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Answering Islamophobic Claims

The jizya



The jizya is a tax that is placed upon non-Muslims that live under an Islamic state, once the jizya is paid; the non-Muslim is then given the status of a dhimmi. Now many critics of Islam allege that the jizya tax is a form of discrimination and oppression towards non-Muslims, so in this article we shall discuss the jizya tax to illustrate how the jizya is neither discriminatory nor oppressive.

As we have mentioned, the jizya tax is a tax placed on non-Muslims that live under the Islamic state, according to Islamic texts and Islamic scholarship, the jizya tax provides protection, security, and safety for the non-Muslim. As we read from Islamic sources:

'In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful.  This is the written statement of God's slave Abu Bakr, the successor of Muhammad, the Prophet and Messenger of God.  He affirms for you the rights of a protected neighbor, in yourselves, your lands, your religious community, your wealth, retainers, and servants, those of you who are present or abroad, your bishops and monks, and monasteries, and all that you own, be it great or small.  You shall not be deprived of any of it, and shall have full control over it.' (Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, p. 79)

"The ruler of the Muslim community is bound to protect the non-Muslims and to save them from aggression. Should they fall into captivity, the Imam must martial all the resources to secure their release and punish the transgressors against their lives and properties even if they were the sole non-Muslims living in a remote village." (Ibn Al Najaar Al Hanbali, Matalib Ula An-Nuha, Volume 2, p. 602-603)

So the jizya tax provides the non-Muslim with protection and safety, as well as the right to practice their faith. The Muslim state becomes obliged to protect the non-Muslims from any threat, and if the Muslims are not able to do so, then the jizya tax is not to be paid as we read in one example:

We have returned your money to you because we have been informed of the gathering of the enemy troops. You people, according to the conditions stipulated in the contract, have obliged us to protect you. Since we are now unable to fulfill these conditions, we are returning your money to you. We will abide by the conditions as agreed upon if we overcome the enemy. (Related by Abu Yusuf in Al-Kharaj)

So as we read, in this case the Muslims told the non-Muslim inhabitants that they didn’t have to pay the jizya, as the Muslims could not ensure their safety, and this happened when the Byzantines were gearing up to attack the Muslims in Syria.

So the jizya is a contract agreement between the Muslim state and it’s non-Muslim inhabitants, the Muslim state is obliged by the contract to look after the protection and welfare of it’s non-Muslim citizens, if it’s unable to do so then it has failed in its obligations and the non-Muslim citizens are not required to pay the tax.

In summary, once the non-Muslim citizen pays the jizya tax they are granted all of the following:

-They become rightful citizens in the Islamic state

-Their personal well-being becomes protected by the state

-Their property becomes protected by the state

-They are free to practice their faith, and their places of worship become protected by the state

-The Islamic state is required and obligated to fight for their non-Muslim citizens should they be under threat or attack

-Should the Islamic state be unable to fulfill such requirements, then the jizya tax is no longer to be paid

In essence, it’s like a modern state where you as a citizen are protected by your government from any harm. The jizya is a tax, just like in many modern day countries, governments impose taxes on its citizens, and in return for paying those taxes we get benefits from the government. Benefits such as being protected, benefits such as healthcare and so forth. A tax at the end of the day is a payment you make for services to be provided back to you by the government, services that protect your well-being, and this is exactly what the jizya tax is.

Now as to the rate of the jizya tax, while there was never any fixed rate established, the consensus was that the jizya tax should not be too high or too overburdening on the non-Muslim citizens:

Saheeh Bukhari

Volume 2, Book 23, Number 475:  Narrated 'Amr bin Maimun Al-Audi: I recommend him to abide by the rules and regulations concerning the Dhimmis (protectees) of Allah and His Apostle, to fulfill their contracts completely and fight for them and not to tax (overburden) them beyond their capabilities."

In the above hadith the 2nd caliph of Islam, Umar al-Khattab told the Muslim community to make sure that the non-Muslims do not have to pay a high rate of jizya tax.

The jizya tax is also not placed on every non-Muslim citizen, several persons are exempt from the jizya tax, as we read

Women and children are excused absolutely

Handicapped, blind and old men, even if they are rich

Needy and mad-men

Day laborers, servants or wageworkers

A chronically ill-man even if he is rich

Religious people who keep themselves free for praying and worshipping, i.e. men of churches, cloisters and oratories

If a non-Muslim voluntarily participates in military service for protecting the country.

 If the Islamic state becomes unable to protect non-Muslims, then they are legally exonerated from paying the tax. (See Ibnul Qayyim, Ahkam Ahlul Dhimma, Volume1, pp.8, 15 and al-Shafi', al-Umm¸ pp. 172-1)

So as we read, several persons are exempt from the jizya tax, the main persons who have to pay the tax are men of age and who are able to afford it.

Now some will still argue that the jizya tax is unfair, after all, Muslims don’t have to pay it, so isn’t that discrimination? While Muslims do not pay a jizya tax, they are obligated to pay the Zakat, which is a charity tax.

So each group has their own tax to pay, the non-Muslims the jizya, and the Muslims the Zakat of which the non-Muslims are not required to pay. The Zakat is one of the main pillars of Islam, so Muslims are obligated to pay it, the Zakat is also extends to Muslim assets in property, agriculture produce, livestock-food, and their jewelry.

So will people now argue that the Zakat tax is discriminatory, as only Muslim citizens have to pay it, while non-Muslim citizens are not obliged?

In conclusion, the jizya tax is neither oppressive, nor is it discriminatory. Most people with common rational sense will read most of what we have quoted, and will not be able to find anything wrong or oppressive with it. 


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