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JIZYAH. A word meaning recompense, compensation, or requital, as in the Qur’dn: “Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth from those who have been given the Book-until they pay the jizyah by hand and are subdued” (9.29). In Islamic history jizyah has most commonly referred to a head tax, levied on non-Muslim dhimmis (protected monotheists under a contract of obligation) as a form of tribute and an exemption from military service.

Little guidance about the nature of jizyah is found in the canonical h, adith collections, other than exempting converts from paying the tax after they have embraced Islam. This lack of textual guidance has led to considerable confusion in regard to its definition and regulation. In the early caliphal period jizyah was often confused with khardj, a tax on land that was paid in kind. In the `Abbdsid era (749-1258), jizyah was formally defined as a head tax, specific to the dhimmis, and was paid in specie.

According to the Hanafi jurist Abu Yusuf (d. 8o8) qadi (chief judge) for the `Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, jizyah was a form of tribute that exempted the person who paid it from military service. Consequently, it was not required from those incapable of fighting. Abu Yusuf also conceived of jizyah as a graduated head tax, in which the poor paid less than the rich, and the elderly, women, children, the sick, and the penniless were exempted. For the jurist and law-school founder al-Shafi’i (d. 820), jizyah was a tributary and protection tax that was required of all dhimmis, regardless of status. However, if a Muslim ruler failed his non-Muslim subjects by not providing them with adequate security, he was obliged to return the money. This was actually done for Christians by the Egyptian amir Saldh al-Din alAyyubi (“Saladin,” d. 1193), when he was compelled to withdraw his army from Syria.

Sometimes, the requirements for jizyah could be interpreted severely. In Tafsir al-kashshdf, the Mu’tazilah exegete al-Zamakhshari (d. 1144) assumes that the intent of the Qur’dnic commandment was to highlight the subordinate status of the dhimmi in Muslim society. Therefore, the jizyah should be exacted as a form of humiliation. The non-Muslim should come to pay the tax walking, not riding. When he pays, he is made to stand, while the tax collector sits. The collector should seize him by the scruff of the neck, shake him, and say, “Pay the jizyah!” cuffing him on the back of the head once the tax has been paid. A similarly hard line is taken by the modern commentator and political activist Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966) in his widely read commentary, Fi zildl al-Qur’dn. This prominent ideologist of the Muslim Brotherhood is defiantly triumphalist, claiming that jizyah amounts to a punishment for polytheism (especially for Christians) and is required before peaceful relations can be established between Muslims and the “people of the book.” Seeing shari’ah (the divine law) as a sort of positive law, Qutb intimates that jizyah is a recompense or protection, not from military service or external enemies, but from jihdd. If it is not paid as part of a peace agreement, the Islamic state owes no obligation to non-Muslims, whether at home or abroad.

A more liberal stance is taken by the contemporary Muslim writer Abdul Rahman Doi, who prefers to cite the Qur’anic verse, “There is no compulsion in religion” (surah 2.256). For Doi, jizyah is an obligatory tax paid by non-Muslims in return for being exempted from the zakat (alms tax). Therefore, the amount paid ought to be proportional to the zakat itself. Furthermore, the Muslim is obliged to treat the dhimmi honorably and with respect. Doi stresses that in the present day, when protecting the state requires vast sums of money, the jizyah is mainly symbolic and can be waived at any time. To prove his point he cites a historical account from the Tabaqdt of Ibn Sa’d (d. 844), in which the prophet Muhammad says on the death of his son Ibrahim, who was born to Maria, a Coptic concubine: “If my son Ibrahim had lived, I would have exempted every Copt from the jizyah.” The difference of opinion between Doi and Qutb illustrates the fact that there is no more of a consensus about jizyah today than there was in the past. [See also Dhimmi; Taxation.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Doi, Abdul Rahman I. Non-Muslims under Shari’ah (Islamic Law). Lahore, 1981. Somewhat idealistic, but still the best treatment of the subject in English. The perspective is middle of the road and reflects the ideology of Pakistan’s Jama’at-i Islam.

Lewis, Bernard. The Jews of Islam. Princeton, 1984. Despite the fact that Lewis judges the past according to modern values, chapter 1 (pp. 3-66) is a good introduction to medieval Muslim attitudes toward the Peoples of the Book.

Qutb, Sayyid, Fi zilal al-Qur’an. Cairo and Beirut, 1981. Although most of this commentary on the Qur’an has not been translated into English, it remains one of the most influential works of its genre published in the twentieth century. See pages 1220-1250.

VINCENT J. CORNELL

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/jizyah/
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  • writerPosted On: July 12, 2014
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