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 restrictive measures and prohibitions on non-Muslims (dhimmis). By abiding to them, non-Muslims are granted security of their persons, their families, and their possessions, although they did not enjoy the same rights as the Muslims.[3][4][5][6] 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."[3]


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 limitations, restrictions and measures on Christians and Jews, in exchange for their safety (amān),[7] the safety of their property, and their religious freedom.[8]

In one version of the pact, guidelines are mentioned and outlined as to how non-Muslims should dress in public. For identification purposes Jews were ordered to dress in certain colors. These regulations can be seen as the precursor badges Jews were required to wear during the 20th century in eastern Europe.[9]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. In addition to dress, non-Muslims were also prohibited from doing a variety of other things. [9]

Christians as well as Jews were prohibited from building or repairing ruined places of worship in Islamic lands. Other restrictions prohibited public processions, funerals or any mark of polytheism in public including wearing Arab garb. Other fundamental restrictions included the prohibition of teaching the koran to non-Muslims, while at the same time allowing non-Muslim children to convert or embrace Islam if they so chose to. Non-Muslims were also not permitted to carry any type of weapon such as swords. [9]

In one version of the pact, based on an anonymous class handout at University of Edinburgh in 1979, several clauses emphasised the superiority of Muslims; Christians were expected to behave respectfully to them and to give them priority in seating and in road. They were also prohibited from building overtopping those of the Muslims. Other clauses stipulated that while Christians may convert to Islam, they were prohibited from proselytising Muslims, learning Arabic, and studying the Quran.[10]

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.[7]

Some modern 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.[8]

Despite being attributed to Umar by early Muslim jurists, most modern scholars are of 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.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Abu-Munshar 2007, p. 63.
  2. ^ Thomas & Roggema 2009, p. 360.
  3. ^ a b Ipgrave, Michael (2009). Justice and Rights: Christian and Muslim Perspectives. Georgetown University Press. p. 58. ISBN 1589017226. 
  4. ^ Pasachoff and Littman, 2005, p. 118.
  5. ^ Roggema 2009, p. 113.
  6. ^ Peri 2001, p. 52.
  7. ^ a b c Roggema 2009, p. 361.
  8. ^ a b Meri 2005, p. 205.
  9. ^ a b c Mark R. Cohen , and Norman A Stillman, “The Neo-Lachrymose Conception of Jewish-Arab History,”
  10. ^ Halsall, Paul. "Medieval Sourcebook: Pact of Umar, 7th Century?". Fordham University. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 


External links[edit]

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