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The subject of Muslims and non-Muslims (dhimmis), and the rights and responsibilities of non-Muslims in a Muslim state in particular, have long been discussed as well as in some cases disputed among researchers and practitioners at various levels. In addition, the concerns related to the “conversion” and the “assimilation” of non-Muslims in a majority Muslim state or society are often unfortunately a cause of consternation among either groups in recent world history. Looking back to the history of Islamic civilisation, this short study aims to find out whether Muslims and non-Muslims lived in isolation from one another; would a non-Muslim be the neighbour of a Muslim from all levels such as an imam, a mudarris, or even a qadi; were all occupations open to non-Muslims such as artisans, craftsmen, cultivators, traders; were non-Muslims subjected to violence and oppression by the authorities and the masses of the Muslim world; did the Muslim courts protect non-Muslims’ rights against Muslims and the rich and powerful in particular. In answering such questions, this concise yet comprehensive study will be illustrating with the support of examples from the Muslim history by referring to the archival documents preserved in the Muslim world and the Ottoman court records in particular.
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