The Meaning and Purpose of Paying Jizyah

Jizyah is the sum of money which the Quran imposes upon the disbelievers, specifically Jews and Christians, who come under the control of Muslims but refuse to change their religion:

Fight those who believe not in God and in the last day, and who forbid not what God and His Apostle have forbidden, and who do not practice the religion of truth from amongst those to whom the Book has been brought, until they pay the tribute by their hands and be as little ones. S. 9:29

This payment is extracted for several reasons. The first reason can be found in the passage which immediately precedes verse 29:

O ye who believe! it is only the idolaters who are unclean; they shall not then approach the Sacred Mosque after this year. But if ye fear want then God will enrich you from His grace if He will; verily, God is knowing, wise! S. 9:28

The text exhorts the Muslims not to fear any loss of want (i.e. money, resources etc.) by expelling the mushrikun, or the disbelievers who associate partners with Allah, from Mecca. The reason why they shouldn’t be afraid of any financial loss is because, as the next passage clearly indicates, Allah intends to compensate them by having them extract the jizya or tribute from the Jews and Christians.

To put it another way, Allah promised to enrich the Muslims for their obedience by forcing the subjected Jews and Christians to pay their Muslim overlords the jizya!

This is a point which is readily acknowledged by the classical Islamic exegetes and historians, just as the following citation shows:

“… Then He said (v. 28): ‘The polytheists are nothing but unclean, so let them not approach the sacred mosque after this year of theirs, and if you fear poverty’ that was because the people said ‘the markets will be cut off from us, trade will be destroyed, and we shall lose the good things we used to enjoy,’ and God said, ‘If you fear poverty God will enrich you from His bounty,’ i.e. in some other way, ‘if He will. He is knowing, wise. Fight those who do not believe in God and the last day and forbid not that which God and His apostle have forbidden and follow not the religion of truth from among those who have been given the scripture until they pay the poll tax out of hand being humbled,’ i.e. as a compensation for what you fear to lose by the closing of the markets. God gave them compensation for what He cut off from them in the former polytheism by what He gave them by way of poll tax from the people of the scripture. (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Karachi Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth Impression 1995], p. 620; bold emphasis mine)

Ibn Ishaq isn’t the only authority to have said this:

Idolators are no longer allowed into Al-Masjid Al-Haram

Allah commands His believing servants, who are pure in religion and person, to expel the idolators who are filthy in the religious sense, from Al-Masjid Al-Haram. After the revelation of this Ayah, idolators were no longer allowed to go near the Masjid. This Ayah was revealed in the ninth year of Hijrah. The Messenger of Allah sent `Ali in the company of Abu Bakr that year to publicize to the idolators that no Mushrik will be allowed to perform Hajj after that year, nor a naked person allowed to perform Tawaf around the House. Allah completed this decree, made it a legislative ruling, as well as, a fact of reality. `Abdur-Razzaq recorded that Jabir bin `Abdullah commented on the Ayah

<O you who believe! Verily, the Mushrikin are impure. So let them not come near Al-Masjid Al-Haram after this year> “Unless it was a servant or one of the people of Dhimmah.” Imam Abu `Amr Al-Awza’i said, “Umar bin `Abdul-`Aziz wrote (to his governors) to prevent Jews and Christians from entering the Masjids of Muslims, and he followed his order with Allah’s statement…

<Verily, the Mushrikin are impure.>” `Ata’ said, “All of the Sacred Area [the Haram] is considered a Masjid, for Allah said…

<So let them not come near Al-Masjid Al-Haram (at Makkah) after this year.> This Ayah indicates that idolators are impure and that the believers are pure. In the Sahih is the following…

<<The believer does not become impure.>> Allah said…

<and if you fear poverty, Allah will enrich you, out of His bounty.> Muhammad bin Ishaq commented, “The people said, ‘Our markets will be closed, our commerce disrupted, and what we earned will vanish.’ So Allah revealed this verse…

<and if you fear poverty, Allah will enrich you, out of His bounty>, from other resources…

<if He wills>, until…

<… and feel themselves subdued.> This Ayah means, ‘this will be your compensation for the closed markets that you feared would result.’ Therefore, Allah compensated them for the losses they incurred because they severed ties with idolators, by the Jizyah they earned from the People of the Book.” Similar statements were reported from Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Qatadah and Ad-Dahhak and others. Allah said…

<Surely, Allah is All-Knowing>, in what benefits you…

<All-Wise>, in His orders and prohibitions, for He is All-Perfect in His actions and statements, All-Just in His creations and decisions, Blessed and Hallowed be He. This is why Allah compensated Muslims for their losses by the amount of Jizyah that they took from the people of Dhimmah. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 9:28 https://www.alim.org/quran/tafsir/ibn-kathir/surah/9/28/)

And:

O you who believe, the idolaters are indeed unclean, [they are] filth, on account of their inner vileness, so do not let them come near the Sacred Mosque, that is, let them not enter the Sanctuary, after this year of theirs, year 9 of the Hijra. If you fear impoverishment, poverty, as a result of the cessation of their commerce with you, God will surely enrich you from His bounty, if He will: and He indeed enriched them through conquests and [the imposition of] the jizya. God is Knowing, Wise. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn: http://bewley.virtualave.net/tawba2.html; bold emphasis mine)

The second reason is stated in the text itself:

Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allah, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued (saghiroona). Hilali-Khan

Jews and Christians are required to pay the jizyah in order to feel degraded and humiliated, since this is what the word saghiroona basically means, as can be seen from the following online Muslim lexical source:

Sad-Gh-Ra = to be small/little. saaghirun – one who is small/little/subdued/abject or in a state of subjection. saghiir – small. asghar – smaller. saghaar – vileness, contempt, humiliation.

saghara vb. (1) pcple. act. 7:13, 7:119, 9:29, 12:32, 27:37

saghar n.m. 6:124

saghir n.m. (adj. comp. asghar) 2:282, 9:121, 10:61, 17:24, 18:49, 34:3, 54:53

LL, V4, p: 415, 416 (Project Root List: http://www.studyquran.co.uk/18_SAD.htm)

The Muslim authorities themselves confirm that one of the main reasons why jizyah is extracted from the disbelievers such as the Jews and Christians is because Muhammad wanted them to feel humiliated and disrespected.

For example, Ibn Juzayy wrote the following concerning jizyah:

(Fight those of the people who do not have iman in Allah and the Last Day) A command to fight the People of the Book and denying their belief in Allah because of the words of the Jews, “‘Uzayr is the son of Allah” and the words of the Christians, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” Their belief in the Last Day is denied because their belief in it is incorrect. They do not accept the Next World or the Reckoning.

(who do not make haram what Allah and His Messenger have made haram) because they consider as lawful carrion, blood, pork, etc. (and do not take as their deen the deen of Truth) i.e. THEY DO NOT ENTER ISLAM.

(who were given the Book) Clarifying those they were commanded to fight. When this ayat was revealed, the Messenger of Allah set out on the expedition to Tabuk to fight the Christians.

(until they pay the jizya) Scholars agree about accepting jizya from the Jews and Christians. The Magians/Zoroasterians have been added to them going by the words of the Prophet, “Treat them as People of the Book.” There is disagreement about accepting it from idolaters and Sabians. It is not collected from women, children or the insane. Malik says that it is 4 dinars for the people who use gold and 40 dirhams for the people who use silver. It is a head tax. (with their own hands) This has two interpretations. One is that the dhimmi pays it with his own hand and does not send anyone with it nor postpone it as is said, “from hand to hand.” The second is submission and obedience as you say, “he gave his hand to so-and-so [an _expression meaning “he surrendered to so-and-so”].” (STATE OF ABASEMENT) i.e. they are humble. (Aisha Bewley, Tafsir. 9. Surat at-Tawba (Repentance); bold and capital emphasis mine)

Another expositor named al-Suyuti says:

(Fight those of the people who do not have iman in Allah and the Last Day) This is the basis for accepting jizya from the People of the Book, and it is a refutation of those who accept it from others. “With their own hands”. It is related by Abu Hatim from Qatada to be by force, and by Abu Sufyan to be by ability. Its literal meaning is that it is not taken from someone in a state of hardship as Ibn al-Majishun stated. Ibn ‘Uyayna said that “with their own hands” means that it is not sent with someone else. This is used as evidence by those who say that a Muslim cannot be delegated to do it, nor can he guarantee it for him nor transfer it from him to himself, but the dhimmi must pay it in person.

(state of abasement) Ibn ‘Abbas said: they are pushed. Ibn Abi Hatim transmitted that. It is transmitted that al-Mughira told Rustam, “I call you to Islam or else you must pay the jizya while you are in a state of abasement.” He said, “I know what jizya means, but what does ‘a state of abasement’ mean?” He replied, “You pay it while you are standing and I am sitting and the whip hanging is over your head.” Abu’sh-Shaykh related that Sa’id ibn al-Musayyab said, “I prefer that the people of the dhimma become tired by paying the jizya since He says, ‘until they pay the jizya with their own hands in a state of complete abasement.'” It is used as a proof by those who say that it is taken in a humiliating way, and so the taker sits and the dhimmi stands with his head bowed and his back bent. The jizya is placed in the balance and the taker seizes his beard and hits his chin. This is rejected according to an-Nawawi who said, “This manner is invalid.” This ayat is used as a proof by those who say that the people of the dhimma are left in the land of Islam because it is understood that one refrains from fighting them when they pay it. (Bewley, Tafsir – Surat at-Tawba: Repentance; bold emphasis mine)

The statement that the dhimma, or the people who have come under the rule of Islam, are not fought because they pay the jizyah is another reason why such a payment is taken from them. According to some of the so-called sound narrations, the dhimma had become a major source of livelihood for the Muslims who basically were living off of them. This is precisely why Muslims were encouraged not to kill them, since to do so would do more harm to the followers of Islam since they needed the money which they were receiving from these subjugated peoples:

Narrated Juwairiya bin Qudama At-Tamimi:

We said to Umar bin Al-Khattab, “O chief of the believers! Advise us.” He said, “I advise you to fulfill Allah’s Dhimma (financial obligation) (made with the Dhimmi) as it is the Dhimma of your Prophet and the source of the livelihood of your dependents (i.e., the taxes from the Dhimmi) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Number 388 https://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=53&translator=1&start=0&number=388)

In fact, this is primarily the reason why Muhammad didn’t completely expel the Jews from the Arabian Peninsula since he was deriving a monetary benefit from allowing them to remain there:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: 

Umar expelled the Jews and the Christians from Hijaz. When Allah’s Messenger had conquered Khaibar, he wanted to expel the Jews from it as its land became the property of Allah, His Messenger, and the Muslims. Allah’s Messenger intended to expel the Jews but they requested him to let them stay there on the condition that they would do the labor and get half of the fruits. Allah’s Messenger told them, “We will let you stay on this condition, as long as we wish.” So, they (i.e., Jews) kept on living there until Umar forced them to go towards Taima and Ariha. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Number 380 https://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=53&translator=1&start=0&number=380)

Here is another version of this same narration:

III: Instructions in regard to the people who have a covenant (dhimma) with the Messenger of Allah

Dhimma is the covenant and ill means kinship (9:8,10).

2991. It is related that Juwayriya ibn Qudama at-Tamimi said, “I heard ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab. We had said to him, ‘Instruct us, Amir al-Mu’minin!’ He said, ‘I instruct you to fulfil the contract of the dhimma of Allah. It is the dhimma of the Messenger of Allah and provision for your dependants [as a result of the jizya].'” (Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 62. Book of Khumus)

Now as far as paying the jizyah as a sign of humiliation, here is what Ibn Kathir had to say concerning this:

The Order to fight People of the Scriptures until They give the Jizyah

Allah said…

<Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the People of the Scripture, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.>

Therefore, when People of the Scriptures disbelieved in Muhammad, they had no beneficial faith in any Messenger or what the Messengers brought. Rather, they followed their religions because this conformed with their ideas, lusts and the ways of their forefathers, not because they are Allah’s Law and religion. Had they been true believers in their religions, that faith would have directed them to believe in Muhammad, because all Prophets gave the good news of Muhammad’s advent and commanded them to obey and follow him. Yet when he was sent, they disbelieved in him, even though he is the mightiest of all Messengers. Therefore, they do not follow the religion of earlier Prophets because these religions came from Allah, but because these suit their desires and lusts. Therefore, their claimed faith in an earlier Prophet will not benefit them because they disbelieved in the master, the mightiest, the last and most perfect of all Prophets . Hence Allah’s statement …

<Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the People of the Scripture,>

This honorable Ayah was revealed with the order to fight the People of the Book, after the pagans were defeated, the people entered Allah’s religion in large numbers, and the Arabian Peninsula was secured under the Muslims’ control. Allah commanded His Messenger to fight the People of the Scriptures, Jews and Christians, on the ninth year of Hijrah, and he prepared his army to fight the Romans and called the people to Jihad announcing his intent and destination. The Messenger sent his intent to various Arab areas around Al-Madinah to gather forces, and he collected an army of thirty thousand. Some people from Al-Madinah and some hypocrites, in and around it, lagged behind, for that year was a year of drought and intense heat. The Messenger of Allah marched, heading towards Ash-Sham to fight the Romans until he reached Tabuk, where he set camp for about twenty days next to its water resources. He then prayed to Allah for a decision and went back to Al-Madinah because it was a hard year and the people were weak, as we will mention, Allah willing. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir https://www.alim.org/quran/tafsir/ibn-kathir/surah/9/28/)

Ibn Kathir then goes on to mention the conditions that the second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab imposed on the Christians in order to insure their perpetual degradation and humiliation:

Paying Jizyah is a Sign of Kufr AND DISGRACE

Allah said…

<until they pay the Jizyah>, if they do not choose to embrace Islam…

<with willing submission>, in defeat and subservience…

<and feel themselves subdued.>, DISGRACED, HUMILIATED AND BELITTLED. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, FOR THEY ARE MISERABLE, DISGRACED AND HUMILIATED. Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said…

<<Do not initiate the Salam to the Jews and Christians, and if you meet any of them in a road, FORCE THEM TO ITS NARROWEST ALLEY.>>

This is why the Leader of the faithful `Umar bin Al-Khattab… demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, THESE CONDITIONS THAT ENSURED THEIR CONTINUED HUMILIATION, DEGRADATION AND DISGRACE. The scholars of Hadith narrated from `Abdur-Rahman bin Ghanm Al-Ash`ari that he said, “I recorded for `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, the terms of the treaty of peace he conducted with the Christians of Ash-Sham:

‘In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. This is a document to the servant of Allah `Umar, the Leader of the faithful, from the Christians of such and such city. When you (Muslims) came to us we requested safety for ourselves, children, property and followers of our religion.

We made a condition on ourselves that we will neither erect in our areas a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk, nor restore any place of worship that needs restoration nor use any of them for the purpose of enmity against Muslims.

We will not prevent any Muslim from resting in our churches whether they come by day or night, and we will open the doors [of our houses of worship] for the wayfarer and passerby.

Those Muslims who come as guests, will enjoy boarding and food for three days.

We will not allow a spy against Muslims into our churches and homes or hide deceit [or betrayal] against Muslims.

We will not teach our children the Qur’an, publicize practices of Shirk, invite anyone to Shirk or prevent any of our fellows from embracing Islam, if they choose to do so.

We will respect Muslims, MOVE FROM THE PLACES WE SIT IN IF THEY CHOOSE TO SIT IN THEM.

We will not imitate their clothing, caps, turbans, sandals, hairstyles, speech, nicknames and title names, or ride on saddles, hang swords on the shoulders, collect weapons of any kind or carry these weapons.

We will not encrypt our stamps in Arabic, or sell liquor.

We will have the front of our hair cut, wear our customary clothes wherever we are, wear belts around our waist, refrain from erecting crosses on the outside of our churches and demonstrating them and our books in public in Muslim fairways and markets.

We will not sound the bells in our churches, except discretely, or raise our voices while reciting our holy books inside our churches in the presence of Muslims, nor raise our voices [with prayer] at our funerals, or light torches in funeral processions in the fairways of Muslims, or their markets.

We will not bury our dead next to Muslim dead, or buy servants who were captured by Muslims. We will be guides for Muslims and refrain from breaching their privacy in their homes.’

When I gave this document to `Umar, he added to it, `We will not beat any Muslim. These are the conditions that we set against ourselves and followers of our religion IN RETURN FOR SAFETY AND PROTECTION. If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.’” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir https://www.alim.org/quran/tafsir/ibn-kathir/surah/9/28/; capital emphasis mine)

This is what another Muslim scholar named Ibn Hazm wrote concerning Umar’s pact with the Christians:

“These are the Rules and Regulations that were imposed by ‘Umar ibn-al-Khattab on the Christians of Syria, after conquering their land. The purpose of these rules was to make them submissive and contemptible. Christians were in no way to exhibit any sign of their unbelief, or anything forbidden in Islam; since Allah, the supremely Glorified and Honored, had said:

“And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.” (Qur’an 8:39, Pickthall)

“… [The Christians] are forbidden to build churches, or monasteries, in their cities or nearby areas. They are not allowed to renovate such buildings. They must allow any Muslim to lodge in these buildings for three nights, and provide him with food. They must never shelter a spy, nor show any duplicity to Muslims. They are not to teach their children the Qur’an. They must not display any sign of their unbelief, or forbid their relatives from converting freely to Islam. Furthermore, they must show reverence to Muslims, and give them pride of place at their assemblies. They should avoid appearing like Muslims in their clothing, their head covers, their shoes, and the parting of their hair. They must not speak the language of Muslims, nor use their names. They are not allowed to use a saddle on a beast of burden, nor bear a sword, nor any other weapon. Their rings must not bear any Arabic inscriptions. They must refrain from selling wine. They must have the front of their hair cut, and wear their own kind of clothing all the time, and must use belts. They are not to display a cross or any of their books, as they are passing Muslims on their way. Their dead must not be buried nearby a Muslim cemetery. They should not ring their bells in a loud manner; equally, they must not raise their voices while reading their Scriptures in their churches. They are forbidden to parade their palm branches. Now should Christians ever deviate from obeying these rules, Muslims would cease to honor the covenant that had protected them. In that case, Muslims can deal with them as if they have become people of discord and trouble.”

These references make it abundantly clear that there is no religious freedom in Islam. If Muslims are in the majority and have the power to impose their rule upon the disbelievers, then groups such as Jews and Christians will not be permitted to build places of worship such as Churches or Synagogues, nor be allowed to rebuild old ones, and will be forbidden from worshiping freely and openly. Muhammad’s orders to not be the first to greet the Jews and Christians, or to shove them to the narrow part of the road in order to make room for their Muslim captors, reveals his utter disdain for peoples of other faiths. The fact is that the Islamic religion Islam is meant to ensure the continual humiliation, degradation, and subjugation of the disbelievers who refuse to abandon their religions in order to embrace the Muslim faith.

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