A very interesting-looking and deeply researched book by historian Milka Levy-Rubin (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Non-Muslims in the Early Islamic Empire: From Surrender to Coexistence (CUP 2011), traces the ways in which conquered religious minorities were and were not accommodated in the Islamic state. The book is therefore not only of historical interest, but may also illuminate our own struggles with religious accommodation in new and unexpected ways. The publisher’s description follows.
The Muslim conquest of the East in the seventh century entailed the subjugation of Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and others. Although much has been written about the status of non-Muslims in the Islamic empire, no previous works have examined how the rules applying to minorities were formulated. Milka Levy-Rubin’s remarkable book traces the emergence of these regulations from the first surrender agreements in the immediate aftermath of conquest to the formation of the canonic document called the Pact of ‘Umar, which was formalized under the early ‘Abbasids, in the first half of the ninth century. What the study reveals is that the conquered peoples themselves played a major role in the creation of these policies, and that these were based on long-standing traditions, customs, and institutions from earlier pre-Islamic cultures that originated in the worlds of both the conquerors and the conquered. In its connections to Roman, Byzantine, and Sasanian traditions, the book will appeal to historians of Europe as well as Arabia and Persia.