Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fr Georges Massouh on Dhimmitude and Islamic Law

Arabic original here. For more about ISIS imposing a dhimmi pact on Christians in Northeast Syria, see here.

On ISIS's Reprehensible "Protection"

It is not surprising that the group "The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" is imposing the provisions of dhimmitude on the Christian citizens of al-Raqqa. It is also not surprising that what this group has done has been met with censure from most Muslims. ISIS has brought back to life a system that had been in practice in many periods of history and which has many justifications in Islamic jurisprudence, which does not admit either in the past or today, to the equality of rights and duties of citizens in a state based on Islamic law.

This jurisprudence, even if it claims to adopt citizenship as a basis of rule, continues to discriminate between citizens on a religious and sectarian basis. When some Islamic legal scholars and thinkers talk about citizenship, you see them making legislative exceptions or reservations regarding the participation of non-Muslims in the Islamic state.

Today, the positions of Islamists vary with regard to the issue of applying the jizya in Islamic countries where groups of "dhimmis" live. These positions waver between bringing back imposition of the jizya, since it is established in the Qur'an and cancelling it or changing its name if it disturbs "dhimmi" citizens.

Islamists consider the principle of the jizya to be a distinction for the People of the Book established in the Qur'an, which distinguishes between People of the Book-- including Christians-- and polytheists. So while the Qur'an places polytheists between two choices, either entering Islam or being killed, it calls Christians only to pay the jizya, in exchange for being kept safe and sound. Thus they deduce that Islam has only given Christians a distinction, since it imposed on them the jizya while it commands Muslims to fight polytheists until they submit.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a pillar of moderation, insists on raising religious bonds over any other ties. Thus he rejects tolerance and openness that are based on "diluting" religion under the pretext of "nationalism or patriotism" since he considers it to be utter hypocrisy to elevate the patriotic or national bond over the bond of religion or to elevate secularism over the bond of religion. For him, "It is not tolerance for Muslims to hold back from the decrees of their religion and from the law of their Lord, to nullify its boundaries and to dissolve its way of life for the sake of non-Muslim minorities, so as not to cause them worry or hurt their feelings." For him, tolerance is based "on the good neighborliness commanded by both religions, love of the good for all, and the obligation of justice with all."

Sheikh Said Hawwa of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, follows precisely the same tendency when he rejects abandoning Islamic principles for the sake of a non-Islamic formula that brings together Muslims and non-Muslims in a single state. He says, "The peoples of the Islamic Umma will not abandon Islam. History bears witness. The facts bear witness. And so non-Muslims have a choice: leave or make an agreement with Muslims on the basis of a just formula. If they want a third option-- for Muslims to abandon their Islam-- neither they nor anyone else shall have this." Hawwa then warns non-Muslims that Islam inevitably will rule and so he advises them to hurry "to find formulas for an agreement with Muslims that pleases all sides before the day comes when this agreement is unilaterally imposed on them."

The system of dhimmitude is not an invention of ISIS. Indeed, it lies at the heart of Islamic jurisprudence. We now have a pressing need for Islamic juridical innovations that admit to national partnership and total equality between citizens without any reservations, be they legislative or anything else.

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