History books, especially those written by non-Muslims are full of accusations about how Jaziya tax was unduly imposed by Muslim rulers throughout the world to discriminate against their non-Muslims subjects. It looks to me that these historians are largely biased in their assessment of the Islamic Shari`ah. To the best of my understanding, the Jaziya tax on non-Muslims run parallel to the Zaka’h tax on Muslims. Moreover, Martin Lings in his biography of the Prophet “Life and Times of Mohammad” states that the Jaziya tax was essentially a military tax imposed on people not participating in battles. He cites examples where when non-Muslims participated in a battle along with Muslim armies, their jaziya was refunded back to them.
Can you please clarify the following points:
What is the description of Jaziya & Zaka’h tax in the Shari`ah?
Are non-Muslims regardless of their military participation required to pay jaziya?
Are Muslims regardless of their military participation exempted from jaziya?
Are all Muslims required to participate in the state military in an Islamic state? Can non-Muslims participate in the military of an Islamic state?
Can the Jaziya on non-Muslims be greater than Zaka’h on Muslims? Does it have to be equal? Can the Zaka’h on Muslims be greater than Jaziya on non-Muslims?
Regardless of the Islamic implications of Jaziya, do you concur with the mainstream non-Muslim historian that Muslim rulers imposed Jaziya to oppress their non-Muslim subjects?
Jizyah was a special kind of tax imposed primarily on the rejecters from the people of the book, after their refusal to accept Islam. In my opinion, therefore, Jizyah should not be compared with the Zaka’h imposed on the Muslims, because in place of Zaka’h, other taxes normally known as ‘Dharaaib‘ and ‘`ushoor‘ were imposed on the non-Muslims.
Jizyah, according to the Qur’an was a part of the punishment of the non-acceptance of God’s truth, after it had become manifest through the messenger of God in the Arabian Peninsula (Al-Taubah 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-Taubah 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, who refused to accept Islam.
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, let us now take up your specific questions:
Zaka’h is a tax that an Islamic state imposes on its Muslim citizens. The corresponding taxes imposed on the non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state are generally called ‘Dharaaib‘ and ‘`ushoor‘. Jizyah, on the other hand, was a financial penalty imposed on the non-polytheistic creeds for their rejection of the truth even after its ultimate manifestation by the Prophet (pbuh) and subsequently by his companions.
Jizyah can be paid in cash or kind. Those who could not pay Jizyah in cash would normally provide a service in its place. Thus, military participation was not an exempting criterion from Jizyah, but rather Jizyah received in kind – i.e. in the shape of military services.
All Muslims are not required (by the Shari`ah) to participate in the military of an Islamic state. Non-Muslims can, if they want, participate in the military of an Islamic state. However, non-Muslims cannot be forced into such participation.
Jizyah and Zaka’h are quite unrelated and therefore incomparable taxes. For instance, Jizyah is a tax imposed on a person, irrespective of his wealth, production or income, while Zaka’h, `ushoor, and Dharaaib are imposed on the wealth, production or income (as the case may be) of an individual.
Finally you have asked:
… do you concur with the mainstream non-Muslim historian that Muslim rulers imposed Jaziya to oppress their non-Muslim subjects?
Jizyah was not at the discretion of the Muslim rulers. It was rather a part of God’s punishment for the rejection of His truth. Thus, in my opinion, Jizyah was not an ‘oppression’, but a part of the divine ‘punishment’, in the life of this world, for the rejection of God’s truth.
16th February 2000