Jizya in Islam 1

Jizya in Islam

Ph.D in Chris­t­ian Doc­trines and Scrip­tures, Fac­ul­ty of Usul al-Din, Umm al-Qura Uni­ver­si­ty, Sau­di Ara­bia. Trans­lat­ed by Hayam Eli­sawy. Edit­ed by Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi.


The Qur’an­ic com­mand­ment of col­lect­ing the Jizya{Head tax on free non-Mus­lims under Mus­lim rule.}} from the Peo­ple of the Book is equiv­o­cal and con­fus­ing for some. The com­mand­ment is clear­ly stat­ed in the fol­low­ing verse : Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that for­bid­den which has been for­bid­den by Allah and His Mes­sen­ger, nor acknowl­edge the Reli­gion of Truth, from among the Peo­ple of the Book until they pay the Jizya with will­ing sub­mis­sion, and feel them­selves sub­dued.“1

Some have thus erro­neous­ly viewed this Qur’an­ic com­mand­ment as a form of injus­tice, oppres­sion and humil­i­a­tion of nations and peo­ples who came under Islam­ic rule. Undoubt­ed­ly those to hold to this view have neglect­ed the great priv­i­leges attrib­uted to the rights of those who are imposed the jizya upon in Islam. Rather, these per­sons believe that Islam is sim­i­lar to oth­er rul­ing regimes that pre­ced­ed and suc­ceed­ed it. Islam is a unique régime as regards the mat­ter at hand or any oth­er issues. Islam is total­ly detached from the injus­tice and oppres­sion as was the norm of how the Peo­ple of Jizya used to be com­mon­ly treat­ed, as it will become obvi­ous in the fol­low­ing impar­tial and objec­tive sci­en­tif­ic research.

Jizya from the Lin­guis­tic Perspective

Jizya” is derived from the root Jaza” or com­pen­sate”. Arabs usu­al­ly say the phrase Jaza, yajzi” which means com­pen­sate” or reward” if a per­son rewards anoth­er for the ser­vice ren­dered by the lat­ter. Jizya” is a derived term in the form of fi’la” from mujaza’ ” which is the noun com­pen­sa­tion”, mean­ing a sum of mon­ey giv­en in return for pro­tec­tion”. Ibn Al-Mutaraz said : It is derived from idjza’ ” or sub­sti­tute” or suf­fi­cien­cy” because it suf­fices as a sub­sti­tute for the dhim­mi’sA per­son from the Peo­ple of the Book who did not con­vert to Islam but accepts to live under the Islam­ic rule. embrace­ment of Islam“Al-Jami’ Le’ Ahkaam el Quraan (114÷8), Al-Mugharab Fi Tar­teeb Al-Mu’rab (143÷1), see Mukhtarel-Sahaah (44÷1)

Jizya in Pre-Islam­ic Times

Islam was not the first reli­gion to pre-ordain the Jizya and Mus­lims were not the first nation to levy the Jizya unto the peo­ples sub­dued by them. Vic­to­ri­ous nations through­out his­to­ry have per­sist­ed in levy­ing the Jizya on their con­quered sub­jects. Exam­ples of such an action are abun­dant in human history.

This is reflect­ed in the New Tes­ta­ment when the Christ(P) told Simon the following :

What do you think Simon ? From whom do the kings of the earth col­lect duty and tax­es — from their own sons or from oth­ers?” From oth­ers” Peter answered. Then the sons are exempt”, Jesus said to him.” (Matthew 17:24 – 25).

When the prophets, peace be upon them, con­quered cer­tain king­doms with the will and vic­to­ry of Allah, they levied the jizya upon the con­quered peo­ples. They had in fact also enslaved the con­quered peo­ples as was done by Joshua on the peo­ple of Canaan when he con­quered them :

They did not dis­lodge the Canaan­ites dwelling on Gez­er ; to this day the Canaan­ites live among the peo­ple of Ephraim but are required to pay Jizya.” (Joshua 16:10).

Thus Joshua had both enslaved and levied Jizya on the peo­ple of Canaan.

Chris­tian­i­ty did not abro­gate any of the laws of Judaism. Christ(P) did not come to abol­ish the Law or the Prophets, rather, he came to ful­fil them (Matthew 5:17). Christ(P) even com­mand­ed his fol­low­ers to pay the Jizya to the Romans and he him­self had expe­di­ent­ly paid it. He told Simon :

Go to the lake and throw your line. Take the first fish you catch ; open its mouth and you will find a four-drach­ma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (Matthew 17:24 – 27)

When asked by Jews (as per the New Tes­ta­ment) about his opin­ion as regards the pay­ment of the Jizya, he acknowl­edged Cae­sar’s right to take it

They sent their dis­ci­ples to him along with the Hero­di­ans. Teacher,” they said, we know you are a man of integri­ty and that you teach the way of God in accor­dance with the truth. You are not swayed by men because you pay no atten­tion to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opin­ion ? Is it right to pay tax­es to Cae­sar or not?” But Jesus, know­ing their evil intent, said,“You hyp­ocrites, why are you try­ing to trap me ? Show me the coin used for pay­ing the tax.” They brought him a denar­ius, and he asked them, Whose por­trait is this ? And whose inscrip­tion?” Cae­sar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, Give to Cae­sar what is Cae­sar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:16 – 21).

Christ(P) took no offence in sit­ting and lov­ing tax-col­lec­tors who col­lect­ed Jizya and deliv­ered it to the Romans (See Matthew 1119). Christ(P) had in fact elect­ed Matthew the tax-col­lec­tor to be one of his twelve dis­ci­ples (see Matthew 9:9).

The New Tes­ta­ment con­sid­ers the pay­ment of Jizya to the ruler as a leg­isla­tive right. It is clad in holi­ness and is ren­dered as a reli­gious mat­ter. It says :

Every­one must sub­mit him­self to the gov­ern­ing author­i­ties, for there is no author­i­ty except that which God has estab­lished. The author­i­ties that exist have been estab­lished by God. Con­se­quent­ly, he who rebels against the author­i­ty is rebelling against what God has insti­tut­ed, and those who do so will bring judg­ment on them­selves. For rulers hold no ter­ror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in author­i­ty ? Then do what is right and he will com­mend you. For he is God?s ser­vant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for noth­ing. He Is God?s ser­vant, an agent of wrath to bring pun­ish­ment on the wrong­do­er. There­fore, it is nec­es­sary to sub­mit to the author­i­ties, not only because of pos­si­ble pun­ish­ment but also because of con­science. This is also why you pay tax­es, for the author­i­ties are God?s ser­vants, who give their full time to gov­ern­ing. Give every­one what you owe him if you owe tax­es, pay tax­es ; if rev­enue, then rev­enue ; if respect, then respect ; if hon­or, then hon­or.” (Romans 13:1 – 7).

Jizya in Islam

Islam did not halt the soci­etal norms and human prac­tices which pre­cedes its advent. Rather, Islam sets a high­er stan­dard above the mis­giv­ings of oth­ers. Islam lends its own civ­i­lized fea­tures to the nations that come under its rule​.by ele­vat­ing the Jizya to become not mere­ly a poll-tax paid by the con­quered to the vic­to­ri­ous but as a bind­ing covenant made between the Mus­lim nation and the peo­ples who even­tu­al­ly came under Islam­ic rule. The jizya became a con­tract or an agree­ment between two par­ties, duly guard­ed and blessed by Allah’s Com­mand­ments and ordi­nances rep­re­sent­ed in pledges and the respect and abid­ance by covenants. The con­tract is sealed and authen­ti­cat­ed by the Prophet’s wrath, peace and bless­ings upon him, to those who vio­late such an agree­ment. This is man­i­fest­ed in the expres­sion the Peo­ple of the Dhim­ma” (or Covenant), this dhim­ma which may nev­er be vio­lat­ed and which must be duly ful­filled and guard­ed by virtue of the com­mand­ment giv­en by the Prophet, peace and bless­ings be upon him.

Allah(T) pre­or­dained that Jizya be tak­en from fight­ers exclu­sive­ly as the verse obvi­ous­ly states :

    Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that for­bid­den which has been for­bid­den by Allah and His Mes­sen­ger, nor acknowl­edge the Reli­gion of Truth, from among the Peo­ple of the Book until they pay the Jizya with will­ing sub­mis­sion, and feel them­selves sub­dued.“Surat Al-Taw­ba : 29

Al-Qur­tubi said :

Our schol­ars said : The Qur’an proves that Jezya is tak­en from fighters…This is ijma’Con­sen­sus of the author­i­ties in a legal ques­tion ; one of the four prin­ci­ples of Islam­ic Law. (con­sen­sus) by schol­ars that jizya is levied only on adult, free men who are qual­i­fied to go to war not on women or chil­dren or slaves or mad peo­ple or defeat­ed peo­ple or senile or the elder­ly.” Al-Jami’ Le’ Ahkaam el Quraan (72÷8)

Umar(R) wrote to his army gen­er­als : Nev­er levy the tax (Jizya) on women or lit­tle chil­dren and nev­er levy the tax except on men who shave their beards”, which means adults who start­ed to have beards and shave them.See Irwa’ Al-Ghaleel (1255)

The sum of jizya was nev­er large to the extent that the men were unable to pay. Rather, it was always avail­able and rea­son­able. Dur­ing the reign of the Prophet, peace and bless­ings be upon him, jizya nev­er exceed­ed one dinar annu­al­ly and it nev­er exceed­ed four dinars under the Umayyad rule.

When the Prophet(P) sent Mu’az to Yemen, he took one dinar as jizya from every adult man. Mu’az says :

The Prophet, peace and bless­ings be upon him, sent me to Yemen, he com­mand­ed me to take a male or female calf for every thir­ty cows and a cow for every forty cows (this is the Zakat levied on Mus­lims) and one dinar from every adult man or the equiv­a­lent there­of in the form of clothes (jizya)“Nar­rat­ed by Atter­mizi in his Sunan (623), Abu Dawood in his Sunan (1576), and An-Nasa’i in his Sunan (2450). The hadith was ver­i­fied by Al-Albani in sev­er­al places includ­ing Sahih At-Tarmizi (509)

In the reign of Umar Ibn Al-Khat­tab — may Allah be pleased with him — he levied jizya on gold-sell­ers in the amount of four dinars and on paper-sell­ers in the amount of forty dirhams in addi­tion to the wealth of Mus­lims and a three-day hos­pitabil­i­tyMishkat Al-Masabeeh (3970), ver­i­fied by Al-Albani.

1) Warn­ing against injus­tice toward the Peo­ple of Dhimma

Allah(T) in His Book and the Prophet(P) in his hadith pre­or­dain benev­o­lence and good deeds to the Peo­ple of Jizya. Shari‘a staunch­ly pro­hibits injus­tice and oppres­sion toward them. The Holy Qur’an urges Mus­lims to be good and just with peace­ful Peo­ple of the Book who do not aggress Muslims :

    Allah for­bids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor dri­ve you out of your homes, from deal­ing kind­ly and just­ly with them : for Allah loves those who are just.“Surat Al-Mum­ta­hana (8)

Benev­o­lence and kind­ness are the most sub­lime types of deal­ing. Thus Allah pre­or­dains this degree of good treat­ment with the par­ents. This is clear­ly and patent­ly clar­i­fied and expressed by the Mes­sen­ger of Allah, peace and bless­ings be upon him in anoth­er hadith : Kind­ness is good morals and ethics.“Nar­rat­ed by Mus­lim under num­ber (2553)

The Prophet(P) also says warn­ing against being unjust to the Peo­ple of Dhim­ma or impair­ing their rights : The one who wrongs a covenan­ter or impairs his right or over­works him or forcibly takes some­thing from him, I will be his pros­e­cu­tor on the Day of Judg­ment“Nar­rat­ed by Abu Dawood in his Sunan (3052) in (170÷3), ver­i­fied by Al-Albani (2626). The same is men­tioned in Sunan an-Nasa’i (2749) in (25÷8). He also says : The one who kills a covenan­ter will nev­er smell the scent of heav­en and its scent is found at the dis­tance of forty years.“Nar­rat­ed by Bukhari (2295)

When some Mus­lims mis­treat­ed the Peo­ple of Jizya, the stance of know­ing schol­ars was strict. Hes­ham ibn Hakim ibn Hizam once passed by a group of Nabateans in the Lev­ant who were made to be stay­ing in the sun. He said : What’s wrong with these peo­ple ? They said : They are impris­oned because they did not pay the jizya. Hes­ham said : I wit­ness that I have heard the Mes­sen­ger of Allah, peace and bless­ings be upon him say­ing : Allah tor­tures those who tor­ture peo­ple in this life­time.” He said : And their ruler at the time was Umair Ibn Sa’ad on Pales­tine, so he went to him and passed his orders so they were dis­charged.“Nar­rat­ed by Mus­lim (2613)

As for the com­mand­ment of sub­due set out in the Qur’an­ic verse and feel them­selves sub­dued”, it is a mean­ing that could nev­er con­tra­dict the say­ings of the Prophet(P) which pre­or­dain kind­ness, jus­tice, pro­hi­bi­tion of injus­tice and oppres­sion. [That] is how the schol­ars of Islam under­stood it. Al-Shafi’i inter­pret­ed this phrase as pre­or­dain­ing that the rules and reg­u­la­tions of Islam apply to them or to their pub­lic. Jizya is a sign of a nation sub­dued and con­quered due to the gen­er­al prop­er­ties of the con­quer­ing nation.

The suc­ces­sor, Ikri­ma the ser­vant of Ibn Abbas inter­pret­ed this as the image of pay­ment of Jizya to Mus­lims. He said : They should be stand­ing up while giv­ing it while the tak­ers should be sit­ting down”. As the giv­ing hand has always been the upper hand, so it should be the upper, they were required to make the jizya pay­er feel their supe­ri­or­i­ty over him and not his supe­ri­or­i­ty over them. Al-Qur­tubi says in his interpretation :

So the hand of an alms­giv­er is made the upper hand while the hand of the jizya giv­er is the low­er hand while the hand of the jizya tak­er is the upper.“Al-Jami’ Le’ Ahkaam el Quraan (115÷8), and the inter­pre­ta­tion of Al-Mawar­di (352351÷2)

2) Cer­tain forms of Dhim­ma Treaties and Covenants in the Islam­ic State

Islam gave unique guar­an­tees to the Peo­ple of Dhim­ma that were and will nev­er be encoun­tered by human­i­ty. In return for very few dirhams to be paid by men who are able to go to war and fight, they enjoy liv­ing in secu­ri­ty and absolute pro­tec­tion by Mus­lims in addi­tion to the secu­ri­ty of their church­es and faith.

This was man­i­fest in the coun­cils giv­en by Caliphs to their army lead­ers as assert­ed by the forms and word­ing of agree­ments duly signed by Mus­lims with jizya pay­ers. We would like to draw the read­er’s atten­tion to con­tem­plate the guar­an­tees giv­en by Mus­lims and the sum of mon­ey paid by the Peo­ple of Jizya in return.

We will start by the his­to­ri­ans’ accounts on the covenants of the Prophet, peace and bless­ings be upon him, with the Peo­ple of Jizya. In the onset we will set forth the account of Ibn Sa’ad in his Tabaqaat from the covenant of the Prophet, peace and bless­ings be upon him, to Rabi­ca Al-Hadra­mi, where he says :

The Mes­sen­ger of Allah wrote to Rabi­ca Ibn Zi Marhab Al-Hadra­mi, his broth­ers and uncles that they are enti­tled to their prop­er­ty, palm trees, slaves, wells, trees, water, water­wheels and plants in Hadhra­maut, and that the fruit and nabq of each mort­gaged land shall be includ­ed in the sum of mort­gage due to him. All good that is in their fruit they will nev­er be ques­tioned for and Allah and His Mes­sen­ger are free from it. The jama’a of Mus­lims must defend the peo­ple of zi Murhab and their land must nev­er be vio­lat­ed togeth­er with their prop­er­ty, lives and zafer the orchard of the king, which used to flow to the peo­ple of Qays and Allah is the Pro­tec­tor. Exe­cut­ed by Mu’awiya.“2

The phrase The jama’a of Mus­lims must defend the peo­ple of zi Murhab” com­pris­es a sig­nif­i­cant impli­ca­tion viz Mus­lims would sac­ri­fice their lives for those who come under their pro­tec­tion and covenant. This is the dhim­ma of Allah Almighty and the dhim­ma of His Mes­sen­ger, peace and bless­ings be upon him, Al-Qarafi says :

An agree­ment which is duly main­tained by lives and prop­er­ty is ver­i­ly a mag­nif­i­cent one.“3

The Prophet, peace and bless­ings be upon him, wrote a let­ter of dhim­ma and covenant to the Chris­t­ian peo­ple of Najraan which is con­veyed to us by Ibn Sa’ad in his Tabaqaat :

The Mes­sen­ger of Allah, peace and bless­ings be upon him, wrote to the bish­op of the sons of Al-Harith Ibn Ka’ab and the bish­ops, cler­gy­men, adher­ents and priests of Najraan, telling them that they are enti­tled to what­ev­er prop­er­ty in their pos­ses­sion notwith­stand­ing its being large or small includ­ing their syn­a­gogues, prayers, priests as well as the pro­tec­tion of Allah and His Mes­sen­ger, no bish­op may be removed from his bish­opric, no priest will be denied his priest­hood and no cler­gy­man will be denied his min­istry. Noth­ing of their rights may be breached or abol­ished and nei­ther their author­i­ty nor any of their sta­tus-quo will be vio­lat­ed so long as they give sin­cere advice and put their con­di­tions to order with­out being unjust or being wronged. This was exe­cut­ed by Al-Mughi­ra.“Al-Tabaqaat Al-Kubra by Ibn Sa’ad (266÷1).

The com­pan­ions of the Prophet, peace and bless­ings be upon him, applied what they learnt from their mag­nif­i­cent Mes­sen­ger and they abid­ed by the prin­ci­ples and civ­i­lized fea­tures of Islam vis-a-vis the peo­ple of jizya. His­to­ri­ans gave accounts of a num­ber of covenants grant­ed by Mus­lims to the peo­ple of dhim­ma. For exam­ple, the Omar­i­an covenant giv­en by Omar to the peo­ple of Aelia. It reads as follows :

In the Name of Allah, the Most Com­pas­sion­ate and Most Gra­cious. This is the covenant of secu­ri­ty grant­ed by the ser­vant of Allah, Omar the Com­man­der of the Faith­ful, to the peo­ple of Aelia. He, here­by, guar­an­tees the secu­ri­ty of their per­sons and prop­er­ty, their church­es and cross­es, the lit­tle and the great and all adher­ents of the Chris­t­ian reli­gion. It is pro­hib­it­ed that their church­es be inhib­it­ed or demol­ished or dimin­ished as regards the church itself or its domain. Nei­ther may their cross be impaired or any of their prop­er­ty in any manner.

They should not be coerced to aban­don their faith and no one of them may be harmed. No Jews are per­mit­ted to live with them in Aelia. Upon the peo­ple of Aelia falls the oblig­a­tion to pay the jizya, as is the case with the peo­ple of Mada’in, as well as evict from their midst the Byzan­tine. Who­ev­er of these who leaves Aelia will be grant­ed secu­ri­ty of per­son and prop­er­ty until he reach­es his des­ti­na­tion. Who­ev­er decides to stay in Aelia will also be grant­ed same, and share with the peo­ple of Aelia in their rights and the jizya. The same applies to the peo­ple of Aelia as well as to any oth­er per­son. Those who would like to march with the Byzan­tines may go and those who would like to return to their peo­ple will not be bound to pay any­thing until they reap their harvest.

Allah attests to the con­tent of this treaty, and so do His Prophet, his suc­ces­sors and the believers.

This is wit­nessed by Khalid Ibn Al-Walid, Amr Ibn Al-‘Aas, Abdul-Rah­man Ibn Awf and Mu’awiyah Ibn Abi Sufyan. Exe­cut­ed in the year 15 Hijri.“4

Umar wrote a sim­i­lar treaty to the peo­ple of Al-Lid.See : Al-Tabar­i’s His­to­ry (449÷4).

When Khalid Ibn Al-Walid con­quered Dam­as­cus, he wrote a sim­i­lar treaty to its people.

In the Name of Allah, the Most Com­pas­sion­ate and Most Gra­cious. This is the covenant grant­ed by Khalid Ibn Al-Walid to the peo­ple of Dam­as­cus if he enters it. They will be secure regard­ing their lives, prop­er­ty and church­es. The fence of the city may not be demol­ished and no house owned by them may be dis­pos­sessed or inhib­it­ed. This is the covenant of Allah and the dhim­ma of His Mes­sen­ger, peace and bless­ings be upon him, the Caliphs and the believ­ers. They are to be well-treat­ed con­di­tion­al upon their pay­ment of jizya.“5

Aba­da Ibn Al-Samit records these civ­i­lized fea­tures of jizya in Islam when depict­ing the Islam­ic stance vis-a-vis Al-Muqawqas, the king of the Copts :

Either to embrace Islam…if you and your com­pan­ions accept this, you’ll have attained the hap­pi­ness of both this life and the after-life and we will not fight you and will nev­er injure you or aggress you. How­ev­er if you refuse, you have to pay jizya. Pay us the jizya and we will agree on a sum sat­is­fac­to­ry to both of us to be col­lect­ed every year so long as we and you remain. Thus we will defend you and fight your ene­mies or those who vio­late your lands, lives and prop­er­ty and we will under­take this duty so long as you are in our dhim­ma and so long as a covenant is bind­ing on us towards you…“Fotouh Misr wa Akhbara­ha by Ibn Abdel-Hakam (68)

Again it is notice­able that the Mus­lim sac­ri­fices his life to pro­tect the peo­ple of jizya and their prop­er­ty We will defend you?”

3) Mus­lims’ Keen­ness on Hon­or­ing the Dhim­ma Agreement

The Caliphs were afraid lest the Mus­lims impair the rights of the Peo­ple of Dhim­ma. There­fore they used to reg­u­lar­ly inspect how the jizya was obtained. Al-Tabari gives an account of this in his his­to­ry in the con­text of Umar’s speech with a del­e­ga­tion from a coun­try of dhim­ma, ” Umar said to the del­e­ga­tion : Do Mus­lims mis­treat you or impair your rights ? They said : We nev­er knew but hon­or and good treat­ment.“6

When he received the col­lect­ed tax­es he asked about the source lest it be oppres­sion and coer­cion. It was said that he, may Allah be pleased with him, received a large amount of mon­ey, I reck­on he said it is of the jizya and said : I am afraid you might have forced peo­ple into pay­ing?” They said : No, by Allah, we only took it sat­is­fac­to­ri­ly and with no grudge.” He said : With nei­ther whip nor lash?” They said : Yes.” He said : Praise be to Allah who pre­vent­ed such acts from tak­ing place at my hand and dur­ing my rule.“7

When he was about to pass away he nev­er missed advis­ing Mus­lims to pro­tect and care for the peo­ple of dhim­ma. He said : I here­by advise the Caliph to suc­ceed me to be good to the peo­ple of dhim­ma and to hon­or their covenant and to fight for them and not to over­work them.“8

Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, wrote to his tax offi­cials saying,“If you reached them nev­er sell them a gar­ment either in win­ter time or in sum­mer­time nor sell them food to eat or an ani­mal to work on and nev­er lash any of them even once for a dirham and nev­er make any of them get to his feet to ask for a dirham. Nev­er sell any of them any­thing of the tax­es. Allah com­mand­ed us to take from them jizya with kind­ness. If you dis­obey me, the pun­ish­ment of Allah will befall you and not me and if oth­er­wise is report­ed to me, you will be dis­missed from office.“9

Al-Walid Ibn Yazid evict­ed the Chris­tians of Cyprus out of his fear that they might help the Romans. But Yazid Ibn Al-Walid brought them back. Isma’il Ibn Ayash says regard­ing the deed of Al-Walid : Mus­lims found this action hor­ri­ble and Jurispru­dents found it ter­ri­ble. When Yazid Ibn Al-Walid suc­ceed­ed his father, he rein­stat­ed them. Mus­lims approved of such an act and they found it just.10

When Al-Walid Ibn Abdel-Malek forcibly took over the Church of John from the Chris­tians and annexed it to the masjid, Mus­lims viewed this as usurpa­tion. When Omar Ibn Abdul-?Aziz suc­ceed­ed him the Chris­tians filed a com­plaint to him. So he wrote to his tax-col­lec­tor order­ing him to return the addi­tion­al parts annexed to the masjid to them.11

4) Mus­lim Jurispru­dents on the Secu­ri­ty and Acknowl­edg­ment of the Rights of the Peo­ple of Dhimma

The Islam­ic rule was a pio­neer in pro­tect­ing the rights of the peo­ple of dhim­ma. This is reflect­ed in the main­te­nance of their rit­u­als and church­es. The shar­i’a law pro­vides for the fol­low­ing : The sec­ond issue : The rights due to them by us, name­ly to main­tain their res­i­dence in our coun­tries except the Arab Penin­su­la name­ly Hijaz and Yemen ; to secure their lives and prop­er­ty and not to impair their church­es, wine and pigs so long as they do not dis­play the same.“12

Al-Tahawi accounts for Mus­lims’ con­sen­sus on the free­dom of the peo­ple of dhim­ma to eat pork and drink wine or the like which is per­mit­ted by their reli­gion. He says :

They unan­i­mous­ly agreed that the Imam, ruler, may not pre­vent the peo­ple of dhim­ma from drink­ing wine, eat­ing pork or resid­ing in the hous­es which they took by con­sent where such peo­ple are in a non-Islam­ic coun­try (in coun­tries where they form a major­i­ty)“Dif­fer­ence of Jurispru­dents (233).

The Shar­i’a main­tains the life and prop­er­ty of the dhim­mi. It even stip­u­lates the life penal­ty for the mur­der­er of a dhim­mi. A Mus­lim was sen­tenced to death dur­ing the rule of Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, for killing a dhim­mi, but the dhim­mi’s broth­er appeared and chose ran­som instead so Ali told him : Have they threat­ened you?” He said : No but I chose ran­som and I don’t think my broth­er will come back by the killing of anoth­er man” so Ali released the mur­der­er and said : You know bet­ter that the one in our dhim­ma is treat­ed as one of us as regards to blood [life] and ran­som.“13

In main­te­nance and pro­tec­tion of a dhim­mi’s prop­er­ty, Shar­i’a does not dif­fer­en­ti­ate between a dhim­mi’s prop­er­ty and a Mus­lim’s prop­er­ty. So steal­ing a dhim­mi’s prop­er­ty is pun­ished for by ampu­ta­tion even if it were a Mus­lim’s hand. Al-Qur­tubi says :

A dhim­mis’ life is per­pet­u­al­ly invi­o­lable and so is a Mus­lim’s life and both have become peo­ple of the House of Islam. The evi­dence of this is that a Mus­lim’s hand is ampu­tat­ed if he steals a dhim­mi’s prop­er­ty. There­fore, a dhim­mi’s life would by anal­o­gy be as invi­o­lable as a Mus­lim’s life as prop­er­ty derives its invi­o­la­bil­i­ty from the invi­o­la­bil­i­ty of its owner.”

Al-Mawar­di says :

And he — an Imam — is bound to ensure two rights for them ; first, to save and spare their lives and sec­ond, to pro­tect them so that they would be secure by being spared and guard­ed by being pro­tect­ed.“15

Al-Nawawi said :

We must spare their lives and indem­ni­fy them against any dam­age caused by us to their lives and prop­er­ty. We are also com­mit­ted to defend­ing them against the peo­ple of war.“16

Mus­lim jurispru­dents reit­er­at­ed this con­cept. Ibn Al-Najar Al-Han­bali says :

An Imam must pro­tect the peo­ple of dhim­ma, deter those who injure them and defend them against those who seek to harm them.“17

When the Mon­go­lian gen­er­al Qat­loushah invad­ed Dam­as­cus in the ear­ly eighth cen­tu­ry Hijri and impris­oned Mus­lims as well as Chris­t­ian and Jew­ish dhim­mis, Imam Ibn Taymiyyah went to him with an august of schol­ars claim­ing the release of the pris­on­ers. The gen­er­al agreed on releas­ing the Mus­lims exclu­sive­ly. Sheikh-ul-Islam then replied :

All pris­on­ers includ­ing Jews and Chris­tians who are in our dhim­ma must be released and we will nev­er let any pris­on­er with you includ­ing Mus­lims and dhim­mis. Dhim­mis are equal to Mus­lims as regards rights and duties.”

So the Mon­go­lian gen­er­al released them all.18

Al-Qarafi quotes Imam Ibn Hazm who in turn accounts for Mus­lims’ unprece­dent­ed con­sen­sus on the following :

We are oblig­ed to fight peo­ple of war who seek a dhim­mi with weapons and we must sac­ri­fice our lives to this end in order to pro­tect peo­ple in the dhim­ma of Allah Almighty and the dhim­ma of His Mes­sen­ger, peace and bless­ings be upon him, as hand­ing a dhim­mi over with­out such strug­gle and sac­ri­fice is an omis­sion of the dhim­ma covenant.“19

5) Exam­ples of the Treat­ment of Dhim­mis by Muslims

When Mus­lims became inca­pable of hon­or­ing the con­di­tion of pro­tec­tion of dhim­mis, they refund­ed to them the jizya for non-sat­is­fac­tion of its pre-con­di­tion name­ly protection.

Judge, Abu Youssef, quotes in his book, Tax­es, as well as oth­er books, Makhoul who reports that a sequence of news was report­ed to Abu Ubai­da declar­ing the inva­sion by the Roman troops. Abu Ubai­da and the Mus­lims found this unman­age­able, so Abu Ubai­da wrote to every visor of the cities whose peo­ple agreed with Mus­lims on Jizya order­ing them to refund the Jizya and tax­es. He ordered them to inform the dhim­mis of the following :

We here­by reim­burse your mon­ey as we have been informed of the troops that are about to invade us and the con­di­tion between us was to pro­tect you and we can­not do this now, so we will reim­burse the mon­ey we took from you. We do abide by our agree­ment and we will hon­or our con­di­tion if Allah ren­dered us vic­to­ri­ous over them.“20

When the peo­ple of dhim­ma par­tic­i­pat­ed in defend­ing their coun­tries, they were exempt­ed from the jizya. This was done by Mu’awaiyah, may Allah be pleased with him, with the Arme­ni­ans. The French his­to­ri­an Joseph Lau­rent says in his book Études D’His­toire Arme­ni­enne :

Arme­ni­ans wel­comed Mus­lims to free them from the oppres­sive Byzan­tine rule. They even allied with Mus­lims to fight the Khazr. Arabs main­tained for Arme­ni­ans their accus­tomed con­di­tions and the covenant was giv­en by Mu’­awaya in 653 AD to Com­man­der Theodor Rakhtoni and to all his co-nation­als so long as such is their wish. The covenant, in brief, is as fol­lows : They will be exempt­ed from jizya for three years. Then they are free to pay the amount they view appro­pri­ate. They also covenant­ed and assured him that they will cater for fif­teen thou­sand knights instead of jizya and that the Caliph would send to the forts and strong­holds of Arme­nia any Emirs or com­man­ders or hors­es or judges and that if they were invad­ed by the Romans he is to pro­vide them with all the help they might need. Mu’­awaya here­by takes this covenant before Allah Almighty.“21

The right of the peo­ple of dhim­ma does not stop short at defend­ing them against their ene­my, but it also includes defend­ing them against any injury that might dis­turb them or cause them unrest even if by speech. Al-Qaraafi says : The dhim­mi agree­ment stip­u­lates rights for the peo­ple of dhim­ma that we should hon­or because they are in our pro­tec­tion and neigh­bour­hood. They are also in our dhim­ma, the dhim­ma of Allah Almighty and the dhim­ma of the Mes­sen­ger of Allah, peace and bless­ings be upon him, and Islam. So if any per­son attacks them even by ill speech or back­bit­ing he has vio­lat­ed the dhim­ma of Allah and the dhim­ma of His Mes­sen­ger, peace and bless­ings be upon him, and the dhim­ma of Islam.“22

Mus­lims, guid­ed by their reli­gion, con­tin­ued their civ­i­lized giv­ing when they were trans­formed from Jizya tak­ers to alms­givers to pro­tect and sus­tain poor dhim­mis. Ibn Zan­gawaih nar­rat­ed that Umar ibn Al-Khat­tab(R) saw a senile dhim­mi man beg­ging, so he said : We are unfair to you if after this old age we ask you to pay jizya.” Then he wrote to his work­ers pro­hibit­ing them from tak­ing jizya from old peo­ple.Prop­er­ty (163÷1) He also com­mand­ed : Reduce the sum of jizya for peo­ple who can­not afford for it and give alms to those who are inca­pable of pay­ing at all.“The His­to­ry of the City of Dam­as­cus (178÷1)

Caliph Umar ibn Abd Aziz also wrote to his work­er in Bas­ra Udai Ibn Arta’a say­ing : If you find that a dhim­mi becomes old, weak and poor, give him [some alms] from the Mus­lims’ Trea­sury House.“23

Nev­er­the­less, if a dhim­mi who can afford to pay jizya refrains from pay­ment, he will be pun­ished with­out vio­lat­ing his covenant. Al-Qur­tubi says :

It is per­mis­si­ble to pun­ish them if they refrain from pay­ment while such being afford­able. How­ev­er, the one prov­ing to be inca­pable of pay­ment may not be pun­ished because the one who is inca­pable to pay is exempt­ed and the rich are not bound to pay the jizya for the poor.“24

Mus­lim jurispru­dents real­ized the sig­nif­i­cance of the dhim­ma covenant and the seri­ous­ness of breach­ing it ; and that it is nev­er ter­mi­nat­ed by mere absten­tion from pay­ment. Al-Kasaru Al-Hanafi says :

As for the agree­ment (the dhim­ma covenant) it is bind­ing on us so that Mus­lims may not ter­mi­nate it in any way what­so­ev­er. As for dhim­mis, it is unbind­ing.“25

Tes­ti­mo­ny of West­ern Historians

A per­son might ask : Have Mus­lims real­ized these mag­nif­i­cent ide­al prin­ci­ples ? Have they real­ly hon­ored the dhim­ma of their Prophet through­out their lengthy his­to­ry ? We will here­by state three tes­ti­monies by West­ern­ers who repeat­ed the truth duly estab­lished in our great history.

Well­dio­rant says :

The peo­ple of dhim­ma : Chris­tians, Zar­adishts, Jews and Sabi’a ; enjoyed a degree of tol­er­ance dur­ing the Umayyad rule which can nev­er be assim­i­lat­ed to Chris­t­ian coun­tries nowa­days. They were free to prac­tice their rit­u­als. They main­tained their church­es and syn­a­gogues and the only oblig­a­tion was that they should wear a spe­cial col­or and pay tax for every per­son pro rata his income. This sum ranged between two and four dinars. This tax was exclu­sive­ly levied on non-Mus­lims who can go to war. How­ev­er priests, women, chil­dren, slaves, elder­ly men, the dis­abled, the blind and the des­ti­tute were exempt­ed from the tax. Dhim­mis were exempt­ed from mil­i­tary ser­vice in return. They were also exempt­ed from zakat which is 2.5% of the annu­al income and the gov­ern­ment was bound to pro­tect them.“26

Adam Mitz in his book The Islam­ic Civ­i­liza­tion says :

Dhim­mis used to pay jizya each pro rata his income. Jizya was sim­i­lar to nation­al defence tax as it was only paid by men who can go to war while the dis­abled, priests, cler­gy were exempt­ed unless they have wealth.“27

Thomas Arnold in his The Preach­ing of Islam says :

The pur­pose of levy­ing this tax on Chris­tians — as reit­er­at­ed by some researchers — was not a form of pun­ish­ment for not accept­ing Islam. They rather used to pay it with the remain­ing dhim­mis name­ly non-Mus­lims sub­jects of the Islam­ic state whose beliefs pre­vent them from join­ing the mil­i­tary ser­vice in return for the pro­tec­tion secured to them by Mus­lims’ swords.“28

Islam thus is patent­ly cleared by the his­tor­i­cal tes­ti­mo­ny of objec­tive non-Mus­lims from the alle­ga­tion attrib­uted to it by the unjust and non-objective.

Final­ly I ask Allah(T) to relieve us and bestow on us the abil­i­ty to under­stand one anoth­er as regards con­tro­ver­sial issues as Allah Almighty is the Omnipo­tent and may Allah(T) bless our Prophet Muham­mad(P) and all his Com­pan­ions(R).Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Dr. Mon­qiz As-Saqqar, Jizya in Islam,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Octo­ber 5, 2005, last accessed April 17, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​h​i​s​t​o​r​y​/​j​i​z​y​a​-​i​n​-​i​s​l​am/
  1. Surat Al-Taw­ba : 29[]
  2. Tabaqaat Ibn Sa’ad (266÷1).[]
  3. Al-Forouq (1514÷3).[]
  4. Al-Tabar­i’s His­to­ry (4÷449).[]
  5. Fotouhel-Bil­daan by Al-Belathri (128).[]
  6. Al-Tabar­i’s His­to­ry (503÷2)[]
  7. Al-Mugh­ni (290÷9), Ahkaam Ahlel-Dhim­ma (139÷1)[]
  8. Nar­rat­ed by Bukhari (1392) in (1356÷3)[]
  9. Tax­es (9)[]
  10. Fotouh Al-Bil­daan (156).[]
  11. Fotouh Al-Bil­daan (132)[]
  12. Canon­i­cal Laws (176)[]
  13. Al-Shafi’i’s Mus­nad (344÷1).[]
  14. Al-Jami’ Le’ Ahkaam al Quraan (246÷2).[]
  15. Sul­tan Rules (143).[]
  16. See Mugh­niel-Muh­taag(253÷4)[]
  17. Matal­ib Ouliel Noha (602÷2)[]
  18. Maj­mou’ el-Fatawa (618617÷28)[]
  19. Al-Forouq (1514÷3)[]
  20. Tax­es (135), also see Fotouhel Bel­daan by Al-Belathri, and Fotouhel-Shaam by Alathri.[]
  21. See Fotouhel Bel­daan (211210)[]
  22. Al-Forouq (14÷3)[]
  23. Prop­er­ty (170÷1)[]
  24. Al-Jami’ Le’ Ahkaam el Quraan 7473÷8[]
  25. Bada’iel-Sana’i (112÷7)[]
  26. The His­to­ry of Civ­i­liza­tion (131÷12)[]
  27. The Islam­ic Civ­i­liza­tion (96÷1)[]
  28. The Preach­ing of Islam[]






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