Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Background of Zimmis and Jizya.


Jizya in Islam by Dr. Monqiz As-Saqqar Ph.D in Christian Doctrines and Scripture, Faculty of Usul-al-Din, Umm al-Qura, Saudi Arabia. Translated by Hayam Elisawy, Edited by Mohammad Elfie Nieshaem Juferi.


The Qur’anic commandment of collecting the Jizya[1] 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, form 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 regime 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 "ficla" from "Mujazã" which is the noun "compensation", meaning "a sum of money given in return for protection". Ibn Al-Mutaraz said: "It is derived from "’idjzã" or "substitute" or "sufficiency" because it suffices as a substitute for the "dhimmi's[2] embracement of Islam"[2]

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 Christ(PBUH) 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(PBUH) did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, rather, he came to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). Christ(PBUH) 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(PBUH) took no offense in sitting and loving tax-collectors who collected Jizya and delivered it to the Romans (See Matthew 11/19). 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 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, form among the People of the Book until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."[3]

Al-Qurtubi said:

"Our scholars said: The Qur'an proves that Jezya is taken from fighters...This is ijma’[3] (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."[4]

‘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.[5]

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)"[6]

In the reign of ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattãb – 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 hospitability[7].

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". [Abu Dawood],[an-Nasa'i]

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." [Bukhari]

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 Nabatcans 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’d on Palestine, so he went to him and passed his orders so they were discharged." [Muslim]

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." [Tabaqaat Ibn Sa'ad]

In the onset we will set forth the account of Ibn Sa’d 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 jamaca 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 Mucawya. [Tabaqaat Ibn Sa'ad]

The phrase "The jamaca 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."[Al-Forouq]

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’b 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."

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 Sufian. Executed in the year 15 Hijri." [Al-Tabari's History]

'Umar wrote a similar treaty to the people of Al-Lid.[18]

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". [Fotouhel-Bildaan by Al-Belathri]

'Abada Ibn Al-Samit records these civilized features of jizya in Islam when depicting the Islamic stance vis-à-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]

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.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. [Al-Tabari's History, Al-Mughni, Ahkaam Ahlel-Dhimma]

When he was about to pass away he never missed to advise 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." [Narrated by Bukhary]

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 summer time 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."

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.[Fotouh Al-Bildaan]

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.[Fotouh Al-Bildaan].

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]

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."[Al-Shafi'i's Musnad]

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 dhimm'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-Jami' Le' Ahkaam al Quraan]

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."

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 defend them against the people of war."[Mughniel-Muhtaag]


[1] Surat Al-Tawba: 29

[2] Al-Jami' Le' Ahkaam el Quraan (114/8), Al-Mugharab Fi Tarteeb Al-Mu'rab (143/1), see Mukhtarel-Sahaah (44/1)

[3] Surat Al-Tawba: 29

[4] Al-Jami' Le' Ahkaam el Quraan (72/8)

[5] See 'Irwa' Al-Ghaleel (1255)

[6] Narrated by Attermizi in his Sunan (623), Abu Dawood in his Sunan (1576), and Al-Nassa'I in his Sunan (2450). The hadith was verified by Al-Albani in several places including Sahih At-Tarmizi (509)

[7] Mishkat Al-Masabeeh (3970), verified by Al-Albani

[8] Surat Al-Mumtahana (8)

[9] Narrated by Muslim under number (2553)

[10] 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)

[11] Narrated by Bukhary (2295)

[12] Narrated by Muslim (2613)

[13] Al-Jami' Le' Ahkaam el Quraan (115/8), and the interpretation of Al-Mawardi (352-351/2)

[14] Tabaqaat Ibn Sa'ad (266/1).

[15] Al-Forouq (15-14/3).

[16] Al-Tabaqaat Al-Kubra by Ibn Sa'ad (266/1).

[17] Al-Tabari's History (4/449).

[18] See: Al-Tabari's History (449/4).

[19] Fotouhel-Bildaan by Al-Belathri (128).

[20] Fotouh Misr wa Akhbaraha by Ibn Abdel-Hakam (68)

[21] Al-Tabari's History (503/2)

[22] Al-Mughni (290/9), Ahkaam Ahlel-Dhimma (139/1)

[23] Narrated by Bukhary (1392) in (1356/3)

[24] Taxes (9)

[25] Fotouh Al-Bildaan (156).

[26] Fotouh Al-Bildaan (132)

[27] Canonical Laws (176)

[28] Difference of Jurisprudents (233).

[29] Al-Shafi'i's Musnad (344/1).

[30] Al-Jami' Le' Ahkaam al Quraan (246/2).

[31] Sultan Rules (143).

[32] See Mughniel-Muhtaag (253/4)

[33] Matalib 'Ouliel Noha (602/2)

[34] Majmou' el-Fatawa (618-617/28)

[35] Al-Forouq (15-14/3)

[36] Taxes (135), also see Fotouhel Beldaan by Al-Belathri, and Fotouhel-Shaam by Alathri.

[37] See Fotouhel Beldaan (211-210)

[38] Al-Forouq (14/3)

[39] Property (163/1)

[40] The History of the City of Damascus (178/1)

[41] Property (170/1)

[42] Al-Jami' Le' Ahkaam el Quraan 74-73/8

[43] Bada'iel-Sana'I (112/7)

[44] The History of Civilization (131/12)

[45] The Islamic Civilization (96/1)

[46] The Preaching of Islam


[1] Head tax on free non-Muslims under Muslim rule.

[2] A person from the People of the Book who did not convert to Islam but accepts to live under the Islamic rule.

[3] Consensus of the authorities in a legal question; one of the four principles of Islamic Law.


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