Archive for dhimma

More proof that Robert Spencer is an intellectual huckster, part 2; Spencer digs himself into a deeper sh*% hole

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2010 by loonwatch

In part 1, I refuted Robert Spencer‘s outlandish claim that the Arabic word dhimmi means “guilty person.” In specific, I quoted p.49 of his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), in which he says:

The dhimmi

The Qur’an calls Jews and Christians “People of the Book;” Islamic law calls them dhimmis, which means “protected” or “guilty” people–the Arabic word means both…Jews and Christians are “guilty” because they have not only rejected Muhammad as a prophet, but have also distorted the legitimate revelations they have received from Allah.  Because of that guilt, Islamic law dictates that Jews and Christians may live in Islamic states, but not as equals with Muslims.

Robert Spencer has completely fabricated this from his own mind and attributed it to Islam, passing it off as “scholarship.”  In reality, the word dhimmi does not mean “guilty person” and no Arabic dictionary says this.  I reproduced the definition of the word as found in Lisan al-Arab, the most authoritative source used in the classical times of Islamic jurisprudence.  And I challenged Spencer to provide an Arabic dictionary that translates the word to mean “guilty person.”

Of course, Spencer could not meet this challenge, proving that he cannot defend his own writing.  (Spencer’s book is used by the Islamophobic world as an “authoritative” and “scholarly” source for understanding Islam, yet it cannot withstand even cursory critical analysis.)  Of course, most of Spencer’s gullible audience does not speak Arabic and choose to unquestioningly believe him, mostly because they desperately want to believe him.

Robert Spencer was forced to respond to my article, and amusingly he refused to take my name or mention the site I work for.  He has responded to me several times in the past, and I am forever “he whose name shall not be mentioned.”  I’m glad I bother him so much that he can’t even take my name! In any case, it would have been better for Spencer if he had chosen not to reply, because he ended up digging himself deeper into the sh*% hole he created for himself. Spencer’s reply reads as follows:

Christians are also by definition guilty people. As I noted in my book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), “The Qur’an calls Jews and Christians ‘People of the Book;’ Islamic law calls them dhimmis, which means ‘protected’ or ‘guilty’ people-the Arabic word means both.” While the classic Islamic laws regarding dhimmis are not in force in Egypt today, they’re still part of Islamic law, and as such Islamic clerics regard them as the proper status that Christians and other “People of the Book” should assume in the Islamic state. The Arabic word ذمي‎ (dhimmi) is derived from ذمة‎ (dhimma), “‘protection, custody’”), and from ذم‎ (dhamma), which means “to blame.” Thus the dhimmis are the blamed, or guilty ones.

How is it that “protection” and “custody” can be related to “blame” and “guilt”? Dhimmidoes indeed mean “protected,” “guaranteed,” and “secured,” but the semantic connotations of the word pertain to “indebtedness” and “liability.” That’s according to the online Sakhr dictionary, which is not by any stretch of the imagination an “Islamophobic” publication — for example, it translates the word “Israel” into “a Jewish country set up on the Palestinian land.” So when it says that dhimmi has to do with guilt, it is not reflecting some anti-Muslim bias!

In any case, the Arabic root-word “Z-M-M” (from which “dhimmi” issues) means “the opposite of praise,” that is, to “censure,” “dispraise too much,” “blame,” “criticize,” “find fault with,” “accuse,” “obligate,” “hold liable,” “hold in bad conscience,” “accuse,” and “hold guilty,” etc. And that’s not a semantic connotation, that is the meaning, according to the Elias Modern Arabic Dictionary.

Notice here that Spencer has moved the goalposts, as he always does.  In his response, Spencer has tried to prove that the two words–”dhimmi” and “guilty”–are related or connected to each other.  But his initial claim (found on p.49 of his book), the one I refuted, was that the word dhimmi means“guilty person.”  It does not.  The authoritative Hans Wehr Arabic dictionary defines the word “dhimmi” as “a free non-Muslim subject living in a Muslim country.”

In fact, the very sources that Spencer has invoked support this.  For example, Spencer cites theonline Sakhr dictionary as a proof for his claim; yet, when we look up the word “dhimmi” in this dictionary, we find that it simply says: “a free non-Moslem under Moslem rule, adherent of a revealed religion.”  It does not mean “guilty people” as Spencer explicitly claims on p.49 of his book, nor does it mean “guilty ones” as he implies in his response.  The same is the case if we look up the Elias Modern Arabic Dictionary.  Neither dictionary that Spencer cites says the word dhimmi means “guilty person”.  Nor is “dhimma” defined with the word “guilty.”

If two words are related or connected to each other, they do not mean the same thing.  They are two separate words entirely.  Let’s say that dhimmi is related to the word “guilt”; in that case, why did Spencer claim that the word means “guilty person” or even “guilty”?  Is this the level of Robert Spencer’s academic integrity and scholarship that he would use the word “means” when in fact he should have said “related (or connected) to”?  There is a world of difference between the two.  And this cannot be understood as a mere typo, since Spencer writes (emphasis is mine): “dhimmis, which means ‘protected’ or ‘guilty’ people–the Arabic word means both.”  Whatever he meant by the word “means” is the same for “protected” and “guilty,” as we equates them both.  In other words, the word “dhimmis” translates to “protected people”, and it equally translates to “guilty people.”  He didnot say: “dhimmi, which means ‘protected’ people, but is also related to the word ‘guilty.’”

All of this of course begs the question why the Prophet Muhammad didn’t simply refer to these non-Muslims as sha’ab mudhnib (which literally means “guilty people”) as opposed to “dhimmis” (which means “protected people”)?  Does that not seem more straightforward and logical?  Why use the word “protected people” if the intent was to cast them as “guilty people”?

I’ve quite clearly established that Robert Spencer’s claim that the word “dhimmi” means “guilty person” is complete fabrication.  I will not, however, belabor this point and instead choose to move on.  So if the word “dhimmi” does not mean “guilty person”, is it at least related to the word “guilty”?  Yes, it is.  Case closed?  Not so fast.  The two words are connected, but in a way that actually punches Spencer in the mouth and proves that he only dug himself into a deeper sh*% hole.  The root letters dh-m-m do in fact have the meaning of “blame” or “censure”.  But although dhimmi/dhimma is related to this root, the blame or censure in this word is not meant in the sense Spencer is using it.

The authoritative Lane’s Lexicon explains the sense in which “dhimma” (which means “compact, covenant or contract”) is related to dh-m-m: “because the breaking thereof necessitates blame” (Volume 3 p. 976). The larger Arabic dictionaries from which Lane’s is derived–such as Taj al-Arusand al-Muhit–say the same. In other words, the blame (or “guilt”) involved in the term “dhimma” is related to breaking the covenant of security, and the blame/guilt is ascribed to the Islamic statenotthe non-Muslim resident.  An Islamic state would be guilty/blameworthy if it did not uphold and protect the “sanctity” of the covenanted non-Muslim’s life and property.

Kinana of Khaybar, a loyal fan of JihadWatch.org, tries to defend Robert Spencer’s claim that dhimmi means “guilty person” by claiming that the dhimmi (non-Muslim resident) would be “guilty” if he/she broke the covenant.  In other words, Kinana is ascribing the guilt to the dhimmi, not the Islamic state.  Of course, Kinana’s claim is not true at all, but let’s for argument’s sake pretend it is.  Let us suppose then that it is the dhimmi who is “guilty” if he breaks the covenant.  Even if we were to concede this (which we don’t–but let’s just say we do), this still does not disprove that Robert Spencer is guilty of wholesale fabrication.  Spencer did not just claim that the dhimmis are guilty; he told us why they are called “guilty people.”  Here are Spencer’s words from p.49 of his book (emphasis is mine):

The dhimmi

The Qur’an calls Jews and Christians “People of the Book;” Islamic law calls them dhimmis, which means “protected” or “guilty” people–the Arabic word means both…Jews and Christians are “guilty” because they have not only rejected Muhammad as a prophet, but have also distorted the legitimate revelations they have received from Allah.  Because of that guilt, Islamic law dictates that Jews and Christians may live in Islamic states, but not as equals with Muslims.

In other words, Spencer has wholly imagined the claim that the word “dhimmis” means “guilty people” because they are guilty of “reject[ing] Muhammad as a prophet” or because they have “distorted the…revelations.” According to Kinana’s own argument, the word “dhimmi” is related to “guilt” not because of any of this but for breaking the covenant.  Again, even if we were to grant Kinana his fantastic defense, it still wouldn’t answer how it is that Spencer’s shoddy scholarship is such that he doesn’t mind completely fabricating the bolded part above.

Secondly, and more importantly, Kinana is guilty of wholesale fabrication himself (which is why he fits right into the JihadWatch crew).  The word “dhimma” is related to “guilty” not because the dhimmi is a “guilty person” but because the one granting the dhimma (protection) would be guilty if he/she violates it.  Said in a clearer way, it is the Islamic state (not the non-Muslim resident) that would be guilty of violating the sanctity of the dhimmi’s life and property.

Lane’s Lexicon reads:

Dhimma: A compact, a covenant, a contract, a league, a treaty, an engagement, a bond, or an obligation; because the breaking thereof necessesitates blame: and a right, or due, for the neglect of which one is to be blamed: [an inviolable right or due:]… a thing that should be sacred, or inviolable; or which one is under an obligation to reverence, respect, or honour, and defend.

The sacred and inviolable right that must be respected, honored, and defended is the safety (amaan) of the non-Muslim resident.  As Lane’s Lexicon says:

dhimma signifies also amaan [as meaning security, or safety; security of life and property; protection or safeguard; a promise, or an assurance, of security, safety, protection, or safeguard…]

But Kinana knew this quite well, evidenced by his deceitful half-quoting of another source.  Says Kinana:

Thanks for addressing this Robert.

Also from T. P. Hughes’ A Dictionary of Islam,

1) “ZIMMAH. , pl. zinam, from the root zamm, “to blame.” A compact, covenant, or contract, a league or treaty, any engagement or obligation, because the breaking thereof necessitates blame; and a right or due, for the neglect of which one is to be blamed. […]“

and

2) “ZIMMI. , a member of the Ahlu ‘z-Zimmah, a non Muslim subject of a Muslim government, belonging to the Jewish, Christian, or Sabean creed. who, for the payment of a poll— or capitation-tax, enjoys security of his person and property in a Muhammadan country. […]“

Note: Zimmah = dhimma, zimmi = dhimmi.

The T. P. Hughes dictionary is available free online courtesy of Answering-Islam, see their Index to Islam. The section on the zimmi goes into considerable detail.

Notice how Kinana cites (the horribly outdated) T.P. Hughes’ A Dictionary of Islam, and yet he purposely places ellipses […] in the definition of the word “zimmah” in order to hide the fact that the “blame” (or “guilt”) is attributed to the Islamic state, not the non-Muslim resident.  This cannot be a mere mistake on the part of Kinana; it is academic deceit of the highest order.  T.P. Hughes’ A Dictionary of Islam reads (emphasis is mine):

Zimmah, pl. zinam, from the root zamm, “to blame.” A compact, covenant, or contract, a league or treaty, any engagement or obligation, because the breaking thereof necessitates blame; and a right or due, for the neglect of which one is to be blamed.The word is also synonymous with aman, in the sense of security of life and property, protection or safeguard, and promise of such; hence ahlu ‘z-zimmah[dhimmis], or , with suppression of the noun ahlu, simply az-zimmah, the people with whom a compact or covenant has been made, and particularly the Kitabis, or the people of the book, i.e. Jews and Christians, and the Majusi or Sabeans, who pay the poll-tax called jazyah. [JAZYAH.] An individual of this class–namely, a free non-Muslim subject of a Muslim Government, who pays a poll- or capitation-tax, for which the Muslims are responsible for his security, personal freedom, and religious toleration–is called zimmi (see the following article).

Notice quite clearly that both A Dictionary of Islam as well as Lane’s Lexicon equate the word “dhimma” with the word “amaan”.  Amaan means “safety” and is related to the word amaanat which means “trust, keepsake.”  If, for example, a person gives his property to you to keep it safe until he returns from a business trip, then his wealth is an amaanat (i.e. given in trust) to you.  If you violate the sanctity of that trust by failing to safeguard his wealth, then you would be blameworthy/guilty for doing that.  It would be absolutely absurd to claim that the person who entrusted his wealth to you is blameworthy/guilty.

Likewise, the word “amaan” means “safety” and refers to “safe passage” granted to a person by the state.  The state promises to safeguard the person’s life, and would be blameworthy/guilty for not upholding this.  For example, ambassadors from other empires would visit the Islamic caliph, and be granted amaan (safe passage) to travel in the Islamic lands without fear of being harmed.  This amaan was granted without any payment or other obligation on the ambassador, so it cannot be said that the ambassador is the one blameworthy/guilty of breaching the covenant of security.  Rather, it is the state that would be blameworthy/guilty should it harm the ambassador.

Kinana’s own source, A Dictionary of Islam, says:

The word [zimmah] is also synonymous with aman, in the sense of security of life and property, protection or safeguard, and promise of such…the Muslims are responsible for [the zimmi’s] security, personal freedom, and religious toleration.

There is absolutely no doubt that it is the Islamic state that is blameworthy/guilty if it violates the dhimma.  It therefore cannot at all be said that dhimmi means (or even implies) “guilty people” or “guilty ones.”  Even if Robert Spencer or Kinana of Khaybar were to claim that it could also refer to the dhimmi if he breaks the contract (which does not at all seem to be true, but let’s just say it is for argument’s sake), then this is an incredibly weak polemical point, since the Islamic state is also “guilty” in the same way then!

Furthermore, as I mentioned in my previous reply, the word “dhimma” was used for Muslims as well:

…The exact same word–dhimma–is used for both Jews and Muslims in theConstitution of Medina.  This document declares that all who uphold the pledge–Jew and Muslim alike–are granted dhimma (protection).  If the word meant or implied “guilt”, why did the Prophet Muhammad include the Muslims under this?  As I said before, it is complete fabrication on the part of Robert Spencer to claim that the word means “guilty”.

But to completely shatter Spencer and Kinana’s argument, I will reproduce the words of the Prophet Muhammad himself, who said in a hadith narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari:

Whoever prays our [Islamic] prayer, faces our Qiblah [Mecca], and eats our slaughtered meat [Zabiha] is a Muslim who is under the dhimma [protection] of God and His Messenger.

If we say “dhimma” also means “guilt”, then the saying makes no sense, as it would read “a Muslim…is under the guilt of Allah and His Messenger.”  Complete nonsense.  Rather, the word means “protection,” and in the above quote the meaning is that God and His Messenger promise the believers to uphold the sanctity of the Muslim’s life.  Clearly, the word “dhimma” cannot mean something negative if it is equally applied to the Muslim believers.  As I have said repeatedly, Spencer’s entire claim is complete fabrication.

Spencer and Kinana then try to obfuscate the issue by claiming that non-Muslims in general are “guilty” of sins such as shirk.  This seems like a strong point to the uninitiated, until of course you think about it.  If Muslims believe that non-Muslims are “guilty” of shirk, then what of Hindus who believe that unbelievers are “guilty” of eating beef?  Or what of Christians who believe that unbelievers are “guilty” of not taking Christ as their Lord and Savior?  For that matter, Christians believe that whoever is guilty of this cannot attain salvation and will thus burn in Hell.  Yes, unbelievers would be–by definition–guilty of unbelief!  This is not something unique to Islam.

Furthermore, Muslims are also “guilty” of many sins, and Islamic theology states that no human being–not even the best Muslim–could be completely blameless of sin.  So if non-Muslims are guilty of shirk, Muslims are guilty of other sins.  But none of this has anything to do with the word “dhimmi” or “dhimma.”  Of course, both Spencer and Kinana know this very well and are just desperately trying to obfuscate the issue.

The word “dhimmi” is derived from “dhimma”, a word that was used for Muslims as well!  If the non-Muslims are to be “under dhimma” because of their shirk, then why are Muslims also “under dhimma” (as quoted in the hadith above)? In fact, by definition, a Muslim is automatically under the dhimma (protection) of the Islamic state.  So when Kinana feigns to be perplexed by me, saying:

Interesting that Danios thinks the dhimma is something positive.

I respond by saying: your ignorance is profound.  We know for a fact that “dhimma” is something positive, because it is granted to Muslim believers, as the Prophet Muhammad declared:

Whoever prays our [Islamic] prayer, faces our Qiblah [Mecca], and eats our slaughtered meat [Zabiha] is a Muslim who is under the dhimma [protection] of God and His Messenger.

And this same dhimma–or protection (a good thing!)–was granted to non-Muslim “citizens” in the Constitution of Medina (as I mentioned in part 1) and to non-Muslim “non-citizens” via the jizya.

To conclude, Robert Spencer is an intellectual huckster.  His writings are full of wholesale fabrications, and he has become too accustomed to nobody spending the time to thoroughly debunk his nonsense.  Unfortunately for him, that time has come to an end.

Spencer’s claim that “dhimmi” means “guilty person” is completely false, and no Arabic dictionary supports this.  Blame/guilt is related to “dhimma”, but Spencer is incorrect to claim that the dhimmi (non-Muslim resident) is the “guilty one” for disbelieving in the Prophet Muhammad or distorting the scriptures.  Rather, the blame/guilt is attributed to the Islamic state should it violate the inviolable rights of the non-Muslim residents.  This, according to the most authoritative Arabic dictionaries, including those cited by Spencer and Kinana.  We see that Robert Spencer completely flipped reality on its head.  As for Kinana of Khaybar, he too is an intellectual huckster, evidenced by his deceitful half-quoting of a passage of T.P. Hughes’ A Dictionary of Islam, the entirety of which negates his claim and supports mine.

As I said before, Spencer has, by replying to me, dug himself into a deeper sh*% hole.

Update: If you turn to page 133 in the Hans Wehr Arabic dictionary, you will find that cowardice (jubn) and cheese (jubna) share the same root: j-b-n.  Are these two words related in such a way that a man who is a coward is also a…cheese?  Or does eating cheese make you a coward?  Using Spencer’s logic, probably.  (hat tip to Ibksi for this humorous but effective point)

 

More proof that Robert Spencer is an intellectual huckster

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2010 by loonwatch
This is still my favorite picture of Robert Spencer.

This is part of my continuing (and epic) rebuttal of chapter four of Robert Spencer‘s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).  In this chapter, Spencer vilifies Islam by sensationalizing the topic of dhimma, (or “dhimmitude” as he says).  I’ve already taken a massive sledgehammer to this fundamental pillar of his hateful paradigm, and you can see the catastrophic damage I’ve done by reading thisthisthisthisthis, and this.

Then I came across this golden nugget, from p.49 of his book:

The dhimmi

The Qur’an calls Jews and Christians “People of the Book;” Islamic law calls them dhimmis, which means “protected” or “guilty” people–the Arabic word means both…Jews and Christians are “guilty” because they have not only rejected Muhammad as a prophet, but have also distorted the legitimate revelations they have received from Allah.  Because of that guilt, Islamic law dictates that Jews and Christians may live in Islamic states, but not as equals with Muslims.

Wow.  Just wow.  Usually Spencer dresses his lie up in half-truths, obfuscation, and sensationalism before he peddles it to his hate-mongering audience.  But here we have a case of complete fabrication.

Dhimmi means “protected person” and in no way, shape, or form means “guilty.”  One can simply open up an Arabic dictionary to prove that this has absolutely no basis in the reality-based world.  For example, here’s what Lisan al-Arab (considered the most reliable Arabic dictionary in the classical age of Islam) says:

ورجل ذِمِّيٌّ: معناه رجل له عهد

(Dhimmi: A person with whom there exists a treaty)

والذِّمَّةُ العهد

(And ‘dhimmah’ means treaty)

قال الجوهري: الذِّمَّةُ أَهل العقد.

(Al-Jawhari says: Dhimmah refers to the people with whom there is a treaty)

وقال أَبو عبيدة الذِّمّةُ الأَمان

(Abu Ubaydah says: Dhimmah means protection/security)

وقوم ذِمَّةٌ: مُعاهدون أَي ذوو ذِمَّةٍ

(A Nation of Dhimmah: The people who sign a treaty, i.e. the people of ‘responsibility’)

You can check any other Arabic dictionary to prove that “dhimmi” does not mean “guilty.”  The word “madhmum” shares the same root as “dhimmi”, but so do many other words. To imply that there is a necessary connection between the two is pure idiocy, and proof of one’s ignorance of Arabic.  They are quite simply two separate words entirely.

If the Prophet Muhammad and early Muslims wanted to refer to the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) as “guilty” people, why not just use the word for that?  That seems much more straightforward.  Of course, this nonsense just reflects the demagoguery of the dhimmi system that the anti-Islam elements engage in.

To illustrate the absurdity of the claim that “dhimmi” means “guilty”, let us look at the word used in the nefarious Pact of Umar, as reproduced on p.50 of Spencer’s academic (ha!) book:

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.

So if the Christians broke the conditions in the Pact of Umar, then their guilt is broken?  How nonsensical!  We see quite clearly from the above quote that “dhimma” is something positive; it is protection.  In fact, the exact same word–dhimmah–is used for both Jews and Muslims in theConstitution of Medina.  This document declares that all who uphold the pledge–Jew and Muslim alike–are granted dhimma (protection).  If the word meant or implied “guilt”, why did the Prophet Muhammad include the Muslims under this?  As I said before, it is complete fabrication on the part of Robert Spencer to claim that the word means “guilty”.

To add another layer to the absurdity that is Spencer’s book, there is in fact a great irony in what he is saying.  Robert Spencer is a Catholic apologist, who starts his book invoking the Crusader call of “Deus Vult!” (God wills it!) and ends his book calling for a Crusade against Islam.  As he foams at the mouth about the heathen faith of Islam, he doesn’t realize the irony in the fact that he attributed to Islam a doctrine alien to it but which actually is part of Catholic doctrine.

The Church debated about what to do with the Jews.  After mulling around the idea of slaughtering them outright, it was decided that they ought to be allowed to survive but only so that they could serve as living proof of the defeat and humiliation of those who rejected, defied and killed Christ.  Accordingly, the Jews were to live in Perpetual Servitude to the Christians, so as to serve as a constant reminder of the victory of Christ over them.  This was the Doctrine of Witness, and its associated belief of Perpetual Servitude.  Prof. Steven Bayme writes in his book Understanding Jewish History (pp.120-121):

Augustine and the other Church Fathers wrestled with this question of why Judaism continued if it had apparently lost its purpose?  Augustine’s answer lay in the “Doctrine of the Witness.”  This doctrine suggested that the continuing physical presence of the Jews was desirable because the Jews themselves provided testimony to the truth of Christianity in two ways: First, the Jews possessed Scriptures, thereby proving that Scriptures were no means invented retrospectively by Christians to predict the coming of Jesus…

Secondly, the physical status of the Jews provided testimony to the truth of Christianity.  The Jews existed in a subjugated, second-class status as a defeated people…The perpetual servitude of the Jews reminded the world that the Jews are being punished for their rejection of Jesus.  Therefore it was desirable that the Jew remain in Christian society.  As long as Jews retained their second-class status, they would remind the world of their crime in rejecting Jesus and their validity of Jesus’s teachings…

Although the Jews’ status would always be second-class, the Church Fathers decreed that the Jews must be protected and not eliminated.  In this context medieval Christian anti-Semitism provided a protective mechanism against the elimination of the Jews.  Or, as Duns Scotus, a thirteenth century Christian theologian, put it, the Jews could be persecuted and virtually eliminated, but some of them would have to be kept alive on a deserted island until the Second Coming.

As we see, not only does Robert Spencer’s claim have no basis in the Arabic language, but his own argument comes to bite him in the ass.  The question remains: is this a result of Spencer’s lying nature or merely a consequence of his profound ignorance?  Let me know which one you think it is in the comments below.

UPDATE:

More proof that Robert Spencer is an intellectual huckster, part 2; Spencer digs himself into a deeper sh*% hole

 

Do Muslims want to reimpose dhimmitude or live as equals?

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2010 by loonwatch
Robert Spencer, a Catholic apologist, spouting his vitriolic propaganda on the Christian Broadcasting Network

Robert Spencer, one of the leading anti-Islam ideologues of the Western world, published The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).  This is a rebuttal of chapter four of his book.

Spencer’s claim:

1.  Historically, Jews fared better in Christian Europe than in the lands of Islam.  Says Spencer: “…The Muslim laws [imposing dhimmitude] were much harsher for Jews than those of Christendom…In Christian lands there was the idea, however imperfect, of the equality of dignity and rights for all people…” [1]

Rebuttal:

Spencer’s claim contradicts the predominant opinion held by Western scholarship.  Prof. Mark R. Cohen, the leading expert in the field, concludes that “the historical evidence indicates that the Jews of Islam, especially during the formative and classical centuries (up to the thirteenth century), experienced much less persecution than did the Jews of Christendom.” [2] Spencer’s book is horribly one-sided: it mentions “dhimmitude” (a spurious term), but makes no mention of the Church’s doctrine of Perpetual Servitude.  Comparing the two, Cohen writes:  “…The dhimmi enjoyed a kind of citizenship, second class and unequal though it was…[in contrast to] Jews living in Latin Christian lands, where…[they were] legally possessed [as slaves] by this or that ruling authority.” [3]

Read my complete rebuttal here.

Spencer replied, and I counter-replied here and here.

Spencer’s claim:

2.  The Pact of Umar, a document that enumerates a number of humiliating conditions to be imposed upon non-Muslims, is “still part of the Sharia today.” [4] As soon as Muslims are able to, they will enforce it.

Rebuttal:

Numerous Islamic and Western scholars have declared the Pact of Umar to be a forgery.  Muslims do not believe that a forgery can be a “part of the Sharia.”  More importantly, although the document may have had some significance hundreds of years ago, it has now fallen into complete disuse and obscurity in the Islamic world.  It is highly unlikely that contemporary Muslims want to reimpose a document that they themselves have never heard of.  This is very similar to how most Christians today have no familiarity with the Church’s doctrine of Perpetual Servitude.  To argue that either Muslims or Christians in general want to reimpose these respective doctrines–dhimmitude and Perpetual Servitude respectively–is conspiratorial and far-fetched.  Read my complete rebuttal here.

Spencer replied, and I counter-replied here.

Spencer’s claim:

3.  Robert Spencer writes:

*Islamic law mandates second-class status for Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims in Islamic societies.

*These laws have never been abrogated or revised by any authority. [5]

Spencer challenges me, claiming that I will do

virtually anything other than actually prov[e] that there exists a sect or school of Islam that teaches that Muslims must live with non-Muslims as equals on an indefinite basis

Rebuttal:

I accept his challenge.

Spencer’s claim–that no Islamic “authority” or “sect or school” has ever “abrogated” the laws of “dhimmitude”–is quite simply false.  It is a boldfaced lie or profound ignorance, either of which casts great doubt on Spencer’s “scholarship.” Over 150 years ago, the caliph (supreme leader of the Islamic world) abolished the dhimmi system entirely.  In 1839, a caliphal decree known as the Hatt-i Sharif of Gulhane was issued, implicitly recognizing the equality of all Ottoman subjects, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.  In 1856, “the Hatt-i Humayan [was issued], in which the principles of 1839 were repeated and the guarantees of the equality of all subjects were made more explicit.  Thus, Muslim and non-Muslim were to have equal obligations…and equal opportunities…” [6] The decreeabolished the jizya and dhimmi system for all time.  (Read more about these caliphal decrees here.)

In the mid-nineteenth century, a group of Islamic intellectuals emerged, known as the Young Ottomans (not to be confused with the secularized Young Turks). They expounded Ottomanism, a doctrine stating the inherent equality of all peoples in the Empire regardless of religion or ethnicity.  The Young Ottomans believed that Islam advocates constitutionalism and that the government must enter a contractual agreement with those whom they rule over.  In other words, there is to be mutual consent between the rulers and the ruled.  The Young Ottomans opposed the royal autocracy, and demanded democratization of the Empire.  They argued that not only should all religious communities be viewed equally by the state, but there were certain inalienable rights that all citizens possessed, which the government could not infringe upon. The efforts of the Ottoman government on the one hand and the Islamic intellectuals on the other hand culminated in the passage of the Nationality Law of 1869, which “reinforced the principle that all individuals living within Ottoman domains shared a common citizenship regardless of their religion.” [7] (Read more about these Islamic intellectuals here.)

The Young Ottomans had a long-lasting effect on Islamic discourse, and gave birth to the modernist school of thought.  Arguably the key figure of modernist Islam was Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), who served as rector of al-Azhar University (the foremost Sunni institution) and who held the position of Grand Mufti of Egypt (the highest ranking religious position in the country).  Abduh issued a fatwa declaring Muslims and non-Muslims “to be equal under the law, with full citizenship rights.” [8] He further supported parliamentary democracy and constitutionalism as a means to protect these individual rights.  In 1908, Mehmed Emaleddin Efendi (Turkey, 1848-1917)–the chief religious authority of the Ottoman Empire, appointed directly by the caliph–concurred with Abduh.  During this period, numerous Islamic reformers emerged, and reconciled Islam with modernity.  They revised traditional opinions dealing with jihad, women’s rights, human rights, science, and interfaith relationships.  Quite consistently, the modernist trend of Islam has held the opinion, to use Robert Spencer’s own words, that “Muslims must live with non-Muslims as equals on an indefinite basis.” (Read more about modernist Islam here.) Muhammad Abduh’s work “fostered not only a modernist school of thought but also a reformed traditionalist school…spearheaded by [the more conservative] Muhammad Rashid Rida, a disciple of Abduh.” [9] In this manner, reformist ideas seeped into the discourse of the conservative Ulema.  One can say that the fire of reform burned greatest at its modernist core, but its warmth reached even more traditionalist elements, defrosting some of their more [f]rigid opinions.

It should be noted, however, that “few Muslims explicitly self-identify as ‘Muslim modenists,’ [and] instead refer[] to themselves simply as Muslims.” [10] The term “modernist Islam” is instead used most frequently by Western scholars–those outside of the faith–to describe a clearly discernible trend that has had profound influence on contemporary Islamic discourse. Anti-Islam ideologues often dismiss modernist interpretations, choosing instead to “look at the more conservative articulations of Islam (such as some traditional scholars) and even Muslim extremists as somehow representing ‘real’ Islam.” [11] However, modernists should not be disregarded so easily, because although they diverge from classical formulations, they maintain fidelity to the canonical texts.  Muhammad Abduh argued that his was a “properly understood interpretation of Islam”, consistent with the “standards of the Quran [and] the hadith.” [12]

In fact, the modernists argue that in reality it is “the inherited, calcified shari’a tradition” that does “not reflect the true spirit of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunna.”  They disregard the classical formulation as “centuries old legal baggage derived from the [spurious] Pact of ‘Umar.” [13] The modernists look instead to the Constitution of Medina, drafted by the Prophet Muhammad, which granted “equality” to the Jewish residents of the city.  No jizya was taken from them, and they served in the military alongside Muslims. The nineteenth century Islamic reformers “cited the ‘Constitution of Medina’ as a model of good sectarian relations.  If the Prophet could extend political rights to non-Muslims then so too could a modernist Islamic polity, without endangering its Islamic character.” [14]

The Constitution of Medina declared that the “Muslims of Quraish and Yathrib, and those [Jews] who followed them and joined them…are one nation (ummah) to the exclusion of all men.”  Nineteenth century modernists used this powerful sentence to dismiss the medieval division of the world into a Muslim ummah and a non-Muslim polity.  Instead, they argued that there was a religious ummah and a political ummah.  Muslims and non-Muslims living in the same country were then part of the same ummah, and owed their loyalty and allegiance to each other.  Similarly, Muslim Americans today believe that the United States is their ummah (nation) to which they owe their loyalty and allegiance, so when anti-Islam ideologues deride them by saying “the Muslim Americans owe their loyalty and allegiance to the ummah,” the Muslim Americans could not agree more. (Read the relevant parts of the Constitution of Medina here.)

According to the Constitution, the Muslims and Jews were obligated to defend the other in case of attack, a very real fear considering the hostile polytheist tribes surrounding Medina.  Prof. Francis E. Peters writes: “Muhammad’s attitude toward the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], as he called those who shared the same scriptural tradition with Islam, was generally favorable…But as time passed, the Quran came to look on Jews and Christians as adherents of rival rather than collegial faiths.  Some of this change in attitude was dictated by events at Medina itself, where Jewish tribes made up part of the population.  Not only did the Jews reject Muhammad’s prophetic claims; they began secretly to connive with his enemies.” [15] Fear of a fifth column prompted the Prophet Muhammad to banish the Jewish tribes of Banu Nadir and Banu Qinaqa from Medina, a controversial decision receiving its share of criticism by historians and polemicists alike.  Jewish tribes not involved in the treachery were allowed to stay in the city, so long as they honored the terms of the Constitution.

S.A. Rizvi writes: “The banishment of the Jewish tribes of Banu Nadhir and Banu Qinaqa from Medina had accentuated the animosity of the Jews towards the Muslims. These tribes had settled down at Khaibar at a distance of about eighty miles from Medina.” [16] Two years later, the banished Banu Nadir sought to exact revenge, and joined the polytheists in an assault on Medina.  The Banu Nadir bribed various tribes to join in the attack, including the Banu Ghatafan, the Bani Asad, and the Banu Sulaym.  They also convinced a Jewish tribe in Medina to attack the Muslims from the inside.  The combined forces outmatched Muhammad’s army 10,000 to 3,000.  However, the Muslims saved Medina from almost certain doom by building a trench which successfully impeded enemy advance, a tactic hitherto unknown to Arabia.  After several weeks of trying to cross the trench, the besiegers retreated, the Quraish polytheists to Mecca and the Jews of Banu Nadir to Khaibar.

The Muslims launched a counter-attack on Khaibar, and won a decisive victory.  Terms of the surrender included a provision for the defeated Jews to “relinquish any intention of maintaining a military force and to rely on Muslims for their personal security and that of their possessions in exchange for the payment of [jizya].” [17] This was the first time jizya was instituted, and the context in which it was.  In the time of the Prophet Muhammad, no other condition was placed on the dhimmis, except that of jizya and the prohibition from serving in a military capacity.  As such, the conditions placed on them seemed to be about security rather than humiliation.

As the Islamic legal tradition developed, the jizya became accepted as the normative practice towards non-Muslims (along with the trappings of the Pact of Umar), whereas the Constitution of Medina fell to the wayside.  Islamic reformers in the nineteenth century, however, argued that jizya is to be demanded only of those disbelievers who have “violated their pledges (of peace)…and attacked you first” (Quran, 9:13), those whose belligerence must be “subdued” (Quran, 9:29).  The Prophet Muhammad’s decision to demilitarize certain tribes and take jizya to fund their protection was seen more of a military consideration than a theological obligation. The modernists revived the Constitution of Medina, arguing that peaceful and loyal non-Muslims ought to be considered equal citizens alongside Muslims.  There was to be religious equality, with people of all faiths having the same rights and obligations.

These ideals were enshrined in the Objectives Resolution of 1949, a document that represents the culmination of over a century’s worth of modernist reinterpretation of Islamic texts.  This fascinating synthesis of Islam and modernity declared that “the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance, and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed…adequate provision shall be made for the [religious] 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…adequate provisions shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of [religious] minorities…” (Read more about the Objectives Resolution of 1949 here.)

The idea of religious equality may have been considered exclusively modernist a century ago, but now finds resonance in wider Islamic circles as well. As Prof. Cleveland writes: “If, after the passage of nearly a century, Abduh’s proposals seem somewhat…conservative, we must attempt to appreciate how bold they were at the time.” [17] Accordingly, numerous contemporary scholars ranging from modernist to conservative have issued rulings declaring their belief in equal citizenship regardless of religion.  My very cursory research found several such Islamic intellectuals and scholars who have issued rulings saying as much, including:  Jasser Auda, Tariq Ramadan, Yousuf al-Qaradawi, Rashid al-Ganoushi, Muhammad Salim al-Awa, Muqtedar Khan, Mukarram Ahmad, Muhammad Yahya, Abdul Hameed Nomani, Syed Shahabuddin, Tahir Mahmood, Mujtaba Farooq, Ataur Rahman Qasmi, Waris Mazhari, Zafar Mahmood, S.Q.R. Ilyas, Zafarul-Islam Khan,  Mirza Yawar Baig, Shahnawaz Ali Raihan, Khaled Abou El Fadl, Moiz Amjad, Shehzad Saleem, and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. Representatives from the following Islamic organizations have issued these rulings: UK Board of Muslim Scholars, International Union for Muslim Scholars,  European Muslim Network, Al-Nahdha Islamic Movement, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Circle for Tradition and Progress, European Council for Fatwa and Research, International Association of Muslim Scholars, Egyptian Association for Culture and Dialogue, Association  of Muslim Social Scientists, All India Jamiat Ahl-e Hadees, Jamiat Ulama-e Hind, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, Jamaat-e Islami Hind, Muslim Personal Law Board, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, Students Islamic Organisation, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, and Al-Mawrid Institute.(Read these religious rulings here.)

Spencer would have unearthed this if he had only spent the couple hours I did to find it.  Or had he picked up a real history book, he would have known that over a century ago, these views became the law of the land due to the efforts of the caliph and numerous Islamic intellectuals.  He would have known that such a fatwa was passed by al-Azhar, the same university which he invokes as the absolute most ultimate Islamic authority when ranting about Reliance of the Traveler.  He would have known that the highest religious authority in all of the Ottoman Empire declared the same.  In light of all this, Spencer’s claim that the “laws [of dhimmitude] have never been abrogated or revised by any authority” is truly absurd.  The only question that remains is: is his claim willful prevarication or simply the result of his lack of scholarly training?

Robert Spencer will learn to regret the day Danios spent $5 to add a used copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) to his bookshelf.

I have a nagging suspicion that Spencer will now move the goalposts, and argue that there are some ultraconservative Muslims who don’t have such enlightened views about the topic.  But that was not his claim.  His claim was that no Islamic authority has ever “abrogated or revised” the dhimmi laws. (Can Spencer ever defend his actual argument when he debates me!?)  If Spencer limited his criticism to ultraconservative Islam alone, and argued that Islamic puritans who believe in reimposing “dhimmitude” need to be opposed, I would have absolutely no issue with him.  In fact, I would then support his work, and help him in that important task.

Of course, I would also be consistent and criticize extreme right-wing Christians who argue to this day that the Church’s Doctrine of Witness and of Perpetual Servitude should be revived; for example,this website (which boasts an impressive membership of a couple hundred thousand) argues that “the theologically correct, and socially just Catholic social policy is to subjugate [the Jews], regulate them, segregate them and expel them.”  (Here, Spencer would mistakenly invoke the tu quoquedefense, not knowing that tu quoque is not always considered a fallacy but in fact has legitimate uses; see hypocrisyargument for equal treatment, and clean hands doctrine.)

I would also point out to Spencer that the best way to undermine ultraconservative interpretations is to support reformist ones.  But Spencer wants to deny this option to Muslims, because it would mean that the entire faith of Islam could not be vilified.  The only option that should be given to Muslims, according to Spencer’s philosophy, is to leave Islam, and of course it would be ideal to convert to Christianity.  At the end of the day, Spencer is a Catholic polemicist who is waging a crusade against Islam.  The very first words in his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) are “Deus Vult!” (God wills it!), which was “the rallying cry of the First Crusade”; and the very last sentence of his book explicitly calls for a crusade against Islam.  His book then is “Deus Vult…Crusade”, and everything in between those two words is just propaganda to justify the Crusade that God willed.

Footnotes

refer back to article 1. Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), pp.57-59. ISBN: 0-89526-013-1

refer back to article 2. Mark R. Cohen, Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages, xix. ISBN 069101082X, 9780691010823, p.xxi-xxiii

refer back to article 3. Ibid., p.195

refer back to article 4. Spencer, p.51

refer back to article 5. Ibid., p.47

refer back to article 6. William L. Cleveland, A History of the Modern Middle East, p.83. ISBN: 0-8133-3489-6

refer back to article 7. Ibid., p. 83

refer back to article 8. William Brown, Ordering the International: History, Change, and Transformation, pp.273-275. ISBN: 0745321372, 9780745321370

refer back to article 9. Caeser E. Farah, Islam: Beliefs and Observances, p.243. ISBN: 0764122266, 9780764122262

refer back to article 10. Vincent J. Cornell, Voices of Islam, p.xvii. ISBN: 027598737X, 9780275987374

refer back to article 11. Ibid., p.xviii

refer back to article 12. Cleveland, p.125

refer back to article 13. Bruce Masters, Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World, pp.175-176, ISBN: 0521005825, 9780521005821

refer back to article 14. Ibid.

refer back to article 15. Francis E. Peters, The Monotheists: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Conflict and Competition, p.273. ISBN: 069112373X, 9780691123738

refer back to article 16. S.A. Rizvi, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad, Chapter 16.ISBN: 0-9702125-0-X

refer back to article 17. Moshe Gil, A History of Palestine, p.28. ISBN: 0521599849, 9780521599849

refer back to article 18. Cleveland, p.125