Western Ignorance of the ‘Conditions of Omar’


Church in Raqqa, Syria, before and after: cross and church bell are now replaced with Islam’s black flags proclaiming “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”

Originally published by PJ Media.

A jihadi group occupying the Syrian town of Raqqa recently gave Christian minorities living there three choices: 1) convert to Islam, 2) remain Christian but pay tribute and accept third-class subject status, or 3) die by the sword.

According to the BBC, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria issued a directive

citing the Islamic concept of “dhimma”, [which] requires Christians in the city to pay tax of around half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety. It says Christians must not make renovations to churches, display crosses or other religious symbols outside churches, ring church bells or pray in public.  Christians must not carry arms, and must follow other rules imposed by ISIS (also known as ISIL) on their daily lives.  The statement said the group had met Christian representatives and offered them three choices—they could convert to Islam, accept ISIS’ conditions, or reject their control and risk being killed.  “If they reject, they are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between them and ISIS other than the sword,” the statement said.

Because several Western media outlets uncharacteristically reported on this latest atrocity against Syrian Christians, many Westerners are shocked—amazed to hear of such draconian conditions.

In reality, however, these three choices are fully grounded in Islamic teachings, as shall be demonstrated below.

So why is the West, here in the “information age,” utterly if not abhorrently ignorant of the teachings of Islam?   Because those responsible for making such knowledge available—specifically academia, media, and government—are more interested in whitewashing Islam and bemoaning Islamophobia (see pgs. 219-249 of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians for specifics).

Western Dissembling

Most symbolic of all this is that right around the same time news that jihadis were subjugating and extorting jizya-money from Syrian Christians appeared, the Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., held a seminar discussing how Islam is misunderstood and being demonized by so-called “Islamophobes.”

I have direct experience of this.  Many years ago, as a graduate student at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, my interest in medieval Islamic history, Sharia, and jihad received askance looks from professors—not least because most classes offered were about the evils of colonialism and Orientalism, or Islamic “feminism.”

It was the same when I worked at the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, a governmental institution; there, our conferences regularly focused on the purported achievements of Islamic civilization.

As for the endemic Muslim persecution of Christians—past or present—apparently only an “Islamophobe” would raise that topic up.

Speaking of government, also around the same time jihadis were giving Christians the three classic choices of Islam—conversion, subjugation, or death—a delegation of Syrian Christian clergy came to the Senate Arms Services Committee meeting room to offer testimony concerning the sufferings of Syria’s Christians.  Then,

Sen. John McCain marched into the committee room yelling, according to a high-level source that attended the meeting, and quickly stormed out. “He was incredibly rude,” the source told Judicial Watch “because he didn’t think the Syrian church leaders should even be allowed in the room.” Following the shameful tantrum McCain reentered the room and sat briefly but refused to make eye contact with the participants, instead ignoring them by looking down at what appeared to be random papers. The outburst was so embarrassing that Senator Graham, also an advocate of U.S. military intervention in Syria, apologized for McCain’s disturbing outburst. “Graham actually apologized to the group for McCain’s behavior,” according to the source, who sat through the entire meeting. “It was truly unbelievable.”

Less dramatically but equally revealing, CIA chief John Brennan recently declared that the ideology of those offering Christians three choices is “a perverse and very corrupt interpretation of the Koran,” one that has “hijacked” Islam and “really distorted the teachings of Muhammad.”

And if the attempts to suppress the reality of Christian suffering under Islam by academia, media, and government were not enough, months and years back, when the plight of Syria’s Christians was becoming known, even random (but supposedly nonbiased and independent) think tanks and writers also tried to suppress it.

Is it any wonder, then, that Christians in Syria being offered three choices—Islam, subjugation, or death—is mindboggling to the average person in the West, appearing as a wild aberration?

The Conditions of Omar

Yet knowledge of the particulars of Islam’s three-fold choice has been available for centuries; early Western peoples were much acquainted with it, including the now much maligned “Orientalists.”

Whereas Koran 9:29 provides divine sanction to fight the “People of the Book”  (namely, Christians and Jews) “until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued,” the lesser known Conditions of Omar (also known as the Pact of Omar) lays out in detail how they are to feel themselves subdued.

Named after the second caliph, Omar bin al-Khattab (r. 634 to 644), the Conditions was purportedly agreed upon between the caliph and a community of Christians conquered by invading Muslims, ironically in the region of Syria. It has since been referenced in most major works on the treatment of dhimmis—non-Muslims living under Islamic authority.

There are different versions of the text of the Conditions, varying only slightly.  Excerpts from one of the most authoritative versions follow (my translation). As in most versions, the conquered Christians appear to be speaking and agree:

Not to build a church in our city—nor a monastery, convent, or monk’s cell in the surrounding areas—and not to repair those that fall in ruins or are in Muslim quarters;

Not to clang our cymbals except lightly and from the innermost recesses of our churches;

Not to display a cross on them [churches], nor raise our voices during prayer or readings in our churches anywhere near Muslims;

Not to produce a cross or [Christian] book in the markets of the Muslims;

Not to congregate in the open for Easter or Palm Sunday, nor lift our voices [in lamentation] for our dead nor show our firelights with them near the market places of the Muslims;

Not to display any signs of polytheism, nor make our religion appealing, nor call or proselytize anyone to it;

Not to prevent any of our relatives who wish to enter into Islam;

Not to possess or bear any arms whatsoever, nor gird ourselves with swords;

To honor the Muslims, show them the way, and rise up from our seats if they wish to sit down;

We guarantee all this to you upon ourselves, our descendants, our spouses, and our neighbors, and if we change or contradict these conditions imposed upon ourselves in order to receive safety, we forfeit our dhimma [covenant], and we become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition.

To “become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition” simply meant that, if any stipulation of the Conditions was broken, the Christians would resume their natural status as non-submitting infidels who “resist and cause sedition” against Islam—becoming, once again, free game for killing or enslavement.

Far from being merely a historical or theoretical text, the Conditions are very much on the minds of some Muslims.  Aside from the new reports that jihadis are enforcing the Conditions—and to a tee—on the Christians of Raqqa, Syria, consider the following words of Saudi Sheikh Marzouk Salem al-Ghamdi, spoken once during a Friday mosque sermon:

If the infidels live among the Muslims, in accordance with the conditions set out by the Prophet—there is nothing wrong with it provided they pay Jizya to the Islamic treasury. Other conditions are . . . that they do not renovate a church or a monastery, do not rebuild ones that were destroyed, that they feed for three days any Muslim who passes by their homes . . . that they rise when a Muslim wishes to sit, that they do not imitate Muslims in dress and speech, nor ride horses, nor own swords, nor arm themselves with any kind of weapon; that they do not sell wine, do not show the cross, do not ring church bells, do not raise their voices during prayer, that they shave their hair in front so as to make them easily identifiable, do not incite anyone against the Muslims, and do not strike a Muslim. . . . If they violate these conditions, they have no protection.


From here, one can understand why all around the Islamic world Christians are under attack—their churches bombed, burned, or simply denied permits to exist or renovate, and their Bibles, crosses, and other symbols of “polytheism” confiscated and/or destroyed; why Christians who openly speak of Christianity are accused of proselytizing or blaspheming—both which can lead to execution; and why Christians are being forced to pay tribute or else convert to Islam or die.

Just the other day in Pakistan, Christians “began the construction of a church on land donated by the Christian Akber Masih, a resident in the area. They built the walls of the building and placed a cross in front of the main gate of the small construction yard.”  But “when a large group of Islamic extremists saw the Christian symbol they arrived unexpectedly with bulldozers and started demolishing the building.”  Although the Christians notified police and authorities, “the perpetrators were not arrested.”  As for the aggrieved Christians, they “have received threats and have to abandon the idea of the project to build a church.”

Thanks to Western intervention in the colonial era, the Conditions largely disappeared—not least because Muslim leaders and elites were themselves westernizing.  But today, as Muslims turn back to their Islamic heritage and its teachings—not least because Western leaders and elites are urging them to, in the name of multiculturalism if not moral relativism, the Conditions are returning; and woe to the Christian minority who dares break them by exercising religious freedom—what I call the “How Dare You?!” phenomenon, which is responsible for the overwhelming majority of Islamic attacks on non-Muslims.

Even so, thanks to the “progressive” dissembling of academia, media, and government—the supposed guardians and disseminators of truth and knowledge—such simple facts about Islam remain a great mystery in the West, to our own detriment.

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  • Joe The Gentile

    It happens all the time, again and again and again: All over the world, some people hijack, corrupt, and distort the teachings of Muhammad so much that they end up with….. EXACTLY the teachings of Muhammad!

    • bigjulie

      So well said, Joe! But where is the “balancing” expose’ for the Christian masses to dwell upon? Almost non-existent! Most Christian voters are barely aware, if at all, of the Conditions of Omar, let alone what is happening to their fellow Christians in places like Syria. For some odd reason, only a relative small number of Christians, or indeed Westerners, are fully aware that Islam really does have it “in for them!!” Well, you can pray…while the Muslims are also praying (and doing it way more often than you are!) but then just sitting back whilst the mythical battle both Gods are engaged in and which both sides are absolutely sure it taking place goes on without headlines, photos, videos, etc. etc., there are Syrian Muslims engaged in the most horrific slaughter of Christians, including beheadings, upside-down hangings, dismemberments and torture, as this is being written!
      The “Religion of Peace” will only be peaceful when it is the ONLY religion!
      If you are a non-Muslim, they are coming to get you…unless you get them, first!

      • ratonis

        Most pastors and denominational leaders in American churches are not only IGNORANT of these matters, they DO NOT WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THEM!!!!! (I speak from personal experience) It is much easier and pleasant to tell people that “we worship the same God.”

  • Larry Larkin

    And yet, time after time, and with completely straight faces, useful idiots assure us there is no compulsion in islam.
    I’m sorry, convert, by protection money, or die sounds a lot like compulsion to me.

  • JVictor

    The progressive leaders of western civilization have successfully recreated the Roman Coliseum via the entertainment industries. Whether it is sports, “talent” shows, daytime and night time soap operas, “reality” shows, etc., people can tell you all about their favorite “fill-in-the-blank” but they have no clue about the current events in the world and the decline that is happening all around them. Their reasons for engaging in things that matter are based upon the vapidity of the entertainment industry. Why did young people vote for Obama? Because he’s cool and black; forget the fact that he has paved the way for Putin to waltz into Crimea–they wouldn’t even know what that word means. Why do people expect to vote for Hillary? Because she’ll be the first woman president if she wins–forget the fact that she didn’t answer the phone when the consulate in Benghazi was burning. Forget policy. Forget history. Forget substance. It’s all about slick Madison Avenue style points.

    So when “civilized westerners” are confronted with the realities of Islamic persecution, it doesn’t register because the entertainment industries have occupied all of their mental energy while managing to make it look like the Muslims are the persecuted. As for why the John McCains of the world won’t let the facts be the facts, well, he’s one of the progressive leaders of western civilization.

  • Demetrius Minneapolis

    Love seeing these academics/policy makers still believe that islam has been hijacked. Guess what genius, the actions of these jihadis is what islam dictates. Strange that two researchers who assisted me with research on islam are Arab and formerly adherent to islam. The more they learned, the further they removed themselves from it, yet the CIA director who I’m sure never read the qurans, sura and hadith thinks it was “hijacked”. Talk about being led by the blind.

    • Joe The Gentile

      Is it the ‘led by the blind’, or ‘led by taqqiya’? (Taqqiya–intentional deception for the purpose of furthering Islam.)

    • Whirlwinder

      I think the CIA director converted to Islam while on duty in the Middle East. He knows enough about the Koran, Sira and Hadith to hide the truth from Americans.

    • liamjq

      google brennan revert and you’ll see that he allegedly converted in 1978 while station chief in saudi..be afraid ,,,be very afraid,,,misinformation and downright lies are everywhere

  • Sharps Rifle

    Excellent article. Raymond Ibrahim’s essays are always informative and fascinating. Your three best writers are Ibrahim, Greenfield and Glazov…Vadum is a close fourth. All four of you write very engaging essays…which is why some of what’s been posted here lately puzzles me, but I can pass over that stuff.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    the Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding at Georgetown University,

    As a matter fact, the Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding at Georgetown University is in reality a very revealing example of non-violent stealth and deceptive jihad in action, as the sole fundamental purpose of Islam is the subjugation of all religions (including Christianity) and all infidels (including all Christians) into Islamic totalitarianism through both violent and non-violent stealth and deceptive jihad and the eventual imposition of Sharia to ultimately make Islam supreme throughout the world. Thus, the sole purpose of this very hideous form of non-violent stealth and deceptive jihad is to dupe gullible infidels into believing that Islam is a beautiful religion of peace until the time comes to subjugate them into Islamic totalitarianism via the eventual imposition of Sharia, which is Islamic totalitarian law.

    Indeed, the jihad (holy war) waged by all Muslims for the supremacy of Islam is multidimensional, as it encompasses any and all means, both violent and non-violent, to make Islam supreme as opposed to just terrorism, which is only one dimensional, i.e., always and only violent.

    Thus, when writers mischaracterize violent jihadists as being terrorists, at the same time they are also ignoring the multidimensional nature of Islam’s jihad (holy war), which is a far more profound manifestation relative to only terrorism. Especially when you consider the fact that the manifestation of non-violent stealth and deceptive jihad relative to violent jihad that is mischaracterized as being terrorism, is astronomically far more prevalent. Thus, those writers are missing by far the greatest part of the story, and that makes it far easier for jihad to manifest without opposition.

    Moreover, mischaracterizing what are actually violent forms of jihad as being terrorism also leads to delusional false explanations for it. For instance, according to the Left, Muslim terrorist attacks are a result of capitalist imperialism and in the case of Israel, harsh Israeli policies and Israeli settlements. In the case of Ron Paul kooks and our CIA, Muslim terrorism is the direct result of American foreign interventionist policies and blowback.

    Nonetheless, jihad is a holy war waged by all Muslims in one form or another to ultimately make Islam supreme, and jihad in any form, either violent or non-violent, is always and only for the cause of making Islam supreme throughout the world. Thus, when we correctly label a Muslim as being a jihadist as opposed to being a terrorist, we know automatically instinctively that he or she is fighting in the cause of Allah to make Islam supreme.

  • herb benty

    God has a “special” place for murderous Islamists, that harm God’s real people. What he has in store for colluding “Progressives”, is similarly horrifying. Islamists and their Western allies are getting away with NOTHING.

  • Little_Cossack

    …the same petro-Islam Prince Alwaleed bin Talal who along with Russian Digital Sky Technologies Yuri Milner were the two primary investors in pre-IPO Twitter. While the rest us are tweeting to our heart’s content, Islamo-fascism & Putin’s imperialist Russia agenda have the Twitter platform to spread their high tech sophisticated propaganda from the inside out.

  • Hass

    Islam just another criminal enterprise.

    • Guess

      Yes I agree, just like Christianity and Judaism. All three are the same.

  • Guess

    Well the Christians deserve to lose their churches to Islam.. Nothing new really, one idiocy death Cult replaces another. Move on already.

  • revrobertwaters

    Here is a more balanced an accurate account of the “Conditions,” a document whose authenticity is very much in doubt and so many versions of which exist that its content is in even further doubt:http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0015_0_15095.html .

    Suffice it to say that the article itself suggests a somewhat less-than-careful piece of historiography, and is evidence that prejudice against Islam is in fact very real.

  • allah_or_else

    Islam is simply another religio-politico system attempting to bring the “kingdom of heaven” to earth. Roman Catholicism is a similar church-state type setup. Communism is just the atheists version of “bringing in the kingdom”. Don’t get mad at me, read your history. We are living in the church age where salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ without works. The Lord will set up His kingdom in a literal physical form when He returns. Any attempt by mortal self righteous men to set it up prior to that will simply result in continued wars and bloodshed. Leftist politicians like Obama trying to enforce the “sermon on the mount” politically, in this age will strip the country through unsustainable socialist policies. Americans have fallen for the positive-sounding preaching of the far left. If they don’t begin to look in their Bibles to learn what happens to all the “kingdom builders”, we are in for a rough ride. Enjoy your day.

  • tagalog

    I thought dhimmitude and the jizya were common aspects of mainstream Islam and not corrupt perversions of Islam, as John Brennan is reported in the article to have said.

    How can one be so obtuse in this age of Islamic-inspired terror and the consequent focus on Islam and its teachings?