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This article is about the position of Christians under different rules through history.

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Status of Christians under Christian rule

Status of Christians under the Roman Empire (1-313 AD)

Status of Christians under the Persian Empire

Status of Christians under Muslim rule

Under the Muslim rule, Christians were allowed to "practice their religion, subject to certain conditions, and to enjoy a measure of communal autonomy" and guaranteed their personal safety and security of property, in return for paying tribute to Muslims and acknowledging Muslim supremacy.[1] Christians rarely faced martydom or exile, or forced compulsion to change their religion, and with certain exceptions they were free in their choice of residence and profession. [2] Various restrictions and legal disabilities were placed on Dhimmis, such as prohibitions against bearing arms or giving testimony in courts in cases involving Muslims.[3] Most of these disabilities had a social and symbolic rather than a tangible and practical character.[4]

Taxation and social and legal disabilities were the concerns of Christians under the Muslim rule:

A per capita tax, known as jizya, was imposed on adult Christian males who were neither old nor sick nor monks [5] Although, the change from Byzantine and Persian rule to Arab rule lowered taxes and created greater religious freedom, and was welcomed by some Jews and Christians, nevertheless the taxation was a concern for non-Muslims who were paying a higher tax than the zakat tax paid by Muslims. It was also an important factor persuading many Christians to convert to Islam, though during the first century after the Arab conquest of Syria and Palestine conversion to Islam was not encourage "partly because the taxation constituted an important source of state revenue".[6] Scholars differ as to the exact burden imposed by the jizya tax. Documentary evidence, including that found in eleventh-century Cairo Geniza documents, suggest that the burden, at least for the poorer classes, was heavy. As the taxation amount was fixed in gold, it became less burdensome over the centuries. [7]

The legal disabilities for example included invalidity of their testimonies in courts in cases involving Muslims under the Hanafi jurists (Christians were operating their own courts following their own legal systems in cases that did not involve other religious groups, or capital offences or threats to public order). Oaths sworn by dhimmis in the Muslim courts were sometimes the same as the oaths taken by Muslims, sometimes tailored to the dhimmis’ beliefs. [8]

The social disabilities included discriminations such as requirement of distinctive clothing, ban on riding horses or camels(they were only allowed to ride donkeys). The requirement of distinctive clothing (see yellow badge), had its origin in early medieval Baghdad and was the most degrading of the regulations, although its enforcement was highly erratic. [9]

The position of Christians under the Muslim rule was that of inferior status however in most respects their position was "was very much easier than that of non-Christians or even of heretical Christians in medieval Europe"[10]

References

  1. ^ Lewis (1984), pp. 10, 20
  2. ^ Lewis (1999) p.131
  3. ^ Lewis (1987), p. 9, 27; Bat Ye'or (2002), p. 74
  4. ^ Lewis (1984) p. 26
  5. ^ Shahid Alam, Articulating Group Differences: A Variety of Autocentrisms, Journal of Science and Society, 2003
  6. ^ Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East, Westview Press, Nov 1, 1999, p. 15.
  7. ^ Lewis 1984, p.26
  8. ^ al-Qattan (1999)
  9. ^ Lewis, Bernard. Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry Into Conflict and Prejudice, 1999, W. W. Norton & Company press, ISBN 0-393-31839-7, p.131.
  10. ^ Lewis (1984) p. 62, Cohen (1995) p. xvii
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