The Pact of Umar

The Pact (Covenant) of Umar (c. 717 A.D.) is a fundamental document in prescribing the treatment of conquered people, or "dhimmi", by Muslims. According to Islamic tradition, the Pact is a treaty formulated for the treatment of the "ahl al-kitab", ("People of the Book") - Jews and Christians - living on the lands newly conquered and colonized by Muslims. Due to the rapid growth of Islamic domination during 7th century, Muslims leaders were required to work out a way of dealing with Non-Muslims, who remained in the majority in many areas for centuries. The solution was to develop the notion of the dhimma, people who were allowed to basically keep their religion, but but were kept under submission by repressive rules. Violation of the terms of the pact by Dhimmi rendered them "liable to the penalties for contumacy and sedition."

Sometimes the Pact was repromulgated as a reminder to forgetful dhimmi, and in so doing Mamluk sultans during the latter Middle Ages specified that dhimmi could not be in service to the State.

The author of the Pact, which exists in several somewhat varied textual forms, is generally understood by many to be the Muslim caliph Umar ibn AbdulAziz (682 - 720), or Umar II, though it has been attributed to the first Caliph, Umar ibn-al-Khattab (586 - 590). Some modern scholars believe it is the product of later jurists who attributed it to the caliph Umar in order to lend greater authority to their own opinions, and it is assumed that it's present form dates to around the ninth century (Sources: David J. Jonsson, “The Clash of Ideologies”, pp. 526-29. Mark R. Cohen, “Under Crescent and Cross”, pp. 72,73, 163-5. Overview from

Regardless of its author, the Pact of Umar served as one model for Muslims on how to govern conquered non-Muslims, a roles it continues to the present day. Inspiration for this treatment may have come from non-Islamic sources, as well as the overall moderate first Caliph, Umar ibn-al-Khattab (author of the less restrictive "Umari Treaty" for dhimmi in Jerusalem). The 11th century, A.D. book, "Rules and Regulations Governing the People of the Book", by Muslim theologian “ Ibn Hazm (994-1064), states,

These are the Rules and Regulations that were imposed by ‘Umar ibn-al-Khattab' [634–44] on the Christians of Syria, after conquering their land. The purpose of these rules was to make them submissive and contemptible. Christians were in no way to exhibit any sign of their unbelief, or anything forbidden in Islam; since Allah, the supremely Glorified and Honored, had said:

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.” Qur'an 8:39 (Pickthall’s Translation) (Source: Jacob Thomas, The Onerous Rules & Regulations Imposed on the People of the Book”,

See here on contradictions between the teaching of the Bible and the Qu'ran regarding this and other doctrines.

Pact of Umar

We heard from Abd al-Rahman ibn Ghanam [died 697 A.D.] as follows: When Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, accorded a peace to the Christians of Syria, we wrote to him as follows:

In the name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate. This is a letter to the servant of Allah Umar [ibn al-Khattab], Commander of the Faithful, from the Christians of such-and-such a city. When you came against us, we asked you for safe-conduct (aman) for ourselves, our descendants, our property, and the people of our community, and we undertook the following obligations toward you:

(When I brought the letter to Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, he added, "We shall not strike a Muslim.")

(from Al-Turtushi, Siraj al-Muluk, pp. 229-230)