Jizya Between Christianity and Islam, Historical Facts

There should not be doubt that Islam is the religion of moderation, tolerance and peace. History witnessed the tolerance of  Muslim leaders with the people of lands where war was broken with them and the Muslims.

This is further supported by the fact that many people of conquered countries by Muslims, after testifying to the tolerance of the Islamic message, converted to Islam freely and became supporters of the cause of Islam. There are lands, especially in Asia, which were opened by Muslims without bloodshed, for the citizens of those countries were influenced by the truthfulness and kind dealing of Muslim merchants.

“Is it right to pay the tax to Caesar or not?” …..Jesus replied, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”(Matthew 22: 16-22)

Under the light of the clash of civilizations, we encounters voices unjustly condemning the Islamic  stand as regards to Jizya (i.e. An amount of money taken from non-believers) to distort the image of Islam and diminish its value. The enemies to Islam, claimed that Islam imposed such tribute on the people of the book to burden them and persecute them.

To clear out such misconception one, should have a proper understanding of the concept of Jizya in Islam not in the context of the black history of the Roman persecution of Jews and Christians when they were forced to pay tributes, taxes or tithes.

Jizya was not an Islamic innovation. Islam is not among the religions, which imposed taxes on the heads of nations defeated in wars unjustly and without restrictions, Dr. Al-Saqqar says,

“The New Testament conveys the prevalence of such practice, ‘After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes–from their own children or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out 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).

The Bible also tells that the prophets took the tribute (Jizya) as Joshua practice with the Canaanites: ‘…But the Canaanites dwelt among the Ephraimites on this day, and served under tribute.'(Joshua 16: 10).

According to Jesus, Christians should not break the laws of Judaism, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.’ (Matthew 5: 17). According to the Bible, moreover, Christ orders his followers to pay the tribute to the Romans, and he hastened to pay it, They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the tax 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 the tax.” They brought him a denarius. and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.” (Matthew 22: 16-22) (see Matthew 11/19). The New Testament considers the tribute to the sultans as s legitimate right, and even makes it a religious duty!, ‘Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. Consequently, whoever 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 you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents 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 as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.'(Romans 13: 1-7).”

The Roman civilization, praised by Europe, set the worst example for the concept of tribute (Jizya) when they mixed it with unfair taxes on the weak people.

Historians reported that the Roman empire had many financial important resources such as customs, mines, taxes and fields for planting wheat and pastures. They were hired from the companies represented in tithes-collectors who were supported by the government to collect them. They were noblemen who, unjustly and increasingly  practiced the levy of taxes in the name of the government. They confiscated the properties of debtors and even sold them as slaves “(A. Al-Kurdi, Khutat (plans) of Al-Sham, Kurd Ali c 5 p. 47).

In its view of this concept, Islam does not leave mankind depend on human heinous practices emanating from misguided passions, but it tackles it in accordance with the rules of mercy, benevolence while preserving the sovereignty of the State of Islam and imposing its prestige.

First of all, Islam defines the kinds of people from whom the Jizya should be taken. Jizya is a general provision with exceptions. It is a means to the imposition of the sovereignty of the State of Islam and is resorted to only after the introduction of Islam to people of defeated lands.

When there was a difference upon the approach by Muslim leaders opening the land of Smarqand where the people was not given the choices of reconciliation with conditions or fighting, the people of Smarqand complained to Caliph Omar bin Abdul Aziz who ordered that a Muslim judge should consider the complaint. The judge ruled that:

First, the exile of Muslims from Smarqand. Second: Compensating the people of Samarqand in exchange for the damage caused to them by the entry of Muslims to their lands.

Third: Invitation of the people of Smarqand to Islam, and if they did not accept Islam they would be given the choice of either reconciliation or fighting. However, the people of Smarqand waived their complaint after touching the tolerance and good spirit of Islam”. (A. I. Al-Mat’ani, The tolerance of Islam in the call to Allah and human relations as approach and biography, , Wahba Library, p. 158.

Dr. Al-Saqqar says,

“Allah has commanded Muslims to take the Jizya from those only able to fight, as stated in the Qur’anic aya: ‘Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizya willingly while they are humbled..’ (9:29). Al-Qurtubi stated that there is a consensus among Muslim scholars that Jizya should only be taken from those only able to fight, including free adult men, not women, offspring, slaves and mad people or very old people. The amount of money taken was very few that many people could pay it. It did not exceed one dinar per year at the era of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and four dinars at the time of the Ummayad Caliphate (state) per year. Caliph Omar sent to leaders ordering them not to impose Jizya on women, children and that only those male adults should pay it)”.

Once the leader of Egypt advised Caliph Omar bin Abdul Aziz not to exempt those who convert to Islam from paying the Jizya, but the devout Caliph refused, saying: “Allah sent Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a caller (to Islam), and did not send him as a tax-collector!”.

Islam warns against injustice to Mu’ahadin (those given a pledge of peace and protection by the Islamic State), Dr. Al Saqqar says:

“Allah, in his scripture, and the Prophet, command benevolence to the people of Jizya. Islamic Sharia prohibits doing injustice to them and also mal-treatment to them. The Qur’an urged dealing kindly with peaceful Jews and Christians (Ahlul Kitab): Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes -from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers. “(60:8-9)

The word kindness is a translation to the Arabic word “AlBir” which denotes the highest degree of benevolence and good treatment.

Such bir is required even when dealing with parents and considered as an indication of good morals as stated by the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Safwan reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “Beware, if anyone wrongs a  Mu’ahad (one given a pledge of peace), or diminishes his right, or forces him to work beyond his capacity, or takes from him anything without his consent, I shall plead for him (Mu’ahad) on the Day of Judgment. And said: “Whoever killed a Mu’ahad (a person who is granted the pledge of protection by Muslims), shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise though its fragrance can be smelt at a distance of forty years (of traveling) (i.e. s/he would not be admitted to Paradise at first).


References

Al-Saqqar, Jizya in Islam.

A. Al-Kurdi, Khutat (plans) of Al-Sham, Kurd Ali.

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