Under Islamic law
(جزْية; ʤɪzjæh Ottoman Turkish
: cizye; both derived from Pahlavi
and ultimately from Aramaic gaziyat
) is a per capita tax
levied on a section of an Islamic state
citizens, who meet certain criteria. The tax is/was to be levied on able bodied adult males of military age and affording power, (but with specific exemptions, though these were discarded at various points in history). From the point of view of the Muslim rulers, jizya was a material proof of the non-Muslims' acceptance of subjection to the state and its laws, "just as for the inhabitants it was a concrete continuation of the taxes paid to earlier regimes." In return, non-Muslim citizens were permitted to practice their faith, to enjoy a measure of communal autonomy, to be entitled to Muslim state's protection from outside aggression, to be exempted from military service
and taxes levied upon Muslim citizens.
The Arabic term jizya appears in verse, but the Qur'an does not specify jizya as a tax per head. According to Paul Heck, the jizya taxation seems to be a developed form of the Sassanian practice of taxation.
's English translations
of the Qur'an render jizya
", while Pickthal
translates it as "tribute
". Yusuf Ali
prefers to transliterate
the term as jizyah
Commentators disagree on the definition and derivation of the word jizya:
- Yusuf Ali states "The derived meaning, which became the technical meaning, was a poll-tax levied from those who did not accept Islam, but were willing to live under the protection of Islam, and were thus tacitly willing to submit to the laws enforced by the Muslim State.
- Monqiz As-Saqqar attributes the word jizya to the root word jaza meaning "compensate" and defines it as "a sum of money given in return for protection".
- Ibn Al-Mutaraz derives the word from 'idjzã, meaning "substitute" or "sufficiency" because "it suffices as a substitute for the dhimmi's embracement of Islam."
- Yusuf al-Qaradawi says the word jizya is derived from the jazaa', meaning "reward", "return", or "compensation", and defines it as "a payment by the non-Muslim according to an agreement signed with the Muslim state".
- Edward William Lane, in An Arabic-English Lexicon defines jizya as a "tax that is taken from the free non-Muslim subjects of a Muslim government whereby they ratify the compact that assures them protection.
- Ibn Rushd explains that jizya is in fact a broader concept than just a head-tax. It also includes monies exacted in times of war – what is normally understood in English by the word ‘tribute’ – as well as levies (‘ushr) on non-mulsim merchants who are trading in the Dar al-Harb.
In practice, the word is applied to a special type of tax, levied upon the non-Muslim adult males living under an Islamic state.
After the Norman conquest of Sicily, taxes imposed on the Muslim minority, were also called the "jizya".
There were two main legal rationales for jizya: the Communalist and Universalist. The former believed that jizya was a fee in exchange for the dhimma
(permission to practice one's faith, enjoy communal autonomy, and to be entitled to Muslim protection from outside aggression). The latter, however, assumed that such rights were every person's birthright (Muslim or non-Muslim), and the imposition of jizya on non-Muslims similar to the imposition of zakat
Many Muslim rulers saw jizya as a material proof of the non-Muslims' subjection. The inhabitants saw it as a continuation of the taxes paid to earlier regimes.
is mentioned a number of times in the hadith
. Common themes across multiple hadith
(and often multiple collections of hadith
) include Muhammad
ordering his military commanders to fight non-Muslims
until they accepted Islam
or paid the jizya
, Muhammad and a number of caliphs
on various peoples, and the eventual abolition of jizya
' Second Coming
- Sunan Abu-Dawud Book 19, Number 2955 has Umar ibn al-Khattab stating that he provided protection for non-Muslims by levying jizya on them, and neither took one-fifth from it, nor took it as booty.
- Book 19, Number 3031 states that Muhammad captured Ukaydir, the Christian prince of Dumah, and spared his life and made peace with him on the condition that he paid jizya.
- Book 37, Number 4310 states that Jesus will come again, and at that time will (among other things) abolish jizya, as Allah will "perish all religions except Islam".
- Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 24, Number 559 states that the King of Aila wrote to Muhammad that his people agreed to pay the jizya tax in return for being allowed to stay in their place.
- Volume 3, Book 34, Number 425 states that Jesus will abolish the jizya, as does Volume 4, Book 55, Number 657.
- Volume 4, Book 53, Number 384 states that Umar did not take the jizya from the "Magian infidels" (Zoroastrians) until he heard testimony that Muhammad had taken the jizya from the Magians of Hajar.
- Volume 4, Book 53, Number 385 states that Muhammad collected jizya from the people of Bahrain, as do Volume 5, Book 59, Number 351 and Volume 8, Book 76, Number 433.
- Volume 4, Book 53, Number 386 states that Muhammad commanded Al-Mughira and his army to fight non-Muslims until they worshiped Allah alone or gave jizya.
- Volume 4, Book 53, Number 404 has Muhammad stating that one day Allah will make the dhimmis "so daring that they will refuse to pay the Jizya they will be supposed to pay".
- Sahih Muslim Book 1, Numbers 287 and 289 state that the "son of Mary" will "descend as a just judge" and, among other things, abolish the jizya.
- Book 19, Number 4294 states that Muhammad commanded his military leaders to demand jizya from non-Muslims if they refused to accept Islam, and to fight them if they refused to pay.
- Book 32, Number 6328 states that Hisham b. Hakim b. Hizam passed by Syrian farmers who had been detained for jizya and made to stand in the sun, and Number 6330 states that he came by some Nabateans who had been detained "in connection with the dues of jizya". In both cases his response was to quote Muhammad as saying "Allah would torment those persons who torment people in the world.
- Book 42, Number 7065 states that that Muhammad collected jizya from the people of Bahrain.
- Al-Muwatta of Malik Book 17, Number 17.24.42 states that Muhammad collected jizya from the "Magians" (Zoroastrians) of Bahrain, Umar ibn al-Khattab from Magians of Persia, and Uthman ibn Affan from the Berbers.
- Book 17, Number 17.24.44 states that Umar ibn al-Khattab imposed a jizya tax of four dinars on those living where gold was the currency, and forty dirhams on those living where silver was the currency. As well, they had to "provide for the Muslims and receive them as guests for three days".
- Book 17, Number 17.24.45 states that Umar ibn al-Khattab took a camel branded as jizya (not zakat) and ordered for it to be slaughtered, the meat placed on platters with fruits and delicacies, and distributed to the wives of Muhammad. He then had the remainder prepared and invited the Muhajirun and the Ansar to eat it. Malik stated regarding this "I do not think that livestock should be taken from people who pay the jizya except as jizya.
- Book 17, Number 17.24.46 states that Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz relieved those who converted to Islam from paying jizya. It also gives the sunnah on those who must pay jizya, principally non-Muslim males who have reached puberty, rather than zakat, as zakat is for the purpose of purifying Muslims, whereas jizya is for the purpose of humbling non-Muslims. It also outlines the additional jizya travelling traders must pay, and the rationale for that.
was applied to every free adult male member of the People of the Book
. Slaves, women, children, the old, the sick, monks, hermits and the poor, were all exempt from the tax, unless any of them was independent and wealthy. However, these exemptions were no longer observed during some periods in Muslim history, and discarded entirely by the Shāfi‘ī
School of Law. There was no amount permanently fixed for the tax, though the payment usually depended on wealth: the Kitab al-Kharaj
of Abu Yusuf sets the amounts at 48 dirhams
for the richest (e.g. moneychangers), 24 for those of moderate wealth, and 12 for craftsmen and manual laborers. Though jizya
was mandated specifically for other monotheistic faiths (Judaism
), under the Maliki
school of Fiqh jizya
was extended to all non-Muslims. Thus some Muslim rulers also collected jizya
under their rule. The collection of the tax was sometimes the duty of the elders of those communities, but often it was collected directly from individuals, in accordance with specific payment rituals described in the writings of Muslim jurists.
In return for the tax, those who paid the jizya were permitted to keep their non-Muslim religion. Their economic and political security was guaranteed (dhimma) by the Islamic state. They could not serve in the military or bear arms, but their community was considered to be under the protection of the Muslim state, subject to their meeting certain conditions. Non-Muslims were also exempt from zakat, or mandatory alms paid by Muslims. If someone refused to pay the jizya, he could be imprisoned, according to Abu Yusuf. The jizya and zakat were kept separate, as it was considered inequitable to spend jizya (collected from non-Muslims) on the welfare of Muslims and vice versa. The jizya was used for paying the salaries of state servants, pensions and on charities. In some instances, however, it ended up in "private" treasuries.
Refusal to pay the jizya tax resulted in warfare until the Islamic rule was accepted. The change from Byzantine and Persian rule to Arab rule lowered taxes and created greater religious freedom, and was welcomed by some Jews and Christians. Nevertheless, taxation was a concern for non-Muslims who were paying a higher tax than the zakat tax paid by Muslims. It was also an important factor persuading many dhimmis to convert to Islam, though during the first century after the Arab conquest of Syria and Palestine conversion to Islam was not encouraged "partly because the jizyah constituted an important source of state revenue". Bernard Lewis, Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, states that the discrimination in the amount of taxation was inherited from the previous Byzantium and Iranian empires. Scholars differ as to the exact burden imposed by the jizya tax. Documentary evidence, including that found in eleventh-century Cairo Geniza documents, suggest that the burden, at least for the poorer classes, was heavy. As the taxation amount was fixed in gold, it became less burdensome over the centuries.
According to Abu Yusuf, jurist of Harun al-Rashid, those who didn't pay jizya should be imprisoned not to be let out of custody until payment. It is not permissible to exempt one person, while obliging another to pay jizya, nor is jizya to be reduced. Though it was an annual tax, non-Muslims were allowed to pay it in monthly installments. If someone had agreed to pay jizya, violated the agreement, and left Muslim territory to go into enemy land, was subject enslavement if ever captured. This punishment did not apply if a person suffered injustices amongst Muslims.
Islamic legal commentary
- The Shia jurist, Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi states in Tafsir Nemooneh that the main philosophy of jizya is that it is only a financial aid to those Muslims who are in the charge of safeguarding the security of the state and Dhimmi's lives and properties on their behalf
- Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi's Chapter Introductions to the Quran states that Muslims were enjoined to tolerate the "misguidance" of non-Muslims "only to the extent that they might have the freedom to remain misguided if they chose to be so provided that they paid Jizyah as a sign of their subjugation to the Islamic State.
- Malik, in Al-Muwatta (Book 17, Number 17.24.45), protests the practice of summarily appropriating livestock from dhimmis; he states that livestock should only be taken as jizya. In Book 17, Number 17.24.46, he states that the sunnah is that jizya is only taken from male dhimmis and Zoroastrians who have reached puberty. Jizya is imposed on non-Muslim "People of the Book" to humble them; also, they do not have to pay zakat, which is paid by Muslims as mandatory charity. If the non-believers remain in one country, they pay no other property taxes; however, if they do business in multiple Muslim countries, then they have to pay ten percent of the value of the traded goods each time they move to another country. The reason given is that jizya is imposed on the condition (which they have agreed to) that they will stay in one country and avail of the security thus availed them by their submission; if they do business in multiple countries, then this is outside the stipulated agreements and conditions for jizya, and therefore they must pay ten percent each time. Malik also states that this was the practice in his city. Finally, in Book 21, Number 21.19.49a Malik states that when one collects jizya from a people who surrendered peacefully, then they are allowed to keep their land and property. However, if they are overcome in battle and forced to give jizya, then their land and property become booty for Muslims.
- Al-Zamakhshari, a Mu'tazili author of one of the standard commentaries on the Qur'an, said that "the Jizyah shall be taken from them with belittlement and humiliation. The dhimmi shall come in person, walking not riding. When he pays, he shall stand, while the tax collector sits. The collector shall seize him by the scruff of the neck, shake him, and say "Pay the Jizyah!" and when he pays it he shall be slapped on the nape of the neck."
- Abu Yusuf, an eighth century Hanafi jurist states in his Kitab al-Kharaj that "The wali [governor of a province] is not allowed to exempt any Christian, Jew, Magian, Sabean, or Samaritan from paying the tax, and no one can obtain a partial reduction. It is illegal for one to be exempted and another not, because their lives and possessions are spared only on account of the payment of the jizya. He also cautions that "[n]o one of the ahl al-dhimma should be beaten in order to exact payment of the jizya, nor made to stand in the hot sun, nor should hateful things be inflicted upon their bodies, or anything of that sort. Rather, they should be treated with leniency. [. . .] It is proper, O Commander of the Faithful--may Allah be your support--that you treat leniently those people who have a contract of protection from your Prophet and cousin, Muhammad--may Allah bless him and grant him peace. You should look after them, so that they are not oppressed, mistreated, or taxed beyond their means.
- Javed Ahmed Ghamidi writes in Mizan that certain directives of the Qur’an were specific only to Muhammad against peoples of his times, besides other directives, the campaign involved asking the polytheists of Arabia for submission to Islam as a condition for exoneration and the others for jizya and submission to the political authority of the Muslims for exemption from death punishment and for military protection as the dhimmis of the Muslims.
Taxation from the perspective of people who came under the Muslim rule, was a concrete continuation of the taxes paid to earlier regimes, but now lower under the Muslim rule and from the point of view of the Muslim conqueror was a material proof of the payer's subjection to the state and its laws. In Ottoman Hungary the tax was known as jizye
(harács).According to Bat Ye'or
, fiscal oppression in the forms of jizya, kharaj
and ransom was a primary cause for the disappearance of dhimmi
populations through conversion to Islam or flight. But, her writings on the subject have also attracted criticism from scholars, who consider them extreme rightist views.
Early Islam and the Rashidun Caliphate
The history of the origins of the jizya is considered to be extremely complex, according to the Encyclopaedia of Islam
. This is attributed to three reasons:
- in historical texts, the term "jizya" is used with different meanings, and thus medieval historians (who collected the text) tended to interpret them according to the meaning which was best defined in their own time;
- the system established by the Arab conquest was not uniform, rather resulted from a series of nonidentical, agreements or decisions;
- finally, the system that followed after the earlier systems are imperfectly understood and a subject of controversy.
Jizya was levied in the time of Muhammad on vassal tribes under Muslim protection, including Jews in Khaybar, Christians in Najran, and Zoroastrians in Bahrain. William Montgomery Watt traces its origin to a pre-Islamic practice among the Arabian nomads wherein a powerful tribe would agree to protect its weaker neighbors in exchange for a tribute, which would be refunded if the protection proved ineffectual.
Following his migration to Medina, Muhammad drafted a document, known as the Constitution of Medina, which codified the rights and duties among Medina's communities, including the Jews and Muslims. According to F. E. Peters, the Jewish tribes of Medina rejected Muhammad as a prophet, and secretly connived with Muhammad's enemies in Mecca to overthrow him. Prompted by what he saw as their treasonous behavior, Muhammad's ensuing reaction - in contrast to his treatment of Jews outside of Medina - was determined and progressively more violent. After each major battle against Mecca, Muhammad accused one of the Jewish tribes of treachery and of having broken the terms of their allegiance. The Jewish tribes of Medina were first banished, then enslaved, and finally executed. Moshe Gil writes that during the Tabuk campaign however, Muhammad altered his policies towards Jewish and Christian communities by offering them protection in exchange for certain promises as evidenced from the Qur'an. In this new policy, Gil sees a "paradigm" shift occurring in the treaties and letters of security that future Muslim leaders issued to conquered peoples. These letters of protection were sent to several of these towns, asking them to pay taxes (jizya) and to agree not to maintain military forces in return for protection by Muslim forces (dhimma).
Under Caliph Umar the Zoroastrian Persians were given People of the Book status, and jizya was levied on them. Christian Arab tribes in the north of the Arabian Peninsula refused to pay jizya, but agreed to pay double the amount, and calling it sadaqa, a word meaning "alms" or "charity". According to Yusuf al-Qaradawi the name change was done for the benefit of the Christian tribesmen, "out of consideration for their feelings".Fred Donner, however, in The Early Islamic Conquests, states that the difference between sadaqa and jizya is that the former was levied on nomads, whereas the latter was levied on settled non-Muslims. Donner sees sadaqa as being indicative of the lower status of nomadic tribes, so much so that that Christian tribesmen preferred to pay the jizya. Jabala b. al-Ayham of the B. Ghassan is reported asked Umar "Will you levy sadaqa from me as you would from the [ordinary] bedouin (al-'arab)?" Umar acceded to collecting jizya from him instead, as he did from other Christians.
Sir Thomas Arnold, an early 20th century orientalist, gives an example of a Christian Arab tribe which avoided paying the jizya altogether by fighting alongside Muslim armies "such was the case with the tribe of al-Jurajimah, a Christian tribe in the neighbourhood of Antioch, who made peace with the Muslims, promising to be their allies and fight on their side in battle, on condition that they should not be called upon to pay jizya and should receive their proper share of the booty".
In his message to the people of Al-Hirah, Khalid bin Walid is recorded as saying (in reference to the jizya), "When a person is too old to work or suffers a handicap, or when he falls into poverty, he is free from the dues of the poll tax; his sustenance is provided by the Muslim Exchequer." A letter attributed to Khalid bin Walid said that "This is a letter of Khalid ibn al-Waleed to Saluba ibn Nastuna and his people; I agreed with you on al-jezyah and protection. As long as we protect you we have the right in al-jezyah, otherwise we have none.”
According to Muslim accounts of Umar, in his time some payers of the jizya were compensated if they had not been cared for properly. The accounts vary, but describe his meeting an old Jew begging, and assisting him; according to one version:
Umar said to him, "Old man! We have not done justice to you. In your youth we realized Jizyah from you and have left you to fend for yourself in your old age". Holding him by the hand, he led him to his own house, and preparing food with his own hands fed him and issued orders to the treasurer of the Bait-al-mal that that old man and all others like him, should be regularly doled out a daily allowance which should suffice for them and their dependents.
In Khurasan, the native aristocracy reduced jizya, while increased taxes on the Muslim inhabitants, in order to prevent non-Muslim conversion to Islam.
, Islamic rulers imposed jizya
starting in the 11th century
. It was abolished by Akbar
. However, Aurangzeb
, the last prominent Mughal
Emperor, levied jizya
on his mostly Hindu
subjects in 1679
. Reasons for this are cited to be financial stringency and personal inclination on the part of the emperor, and a petition by the ulema
. His subjects were taxed in accordance with the property they owned. Government servants were exempt, as were the blind, the paralyzed, and the indigent. Its introduction encountered much opposition, which was, however, overborne.
was paid by Zoroastrian
minority until 1884
, when it was removed by pressure on the Qajar
government from the Persian Zoroastrian Amelioration Fund.
In 1894 jizya was still being collected in Morocco; an Italian Jew described his experience there:
The kadi Uwida and the kadi Mawlay Mustafa had mounted their tent today near the Mellah [Jewish ghetto] gate and had summoned the Jews in order to collect from them the poll tax [jizya] which they are obliged to pay the sultan. They had me summoned also. I first inquired whether those who were European-protected subjects had to pay this tax. Having learned that a great many of them had already paid it, I wished to do likewise. After having remitted the amount of the tax to the two officials, I received from the kadi’s guard two blows in the back of the neck. Addressing the kadi and the kaid, I said” ‘Know that I am an Italian protected subject.’ Whereupon the kadi said to his guard: ‘Remove the kerchief covering his head and strike him strongly; he can then go and complain wherever he wants.’ The guards hastily obeyed and struck me once again more violently. This public mistreatment of a European-protected subject demonstrates to all the Arabs that they can, with impunity, mistreat the Jews.
The jizya was eliminated in Algeria and Tunisia in the 19th century, but continued to be collected in Morocco until the first decade of the 20th century (these three dates coincide with the French colonization of these countries).
Orientalist S.D. Goitein
It was, of course, evident that the tax represented a discrimination and was intended, according to the Koran's own words, to emphasize the inferior status of the non-believers. It seemed, however, that from the economic point of view, it did not constitute a heavy imposition, since it was on a sliding scale, approximately one, two, and four dinars, and thus adjusted to the financial capacity of the taxpayer. This impression proved to be entirely fallacious, for it did not take into consideration the immense extent of poverty and privation experienced by the masses, and in particular their way of living from hand to mouth, their persistent lack of cash, which turned the "season of the tax" into one of horror, dread, and misery. The provisions of ancient Islamic law which exempted the indigent, the invalids and the old, were no longer observed in the Geniza period and had been discarded by the Shāfi‘ī School of Law, which prevailed in Egypt, also in theory.
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