By August 3, 2008 Read More →

A Twentieth-Century Yemenite Version of the Pact of Umar, 1905.

Yemenite Jew circa 1920In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent

This is a decree which the Jews must obey as commanded. They are obliged to observe everything in it. They are forbidden to disobey it. It is intended to remind them of what the governors of the Ottoman Empire abolished . . . which are required by the principles of law.

That is that these Jews are guaranteed protection upon payment of the jizya by each adult male- from the rich, 48 silver qafla, which is equivalent to 3 3/4 riyal; from the middle class, 24 qafla, or 2 7/8 riyal; from the poor, 12 qafla, or 16/17 riyal. In this way, their blood is spared, and they are brought into the pact of protection. They may not avoid it. It is incumbent upon each individual to pay it prior to the year’s end into the hand of the person whom we have commended to receive it from them. This is religious law revealed by Allah unambiguously in His Scripture.

Furthermore, they are required to pay on their commercial transactions whose value is equal to the legal taxable minimum, five percent per annum. However, they owe nothing on whatever falls below the taxable minimum of about 10 riyals. The aforementioned jizya and tariff are incumbent upon them.

They are not to assist each other against a Muslim. They may not build their houses higher than Muslim homes. They shall not crowd them in their streets. They may not turn them away from their watering places. They may not belittle the Islamic religion, nor curse any of the prophets. They shall not mislead a Muslim in matters pertaining to his religion. They may not ride on saddles, but only sit sidesaddle. They may not wink or point to the nakedness of a Muslim. They may not display their Torah except in their synagogues. Neither shall they raise their voices when reading, nor blow their shofars loudly. Rather, a muffled voice will suffice. They are forbidden from engaging in reprehensible relations2 which bring down the wrath of Heaven. It is their duty to recognize the superiority of the Muslim and to accord him honor.

The Jews of Sana have chosen the dhimmis Aaron Al-Kihun, Yihya Qafih, Yihya Isaac, and Yihya al-Abyad to correct any of their misdeeds and to conduct their affairs according to rules of their religious law. The Jews are hereby ordered to obey them and to comply with their directives. It is incumbent upon those leaders not to let them deviate from the right path. They are not to change anything from their religious law. They shall not make themselves aloof from them out of greed, so that the weak will not be destroyed by the strong. They may not prevent any of their people who wishes to seek justice according to Muhammad’s religious law.

We have appointed Yihya Danokh to be Shaykh3 over them. He shall act in accordance with the commands that we issue for Sana. The Jews shall conduct themselves as is required. They shall live in their homes and shall refrain from whatever is to be avoided. He is to carry this out and to conduct wisely the affairs of all who are under the Prophet’s pact of protection and under ours.

Sulayman b. Yihya Habshush, Eshkolot Merorot, in The Yemenites, ed. S. D. Goitein (Jerusalem, 1983), pp. 190-91 (Arabic).

1Cf. the pact and various medieval decrees based on it in Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands- A History and Source Book (Philadelphia, 1979), pp. 157-58, 167-68,273-74.

2The reference is to prostitution.

3The Yemenite Arabic term used here is aqil. The person referred to is the secular head of the community who bears the parallel Hebrew title of nasi. Concerning this office, see Erich Brauer, Ethnologie der jemenitischen Juden (Heidelberg, 1934), pp.281-83; also Yehuda Nini, Yemen and Zion- The Jews of Yemen, 1800-1914 (Jerusalem, 1982), pp. 103-9 [Heb.].

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