A rayah or reaya (from ''ra`aya'', a plural of ''ra`iya'' "citizens,
nationals, flock", also spelled ''raya'', ''raja'', ''raiah'', ''re'aya''; Ottoman Turkish
رعايا ; Modern Turkish
râya or reaya; related to the Arabic word rā'ī راعي which means "shepherd, herdsman, patron") 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 in 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
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.
[Greene, p. 41, quoting Halil Inalcık]
*Ottoman Millet system
* Molly Greene, ''A Shared World: Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern Mediterranean'', Princeton, 2000.
* Peter F. Sugar, ''Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 1354-1804'', series title ''A History of East Central Europe'', volume V, University of Washington Press, 1983. .
Category:Social classes in the Ottoman Empire
Category:Taxation in the Ottoman Empire