Do Non-Muslims Have to Pay Jizyah in Muslim-Majority Countries?

Name of Questioner: Blair

Date: 26-12-2019 05:34:06 PM

Consultant: Ask About Islam Editorial Staff


I recently had a discussion with a non-Muslim friend about the jizyah that non-Muslims have to pay in Islamic states. Is it discriminatory? Why do non-Muslims have to pay such a tax? Who has to pay it and how is it calculated? Thank you.

Dear Blair,

Thank you for your question.

Answering your question, Dr. Jasser Auda, Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, states:

Before addressing this question, we need to differentiate between actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that were carried out based on some worldly (in this case, political) motivation, and other actions that are part of the divine message of Islam.

Scholars call this, differentiating the Prophet's actions as a human (al-af`al al-bashariyah) and his actions as a messenger (al-af`al al-tashri`iyah).

There is a verse in the Quran that mentioned this tax, jizyah or fidyah:

[And] fight against those who - despite having been vouchsafed revelation [aforetime] -do not [truly] believe either in God or the Last Day, and do not consider forbidden that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and do not follow the religion of truth [which God has enjoined upon them] till they [agree to] pay the exemption tax with a willing hand, after having been humbled [in war]. (Quran 9:29)

The verse has a historical context, however, which is a certain battle at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and this tax was indeed taken from the defeated people after the battle.

However, it is important to ask two questions here:

1- What is the wisdom behind that tax which was the reason behind legislating it?

2- Do this verse and its related story make that kind of tax part of the Islamic law? In other words, is this tax an "Islamic obligation"?

The wisdom behind the tax/jizyah paid by non-Muslims to the Islamic state was fairness, for 2 reasons:

First, Muslims were paying Zakah (the annual charity) to the Islamic state, which was used for all sorts of services and social welfare. Zakah is an Islamic act of worship, but it is only for Muslims. It was fair to make non-Muslim citizens of the same state pay a similar (in fact, less) amount as a tax, since Zakah is not taken from them as it is taken from Muslims.

Jizyah was calculated in different ways throughout different eras (a certain amount of money, certain percentage of the crops, etc.), but it was consistently less than the Zakah, which every Muslim had to pay anyway.

In addition to that, this tax was paid in exchange of protection of these non-Muslim communities (i.e. militarily protection) and exemption of their men from joining the Islamic army.

At that time, this was a necessary and fair measure given all the wars that the Islamic state was going through based on religious divides. It was not fair to ask these non-Muslim citizens to fight with Muslims against fellow believers of their same religion.

Then, does all the above make jizyah an eternal "Islamic obligation"? The answer is no! We need not to confuse the Script and the interpretation of the script, between the traditions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as a political leader and his tradition as a prophet and messenger from God, and between Islam as a civilization and Islam as a religion, to make a general point.

The interpretation of such verses that dealt with certain historical contexts should take into account that historical context, based on which scholars decide whether that context should or should not be extended to our context now.

Given that this ruling was in particular political circumstances, it actually served a pure practical purpose. And if these circumstances and purposes no longer exist, then the ruling seizes to exist too.

I have to stress that this applies to the area of politics and similar areas of "policies", if you wish, and not the areas of `Ibadat (acts of worship) and Tashri` (legislation), which are eternally universal and abiding.

In these areas of "policies", the tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him) teaches us higher values like fairness, justice, and compassion, rather than specific measures and procedures such as taxes, organization of the government or the army, or the division of provinces and states.

The historical context of the verse made it extendable to other similar situations throughout the Islamic history. Thus, similar taxes were taken from non-Muslims during the caliphates that followed the prophetic era.

However, the concept of citizenship has developed in our current political culture to include people from all religions and it is no longer purely based on religion.

Therefore, scholars no longer apply the rule of jizyah or exempting non-Muslims from serving their countries' armies. The context now is different and therefore, the ruling differs and jizyah no longer applies.

If one calls for applying this ruling of jizyah nowadays, then one would miss the point and purpose behind the ruling, for which it was originally made; which is fairness!


We hope this answers your question.

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