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Antonia Bosanquet (Alumna BGSMCS)


Ibn al-Qayyim's „Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimma“ – Regulations pertaining to the Protected People

Ibn al-Qayyim's „Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimma“ – Regulations pertaining to the Protected People

Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 1350) was a jurist and theologian who lived and died in Damascus in the fourteenth century. His influence and popularity extends far beyond his era however; today his works are sold all over the Arab world and his teaching is cited by numerous Islamic authorities. Particularly in Saudi Arabia, where Ibn al-Qayyim and his teacher Ibn Taymiyya have become pillars of the Salafi world view that underpins the state ideology, his work continues to be seen as an important reference point for contemporary teaching.

One of Ibn al-Qayyim's most important works is his „Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimma“, which can be translated as „Regulations pertaining to the Protected People“. Ahl al-Dhimma is a legal term used to refer to non-Muslims who live under Islamic rule as a protected people; neither they nor their property may be harmed, they may not be forced to convert to Islam, and they are free to practise their religion as they understand it. Although they did not pay the Islamic zakat tax, the ahl al-dhimma had to pay an annual tax called the jizya, in order to maintain their status as protected and free under Islamic rule.

The technicalities of this tax and the rights and duties of the ahl al-dhimma in respect to the Muslim society are not the only questions that Ibn al-Qayyim examines in his text. He also offers practical information on issues such as the social relations permitted between Muslims or the problems that can arise when one member of a dhimmi family converts to Islam and how to solve these. He considers more abstract questions such as the meaning of the jizya and the justification for awarding protection to some peoples and not others. And the latter part of his work is dedicated to an eschatological treatise on the fate of the children of the ahl al-dhimma and whether they will enter Paradise after death.

Ibn al-Qayyim's teaching in „Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimma“ consists both of repeating, comparing and analysing the rulings that earlier legal authorities gave on the subject and of his own opinion on certain questions. Although most countries with Muslim majorities no longer classify non-Muslim residents as ahl al-dhimma and the jizya tax is no longer imposed, the rulings are still relevant to discourse on the status of religious minorities, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

Despite the relevance of Ibn al-Qayyim's „Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimma“, no critical edition or translation of the work has been undertaken until now. Antonia Bosanquet's research explores the text as a whole, examining questions such as Ibn al-Qayyim's portrayal of the protected people, the legal status that he awarded them and how he related their religion to that of Islam. As well as looking at questions of originality, the research also compares his teaching with that of contemporaries or predecessors, to assess whether he diverged from this in any way and if so, how. It will examine the contemporary relevance of the work by examining what aspects of it are used today and by whom.

The study will contribute to an understanding of Ibn al-Qayyim and his teaching more generally. It will also offer important information about the inter-religious relations at the time at which he was writing, as it will give an insight into how non-Muslim protected peoples were expected to live, how they were portrayed in legal and theological literature and how the relations between the communities were governed.

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Birgit Krawietz

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gudrun Krämer