There is a Qura’nic ayah that states that we should fight the ahl-e-kitaab ((A Qur’anic term literally meaning ‘People of the Book’, generally used for those, who believe in the Torah, i.e. the Jews and the Christians.)) until they pay the jizya tax. Does this mean that keep fighting them always or only in the case of when they refuse to pay a tax in the Islamic state? Also how should we view the conquering of countries during the Khulafa Rashidun era of Islam? Is conquering all right?
In my opinion, the referred verse (Al-Tawbah 9: 29) is a part of the law of punishments related to the rejection of the Messengers (Rasu’l) of God. In my earlier response to one of your questions1, I had written:
For polytheists, the punishment of rejecting the messengers of the Almighty has always been death. Examples of this punishment may be seen in human history, in the shape of the destruction of the people of Noah, Lot, Hu’d, Sho`aib, Moses (pbut) etc. The same punishment was administered on the rejecters of Mohammad (pbuh).
On the contrary, if a non-polytheist group – like the Jews and the Christians, for instance – refuse to accept a Messenger of God, their punishment is slightly different from that of the polytheists. As can be seen from the referred part of my previous answer, if a polytheist group persists in rejection of a messenger of God, it is killed as a punishment for its rejection. On the other hand, if a non-polytheist group refuses to accept the call of a messenger, the life of its members can be spared if they accept political subservience and, as a symbol for such political subservience, pay Jizyah. In one of my previous responses2 to a question, while explaining the nature of Jizyah, I wrote:
Jizyah, according to the Qur’an was a part of the punishment of the non-acceptance of God’s truth, after it [that is, the truth] had become manifest through the messenger of God in the Arabian Peninsula (Al-Tawbah 9: 29) and subsequently through the companions of the messenger for the rest of the world (Al-Baqarah 2: 143). It may be mentioned over here that this punishment was only for those who were not polytheists by belief. As far as the polytheists were concerned, their punishment for the non-acceptance of God’s truth was nothing less than death (Al-Tawbah 9: 5). Thus, the Prophet (pbuh) and subsequently his companions imposed Jizyah upon the people of the Book, and other creeds ascribing to non-polytheistic belief, which refused to accept Islam
Keeping the foregoing explanation in perspective, it should be quite clear that the referred verse of Surah Al-Tawbah relates particularly to the Ahl-e-Kitaab – the Jews and the Christians – of Arabia, who were the direct addressees of the call of the last messenger of God. The fighting prescribed against this group is a part of the punishment that this group was subjected to, due to its rejection of the Prophet (pbuh) even after the truth had become manifest upon them.
4th April 2000
- Reference is to one of my earlier responses titled: ‘Another Question Comparing Surah Tawbah 9:5 with No Compulsion in Religion (Al-Baqarah 2: 256). [↩]
- Reference is to the question titled “Regarding Jizyah on Non-Muslim Citizens“. [↩]