Chapter 9: Dynamics of Islamic Jihad by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



  Next Chapter Previous Chapter PDF Version

All Books

Dynamics of Islamic Jihad

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



  1. Meaning and Rules of Jizyah

  2. Justification of Jizyah

  3. Jizyah and Modern Islamic State

Jizyah is another highly controversial subject which has attracted most hostile criticism against Islam and early Muslims. Jizyah (or Poll-Tax as it is called by the western writers) is a tax which was charged by the Islamic state, on the authority of the Qur’an, from its non-Muslim conquered people who submitted to the Islamic rule and agreed to pay it generally under a treaty of peace. Non-Muslim writers, particularly of the modern age, call this tax as most-discriminatory, which, according to them, is charged by the Islamic state to humiliate its non-Muslim subjects. In this chapter, we shall discuss Jizyah in detail in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and also in the light of the practice of the early caliphs of Islam, and would try to establish how the picture of this humble levy has been wrongly painted by the Non-Muslim writers because of their prejudice against Islam.

[Back to the start of this chapter]

I- Meaning and Rules of Jizyah

The word ‘Jizyah’ is derived from ‘Jaza’ which means ‘recompense’ or ‘compensation’. Jizyah is a tax imposed by an Islamic state on its non-Muslim subjects. It is charged in lieu of protection or Zimma given by the Muslim community to the lives and properties of the non-Muslims who are called Zimmis (the protected or covenanted people). Jizyah is charged on the authority of Al-Qur’an which enjoins upon its followers: “fight against such of those who have been given the scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute (Jizyah) readily, being brought low” (9:29). In accordance with this verse of the Qur’an, the Prophet of Islam collected Jizyah from the followers of the Book such as the Jews and the Christians. However, during the reign of his successors when the Muslim armies conquered Persia, Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt, Jizyah was imposed on all the non-Muslims belonging to any faith.

According to authentic Traditions, the Prophet of Islam imposed Jizyah of one dinar on every adult non-Muslim per annum and directed Muadh-bin-Jabal to collect it when the latter was appointed governor of Yemen (Abu Daud). However, during the reign of caliph Umar, the Muslim empire expanded to include rich lands of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Palestine. So, Caliph Umar raised the rates of Jizyah according to the income level of non-Muslims. The rate of tax for the rich was fixed at 4 dinars, for the middle class it was 2 dinars and for the lower class it was 1 dinar per person per year.

It is not without interest to mention here that Jizyah is levied only on the able-bodied adult non-Muslim men who are capable to fight or who have actually fought against the Islamic forces. Non-combatants like women, children, old, sick, blind, crippled, poor, destitutes, insane, etc. are exempted from its payment. Similarly, priests, monks and slaves are also exempt. Persons who join military service of the Islamic state are also given exemption from the payment of Jizyah. It is reported that the people of Jarjoma, during the conquest of Syria, refused to pay Jizyah on the plea that they were prepared to fight the Muslim battles against their enemy. The condition was accepted by the Muslims and peace was concluded accordingly.

The use of force or coercive methods in the collection of Jizyah are not allowed. For recovery of Jizyah, the non-Muslims are not to be put to undue inconvenience and harassment. Caliph Umar issued a directive to Abu Ubaidah, the governor of Syria, that the collectors of Jizyah should not harm the Zimmis or unlawfully deprive them of their properties. During his journey to Syria, Umar issued following instructions about the recovery of Jizyah from the Zimmis : “Do not chastise them, for if you do so, Allah Almighty would do the same to you on the Day of Judgement”. Hasham bin Hakam found a tax collector punishing a non-Muslim for his failure to pay Jizyah. He reprimanded him and said : “I have heard the Prophet (PBUH) saying that God will chastise (in the Hereafter) those who chastise human beings in this world”. According to Imam Abu Yusuf, if any Zimmi has to pay Jizyah and dies before paying it, the same will not be recoverable from his successors nor from the property left by him.

Caliph Ali once directed his Jizyah collectors not to be so much harsh in the collection of Jizyah that the Zimmis are forced to sell their cattle or clothes or other belongings.

The Muslims were so fair and just in respect of Jizyah that when they found themselves unable to protect and safeguard their non-Muslim subjects, they refunded the amount of Jizyah which they had realized. It is reported on the authority of Imam Abu Yusaf that before the battle of Yurmuk when the Muslims withdrew from Hims, Damascus and other advanced posts, Abu Ubaidah, the commander of Muslim army, refunded the whole amount of Jizyah collected from the people of those areas. Not accustomed to such a benevolent treatment by the conquerors, the non-Muslims prayed for the victory and return of the Muslims and said: “O Muslims! We prefer you to the Byzantines, though they are of our own faith because you keep better faith with us and are more merciful to us and refrain from doing us injustice and your rule over us is better than theirs, for they have robbed us of our goods and our homes”.

When Cyprus was conquered. Caliph Usman did not impose Jizyah on the non-Muslims as he was not sure whether he would be able to protect them against foreign invasion.

[Back to the start of this chapter]

II- Justification of Jizyah

Imposition of Jizyah has been unfortunately subjected to very harsh and bitter criticism, particularly by the non-Muslim scholars. By referring to the words of the relevant Qur'’nic verse (9:29), they allege that Jizyah is levied on the Zimmis as a punishment for their disbelief in order to humiliate them. But this allegation is absolutely biased and unfair. In fact, the words of the Qur’anic verse mean that the infidels in the war should be forced to surrender and submit to the Muslim rule and accept to pay tribute. Thus, the verse refers to the complete submission of the non-Muslims to the Muslim rule, which is of course inherent in the conquest of their country by the Muslim troops. That the non-Muslims should be humiliated at the time of payment of Jizyah every time, is a misconceived and incorrect interpretation of this verse. It would not be without interest to mention here the views of Imam Shafii. He says that the humiliation referred to in the Quran consists in the submission of the infidels to the Muslim rule and that the non-Muslims should not be admitted into the status of Zimmis except on condition of complete submission.

Muslim scholars and jurists have held the imposition of Jizyah tax on Zimmis by the Islamic state as justified on the following grounds :-

1.       In the Islamic State, every adult Muslim citizen is obliged to take up arms for its defence when the state is attacked and the freedom of his faith is imperilled. Participation in Jihad or military service is compulsory for every healthy and adult Muslim in case of foreign aggression, but it is not so in case of the non-Muslim citizens who do not subscribe to the ideology of Islam and, naturally, cannot be expected to assume such a religious obligation. Since non-Muslims are exempted from the military service, they are required in all fairness, to compensate the Muslim community in sharing of civic burdens.

2.       Islamic state guarantees protection to the lives and property of its non-Muslim subjects against internal as well as external danger. Moreover, their religious freedom and all civic rights are also protected. Despite the fact that such non-Muslims had either been defeated in the war or had surrendered, neither they are killed nor any war indemnities are imposed on them. Rather, peace treaties are concluded with them and they are given protection against any aggression. So Jizyah is imposed for this protection.

3.       The Muslim citizens of an Islamic state pay Zakat while the non-Muslims are not required to pay it. In this situation, the non-Muslims are naturally expected to contribute to the state exchequer for sharing the financial burdens of the Islamic state.

4.       Zakat is paid by every Muslim, male or female, old or minor, sane or insane, provided he possesses wealth at the level of nisab. However, Jizyah is levied only on adult male healthy non-Muslims capable to participate in a war. Women, old men, minors, sick, persons of unsound mind, poor, beggars, priests, etc. are exempted from the payment of Jizyah. Those non-Muslims who join the military service of the Islamic state are also exempted from the payment of Jizyah tax, while the Muslims are not exempt from Zakat even if they discharge the defence duties. Moreover, the rates of Jizyah are much lower as compared to Zakat because the highest rate of Jizyah is 4 Dinar or 48 Dirhams per person per annum, while the amount of Zakat can be substantial depending on the wealth of the tax payer. For instance, a Zimmi with wealth of one million Dinar would pay Jizyah at 4 Dinar only, while a Muslim possessing that much amount shall pay Zakat at 25 thousand Dinar.

[Back to the start of this chapter]

III- Jizyah and Modern Islamic State

A question arises whether a modern Islamic state should collect Jizyah from its non-Muslim citizens or not. Before we answer this question, let us consider the views of Dr. Hamidullah, an eminent scholar of Islam, on this issue. He says :

“In the beginning of Islam, this tax did not exist in the Muslim State, either in Madinah or elsewhere. It was towards the year 9 H., that the Qur’an ordained it. That it was a question of expediency, and not a matter of dogmatic duty in Islam, is sufficiently shown by the following incidents. It is reported (by Ibn Sa’d on the authority of Zuhri) that at the moment of the death of his son, Ibrahim, the Prophet Muhammaed declared : “Had he survived, I would have exempted all the Copts from the Jizyah, as a mark of esteem for Ibrahim’s mother” (who was a Coptic girl). Or again, (cf. Suyuti. Husn al-Muhadarah, ch. Khalij Amir al-Mu’minin), when a non-Muslim Egyptian laid before the Muslim government the project of re-digging the ancient canal from Fustat (Cairo) down to the Red Sea, thus facilitating the maritime transport of the food stuffs of Egypt to Madinah–––the famous Nahr Amir al-Mu’minin–––the caliph ‘Umar rewarded him by exempting him from Jizyah during his whole life. There are jurists who opine that one should also take into consideration the international repercussions affecting Muslim interests, in view of the fact that Islam has penetrated the entire world, and there are millions of Muslims inhabiting countries which are under non-Muslim domination; and the Jizyah, if levied on Christians, Jews, Hindus and others in the Islamic territory would inevitably produce a reaction on Muslims among Christians and other countries”.

According to the Qur’an and also according to the practice of the Prophet and right-guided caliphs, Jizyah was collected from the non-Muslims when they had been defeated in the battlefield or when they had completely submitted to the Muslim rule because of fear of imminent defeat. No modern Muslim state can claim of having conquered its non-Muslim minorities. The non-Muslim minorities in a modern Islamic state have somehow come to live with the Muslims. Therefore, imposition of Jizyah on non-Muslim minorities is not obligatory under Islamic law. Moreover, the yield from Jizyah would be too little in monetary terms, but its repercussions on the Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim lands may be considerable. Instead of Jizyah, it would be more advisable to levy wealth tax on the non-Muslim as well as Muslim citizens of the Islamic state. However, the Muslim citizens should be exempted from wealth tax in respect of those assets on which Zakat has been paid by them.

[Back to the start of this chapter]

  Next Chapter Previous Chapter PDF Version

All Books


The pages of this website are optimized to be viewed by Java script enabled Microsoft Internet Explorer® version 6 or later (only), with screen resolution of 800 by 600 pixels.

Copyright ©2003 by the author, Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry. However, no permission or royalty/fee is required, to reproduce, translate, print, or publish this book or any parts thereof, in any form, without making any change in its matter and its authorship, for a noble Islamic cause. For the purpose of the author's record, it is required/expected that the author will be informed of any republication of the contents of this book, in any form. For more details, please click here.