Umar violates this condition explicitly. For the contemporary Muslim, the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad would trump even those of the Companions such as Umar. Furthermore, the Achtiname sets out inalienable rights that must not be violated “till the Last Day.” Whereas the Pact of Umar is restricted to a single population of a single time, the Achtiname of Muhammad is for those “near and far” and “till the Last Day.”
Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, writes:
The first and the final sentence of the charter are critical. They make the promise eternal and universal. Muhammed asserts that Muslims are with Christians near and far straight away rejecting any future attempts to limit the promise to St. Catherine alone. By ordering Muslims to obey it until the Day of Judgment the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke the privileges. These rights are inalienable. Muhammed declared Christians, all of them, as his allies and he equated ill treatment of Christians with violating God’s covenant.
It should be noted that the authenticity of this document is disputed amongst Western scholarship–a fact that Islamophobes like Robert Spencer would be quick to mention. It is strange, however, that they would so easily dismiss the Achtiname of Muhammad as a forgery, but then at the same time declare the Pact of Umar (which Western scholarship has declared to be a forgery) as the most authoritative Islamic document on the topic. In other words, we have two documents, both of questionable authenticity, which contradict each other; one promises inalienable rights to a minority and the other invokes discriminatory conditions upon them. The Islamophobe’s methodology is to highlight all the negative texts and dismiss the positive ones. One could easily do such a hatchet job on Christianity, selectively quoting texts to paint a horrific picture.
Regardless of the historicity of the Achtiname of Muhammad, the fact is that contemporary Muslims view it as authentic and religiously binding (because it is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad). In fact, the Muslim World League published the full text of the document in its journal (vol. 31, 2003). So we can use Robert Spencer’s own logic here: the authenticity of the document is merely of “historical interest;” if contemporary Muslims view it as authentic and binding, then that’s all that matters.
Moving on, we have the example of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, who agreed to the following covenant with the non-Muslim peoples of Najran:
In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Merciful.
This is the written statement of God’s slave Abu Bakr, the successor of Muhammad, the Prophet and Messenger of God.
He affirms your rights of [being] a protected neighbor: yourselves, your lands, your religious community, your wealth, retainers, and servants, those of you who are present or abroad, your bishops and monks, monasteries, and all that you own, be it great or small. You shall not be deprived of any of it, and shall have full control over it. 
There is no mention of any discriminatory laws, such as found in the Pact of Umar. Abu Bakr was the very first caliph of Islam, and as such, his example would serve as precedent over that of Umar’s.
Another example we have is of the Muslim general Khalid ibn Waleed, a Companion of the Prophet Muhammad, who wrote in his covenant with the people of Anat:
They are allowed to ring their bells at any time of the day or night, except at the Islamic prayer times. They are allowed to bear their crosses in their festivals. 
Both of these allowances would contradict the Pact of Umar, which forbade the Christians from loudly ringing their bells or from bearing their crosses publicly or enjoying their festivals outdoors. Khalid ibn Waleed allowed them to ring their bells at any time day or night, so long as it did not coincide with the Islamic call to prayer (adhan) for the five daily prayers; there is no stipulation that they use clampers, a clause that would make the requirement not to ring the bells during the adhan moot.
In light of this evidence, it would seem inappropriate to focus on the Pact of Umar, and not on the more normative and prophetic Constitution of Medina, which is of undisputed authenticity. Though the Prophet Muhammad had extensive dealings with non-Muslims, he never once advocated laws of humiliation and degradation on any minority group. Surely this precedent is more important to contemporary Muslims than that set by the questionable Pact of Umar. There were several covenants of security that were established in the early days of Islam, and it seems biased to focus exclusively on the most restrictive (and spurious) of them.
Turning the Tables Around
Robert Spencer’s line of argumentation is as follows: the Pact of Umar is inherently part of the Islamic religion; after all, it is attributed to the second caliph of Islam and endorsed by classical jurists. Any attempts to dismiss the Pact of Umar by contemporary Muslims, Spencer would argue, are not only disingenuous but theologically weak. I will now turn the tables on Spencer, and see how he likes using this same line of argumentation against his own religion: he is a Catholic and often white-washes the papacy’s legacy. Criticism of the Catholic popes is simply not tolerated by Spencer.
In order for Spencer to prove his claim, he must establish that the Pact of Umar is inherently part of Islam. Yet, any of his arguments are going to be weaker than arguments that could be made by critics of Catholicism with regard to the doctrines of Witness and of the Perpetual Servitude of infidels. (I’ve discussed this Christian doctrine here.) Pope after pope declared their belief in the doctrines of Witness and of the Perpetual Servitude of infidels, especially Jews. Critics of Catholicism could argue that these two beliefs are inherently part of the religion, because the papal decrees are considered infallible. Whereas Umar ibn al-Khattab was simply a temporal/secular/worldly leader without any divine authority (there is no pope in Sunni Islam), the pope was (and is) considered a religious leader with divine authority. Whereas Muslims believe that Umar was not infallible, Catholics believe that the popes were (and are) infallible. Furthermore, the Pact of Umar was not really written by Umar ibn al-Khattab at all (but forged by unknown persons who have no position of respect in the Islamic religion), whereas there is no doubt that the papal decrees declaring the doctrines of Witness and of Perpetual Servitude were issued from the popes. These were official doctrines espoused by the infallible Church.
Spencer would argue back that Catholics don’t think the Church or the papacy are infallible in all aspects, only matters of theology, faith, and morals. The Catholic Encyclopedia writes that the Church has “immunity from…error or failure; in particular in theological usage, the supernatural prerogative by which the Church of Christ is, by a special Divine assistance, preserved from liability to error in her definitive dogmatic teaching regarding matters of faith and morals.” The encyclopedia goes on to say that “the infallibility claimed for the pope is the same in its nature, scope, and extent as that which the Church as a whole possesses; his ex cathedra teaching does not have to be ratified by the Church’s in order to be infallible.”
I’m no expert of Catholicism, but just from my outsider perspective, the papal decrees about the Jews (the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude) fit all the criteria necessary to be considered infallible. It is, after all, a theological issue, expressed ex cathedra (“from the chair”). Should I now run around wildly flailing my arms declaring that the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude are inherently part of the Catholic religion, and that the Catholics are about to enforce this upon us infidels? Of course I’ve read Catholic responses which explain why these particular papal decrees are not considered infallible; however, as an impartial outsider, the explanations honestly seemed to be unconvincing mumbo-jumbo. I in fact ask Robert Spencer to explain why these particular decrees are not infallible according to the Catholic doctrine. I know he will respond with some complex explanation, so I am not saying that there is no explanation for why not. I am simply saying that the explanation is neither simple, straightforward, nor very convincing to an outsider. Meanwhile, the Islamic responses to why the Pact of Umar is not infallible are very easy to understand: the document is a forgery, the only infallible documents in the Islamic religion are the Quran and the authentic hadiths (Sunnah), etc. (If the papal decrees supporting the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude were found to be forged–and not from the papacy at all–it would suddenly become very easy for a Catholic to deny the infallibility/applicability of said doctrines.)
But let me be very clear: I am not trying to argue that the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude are inherently part of Catholicism. I leave that decision up to the Catholic believers. If they say these are not infallible, who am I to insist otherwise? But I think Muslims should also be taken at their word, especially since their responses on this particular topic seem more straightforward. If we give the benefit of the doubt to the Catholics, then why not to the Muslims?
Quranic Endorsement of the Pact of Umar?
Robert Spencer attempts to bolster his argument, by arguing that the Quran itself endorses the Pact of Umar. Spencer writes:
Verse 29 of chapter 9 of the Qur’an, as we saw last week, mandates that the Muslims fight against the Jews and Christians “until they pay the jizya [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” …The imperative to subjugate non-Muslims as mandated by Qur’an 9:29 and elaborated by this Pact became and remained part of Islamic law.
We shall discuss this verse (9:29) in greater detail in part 3 of this series (does it really mandate Muslims to fight against the Jews and Christians?), but right now I will focus on the last line; Spencer uses the following translation: “until they pay the jizya [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Arabic word in question is “saghirun”, which some medieval jurists translated as debasement, humiliation, etc. Robert Spencer loves these quotes, and pretends that they are the only interpretations that exist. You can find the following quote on JihadWatch:
Dhimmis must be kept in a permanent state of abasement (saghar). This why jizya must be paid in a public ceremony in which the dhimmi at the moment of payment is given a tap on the neck and pushed forward to show him he has thus escaped the sword. This abasement is more important than the sum paid.
Yet, contemporary Muslims do not understand the verse this way. In fact, there were many medieval Islamic jurists who rejected such discriminatory interpretations. The classical jurist, Imam Ibn al-Qayyim, rejected the interpretation that “saghar” means debasement:
This is groundless and the verse doesn’t imply that. It is not related that the Prophet or the companions acted like that. The correct opinion regarding this verse is that the word “saghar” means “acceptance” by non-Muslims of the structure of the Muslim right and their payment of the poll tax. 
Ibn Qudama, another classical jurist, wrote that the Prophet Muhammad and the four rightly guided caliphs said that the poll tax ought to be taken with gentleness and respect. (see Al-Mughni, Vol. 4, p.250)  In fact, the classical jurist Imam al-Nawawi wrote that the majority of scholars rejected such an interpretation:
As for this aforementioned practice [of degrading or humiliating non-Muslims], I know of no sound support for it in this respect, and it is only mentioned by the scholars of Khurasan. The majority (jumhur) of scholars say that the Jizyah is to be taken with gentleness, as one would receive a debt (dayn). The reliably correct opinion is that this practice [of degradation or humiliation] is invalid and those who devised it should be refuted. It is not related that the Prophet or any of the rightly-guided caliphs did any such thing when collecting the Jizyah. 
If this was the case with the medieval jurists (who had no incentive to white-wash Islam), then it is no surprise that contemporary Muslims take a similar enlightened view. They believe that the verse must be contextualized: it was revealed during a time in which the People of the Book–namely the powerful Roman empire–were seeking to snuff out the early Islamic nation-state. In this context, the early Muslim community was instructed in the rules of war, and it was decreed that the enemy be fought until they laid down their arms and their belligerence was subdued. But the opponents were to be left alone once they accepted the hegemony of the Islamic nation-state, just like any nation will fight its belligerent enemies until they are subdued.
Once again, when we apply the same line of argumentation to Christianity, Robert Spencer refuses to accept it. If we point to the numerous verses used historically by the Church to justify the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude, suddenly Spencer cannot accept this methodology. Numerous verses in the Bible can be used to justify the subjugation and exile of Jews (i.e. the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude). For example, the Bible reads:
The Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men…the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. (I Thessalonians 2:14-16)
And there are many others. Can these verses be interpreted in more tolerant ways? Sure. But so can the Quranic verse in question. But the Islamophobes want to use one standard for Christianity and a completely different one for Islam.
But What about Extremist Muslims?
Fine, the vast majority of Muslims have never heard of the Pact of Umar, nor do they want to enforce it upon non-Muslims. But what about the extremist Al-Qaeda types? Is it not this document that motivates them to fight the West? I do not think so. Even most extremist Muslims have never heard of the Pact of Umar. Again, those that have would most likely have first heard it from anti-Islam ideologues. Maybe they wouldn’t reject it outright when they hear it from the anti-Islam critics, but the point is that no Muslim–not even the extremist ones–is being raised to follow this document. It really has fallen into disuse and obscurity. I am unaware of any Al-Qaeda literature, speeches, or videos making any reference to the Pact of Umar. It is not the desire to reimpose the Pact of Umar that motivates them to fight; rather, they view their war with the West in terms of defensive Jihad against Western tyranny (this much is evidenced by their view that their holy war is fardh al-ayn and not fardh al-kifaya).
But ok, there are about one billion Muslims in the world…I can’t possibly deny that there may be a handful of Muslims out of the billion that believe in enforcing the Pact of Umar. But it is really a measly minority, a fraction of even the extremist Muslim subset. There are indeed many opinions championed by extremist Muslims that are worrisome, but this particular one (i.e. the Pact of Umar and its enforcement) does not find any level of significance in their discourse. In fact, the paradigm trumpeted by extremists is: the Jewish/Christian West oppresses Muslims in the land, even though Muslims had historically treated them in an ideal way; based on this, they argue, Muslims must overthrow the West in order to reestablish this interfaith utopia. For example, Hamas writes in its charter (interestingly quoted by none other than Robert Spencer!):
Under the shadow of Islam, it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism to coexist in safety and security. Safety and security can only prevail under the shadow of Islam, and recent and ancient history is the best witness to that effect…Islam accords his rights to everyone who has rights and averts aggression against the rights of others. 
Most Muslims (extremists included) believe that historically non-Muslims lived under Islamic rule in an interfaith utopia. (This is of course not true.) The extremists believe that overthrowing the Western hegemony is the only way to return to this. Therefore, they believe when they come to power, all will be treated well (unlike the Western rule). So the idea that Muslims want to reimpose the Pact of Umar on non-Muslims is way off. Only a handful of Muslims would believe such a thing. This fact is illustrated by Robert Spencer’s inability to quote Muslim scholars, leaders, intellectuals, etc. who have called for the reimposition of the Pact of Umar and/or its discriminatory provisions. In his book, Spencer is only able to quote one contemporary Islamic cleric who said such a thing. One. (Some guy named Marzouq Salem al-Ghamdi, who said non-Muslims ought to “rise when a Muslim wishes to sit” and that they shouldn’t “ride horses”, etc.) That’s it. One single quote. (I haven’t authenticated the quote, but I’ll just give it to him.)
I think I saw one other similar quote on his site, and that’s it. That’s all Spencer can provide. Two or three quotes from out of the billion Muslims. That’s the best he can do. That’s all he’s got. Here, I will issue a direct challenge to Robert Spencer: provide us with a list of contemporary Muslim scholars, leaders, intellectuals, etc. who have called for a reimposition of the Pact of Umar and/or its discriminatory provisions. List as many as you can. Every single one. Let’s see how long your list is. I guarantee you that it will be an incredibly short list. That is why you will avoid this challenge like the intellectual chicken you are.
The Muslim World League published the full text of the Achtiname of Muhammad in its journal. Can Spencer provide a similar contemporary reference for the Pact of Umar? In fact, the only contemporary texts he will find on the Pact of Umar will be responses to anti-Islam ideologues. I challenge Robert Spencer to provide as many contemporary Islamic texts that endorse the Pact of Umar as he can. I will then provide a list of scholars/texts that reject the Pact of Umar altogether, and definitely my list will be longer than his.
Spencer’s desperation can be gauged from what he writes in his book (emphasis is mine):
All this is still part of the Sharia today. “The subject peoples,” according to a contemporary manual of Islamic law, must “pay the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya)” and “are distinguished from Muslims in dress, wearing a wide cloth belt (zunnar)…[etc etc]” 
I was surprised when I saw the words “contemporary manual.” So I checked out the footnote, which cited Umdat al-Salik as the reference. That’s a contemporary manual? It was written six hundred and fifty years ago. (Tisk, tisk…How dishonest.) Like I said earlier, the only references to the Pact of Umar you will find now are (1) reprints of medieval texts, and (2) responses to anti-Islam ideologues. (This is where the Islamophobes use their typical deceitful argument that such-and-such medieval text is “endorsed” by such and such Islamic authority; an endorsement of a text in the Islamic tradition does not at all mean 100% agreement on every single opinion. If that is the case, then show us that Islamic authority explicitly advocating the reimposition of the Pact of Umar.)
Nowhere in contemporary Islamic texts will you find an endorsement of the reimplementation of the Pact of Umar and its discriminatory conditions; meanwhile, contemporary Muslims widely publicize the Achtiname of Muhammad as a model for the treatment of non-Muslims. If you search Muslim websites, you will find the Achtiname of Muhammad published on them. If you search Islamophobic ones, you will find the Pact of Umar. (“No no, this is what you believe!”)
Christian Extremists Continue to Believe in Perpetual Servitude
Does the fact that there might be a handful of Muslims who believe in the reimposition of the Pact of Umar justify Spencer’s agenda? Certainly not, especially when we consider the fact that a greater number of Christians still believe in the Perpetual Servitude of Jews. We know that the extremist Muslims are the Al-Qaeda types. OK, so who are the extremist Christians? The white nationalists, a sizable portion of which are extremist Christians. But those don’t count, argue the Islamophobes. Why not? Because they are loonies and racists. So let me get this straight: the Muslim extremists aren’t also loonies? How come the Muslim loonies define the Islamic threat, but the Christian loonies don’t define the Christian threat? As for them being racists, so? That’s completely in line with historic Christianity. Unlike Islam, Christianity was wedded with racist thought, with bigoted theological positions revolving around the Mark of Cain. (But let’s not be loony about what we say: clearly, the vast majority of Christians have jettisoned such beliefs.) Fundamentalist Muslims rigidly adhere to medieval opinions, and so do the extreme right wing Christians…And nobody can deny that such racist opinions were not alien to historic Christianity.
People always wonder why there are so many extremist Muslims, but where are the extremist Christians? In fact, it’s quite easy to identify them: they are the white nationalists. (Not all of them are Christians, but a sizable portion are and they base their racism in Christian belief.) In fact, white nationalism is becoming a scourge in the world arguably greater than extremist Al-Qaeda types. There are millions of white nationalists in the world (they are greater in numbers than jihadists), and their movement is on the rise. But of course, our minds have been infected with “stealth racism” (to borrow a term from Robert Spencer). So when a Muslim flies a plane into a building, it’s automatically terrorism and we’re on high alert; when someone else does, then that doesn’t count as terrorism and who cares? Well yeah, if you’re going to always exclude all non-Muslim acts of terrorism, then it’s no surprise you can blithely ask: why are all terrorists Muslim? Similarly, if all Christian extremists “don’t count”, then of course there will be far more Muslim extremists in your books than Christian ones.
Anyways, the fact is that there exists a rising group of white nationalists who base their racism in historic Christian belief. And if all of the Islamic community is to be shamed because there may be a handful of Muslims who believe in reimposing the Pact of Umar, then shouldn’t we have a similar reaction to Christianity? After all, there exist far right wing Christians who believe that the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude ought to be reinforced. Don’t believe me? The white nationalist website, Stormfront (which boasts an impressive membership of a couple hundred thousand), published the following article, which argues that “the theologically correct, and socially just Catholic social policy is to subjugate [the Jews], regulate them, segregate them and expel them.” If you read that article in its entirety, you will come to know that these far right wing Christians base their belief in historic Christian beliefs and the traditional interpretations of the Bible.
The Pact of Umar has become the Islamophobe’s equivalent to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I understand that there are certain shortcomings to this comparison, since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were never accepted by Jews at all. But it is an apt comparison in so far as the xenophobes spreading a conspiracy that a certain religious group seeks to establish their rule and subjugate the natives. The reality is that this conspiracy is far-fetched and outright loony. The vast majority of Muslims have never even heard of the document, let alone engage in a “stealth Jihad” to one day implement it. Even extremist Muslims tend to focus on the utopic image of co-existence that supposedly existed in Islamic history. The Pact of Umar has become an obscure text, with even Islamic scholars having a hard time recalling what exactly it is. The only contemporary references to the document are in the form of responses against anti-Islam ideologues, invariably arguing against the Pact of Umar’s authenticity and/or applicability. No country on earth–including the ultraconservative Saudi Arabia and Iran–enforces the Pact of Umar. Yes, it is true that the rights of minorities are not properly protected in many Muslim majority countries, but this has nothing to do with the Pact of Umar.
The document may have reached some level of significance in the Islamic past, but it has now fallen into obscurity. This is easy to understand when our Christian readers think about the doctrines of Witness and Perpetual Servitude. I gander that virtually none of the Christians who read my article on that topic had ever even heard of the doctrines of Witness or Perpetual Servitude. The first time they heard of it was from me. This, even though these doctrines were of utmost importance at one time in Christian history. Yet, now even religious Christians have no idea what these doctrines are. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Spencer himself was unfamiliar with them. When contemporary Christians do hear about these doctrines, they have to look for Christian responses, which explain (in a somewhat convoluted manner) why these doctrines are not infallible.
So why–when modern day Christians have no knowledge of a once popular doctrine in their religious tradition–is it so hard for them to believe that Muslims nowadays have no idea what the Pact of Umar is? Robert Spencer and the rest of the Islamophobic goof troop trying to prove that Muslims want to reimpose the Pact of Umar is as inane as some Muslim fanatic trying to prove that the United States is attacking Muslim majority countries because they wish to reinforce the doctrine of Perpetual Servitude upon Muslims. But for some reason, it’s so much easier to understand this about oneself, as opposed to the demonized other.
You are a certified loon if you go on and on about how Muslims want to reimpose the Pact of Umar, just as a Muslim would be a loon if he were to claim that Christians were seeking to reimpose Perpetual Servitude. Spencer, you are so proud of yourself that you found one spurious document from a caliph of Islam that became important in medieval Islamic texts; I can point to dozens of 100% authentic (and arguably infallible) papal decrees that became foundational to medieval Christian theology, restricting Jews and Muslims to a status of Perpetual Servitude…And yes, there continue to exist a section of Christians today who believe in reinforcing it.
(Cue Islamophobic whining of “tu quoque, tu quoque,” which translates to “please Danios stop hitting us back so hard, waah waah waah!” I will explain in a future article why this lame tu quoque chant is inappropriate and inapplicable in this context.)
Stay tuned for part 3 of this three part series, entitled “Do Muslims want to reimpose dhimmitude?” Danios has called part 2 his jab and part 3 will be his knockout punch.
refer back to article 1. Personal correspondence with Zaid Shakir; quote may be verified by directly contacting Shakir: http://www.zaidshakir.com/
refer back to article 2. Yusuf Qaradawi, Ghayr Al-Muslimeen fil Mujtama` Al-Islami
refer back to article 3. Maher Abu-Munshar, Islamic Jerusalem And Its Christians: A History of Tolerance And Tensions, pp.79-80
refer back to article 4. Tabari, Tarikh At-Tabari, Vol. 3, p.609
refer back to article 5. Mawdudi, The Rights Of The People of Covenant In The Islamic State, p.22
refer back to article 6. Abraham P. Bloch, One a Day: An Anthology of Jewish Historical Anniversaries for Every Day of the Year, p.314. ISBN 0881251089
refer back to article 7. Personal correspondence with Bassam Zawadi; quote may be verified by directly emailing Zawadi: email@example.com
refer back to article 8. It should be noted that Shawkani later converted to Sunni Islam.
refer back to article 9. Jan Platvoet, Pluralism and Identity: Studies in Ritual Behavior, 178-180. ISBN: 9004103732
refer back to article 10. Ayman bin Khaled, Multaqa Ahl al-Hadeeth
refer back to article 11. Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah
refer back to article 12. Testamentum et pactiones inter Mohammedem et Christianae fidei cultores. Paris, 1630
refer back to article 13. Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, p.79
refer back to article 14. Ibid., p. 146
refer back to article 15. Ahkam Ahlul Dhimma, Vol. 1, pp. 23-24
refer back to article 16. Hat tip: Bassam Zawadi
refer back to article 17. Rawdat al-Talibin, Volume 10, p.315-16
refer back to article 18. Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), p.51
refer back to article 19. Ibid.