Pact of Umar

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Not to be confused with Umar's Assurance of safety to the people of Aelia, known as al-ʿUhda al-ʿUmariyya.

Covenant of Umar also known as Pact of Umar (Arabic: شروط عمر‎ or عهد عمر or عقد عمر), is an apocryphal treaty between the Muslims and Christians of Syria that later gained a canonical status in Islamic jurisprudence. There are several versions of the pact, differing both in structure and stipulations.[1] While the pact is traditionally attributed to the second Caliph Umar ibn Khattab,[2] some early jurists and orientalists have doubted this attribution.[1]

In general, the pact contains a list of rights to non-Muslims (dhimmis). By abiding to them, non-Muslims are granted security of their persons, their families, and their possessions. Other rights and stipulations may also apply. According to Ibn Taymiyya, one of the jurists who accepted the authenticity of the pact, the dhimmis have the right "to free themselves from the Covenant of 'Umar and claim equal status with the Muslims if they enlisted in the army of the state and fought alongside the Muslims in battle."

The Pact was broken in 1021 AD when the Fatimid Caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Historical Background[edit]

By 637 AD, Muslim armies began to appear in the vicinity of Jerusalem. In charge of Jerusalem was Patriarch Sophronius, a representative of the Byzantine government, as well as a leader in the Christian Church. Although numerous Muslim armies under the command of Khalid ibn al-Walid and 'Amr ibn al-'As began to surround the city, Sophronius accepted to surrender but he demanded that Umar Comes to accept the surrender himself.

Having heard of such a condition, Umar ibn al-Khattab left Medina to Jerusalem.


Several versions of the pact exist, with differences and similarities in literary structure and words used, in addition to which stipulations are included.[1]

This extensive document lays out a full list of rights and privileges on Christians and Jews, in exchange for their safety (amān),[3] the safety of their property, and their religious freedom.[4]

The implementation of these set guidelines were in order to foster and promote relations between various ethnic groups, rather than simply discriminate against a specific religious group. These laws did not affect the stability and condition of living,Christians as well as Jews were Permitted to build or repair ruined places of worship in Islamic lands, The Treaty also states that none of the conquered people will be Forced into any Religion, One of Umar’s guides in Jerusalem was a Jew named Kaab al-Ahbar. Umar further allowed Jews to worship on the Temple Mount and the Wailing Wall, The treaty became the standard for Muslim-Christian relations throughout the former Byzantine Empire.

The Text of the Treaty reads:

"In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety which the servant of God, Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has given to the people of Jerusalem. He has given them an assurance of safety for themselves for their property, their churches, their crosses, the sick and healthy of the city and for all the rituals which belong to their religion. Their churches will not be inhabited by Muslims and will not be destroyed. Neither they, nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcibly converted, The people of Jerusalem must pay the taxes like the people of other cities and must expel the Byzantines and the robbers. Those of the people of Jerusalem who want to leave with the Byzantines, take their property and abandon their churches and crosses will be safe until they reach their place of refuge. The villagers may remain in the city if they wish but must pay taxes like the citizens. Those who wish may go with the Byzantines and those who wish may return to their families. Nothing is to be taken from them before their harvest is reaped, If they pay their taxes according to their obligations, then the conditions laid out in this letter are under the covenant of God, are the responsibility of His Prophet, of the caliphs and of the faithful" [5][6]

Origin and authenticity[edit]

The historical origin of the document may lie an agreement made between the Muslim conquerors and the Christians of Jazira or Damascus which was later extended to Ahl al-Dhimma elsewhere.[3]

Some Western historians suggest that the document was based on Umar's Assurance, a treaty concluded between Umar ibn Khattab and the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius following the capture of Jerusalem by the Rashidun Caliphate.[4]

Western scholars' Opinions varied about the Pact's Authenticity, Prof. Thomas Walker Arnold in his book states that "It is in harmony with the same spirit of kindly consideration for his subjects of another faith, that ‘Umar is recorded to have ordered an allowance of money and food to be made to soem Christian lepers, apparently out of the public funds. Even in his last testament, in which he enjoins on his successor the duties of his high office, he remembers the dhimmis (or protected persons of other faiths): "I comment to his care the dhimmis, who enjoy the protection of God and of the Prophet; let him see to it that the covenant with them is kept, and that no greater burdens than they can bear are laid upon them".[7]

he continues:

"A later generation attributed to ‘Umar a number of restrictive regulations which hampered the Christians in the free exercise of their religion, but De Goeje and Caetani have proved without doubt that they are the invention of a later age; as, however, Muslim theologians of less tolerant periods accepted these ordinaces as genuine, they are of the importance for forming a judgement as to the condition of the Christian Churches under Muslim rule. This so-called ordinace of ‘Umar runs as follows: “In the name of God………. you are at liberty to treat us as enemies and rebels”.[8]

Other scholars support the opinion that the document was either the work of 9th century Mujtahids (Tritton, Antoine Fattal), or was forged during the reign of the Umayyad Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, with other clauses added later (De Goeje, Salo Baron, Norman Stillman and habib zayyat). Other scholars (Bernard Lewis, Albrecht Noth, Mark R. Cohen), concluded that the document may have originated in immediate post-conquest milieu and was stylized by later historians.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Abu-Munshar 2007, p. 63.
  2. ^ Thomas & Roggema 2009, p. 360.
  3. ^ a b c Roggema 2009, p. 361.
  4. ^ a b Meri 2005, p. 205.
  5. ^ Kennedy, Hugh. The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2007. Print.
  6. ^ Montefiore, Simon Sebag. Jerusalem: The Biography. New York: Random House Inc. , 2011. Print.
  7. ^ T.W. Arnold, The Spread of Islam in the World
  8. ^ T.W. Arnold, The Spread of Islam in the World


External links[edit]

  • [1] Text of one version of the Pact, original text, commentary and translation by Ahmed Oulddali (2012).