The former Archbishop of Mosul, Amel Nona, said that the end of the Church in Iraq at ISIS’s hands is a warning to fellow Catholics throughout the world, particularly in the West:
Please, try to understand us. Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here. You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles. You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.
I am not shocked at all by Archbishop Nona’s statement or ISIS’s actions. What we are witnessing has actually been a rather commonplace occurrence since Islam’s inception. This is because ISIS’s actions are squarely rooted in the examples set by Muhammad’s life and actions as documented in Islamic scripture and tradition. As Islamic religious practice and temporal rule are inseparable from and conditional upon each other; there is no place for the Catholic Faith in a society dominated by Islam. The Faith may be allowed to exist, but its existence will be tenuous, subject to the constant pressures of Islamic law, and permitted only by Her acknowledgment of Islam’s dominance and acceptance of second-class citizenship.
But even this is not sufficient, because the self-stated purpose of Islam is the extermination of all religions other than Islam. The fiat of other Muslims for the Church’s permissibility to exist may suffice for centuries, but no human will can replace orthodox Islamic theological teaching. It is only a matter of time before a new generation of Muslims, in striving to live out Islamic piety to its fullest meaning, will exterminate the Church’s presence. This is best explained by Islamic scripture and tradition.
According to Islamic theology, and most eloquently articulated by the 14th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyya, the world is divided into two parts. The first is the “Dar Al-Islam,” which means “House of Islam,” and encompasses all Muslims and areas controlled by Muslims. The latter is the “Dar Al-Harb,” or “house of war,” which is all non-Muslims and their assets. Ibn Taymiyya explains:
The ruling concerning the status of domains changes in accordance with the changes in the conditions of its inhabitants. A domain may be the domain of disbelief (Dar Al-Kufr) when its inhabitants are the people of disbelief. It then becomes the domain of Islam (Dar Al-Islam) when its people become Muslims, just as Makkah was at first the domain of disbelief and war (Dar Al-Harb). (Ibn Taymiyya. Majmu’a Al-Fatawa. #27. Page 144.)
The idea is that since one’s humanity is dependent upon belief in and practice of Islam, and Allah has declared that Islam must dominate the whole world, the house of Islam will eventually assimilate the entire “house of war.” It is not a matter of if this will happen, but when Allah will decree this to happen. In Muhammad’s own words:
It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right affairs rest with Allah.
-(Found in many places in the hadith collections, but this one is reported from Sahih Muslim, Book #1, Hadith #30.)
According to Islam, all non-Muslims will eventually be exterminated from the earth and their religions will cease. However, Islam does not mandate (but neither does it forbid) persecution of Christians or Jews. As such, Christians and Jews are permitted to exist as subjects within Islamic societies, as the Quran alludes, provide they meet certain conditions:
لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ ۖ قَدْ تَبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ ۚ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ لَا انْفِصَامَ لَهَا ۗ وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. (Quran 2:256, Yusuf Ali Translation)
قَاتِلُوا الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَلَا بِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَلَا يُحَرِّمُونَ مَا حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ وَلَا يَدِينُونَ دِينَ الْحَقِّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ حَتَّىٰ يُعْطُوا الْجِزْيَةَ عَنْ يَدٍ وَهُمْ صَاغِرُونَ
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Quran 9:29, Yusuf Ali Translation)
The question then becomes, from an Islamic theological standpoint, is it possible to be a faithful Muslim and allow non-Muslims to exist within an Islamic society, and if so, how does one do this? The answer comes from Muhammad’s friend, bodyguard, and second Caliph of the Islamic empire, Umar ibn Al-Khattab.
Muhammad died in 632. After a brief transitional period, Umar was elected Caliph in 634 and took the Islamic jihad to the world. One of his first major conquests was the city of Jerusalem in 636. At the time, St. Sophronius was Catholic Patriarch of the city. After a short battle in which the Muslims were victorious, St. Sophronius went to meet with Umar to discuss terms of surrender. The actual details of the discussion remain unknown. It is said, however, that St. Sophronius was gravely afraid of what the Muslims would do to the Catholic community, since there were widespread reports of Muslim persecutions from other areas. He knew his first duty was to ensure the Catholic community’s continued survival under Islam. Two major decisions emerged from his negotiations with Umar:
(a) The Church of the Holy Sepulchre would not become a mosque. However, its care was entrusted to a member of the Islamic army, Abdullah bin Nusaybah. With the exception of the Crusades, the Nusaybah family has retained custody of the Church and continues to this very day.
(b) Christians (or Jews) would not be killed, enslaved, or forced to convert, provided they follow a series of additional laws as evidence of their acceptance of Islam’s political and spiritual domination over their lands. These laws were codified in an agreement known as the “Pact of ‘Umar,” or in Arabic, dhimmah Umar. A person who is bound by the terms of the pact is known as a dhimmi.
The system of rules and requirements under which a dhimmi lives is sometimes referred to as dhimmitude. While it varies by the disposition of the particular government in power towards Islamic theological teachings, for many orthodox Muslims, seeing the “people of the book” — Christians and Jews — subjugated under Islamic law is a part of fulfilling the Islamic command to “enjoin the right and forbid the wrong.” (Quran 3:110) These dhimmi laws are the Islamic equivalent of “protection” money paid to organized crime groups. As long as a dhimmi pays whatever money is demanded from him and follows whatever laws are required of him by the Islamic ruler, he may continue to retain his freedom and property within the Islamic society. However, if he fails or ceases to pay or obey, he must go into exile, become a slave of the Muslims, convert to Islam, or die.
The Pact of Umar was a precedent-setting agreement. In spite of the oppressive terms it imposes on Christians, which one can find here, it allowed Christianity to continue to exist in Jerusalem, and prevented Muslims from absolutely massacring other Christian communities in areas conquered later.
Life as a dhimmi, however, was completely unstable. It is important to note that at times, Christians and Jews have lived very peacefully within Islamic societies, but this is absolutely conditional upon the disposition of the particular government and is subject to change at any time. There have been many cases of Christians living in peace with Muslims for many years, only to have the situation change overnight, such as the case of the Fatimid Caliph Hakim Bi-Amr-Allahi, who ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher destroyed and Egyptian Christianity suppressed nearly to the point of extinction.
ISIS has already reinstituted the dhimmi laws in Iraq, and most of the Catholics have fled because the conditions given, particularly the financial demands, are impossible to accommodate. Although ISIS has been much faster and more aggressive than in other Islamic societies in implementing dhimmi laws, the purpose remains the same – the extermination of the Catholic Faith and the domination of Islam in its place.
Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutawakkil lived in the 9th century, and was regarded by many Muslims as a pious Islamic ruler and a fervent promoter of Islamic orthodoxy. He issued a decree that was imposed upon the Christians of Iraq in 850. In part, it read:
Allah has specifically chosen and favored the Muslims from his honor. He has made them superior by the religion which he has bestowed upon them, distinguished them from other religions by their laws of charity, upright statutes, and clear proofs. Allah has purified their religion by what he has permitted and forbidden from them. This is by decree from Allah, great and exalted, to strengthen his religion, his will to decisively show his truth, and his desire to complete his blessing upon his people, so that those who perished might perish in order that Allah would place victory and fortune to the pious and disgrace in this life and the afterlife to the infidels.
The Commander of the Faithful, may Allah grant him success, decided that the dhimmis in all his provinces, far and near, of all classes, were to wear hoods — which their merchants, their secretaries, and their young and old wear — of a yellow color. None will be permitted to avoid this.
To those who are unable to buy such hoods will take two same-colored cloth pieces to their clothing. They shall have a complete circumference, and be affixed on the outside of the garments in the front and the back.
They shall all fasten buttons on their caps which have a different color than those of caps. They shall stick out when fastened, so not as to adhere and be hidden, or so that which is plaited on may not be hidden.
Likewise, they must take wooden stirrups to their saddles and install pommels on the rear of their saddle bows.
They will not be allowed to remove the pommels from the saddle bows and place them on the sides further back. What they do will be inspected so that the orders of the Commander of the Faithful are compliantly executed. The inspector will spot compliance, as it will be readily visible.
Their male and female slaves who wear girdles must fasten (colored) belts and a (special girdle) in place of the girdles which were on their waists.
You will instruct your workers in what they are ordered from the Commander of the Faithful. In this way, you will motivate them to execute (the examinations as stated). You shall warn them about circumventing and deviating, and about punishment of dhimmis who deviate from this way, if by opposition, apathy, or something else, in order that all of them cling to the path which the Commander of the Faithful has placed upon them, Allah willing.
So know, ye who consider the order of the Commander of the Faithful – dispatch the letter of the Commander of the Faithful to your officers in their respective regions, concerning what will be done, Allah willing.
The Commander of the Believers asks Allah, his lord and master, to bless his slave and messenger Muhammad, his angels, and to sustain him, having made him Caliph and (given) him command of his religion. May he execute Allah’s command, which he has done only by Allah’s help, and fulfill what he has been appointed to do, and gain a reward and a better recompense. For (Allah) is the Noble, the Merciful.
– Written by Ibrahim bin Al-‘Abbas in Shawwal, 235 Hijra. Taken from [easyazon_link asin=”0988876809″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”onep073-20″]Lions of the Faith: Saints, Blesseds, and Heroes of the Catholic Faith in the Struggle with Islam[/easyazon_link]
This decree, now over 1100 years old, offers us an insight into what Iraqi Catholics have endured during various periods of their history.
Even more importantly, it is also a cautionary tale about what the future of the West will be for our Church if we fail to evangelically and militarily succeed against Islam.
Andrew Bieszad has an MA in Islamic Studies from Hartford Seminary with concentration in the Islamic equivalent of Dogmatic Theology. He is the author of Lions of the Faith: Saints, Blesseds, and Heroes of the Catholic Faith in the Struggle with Islam. He is a sought after writer and speaker on Islamic topics.