Did the first Muslim Caliph grant social security to non-Muslims?
After the Prophet Muhammad's death, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq became the first Caliph and successor of the Prophet in running the affairs of the Islamic state. He ruled for almost two years and made strenuous efforts to improve the life of all his subjects. He was a firm believer that the message of Islam came to lift human suffering and promote general welfare to all people regardless of religious differences and social classes.
In following the Prophet's footsteps, he ensured the safety and prosperity of all citizens living within the boundaries of the Islamic state. The Christians of Hira provide a vivid example on how Abu Bakr was adamant on applying the general state policies toward religious groups who resided in Muslim territories. Before the advent of Islam, the Hirites were the tributaries of Persia but when the Persian Empire started to wane, the Hirites signed off an agreement with the Muslims and accepted to be their vassals. They agreed to pay the jizyah for the Muslim government in exchange for securing the safety of their lives and properties. Occasionally they used to send gifts to Abu Bakr, these gifts were accepted and their value was deducted from the jizyah.
The credit of extending social security to cover religious minorities goes to Abu Bakr as during his reign the conquest of Hira took place and around 7000 Christian people came under the rule of the Islamic authority. Khalid ibn al-Walid who was the appointed leader in the Hira conquest exempted around one thousand Christians from the payment of jizyah due to their sickness. Poor families were also left out. Khalid ibn al-Walid sought the approval of Abu Bakr on these exemptions and suggested to not only exonerate these poor and sick families from paying jizyah but also to provide them with state financial support as long as they live in the territory of Islam.
Caliph Abu Bakr consolidated the rules of engagement and offered a blueprint for engaging in warfare as follows:
- No old man, no woman, no child shall be slain.
- No hermit shall be oppressed, nor his place of worship damaged.
- Corpses of the fallen shall not be mutilated or disfigured.
- No fruit-bearing tree shall be cut down, no crops burned, no habitation devastated.
- Treaty obligations with other faiths shall under all circumstances be honored and fulfilled.
- Those who surrender shall be entitled to all the rights and privileges of a Muslim subject.
When expeditions were sent out by Abu Bakr, he used to accompany them up to a distance and instruct the military commander with these rules of engagement. Abu Bakr instructed an expedition led by Usamah ibn Zayd and said,
"I enjoin upon you ten commandments. Remember them: do not embezzle, do not cheat, do not break trust, do not mutilate, do not kill a minor child or an old man of advanced age or a woman, do not hew down a date-palm nor burn it, do not cut down a fruit-tree, do not slaughter a goat or cow or camel except for food. If you pass near people who have secluded themselves in convents, leave them in their seclusion…"
The same instructions were given to Commander Yazid ibn Abu Sufyan when he headed to Syria, Abu Bakr instructed him by saying, "but do not kill any old man or woman or a minor or sick person or a monk. Do not devastate any population. Do not cut a tree except for a useful purpose. Do not burn a palm-tree nor inundate it. Do not commit treachery, do not mutilate, do not show cowardice and do not cheat…"