A Dhimmi (Arabic ذمي or أهل الذمة, also pronounced zimmi) is an Arabic term which refers to a non-Muslim person living on Muslim territory. Dhimmis are usually allowed to practice their own religion, as long as they do not publicly preach this religion. Though dhimmis were promised security and protection, dhimmis were widely discriminated against. To combat this, many dhimmis converted to Islam.
"Dhimmi" literally means "protection, care, custody, covenant of protection, compact; responsibility, answerableness; financial obligation, liability, debt; inviolability, security of life and property; safeguard, guarantee, security; conscience".
Disobedient or rebellious dhimmis were reduced to slavery—that is, if their lives were spared—and prisoners captured in jihad were also enslaved if they could not be exchanged or ransomed. In A.D. 781 7000 Greek prisoners of war were enslaved after a battle at Ephesus. At the capture of Thessalonica in A.D. 903, 22,000 Christians were sold into Muslim slavery. The same happened in A.D. 1064 in Georgia and Armenia. In Africa Arab rulers regularly raided sub-Saharan black tribes and captured slaves, claiming their raids to be jihad; many Hindus were enslaved on the same pretext.
- Race and Slavery in the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, Oxford University Press, 1994.
- Jewish Life under Early Islam: Social, Legal, and Religious Life in the Muslim Empire during the Seventh through the Eleventh Centuries, Linda Broughton.
- The Dhimmi -Jews and Christians Under Islam," by Bat Ye'or, Associated University Presses, Cranbury, N.J., English edition 1985.