Covenant of Umar I

(637)

The Covenant of Umar I, which dates to 637, purports to be an agreement between the Islamic caliph Umar I (often spelled “Omar”) and Sophronius, the patriarch of Jerusalem—that is, the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church in that city. The covenant offers protection to Jerusalem's Christians and Jews. Islam regards these groups as “people of the book,” that is, non-Muslims (including members of a handful of other religions, such as Zoroastrianism) who believe in earlier revealed scriptures that Muslims thought were perfected and completed by the Qur'an, the Islamic scripture; generally, people of the book were distinguished from pagans. The document offers religious freedom and tolerance to non-Muslims in Jerusalem, called Ilia' in the document, but requires them to pay a tax called the Jizia.


The Covenant of Umar I exists in numerous forms and was expanded over the following centuries. Some scholars have doubted the authenticity of the document, theorizing that it was...

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Church of Saint John in Jerusalem (Library of Congress)

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