A dhimmī (Arabic: ذمي ḏimmī ), (collectively أهل الذمة ahl al-ḏimmah/dhimmah, "the people of the dhimma") is a historical term referring to non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state. Dhimma allows rights of residence in return for taxes. According to scholars, dhimmis had their rights fully protected in their communities, but as citizens in the Islamic state, had certain restrictions. They were excused or excluded from specific duties assigned to Muslims, and otherwise equal under the laws of property, contract and obligation.
Under sharia law, dhimmi status was originally afforded to Jews, Christians, and Sabians. The protected religions later came to include Zoroastrians, Mandaeans, Hindus and Buddhists. Eventually, the Hanafi, the largest school of Islamic legal thought, applied this term to all non-Muslims living in Islamic lands outside the sacred area surrounding Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
As an example of the distinctions between Muslims, dhimmis, and others, sharia law permits the consumption of pork and alcohol by non-Muslims living in Islamic countries, although they may not be openly displayed. These same commodities are expressly forbidden to Muslims. Modern Hanfi scholars do not make any legal distinction between a non-Muslim dhimmi and a Muslim citizen.