To begin with, it is good to remember that the Koran is traditionally interpreted in Islam relying on prophet Muhammad’s Sunna, his words and deeds described in Hadith (thousands of short storied about what Muhammad said or did) and Sira (his lifestory). So let us look what the Koran (Allah’s message according to Islam) says, and how this message was implemented by Muhammad.
“Fight those who believe not in Allah and the Last Day and do not forbid what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, and do not practice the religion of truth, even if they are of the People of the Book — until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued.” (Koran 9:29)
As we can see, People of the Book (i.e. Jews and Christians) are offered 3 options. If they do not convert to Islam (practice the religion of truth), they can be fought and killed, or they can surrender to political domination of Islam but retain their faith on condition that they pay jizya (poll tax) and agree to live having less rights than Muslims (feel themselves subdued). This subdued status is called “dhimmi”.
First dhimmis were Jews of oasis Khaybar. After Muhammad killed, banished or enslaved every Jew in Medina who did not convert to Islam, he attacked Khaybar, an oasis inhabited by Jews, took their land and riches, however he did not slaughter, banish or enslave them, but allowed to work on the land which used to be theirs for half of the harvest from this land. Afterwards this dhimmi system was widely applied in Christian lands conquered by Islamic jihad.
Dhimmitude can be shortly described as “land for safety”. You surrender the land (and your political independence) and you are safe from jihadist attacks as long as you agree to live under Sharia law. Interestingly, this is exactly the situation with today’s State of Israel. The Israelis are demanded to surrender the land and thus become safe from jihadist attacks going on since the State of Israel was formed (and actually long before that).
Question for discussion: what was the result of applying dhimmi system in predominantly Christian lands in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia Minor (today’s Turkey)?