The History of the Middle East Questions and Answers

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How did the Ottoman and Safavid Empires treat the religious minorities they conquered? Also, what is the Ottoman Janissary system and the rivalry between Sunni and Shi’s Muslims in the Safavid Empire?

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While the Ottoman and Safavid Empires certainly encouraged their non-Muslim subjects to convert, they still tolerated most of the minority religions in their lands. Jews and Christians were seen as "Peoples of the Book" and were therefore permitted to continue the practice of their religions. However, there were usually certain restrictions on how they went about this. They were forbidden to worship in public and attempting to convert Muslims was strictly forbidden and could be met with very harsh punishment. They remained second-class citizens as long as they remained adherents of these religions. They had to pay an extra tax called jizya and were barred from many political offices. Many did convert to Islam though to take advantage of the benefits of being part of the state religion. However, anyone who converted to Islam and then reverted to their former faith could face dire punishments. Other religions, such as Zoroastrians and Sabeans were generally even less tolerated and their...

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