What does Jizyah mean?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is a kind of tax that non-Muslims living under the rule of Islam pay to the state in return for the protection of their property, honor and lives. The legitimacy of jizyah is definite based on the Quran, the Sunnah and the consensus (ijma) of the ummah. God Almighty states the following in the Quran: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (at-Tawba)

The Prophet (pbuh) took jizyah from the people of “Hajir” (Bukhari).

Umar (r.a.) took jizyah from the people of Iran (Tirmidhi).

The religion of Islam orders zakah to be taken from Muslims and jizyah from non-Muslims because both communities live under the banner of Islam. The Islamic state protects both dhimmis and Muslims.

JIZYAH: A tax taken once a year from the men of non-Muslim citizens living in the Islamic state in return for the protection of their lives and property. The reason why it is called jizyah is that it protects the person called dhimmi, from death. If a non-Muslim living in an Islamic country converts to Islam, he will not pay jizyah any longer. The following is stated in the Quran:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (at-Tawba, 9/29)

“Jizya” is a noun referring to a kind of debt payment derived from the verb (jaza daynahu), which means he paid his debt. It means the tax that the person who has agreed to pay it will pay in accordance with his own promise in return for the protection of his life, property and freedoms.

As for the polytheists, it is out of question for them to continue their polytheism by paying jizyah. They have to accept Islam or fight. There is no condition stating that jizyah is accepted as peculiar to the People of the Book. Therefore, the issue is a matter of ijtihad. According to Abu Hanifa, jizyah is absolutely taken from the People of the Book and from non-Arab polytheists but it is not taken from Arab polytheists. They are only offered to become Muslims. According to Abu Yusuf, jizyah is not taken from an Arab, whether he is from the People of the Book or a polytheist; but it is taken from the non-Arab People of the Book and the polytheists. According to Imam Shafii, jizyah is taken from the People of the Book, whether they are Arabs or not. It is not taken from the polytheists and idolaters, whether Arabs or non-Araba. Imam Malik and Awzai express the opinion that it can be taken from all non-Muslims.

The only evidence we have about how jizyah was applied in the early days is the information about the application in Egypt. A lead seal was given to the men who paid tax there, and they would wear it around their necks. However, afterwards, Hisham b. Abdulmalik wanted the application of the method of giving regular receipts called Baraah. Although most of these receipts have survived to the present day, sufficient research has not been done on them yet. It is narrated that two dinars were levied per man in the conquest of Egypt (Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır, H.D.K.D III, 2509).

As the number of converts to Islam increased, jizyah lost its per capita tax character. In Egypt, the annual income of jizyah consisted of only 130,000 dinars beginning from the era of Salahuddin Ayyubi (Makrizi, Khitat, I, 107, 108, 27, 23).

Jizyah is not a tax that Islam introduced for the first time. Jizyah has existed since ancient times. In the fifth century BC, the Greeks used to take jizyah from the people living on the coasts of Asia Minor to protect them from the attacks of the Phoenicians. The Romans also took jizyah from the tribes they dominated. The Iranians also used to take jizyah from the people who were under their rule.

Jizyah was imposed for the first time by the Prophet (pbuh) in the history of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) determined the amount and form of jizyah according to agreements he made with those who would pay jizyah based on their state. In the agreement he made with the Christians of Najran, the Prophet imposed two thousand suits in the month of Safar and a thousand suits in the month of Rajab every year as jizyah. The value of each suit was determined as one uqiyya. One uqiyya was equal to forty dirhams. Thus, jizyah continued until the end of Abu Bakr’s (r.a.) caliphate like this, without a specified amount. When Umar (r.a.) became the caliph and the Islamic conquests spread over a wide area, the amount of jizyah was determined. Umar (r.a.) sent orders to the commanders around that those who had a beard and mustache pay jizyah and that it should be determined as four gold coins or forty dirhams of silver per man. This amount was determined again afterwards according to the economic situation of the non-Muslim. Since jizyah was a tax that disturbed the Westerners a lot, “jizyah” tax was abolished as the first thing in the proclamation of the Tanzimat Edict to please them, and it was decided that this tax would be collected by the patriarchates on behalf of their communities.

There are two types of jizyah in the Islamic law:

1) Jizyah imposed through peace: Its amount is applied according to the principles of the agreement. The parties cannot unilaterally change the amount of jizyah. For example; as it is stated in the statement above, an agreement was made with the people of Najran to give one thousand two hundred suits per year during the time of the Prophet (pbuh).

2) Jizyah imposed directly by the Islamic state: If Muslims seize an enemy country with their own forces and leave their non-Muslim people in their homeland as “subjects”, jizyah whose amount is determined by the Islamic state will be imposed on them.

Jizyah is accepted only from Jews and Christians, who are called Ahl al-Kitab, and from Magians who might be from Ahl al-Kitab.

In order for jizyah to be collected from a person, it is necessary for that person to be sane, free, healthy, male and to have reached the age of puberty. Therefore, mentally ill and senile people, children, women, slaves, the blind and the lame, very old people, and those who are sick for more than six months in a year are not subject to jizyah because jizyah is an obligation of non-Muslims who are able to fight according to the shari’ah. Since those listed above are not strong enough to fight, they are not obliged to pay jizyah. There is a difference of opinion as to whether the priests and rabbis in churches and synagogues are subject to jizyah or not.

The amount of the jizyah is determined based on the economic conditions of the person to pay jizyah. Those people were divided into three classes for the amount of jizyah imposed by the state in the past. Forty-eight dirhams per year from those who are regarded as rich, twenty-four dirhams from the middle class and twelve dirhams from the poor who can work were collected. Those who had the amount of nisab were regarded as rich. According to some scholars, whether a person is regarded as rich, of middle class or poor, jizyah is decided according to the customs of the town where he resides. That is the sound and valid view.

The people who pay jizyah pay it not only for the permission to be given for their faith and religious ceremonies but they also make an agreement with the Islamic state that their lives and property will be protected and guaranteed by the state. Rather than a tax, it is a kind of contribution of those citizens to the state for its expenditures on them.

According to Hanafis, jizyah starts to be collected from the beginning of the year because the one who pays jizyah obtains the right to be protected from attacks in the future from the beginning of the year. Therefore, jizyah is collected in twelve installments every month. According to some Islamic jurists, jizyah can be collected at the end of the year. The state cannot demand it earlier.

Jizyah is not collected due to one of the following three states:

a) If the person to pay jizyah becomes a Muslim. If a person who is to pay jizyah becomes a Muslim, he does not pay jizyah because the Prophet (pbuh) said, “There is no jizyah on Muslims.” (Tirmidhi, Zakah, 11; Ahmad b. Hanbal, I, 223)

b) If time has expired before jizyah is collected. In that case, jizyah lapses.

c) If the person to pay jizyah dies before jizyah is collected. In that case, jizyah is invalidated: It is not collected from his inheritance.

(Şâmil İ.A.)

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