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The Covenant of Omar

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About 638 AD, the Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab,  entered the city of Jerusalem, then called Aelia Capitolina by the Romans or "Ilia" by the Arab conquerors. According to tradition, Omar granted  to the people of Jerusalem and to the Patriarch Safronius a covenant of peace and protection which came to be known the Covenant of Omar, or the Code of Omar. In addition, to ensure the care and protection of Christian and Jewish Holy places, Omar entrusted each of the major holy places to the care and protection of a different Muslim family. Many non-Muslim scholars believe that the covenant of Omar was actually written at a later date, since the earliest manuscript can only be dated from the eleventh century, and because they believe that it represents customs that had accumulated over the centuries. However, there is no definitive proof that the document is not genuine.


For some reason, this document has gained a very bad reputation among critics of Islam. However, considering the fate of conquered populations in general at that time, it seems to be very liberal, and the intention was to protect and reassure the Christian population of Jerusalem. The institution of the Jizziya tax and other marks of second class citizenship were not invented by Omar, but rather copied from the custom instituted in other conquered Muslim cities, based on the Qur'an. We must remember that when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem several hundred years later, Muslims and especially Jews were evicted.


Omar seemingly did not keep one promise of his covenant, which reads "None of the Jews shall reside with them in Ilia'." In fact, Omar allowed the Jews, formerly excluded from Jerusalem by the Christians, to return and live there, though under Muslim rule, each group lived in different quarters of the city.


Ami Isseroff


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The Covenant of Omar

 Source - http://www.mamuniya.net/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate

This is an assurance of peace and protection given by the servant of Allah Omar, Commander of the Believers to the people of Ilia' (Jerusalem). He gave them an assurance of protection for their lives, property, church and crosses as well as the sick and healthy and all its religious community.

Their churches shall not be occupied, demolished nor taken away wholly or in part. None of their crosses nor property shall be seized. They shall not be coerced in their religion nor shall any of them be injured. None of the Jews shall reside with them in Ilia'.

The people of Ilia shall pay Jizia tax (head tax on free non-Muslims living under Muslim rule) as inhabitants of cities do. They shall evict all Romans and thieves.

He whoever gets out shall be guaranteed safety for his life and property until he reach his safe haven. He whoever stays shall be (also) safe, in which case he shall pay as much tax as the people of Ilia' do. Should any of the people of Ilia wish to move together with his property along with the Romans and to clear out of their churches and crosses, they shall be safe for their lives, churches and crosses, until they have reached then safe haven. He whoever chooses to stay he may do so and he shall pay as much tax as the people of Ilia' do. He whoever wishes to move along with the Roman, may do so, and whoever wishes to return back home to his kinsfolk, may do so. Nothing shall be taken from them, their crops have been harvested. To the contents of this convent here are given the Covenant of Allah, the guarantees of His Messenger, the Caliphs and the Believers, provided they (the people of Ilia') pay their due Jizia tax.

Witnesses hereto are:

Khalid Ibn al-Waleed Amr Ibn al-Ass Abdul-Rahman Ibn'Auf Mu'awiya Ibn abi-Sifian Made and executed in the year 15 AH.

The above is the text approved by historians, foremost of whom are Imam al-Tabari. The text appears in his book "Tareekh Al Umam wal Molouk" (History of Nations and Kings), Part III, Page 105, printed in Cairo and collected by a team of scholars and printed in English at Brill Printing Press London.


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