P. Nessana 77 - Earliest Papyrus Mentioning Dhimma, 60s AH / 680s CE
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First Composed: 17th January 2015
Last Modified: 28th February 2015
Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:
(a) Papyrus Nessana 77 showing two sides containing (i) Arabic and (ii) Greek text. (b) Its transcription.
60s AH / 680s CE, terminus ante quem 70 AH / 690 CE.
It has Arabic and Greek text. The place of discovery of this document is Nessana (ʿAwjā al-Ḥafīr), Palestine.
The translation of the Arabic document is given below.
- In the name [of God] the Merciful, the Compassionate.
- From [Bayyān ibn] Qays to Yazīd ibn al-Aswad and ʿUbayd All[āh] ibn[. . .]
- Pea[ce] upo[n you. I praise for you God beside Whom] there is no other god.
- God does not like wrongdoing or corruption and as regards you, I did not
- appoint you to a job for you to act sinfully and behave unjustly in it [. . .]
- That which you will be sorry for and will suffer for is [. . . to you].
- and [ ] taking possession. Indeed your way of thinking is despicable, (namely) that
- [ ] and you take the (financial) worth of it, even though I have
- [ ], for as regards Yazīd ibn Fāʾid there is not due to him
- [ ] due to him payment, and the people of Nessana have the protection of God
- and the protection of His mess[eng]er. So do not reckon that we acquiesce to your
- corruption and injustice in respect of it. When this letter of mine reaches you, then [. . .]
- what I [ ], and by God do not [ ] from it
- [ . . .] unjustly or else I will take it in advance from your assets until such time as I am satisfied that
- whoever of you is doing that [will be p]enal[ized] in respect of his wealth. So take note of that!
- May God [. . .] goodness and not lead you astray. It is incumbent (on you to choose) between two separate things: either
- [ ] Peace be upon you and the mercy of God.
- [ In the n]ame of God the Merciful, the Compassionate.
- [ Fr]om Bayyān ibn Qays to Yazīd ibn Fāʾid. Peace be upon you and I praise
- for you God beside whom there is no other god. Further: I was not
- awa[re] that Ibn Ḥusayn was wresting from you a village that you are (supposedly) in charge of. So if
- [ ] off him, then that is fine; otherwise, let us dispatch to it
- someone who can take full charge of it. Peace upon you and the mercy of God.
This is the earliest datable item of documentary evidence attesting to the use of the term / concept dhimma - in this particular context dhimmat Allāh wa-dhimmat rasūlihi. Dhimma is already mentioned twice in the Qur'an, namely Sūrah Tawbah 8, and 10, and many times in the ḥadīth literature.
Palestine Archaeological Museum, (following seizure) thereafter Israel Antiquities Authority / Israel Museum.
 R. Hoyland, "The Earliest Attestation Of The Dhimma Of God And His Messenger And The Rediscovery Of P. Nessana 77 (60s AH / 680 CE)", in B. Sadeghi, A. Q. Ahmed, A. Silverstein, R. Hoyland (Eds.), Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts - Essays In Honor Of Professor Patricia Crone, 2015, Brill: Leiden & Boston, Islamic History And Civilization - Studies And Texts - Volume 114, pp. 51-71. A good overview of the Nessana Papyri Corpus can be seen in, R. Stroumsa, Peoples and Identities In Nessana, 2008, Ph. D (unpublished), Duke University.
 M. Ayoub, "Dhimma In Qur'an And Ḥadīth", Arab Studies Quarterly, 1983, Volume 5, Number 2, pp. 172-182.
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