Yemenite Jewry under the Sharia through the Jews’ mass exodus after 1948: “the Jew, like an object or a camel, is excluded from human justice. His disappearance (by murder) is felt as a deprivation for his Arab master, who obtains retribution by depriving another Arab of his Jewish asset (by another Jew murder)”

“Judging by Arabic sources, the Jews of South Arabia were . . . dealt with . . . in fairly strict accordance with the shariah relating to the protected faiths . . . [for example] Outside the centralized Yemenite administration the Jew was protected by the Sultan, or even by the individual tribe; such was the case on the Habbanis. The protector would of course, be of the arms-bearing [1] classes or perhaps of the religious aristocracy. In South Arabia it is shameful to kill a Jew, as it would be to kill a woman. An excellent example (emphasis added) of this form of protection . . . is to be found in a passage from the Fakhir of al-Mufaddal b. Salamah. A protected Jew of al-Husain, the Sayid of the Banu Sahm, was murdered by the Banu Sirmah, so the Sahm in turn slew a protected Jew of the Sirmah . . . the Sirmah came to al-Husain to discuss the matter. Al-Husain replied, “You killed our Jew, so we killed your Jew,” adding that it would be a pity if two tribes closely related should actually engage each other in war.[2]”


[1.] Jews as subjugated and humiliated dhimmis could not bear arms, one of the many restrictions they endured vis-à-vis the Pact of ‘Umar, which afforded their “protection,” first and foremost, from the resumption of jihad war against them.

[2.] The entire passage, above, is taken from R. B. Serjeant’s “A Judeo Arab House Deed from Habban,” published in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (of Great Britain and Ireland), 3 and 4 (1953): 117–31, specifically, pp. 118–19 [complete essay linked below]. Robert Bertram Serjeant (1915–1993) was appointed reader, and then professor of Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He moved to the Middle East Centre, University of Cambridge, in 1964, eventually retiring as director, and as professor of Arabic, in 1982. Serjeant was a prolific author and editor of publications on a wide range of Middle Eastern subjects.

Bat Ye’or has written a commentary on this particular analysis by Professor Serjeant. The key excerpts from her commentary are quoted below. [From “The Dhimmi Factor in the Exodus of Jews Arab Countries,” in The Forgotten Millions, ed. M. Shulewitz (London/ New York, 1999), p. 41. The complete essay is linked below.] Noting that such a system of “protection” existed in rural Yemen through at least the early twentieth century, and may have persisted until the mass exodus of Yemenite Jews to Israel in the mid-twentieth century, Bat Ye’or continues,

“Here it is clear that ‘protection’ is linked with the suppression of rights. Rights to life and to security are only guaranteed to a Jew who is under ‘protection.’ If a Muslim killed a Jew, the criminal would not be brought to trial because Muslim blood was considered superior to Jewish blood. Hence the lex talionis practiced by Islam could only be applied between equals—that is to say between Muslims— but not between a Muslim and a dhimmi, whether Jew or Christian, whereas the talion would be applied between these two non-Muslim groups.

Thus if a Jew belonging to tribe A is killed by a Muslim from tribe B, then a Jew from tribe B would be killed by a Muslim from tribe A. So two Jews are killed without the Muslim murderer being arrested, a game that could go on for generations as a form of retaliation. In this legal system, the Jew, like an object or a camel, is excluded from human justice. His disappearance is felt as a deprivation for his Arab master, who obtains retribution by depriving another Arab of his Jewish asset. What is doubly interesting is that this information is provided in an article published in 1953 by a distinguished Cambridge University scholar, the late Professor Robert Serjeant, as an example of, and a testimony to, Islamic justice and tolerance. This means that he himself accepted the concept that a person, because he is a Jew, can be deprived of all his rights in a system that reduces his life to ‘protection’ and ‘services.’”

Link to full pdf of Serjeant essay: Serjeant-JudeoArabHouseDeedabbn-1953

Link to full pdf of Bat Ye’or essay: Dhimmi Factor_Bat Yeor

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