The first steps toward implementation began last week, but the Christian residents of the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, held by al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) have formally agreed to a dhimmatude agreement under Islamic Law.
A policy mostly phased out centuries ago, a dhimma (protection agreement) obliges AQI to protect the local Christian community, and allows them to practice their religion in private so long as they affirm that they are living in Muslim territory.
The Christians will also pay a graduated Jizya fee. Four gold dinars every six months is the standard fee, though the “middle class” will pay two and the poor will only have to pay one.
Jizya was meant to be the non-Muslim equivalent of Zakat payments, charitable contributions Muslims are obliged to make, and were designed in part to avoid making the Zakat a financial obstacle to conversion to Islam.
As Zakat stopped being state run in most of the Muslim world, the Jizya was also phased out. Still, with AQI initially so hostile toward Christians, the introduction of the dhimma suggests they are willing to let the Christian minority stay in their “emirate.”