A rayah or reaya (from Arabic: رعايا ra`aya, a plural of رعيّة ra`iya "flock, subject", also spelled raya, raja, raiah, re'aya; Ottoman Turkish رعايا [ɾeˈʔaːjeː]; Modern Turkish râya [ɾaːˈja] or reaya) was a member of the tax-paying lower class of Ottoman society, in contrast to the askeri (upper class) and kul (slaves). The rayah made up over 90% of the general population and the millet communities. In the Muslim world, rayah is literally subject of a government or sovereign. The rayah (literally 'members of the flock') included Christians, Muslims, and Jews who were 'shorn' (i.e. taxed) to support the state and the associated 'professional Ottoman' class.
However, both in contemporaneous and in modern usage, it refers to non-Muslim subjects in particular, also called zimmi. The word is sometimes mistranslated as 'cattle' rather than 'flock' or 'subjects' to emphasize the inferior status of the rayah.
In the early Ottoman Empire, rayah were not eligible for military service, but from the late 16th century, Muslim rayah became eligible, to the distress of some of the ruling class.