Origins of the ghiyar.

Author:Yarbrough, Luke
Position:Essay
 
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Down to the twentieth century non-Muslims resident in certain societies were required to observe the ghiyar, a collective term for items of clothing, hairstyles, and other markers that in principle differentiated their outward aspect from that of Muslims. Legislation regarding dress and hairstyle is not unique to Islam. (1) Still, the origins of the ghiyar present an apparent problem inasmuch as the issue is not mentioned in the Quran or the Prophetic hadith. In an important new contribution to the literature on non-Muslims in early Islamic societies, (2) Milka Levy-Rubin has undertaken inter alia to pinpoint "the date and ideology of the ghiyar code." Her chapter on the problem is without doubt the most thorough study that scholarship has produced, (3) and it concludes firmly that it was the Umayyad caliph Umar b. Abd al-Aziz (Umar II, r. 99-101/717-20) who formulated and first implemented the ghiyar.

This conclusion rests primarily upon two claims respecting the evidence for the first promulgation of the ghiyar: its unanimous attribution to Umar [b. Abd al-Aziz] by the sources, and their consistency regarding its contents" (p. 92). In what follows I will try to show that the sources in fact contain many plausible attributions of the ghiyiir to rulers both earlier and later than Umar II and that reports of a ghiyar edict under him are inconsistent in most of their details. Consequently, I will argue that the evidence does not support the proposition that Umar II formulated and first implemented the ghiyar. Indeed, at the present time a more defensible position might be that the evidence for the origins of the ghiyar is, like that for much else in the early history of Islam, intractable.

Levy-Rubin repeatedly informs her readers that all of the Muslim sources that mention the origins of the ghiyar attach them to Umar II. For example, "the Muslim sources are correct in attributing the first code regarding the attire and behaviour of non-Muslims in Muslim society to the caliph Umar b. Abd al-Aziz" (p. 88); "[t]he sources all point in one direction: they all attribute the creation of the ghiyar to the caliph Umar b. 'Abd al-Aziz" (p.89); "an examination of the sources supports the traditional claim that it was Umar b. (Abd al-cAziz who institutionalized the use of ghiyar" (p. 97); "according to Muslim tradition itself, it is only in the days of cUmar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz that demands for distinctive dress began" (p.127); "[t]he process of adoption [...] began with cUmar b. cAbd a1-Azlz, who took the initial steps and issued the first edict listing a set of demands regarding the appearance of non-Muslims in public, the ghiyar" (p. 168).

It is quite true that several sources credit Umar II with measures of this sort (without claiming, however, that he was the first to promulgate the ghiyar). (4) The statements quoted above are nevertheless problematic. The countervailing evidence includes that presented by Abii Hilal al-cAskari (d. 395/1005), who cites in Kitab al-Awa'il:

The first to order dhimmis to distinguish (taghyir) their . dress was al-Mutawalckil. Abu Ahmad informed us, from a1-5511, saying: Al-Mutawakkil ordered dhimmis to wear honey-colored clothing, and to ride upon [wooden saddles1,5 and to place a button (jrr) at the front of the saddle and at its back, and upon the conical cap (yalansitwa), and upon the outer garment patches before and behind, and upon their doors wooden likenesses (movar). (6) Here al-Askari states explicitly that it was the 'Abbasid caliph al-Mutawakkil (r. 23247/847-61) who first instituted the ghiyar. The express purpose of the awed genre, in the most famous example of which we find this statement, was to identify the first person to have said or done a particular thing. In this the awei'd evidence differs from the other testimonia relevant to the question of origins. It might thus be granted a certain weight on the matter of who instituted the ghiyar.

However, there is a much greater quantity of evidence that would lead us to date the "ghiyar code- to the reign of (Umar II's maternal grandfather Tmar b. al-Khattab (Umar I), the second "rightly guided" caliph who ruled nearly eighty years before. The ghiyar is ascribed to cUmar I in numerous and diverse sources, quite apart from the "Pact of Umar," which purports to describe ghiyar restrictions in his day but which in the form we have it must date from a considerably later time. In Kitab al-Amwal of Abu '1Jbayd al-Qasim b. Sallam (d. 224/838) is found:

Abd al-Rahman related to us, from Abd Allah b. Umar, from Nafi, from Aslam, that Umar commanded concerning dhimmis that they dock their forelocks, ride upon pack saddles, ride side-saddle, not ride as the Muslims ride, and be sure to wear the belts (manatiq; or "girdles"). Abu cUbayd said: That means the zananir [sg. zumnar "belt"]. Al-Nacir b. Isma'11, from (Abd al-Rahman b. Istfaq, from Khalifa b. Qays, [who] said [that] (Umar said: 0 Yarfa', write to the people in the garrison cities (ahl al-amtvar) concerning the People of the Book: that they clip their orelocks, and fasten belts (kustijan; or "girdles") around their waists, so that their clothing is known from that of Muslims (ahl al-islam). (7) There can be no doubt that the Umar here is Umar I--Aslam and Yarfa' were his associates, cAbd Allah b. (Umar (d. 73/693) his son. Nor can it be questioned that we have here to do with the principle of ghiyar--the visible differentiation of non-Muslims--in its three major areas of concern as expressed also in the "code" ascribed elsewhere to Umar 11: hair, dress, and manner of riding animals. As Abu. Yusuf (d. 182/798) wrote in Kitab al-Kharal after laying out his own ghiyar prescriptions, -in this manner Umar b. al-Khattab commanded his agents to require dhimmis to dress this way, saying: In order that their clothing be distinguished from that of the Muslims." (8) The later Ibn Zanjawayh (d. ca. 251/865) concurs in Kirab al-Amtv(71: "Al-Hushaym b. 'As reported: Muhriz Aba Raja reported to us, from Makhal, that (Umar b. al-Khattab ordered dhimmis to clip their forelocks, fasten on their belts (awsiit), and not to resemble the Muslims in any of their affairs." (9)

Similar measures are attributed to 'Umar I in Fatah Misr of 'Abd al-Rahman Ibn Abd al-Hakam (d. 257/871):

Then (Umar b. al-Khattiib wrote--as related to us by (Abd al-Malik b. Maslama, from al-Q5sim b. cAbd Allith, from CAbd Al1h b. Dinar, from Abd AllAh b. cUmar--that.the necks of dhimmis be sealed (yukhtam) with leadm (10) and their girdles worn in plain view (yazharumanatiquhum), that they dock their forelocks and ride side-saddle upon pack saddles [. 1 and let them not resemble the Muslims in their clothing (yatashabbahana bi-l-mustimina fi labusihim). (11) Iconic later works of Islamic political and legal thought also credit the ghiyeir to Umar I. From Siraj al-mulak of al-Turtilshi (d. 520/1126):

Nafi narrated, from Salim [sic] the mawta of Tmar b. al-Khattab, that (Umar wrote to the [Muslims] of al-Sham concerning the Christians, that their stirrups be severed (? an yucgda rukubuhum), and that they ride upon pack saddles, ride side-saddle (bi-shiqq), and dress differently than the Muslims dress, that they may be known. (12) Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328) also knew (Umar I as having issued the ghiyar, deriving this information from the (now lost?) Shurat ahl al-dhimma of Aba 1-Shaykh al-Isbahani (d. 369/979):

As the 134fi: Aba I-Shaykh al-Isbahani narrated with his chain of transmission (isnad) in Shuria ahl al-dhimma, from KbMid b. (Urfuta: 13 tirriar [...] wrote to the garrison cities (arnsa r) that their forelocks be docked, meaning the Christians. and that they not wear the dress of Muslims. so that they might be known I. . .1. And AbCi I-Shaykh al-Isbahani narrated with his isnad that Umar b. al-Khattab wrote: And order the dhimmi women to fasten their belts (zunnii rat), and let down (yurkhina) their forelocks [...] that their clothes...

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