The Jizyah and its Philosophy in Islam
Jizyah is derived from جَزاَء and refers to the money taken from the non-Muslims, who are under the protection of the Islamic government. It has been named so because it is paid by the non-Muslims to the Islamic government as recompense for the protection granted to them with respect to their lives and properties (as stated by Raghib, in his book al-Mufradat). It is a kind of an Islamic poll tax that is associated with individuals – not land or wealth; in other words, it is a yearly computation.
Some people are of the opinion that its root is of non-Arabic origin and has been derived from the ancient Persian word کزيت, which means tax taken to strengthen the army. However, numerous others believe that this word is totally Arabic of origin and, as we have previously mentioned, taken from جزاء, in view of the fact that the tax was a compensation for the security provided by the Islamic government to the religious minorities.
Jizyah also existed prior to Islam and it is the view of some people that the first person to levy it was Anushirwan, the Sassanide king. But even if we do not consider this to be the case, he was certainly one who did levy this tax upon his people. He would take varying amounts of 4, 6, 8, or 12 dirhams as a yearly tax from all individuals who were between the ages of 20 and 50, except the functionaries of the government.
The main philosophy behind this tax has been explained as follows: Defending the existence, independence and security of a nation is the responsibility of all the individuals of that nation. Now, if one group comes forward to practically shoulder this responsibility (in the form of soldiers), whilst another group, due to its involvement in work and trade, is unable to stand alongside the soldiers, then, it is the responsibility of this second group to pay for the expenses of the soldiers and security forces in the form of a per capita tax, in the year.
We have evidence which attest this philosophy to be true in the case of Jizyah – be it before the arrival of Islam or after. The age-group of those who had to pay Jizyah during the rule of Anushirwan – as has been previously stated by us (between 20 and 50 years) – is an articulate testimony in this regard, since people in this age-group possess the strength and ability to carry weapons, and to help out in maintaining the independence and security of a nation. But being engaged in work and trade, they used to pay the Jizyah instead.
Another testimony in this regard is the fact that in Islam, it is not necessary for the Muslims to pay Jizyah. This is because Jihad is obligatory upon everyone and when the occasion demands, everyone must step out into the battle-field to stand up against the enemy. Since the religious minorities are exempted from Jihad, they must pay Jizyah in order that, in this way, they (too) have a part in safeguarding the security of the Islamic nation in which they lead a life of peace and tranquility. In addition to this, the exemption of ladies, children, the old and the blind of the religious minorities from paying Jizyah is yet another proof in this regard.
From what has been mentioned, it becomes plain that Jizyah is just a kind of monetary assistance paid by the People of the Book vis-à-vis responsibility, which the Muslims have shouldered with respect to safeguarding their lives and possessions. Thus those people who have regarded Jizyah as a kind of ‘subjugation of rights’, have not taken into consideration the spirit and the idea that lie behind it. They are oblivious of the fact that when the Ahlul Kitab (People of the Book) enter into the category of Ahlul Dhimmah (protected people), the Islamic leadership is obliged to grant them protection from every kind of aggression and harassment.
Bearing in mind that against the payment of Jizyah, in addition to availing protection and security benefits, they do not possess any other obligation such as participation in battles or involvement in other defensive and security affairs, it is obvious that their responsibility towards the Islamic government is much lighter than that of the Muslims. It follows that by paying a meager annual amount, they avail themselves of all the benefits of the Islamic government as do the Muslims while, at the same time, they are not exposed to any danger.
This philosophy can be corroborated by examining the covenants established during the period of the Islamic government between the Muslims and the People of the Book in connection with Jizyah, in which it has been expressly stated that the People of the Book were obliged to pay the Jizyah and in return, the Muslims were obliged to guarantee their safety, to the extent that even if some enemy happened to attack them, the Islamic government would be duty-bound to defend them!
These covenants are numerous in number and, as an example, we present below the covenant, which was entered into between Khalid b. Walid and the Christians living around the Euphrates. The text of the covenant is as follows: “This is a letter from Khalid b. Walid to Saluba and his companions. I hereby enter into a covenant of Jizyah and defense with you, and in exchange for it you shall avail of the benefit of our support. As long as we continue to support and defend you, we shall possess the right to take Jizyah from you and if not, then we shall have no right to take it. This covenant has been written in the month of Safar, twelve years after the migration (Hijri).”
Interestingly, we observe that whenever there was a failure or neglect in supporting or defending them, the Muslims would either return the Jizyah to them or not collect it from them at all! It is also necessary to note that the measure of Jizyah is not fixed and defined – rather, it depends upon the ability of those paying it. However, Islamic history reveals that a small amount would usually be specified, and at times, this would not exceed one dinar a year. Occasionally the covenant even contained the condition that those paying the Jizyah were obliged to pay it in the measure of their means and ability.
The above discussion serves to clear the various objections and caustic criticisms leveled at this Islamic ruling, and establish that this is a ruling that is both just and logical.
The Philosophy of Prohibition of Battles in the Holy Months
In the verse, we read:
إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِنْدَ اللٌّهِ إِثْـنَا عَشَرَ شَهْراً فِي كِتَابِ اللٌّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَ الأَرْضَ مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ
“Surely the number of months with Allah is twelve months in Allah’s ordinance since the day when He created the heavens and the earth, of these four being sacred.”
The question that is propounded here is: Why are Muslims prohibited to wage battles in the four months (Dhul Qa’dah, Dhul Hijjah, MuHarram and Rajab)?
Prohibition of battles in these four months is one of the ways to bring to conclusion long-drawn and protracted battles, and a means of invitation towards peace and reconciliation. With the laying down of arms, the dying down of the sound of clashing of swords and whistling of arrows, and the presence of an opportunity for thought and reflection, there is a strong possibility that the battles may come to an end.
There is a vast difference between a persistent and continued confrontation and a renewed start following a lull – the latter being much more difficult and severe. We cannot forget how difficult it had been during the Vietnam War, to bring about a ceasefire for a period of 24 hours for the start of the Christian New Year – or in other similar instances.
On the other hand, Islam has announced for its followers a ceasefire of four months in every year, and this itself is an indication of its peace-loving nature. But as we previously mentioned, if the enemy desires to misuse this Islamic ruling and trample the sanctity of these holy months, the Muslims have been granted permission to retaliate in a likewise manner.