Conversion and the ahl al-dhimma

David J. Wasserstein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Between 632 and about 1500 the great majority of the people between the Atlantic and India, and many beyond, converted to Islam. The texts differ slightly, to take account of the varying backgrounds of the converts and the different faiths and beliefs that they are required explicitly to renounce as they become Muslims. In Africa Berbers brought Islam across the Sahara, and it was carried southwards from one group to another by traders. Islam seems to have reached different parts of South-East Asia between the end of the seventh/thirteenth and the eleventh/seventeenth centuries. Turks and Mongols, who invaded the Iranian region and came close to taking over the whole of the Islamic world, converted to Islam in Central Asia. Reality again, however, in the form of the vast size of the Hindu subject population, pointed the way to a solution, and Hindus were recognised as ahl al-dhimma from an early date.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe New Cambridge History of Islam
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 4: Islamic Cultures and Societies to the End of the Eighteenth Century
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781139056144
ISBN (Print)9780521838245
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes


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