Christians and Jews

A 10th-century Description

This passage is from an Arabic history written by Tabari, a famous Muslim living in 10th-century Iran. He compiled one of the most influential histories of the early Islamic period.

In the year 235 [850], al-Mutawakkil gave orders that the Christians and the himmis in general be required to wear honey-colored hoods and girdles; to ride on saddles with wooden stirrups and with two balls attached to the rear; to attach two buttons to the conical caps of those who wear them and to wear caps of a different color from those worn by the Muslims; to attach two patches to their slaves’ clothing, of a different color from that of the garment to which they are attached, one in front on the chest, the other at the back, each patch four fingers in length, and both of them honey-colored. Those of them who wear turbans were to wear honey-colored turbans. If their women went out and appeared in public, they were only to appear with honey-colored girdles, and he forbade them to wear belts. He gave orders to destroy their churches which were newly built and to take the tenth part of their homes. If the place was large enough, it was to be made into a mosque; if it was not suitable for a mosque, it was to be made into an open space. He ordered that wooden images of devils should be nailed to the doors of their houses to distinguish them from the houses of the Muslims. He forbade that their children should attend Muslim schools or that any Muslim should teach them. He forbade the display of crosses on their Palm Sundays and Jewish rites in the streets. He ordered that their graves be made level with the ground so that they should not resemble the graves of the Muslims.

Source, pp. 224-5.

A 14th-century Description

This snippet is from Qalqashandi, an Egyptian mathematician who wrote an administrative manual in Arabic the 14th century. He purports to preserve a decree that Mutawakkil circulated.

It has become known to the Commander of the Faithful that men without judgment or discernment are seeking the help of dhimmis in their work, adopting them as confidants in preference to Muslims, and giving them authority over the subjects. And they oppress them and stretch out their hands against them in tyranny, deceit, and enmity. The Commander of the Faithful, attaching great importance to this, has condemned it and disavowed it. Wishing to find favor with God by preventing and forbidding this, he has decided to write to his officers in the provinces and the cities and to the governors of the frontier towns and districts that they should cease to employ dhimmis in any of their work and affairs or to adopt them as associates in the trust and authority conferred on them by the Commander of the Faithful and committed to their charge, since [God] gave the Muslims faith in religion, confidence in their brothers the believers, and ability and competence to discharge the duties entrusted to them and the tasks imposed on them, thus removing the need to seek the help of polytheists, instead of God’s help, and of those who give the lie to His Apostles, who deny His miracles, and who place another god beside Him, whereas, in fact, there is no God but He alone and He has no partner. The Commander of the Faithful asks of God, Who inspired him in this and put it into his heart, generous reward and honorable recompense in the hereafter.

May God help the Commander of the Faithful to achieve his purpose, to glorify Islam and its people, and to humble polytheism and its henchmen.

Know, therefore, the decision of the Commander of the Faithful, and do not seek help from any of the polytheists and reduce the people of the protected religions to the station which God has assigned to them. Cause the letter of the Commander of the Faithful to be read aloud to the inhabitants of your district and proclaim it among them, and let it not become known to the Commander of the Faithful that you or any of your officials or helpers are employing anybody of the protected religions in the business of Islam.

Source, pp. 225-6.