The Pact of Umar refers to a body of privileges and limitations that was entered into by Muslims and Non-Muslims around the seventh century. The non-Muslims whose relations with Muslims were governed by the pact included Jews and Christians. For the most part, Muslims, particularly their rulers, proclaimed to offer protection to non-Muslims. However, the restrictions and limitations outlined in the Pact of Umar alienated and humiliated non-Muslims to a great extent. For instance, one of the requirements for Christians was that they had to pay fees, which were in the form of tax, to receive protection services from Muslims. The restrictions and privileges appearing in the pact can be categorized into those that are socially oriented, cultural-based, and economic-oriented.
Socially-oriented privileges and restrictions of the Pact of Umar were mainly about how Muslims and non-Muslims were to interact socially. The socio-religious interaction between the two factions was highly prohibited in the Muslim world. One of the socio-religious prohibitions of the pact was that non-Muslims were not allowed to construct new places of worship or sacred places such as churches, monasteries, monks’ cells, and hermitages. They were further prohibited from restoring any of the sacred places that fell into ruin or that were located in the quarters of Muslims (Goddard 46). Still on the socio-religious category, non-Muslims were not allowed to teach their Children any Muslim teachings using the Quran. Essentially, the establishment of new worship or sacred places translated to increased non-Muslim populations in the Muslim world. The prohibitions aimed at preventing an increase of the non-Muslim population as well as the conversion of Muslims to non-Muslim religions such as Christianity. The overall goal of this category of restrictions to deny the expansion of other religions in the Muslim world. With the restrictions, Muslim rulers had an easy time dealing with the minority non-Muslim population.
Another category of the regulations was that based on culture. This category revolved around non-Muslims’ mode of dressing, their identity, as well as customs. Non-Muslims were restricted from resembling the Muslims in any way when it comes to dressing. For instance, they were prohibited from wearing a conical cap (qalansuwa), sandals, the turban, or parting their hair in the Arab fashion. They were also restricted from speaking as the Muslims or adopting their Arabic nicknames, also referred to as kunyas (Goddard 46). From a cultural perspective, Muslim rulers’ primary objective was to ensure that their cultural practices were selfishly for Muslims rather than share them with non-Muslims. The goal of this category was to ensure that the Muslim culture was protected from contamination from other non-Muslim cultures.
The pact’s privileges and restrictions can also be categorized from an economic aspect. Economic-inclined restrictions revolved around activities that non-Muslims did for a living. Non-Muslims were forbidden from selling wine and displaying non-Muslim publications both in the streets and markets (Goddard 46). With this category, the primary goal of Muslim rulers was to protect the Muslim doctrines outlined in the Quran such as that prohibiting Muslims from consuming alcoholic drinks. They also sort to maintain Muslims’ economic dominance over non-Muslims.
Overall, although non-Muslims enjoyed protection from Muslims, they paid for the protection services offered to them. Payment for the services was mainly through taxation. The Pact of Umar served the selfish interests of Muslims and their rulers. Other than making boundaries between Muslims and non-Muslims clear, the privileges and limitations outlie in the pact humiliated, excluded, and segregated non-Muslim believers.
Goddard, Hugh. A History of Christian-Muslim Relations. Chicago (Ill.: New Amsterdam Books, 2000, https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=Bq2oLEvHzl8C&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+Pact+of+%E2%80%98Umar-pdf&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjopO-Y8-3gAhUi1-AKHQQdChsQ6AEINTAD#v=onepage&q=Umar&f=false