This is part of my continuing (and epic) rebuttal of chapter four of Robert Spencer‘s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). In this chapter, Spencer vilifies Islam by sensationalizing the topic of dhimma, (or “dhimmitude” as he says). I’ve already taken a massive sledgehammer to this fundamental pillar of his hateful paradigm, and you can see the catastrophic damage I’ve done by reading this, this, this, this, this, and this.
Then I came across this golden nugget, from p.49 of his book:
The Qur’an calls Jews and Christians “People of the Book;” Islamic law calls them dhimmis, which means “protected” or “guilty” people–the Arabic word means both…Jews and Christians are “guilty” because they have not only rejected Muhammad as a prophet, but have also distorted the legitimate revelations they have received from Allah. Because of that guilt, Islamic law dictates that Jews and Christians may live in Islamic states, but not as equals with Muslims.
Wow. Just wow. Usually Spencer dresses his lie up in half-truths, obfuscation, and sensationalism before he peddles it to his hate-mongering audience. But here we have a case of complete fabrication.
Dhimmi means “protected person” and in no way, shape, or form means “guilty.” One can simply open up an Arabic dictionary to prove that this has absolutely no basis in the reality-based world. For example, here’s what Lisan al-Arab (considered the most reliable Arabic dictionary in the classical age of Islam) says:
ورجل ذِمِّيٌّ: معناه رجل له عهد
(Dhimmi: A person with whom there exists a treaty)
(And ‘dhimmah’ means treaty)
قال الجوهري: الذِّمَّةُ أَهل العقد.
(Al-Jawhari says: Dhimmah refers to the people with whom there is a treaty)
وقال أَبو عبيدة الذِّمّةُ الأَمان
(Abu Ubaydah says: Dhimmah means protection/security)
وقوم ذِمَّةٌ: مُعاهدون أَي ذوو ذِمَّةٍ
(A Nation of Dhimmah: The people who sign a treaty, i.e. the people of ‘responsibility’)
You can check any other Arabic dictionary to prove that “dhimmi” does not mean “guilty.” The word “madhmum” shares the same root as “dhimmi”, but so do many other words. To imply that there is a necessary connection between the two is pure idiocy, and proof of one’s ignorance of Arabic. They are quite simply two separate words entirely.
If the Prophet Muhammad and early Muslims wanted to refer to the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) as “guilty” people, why not just use the word for that? That seems much more straightforward. Of course, this nonsense just reflects the demagoguery of the dhimmi system that the anti-Islam elements engage in.
To illustrate the absurdity of the claim that “dhimmi” means “guilty”, let us look at the word used in the nefarious Pact of Umar, as reproduced on p.50 of Spencer’s academic (ha!) book:
If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.
So if the Christians broke the conditions in the Pact of Umar, then their guilt is broken? How nonsensical! We see quite clearly from the above quote that “dhimma” is something positive; it is protection. In fact, the exact same word–dhimmah–is used for both Jews and Muslims in the Constitution of Medina. This document declares that all who uphold the pledge–Jew and Muslim alike–are granted dhimma (protection). If the word meant or implied “guilt”, why did the Prophet Muhammad include the Muslims under this? As I said before, it is complete fabrication on the part of Robert Spencer to claim that the word means “guilty”.
To add another layer to the absurdity that is Spencer’s book, there is in fact a great irony in what he is saying. Robert Spencer is a Catholic apologist, who starts his book invoking the Crusader call of “Deus Vult!” (God wills it!) and ends his book calling for a Crusade against Islam. As he foams at the mouth about the heathen faith of Islam, he doesn’t realize the irony in the fact that he attributed to Islam a doctrine alien to it but which actually is part of Catholic doctrine.
The Church debated about what to do with the Jews. After mulling around the idea of slaughtering them outright, it was decided that they ought to be allowed to survive but only so that they could serve as living proof of the defeat and humiliation of those who rejected, defied and killed Christ. Accordingly, the Jews were to live in Perpetual Servitude to the Christians, so as to serve as a constant reminder of the victory of Christ over them. This was the Doctrine of Witness, and its associated belief of Perpetual Servitude. Prof. Steven Bayme writes in his book Understanding Jewish History (pp.120-121):
Augustine and the other Church Fathers wrestled with this question of why Judaism continued if it had apparently lost its purpose? Augustine’s answer lay in the “Doctrine of the Witness.” This doctrine suggested that the continuing physical presence of the Jews was desirable because the Jews themselves provided testimony to the truth of Christianity in two ways: First, the Jews possessed Scriptures, thereby proving that Scriptures were no means invented retrospectively by Christians to predict the coming of Jesus…
Secondly, the physical status of the Jews provided testimony to the truth of Christianity. The Jews existed in a subjugated, second-class status as a defeated people…The perpetual servitude of the Jews reminded the world that the Jews are being punished for their rejection of Jesus. Therefore it was desirable that the Jew remain in Christian society. As long as Jews retained their second-class status, they would remind the world of their crime in rejecting Jesus and their validity of Jesus’s teachings…
Although the Jews’ status would always be second-class, the Church Fathers decreed that the Jews must be protected and not eliminated. In this context medieval Christian anti-Semitism provided a protective mechanism against the elimination of the Jews. Or, as Duns Scotus, a thirteenth century Christian theologian, put it, the Jews could be persecuted and virtually eliminated, but some of them would have to be kept alive on a deserted island until the Second Coming.
As we see, not only does Robert Spencer’s claim have no basis in the Arabic language, but his own argument comes to bite him in the ass. The question remains: is this a result of Spencer’s lying nature or merely a consequence of his profound ignorance? Let me know which one you think it is in the comments below.