Jizyah: A Humiliation to Dhimmis?
Islam is the religion of justice. No one is to be wronged under the Islamic state because of his or her religion or ethnicity. The stance of Islam regarding other religions and their followers is clear in the fundamental sources of Shariah. However, those who bear grudge against Islam reiterate false accusations against its teachings and tend to misinterpret them.
On this issue, Dr. Rajab Abu Mileeh, a Ph. D. holder and a Shariah consultant said:
The issue of jizyah has become one of the most controversial issues because of the wrong understanding of its meaning and wisdom. Jizyah is a tax paid by the financially capable dhimmis. They pay it instead of paying for jihad (striving for Allah) and instead of paying the zakah (obligatory alms). Its value differs according to time, place, and people.
However, the Muslim ruler is permitted to cancel or reduce it if he finds from among the dhimmis some persons who can be entrusted with defending the country against the enemies. Also, he can take it under the name of a charity or tax, as `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) did with some dhimmis in the Arab Peninsula.
Actually, this jizyah or tax is considered an honor to the dhimmis and a way of lifting their psychological embarrassment, not a humiliation as some dhimmis and Muslims believe. This is for the following reasons:
First, the Islamic Shariah does not want to embarrass the dhimmis by obliging them to fight for the cause of a religion they do not believe in, or to sacrifice themselves for a creed that they do not recognize. Furthermore, it does not want to impose zakah (which is a financial act of worship imposed on Muslims) on the dhimmis.
Also, as the dhimmis enjoy the welfare and protection of the Islamic state, it would not be fair if they do not participate in defending it and in working for its progress. Consequently, it is necessary to impose a tax on them, whether it is named jizyah or not, as the crucial factor is its significance, not its name.
Second, if we compare the physical and financial obligations imposed on the Muslims with those imposed on the dhimmis, we will find that the Muslims undertake the heaviest burden. The Muslims pay zakah and strive for the sake of Allah and sacrifice their souls and properties. All of this brings a kind of safety and protection to the non-Muslims, so that they may work and produce without fearing for their souls or properties inside or outside the Islamic state.
Third, imposing taxes on citizens is not an Islamic innovation. There is no human being who lives in a country without taking part in the efforts exerted for its prosperity.
Fourth, if we compare the teachings adopted by both the Jews and Christians with the teachings of Islam, we will realize the vast difference between Islam and other religions.
The teachings of the Torah–that Jews have now–instruct its followers to kill any Muslim and not to allow anyone embrace Judaism, because they, from the Jews’ viewpoint, are inferior to this!
The Torah says regarding the conquest of cities outside of Israel,
“When you march up to attack a city, make to its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord [your God] delivers it into your hands, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock, and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.” (Deuteronomy 20:10–15)
As for the people of what is called the Promised Land (the Land of Palestine), the Torah says,
“However, in the cities of the nations the Lord [your God] is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them … as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:16–18)
Fifth, the Qur’anic verse quoted by some people in their attempt to prove that the jizyah is imposed to humiliate and insult the dhimmis reads,
(Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the Latter Day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor do they follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.) (At-Tawbah 9:29)
There are different interpretations of this honorable verse. Although a few exegetes interpret it as indicating humiliation and insult to the dhimmis, the majority of exegetes interpret it as meaning submission to the Muslim state and commitment to its laws in concordance with Muslims.
In this respect, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi said,
“This verse means that the dhimmis are obliged to pay a jizyah if they are financially capable and that they must do so while submitting to the Islamic state and accepting the application of the rules pertaining to non-religious matters to them.
In other words, it denotes their submission to the civilian and political Islamic system. It does not indicate humiliation or insult to the dhimmis as some may understand. Imam Ash-Shafi`i stated that it means that they [the dhimmis] are required to submit to the Islamic judgment regarding them. Furthermore, indicating that other scholars support this opinion, he [Imam Ash-Shafi`i] said, “I heard some scholars say, ‘Submission means that they should submit to the Islamic judgment regarding them, in spite of their refraining from embracing Islam.’ Hence, if the Islamic judgment is applied to them, then this means that they are subdued by its rulings regarding them.” (Al-Qaradawi, Fiqh Al-Jihad, vol. 2, p. 797)