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Jizyah: The Tax of being Non-Muslim

August 11, 2020 Authored by: Harsh Narain

The Muslim psyche is of a peculiar making, vis-à-vis its attitude towards non-Muslims. According to the Prophet, every child is born in Islam, but its parents make it a non-Muslim. The Qur’an declares the Muslims to be the best community and raised up to guide and govern humanity as vice-regents of God on earth, and Islam to be the chosen religion destined to triumph over all other religions. The Qur’an also says that ‘the earth belongs to Allah. He causes it to be inherited by whom of His Servants He will’.

On the basis of it all the Prophet rules that all land belongs to God or himself, the natural corollary being that all land belongs, through God and the Prophet, to the Muslims. In their bid to conquer Spain, a contingent of the Arabs under Tariq landed on its shores and Tariq burnt the ship which carried them. On the soldiers’ protest as to how they would return to their homeland, Tariq burst out, in Iqbal’s words:

Har mulk mulk-I ma’st ki mulk-i- Khuda-I ma’st

That is, ‘All land belongs to us, because it belongs to our God.’ This serves to vouchsafe to the Muslims the moral right to grab lands in Jihad from non-Muslims. Indeed, as Ibn Taymiyyah, the 14th century Muslim Jurist-theologian, would have it, Jihad simply restores lands to the Muslims, who enjoy a kind of Divine right over these.

Besides, the Qur’an commands the Muslims to despise idol worshippers as unclean (najas) and, therefore, not to allow them to draw near the Ka’bah or to inhabit God’s mosques, for their works go waste and they are doomed to be consigned to the hellfire for all time to come.

This is perhaps why the Prophet taught the Muslims to reside at such a distance from Kafirs’ colony that the latter’s light remains invisible to the former. The Qur’an teaches that a Muslim slave is better than an idolater, howsoever good the latter appear to the Muslims.

Are idolaters unclean in body, in faith, or in both? According to Imam Malik as also to Hasan Basari, idolaters’ body is unclean, so that, if an idolater put his hand into water, the water would become unclean. On the contrary, according to the hanafites, idolaters are unclean in faith. And there is a third school, led by Anwar Shah Kashmiri, according to whom idolaters are unclean in body and faith both. He claims that even Imam Abu Hanifah subscribes to this view when he rules: ‘If a Kafir falls into a well, all its water will have to be drawn out, even though he is pulled out of the well alive’.

The Qur’anic verse adjudging idolaters unclean disallows them to draw near the Ka’bah. The question is: Are they forbidden to draw near other mosques, too? Imam Malik’s reply is in the affirmative. Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi adds that, though the verse refers to the Ka’bah only, the ground of ‘being unclean’ given therein helps generalize the provision to cover all mosques.

Prior to 9 A.H., the year in which the above verse was revealed, idolaters did enter and stay in mosques, but there is no such precedent during the rest of the Prophet’s life.

It would be pertinent to point out that, according to Ayat Allah Khomeini, “Eleven things are unclean: urine, excrement, sperm, blood, a dog, a pig, bones, a non-Muslim man and woman, wine, bear, perspiration of the camel that eats filth. The whole body of a non-Muslim is unclean, even his hair, his nails, and all secretions of his body. A child below the age of puberty is unclean if his parents and grandparents are not Muslims…

Again, the Qur’an forbids the Muslims to take the Kafir for their friends and to be their helpers. It exhorts the former to fight the latter to the finish, so that Islam gets the better of Kufr (infidelity/disbelief) for good, wherever possible, but it commands them to migrate from a place dominated by unruly Kafirs, in case they feel powerless to deal with them otherwise.

In fact, Islam nowhere encourages, prescribes, or envisages friendly coexistence with the Kafirs, who, according to it, are not to be tolerated, much less respected.

It is preposterous to hark back to certain seemingly contrary provisions in the earlier part of the Qur’an. One such verse is: ‘To you your religion and to me my religion’ (La Kum dinu-kum wa liya din). Another: ‘There is no force in religion’ (La ikraha fi ‘d-din). According to competent classical commentators, the first verse gives expression to the Prophet’s mood of reluctant tolerance of Kufr, for want of the needed strength to subdue it.

As regards the second verse, Shah Wali Allah appears to construe it to mean that use of force after proclamation of Islam is no use of force. Besides, classical commentators maintain that these and many such other verses stand abrogated by the verse of Jihad. Indeed, Abu Bakr ibn al- ‘Arabi’, a leading classical commentator, contends that the verse has abrogated 124 verses teaching forbearance with Kufr. Same is the case with the teaching that the Prophet’s duty is plain communication of the message of God rather than behave as a tyrant (Jabbar) or guard (hafiz) to compel people to embrace Islam.

Indeed, the Muslim psyche rules out the possibility of lasting peaceful coexistence with the Kafirs, so that al-Marghinani, the celebrated author of the Hidayah, appears to be right when he contends that war with the Kafirs is the norm and peace, contingent upon circumstances beyond the control of the Muslims.

Indeed, Jihad is prescribed in the Torah also, which the Qur’an nowhere repudiates. The Jihadic spirit remains dormant in the Meccan Qur’an, viz. the part of the Qur’an revealed in Mecca and becomes manifest in the Medinan Qur’an.

Well, the Qur’anic attitude towards other religions and communities appears to have passed through the following successive stages:

  1. Peaceful coexistence and equal respectability of all Semitic religions.
  2. Reluctant tolerance of even idolatrous polytheism, for but a few days, though.
  3. Treatment of the Jews of Banu Awf at Medinah as forming a single nation (ummah wahidah) with the Muslims.
  4. Defensive Jihad /Crescentade (holy war).
  5. Offensive Jihad.
  6. Extraction of Jizyah agreed upon in a no-war pact (Jizyah sulhiyyah).
  7. Extraction of Jizyah from a conquered non-Muslim community (Jizyah qahriyyah).
  8. Reduction of all Jizyah-paying individuals and communities to the status of Ahl adh-Dhimmah/Dhimmi-s (protectorate/protected people), viz. servile subjects of the Muslim state.
  9. Exclusion of all non-Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula.

The quintessence of the Qur’anic commands to the Muslims vis-à-vis the Kafirs, as perceived, preached, and practiced by the Prophet, his Companions and Followers, and later Crescentadors and theologians, can be put as under:

  1. Try to convert the Kafir to Islam.
  2. If any of them resist,
  • Try to consign them to the grave before God consigns them to the hell-fire, plunder and loot their property (al-anfal/al-ghana’im) movable and immovable (al-amwal wa alamlak), enslave them, menfolk (usara’) and womenfolk and children (sabaya) alike;
  • Or, where imposition of Jizyah is permissible, let the Kafirs escape death and compound their offence of Kufr by disgracefully paying Jizyah, abjectly surrendering to the brute force of Islam, and suffering all sorts of indignities and humiliations as Dhimmi-s:
  • Or, again, if you find yourselves too weak to deal with the Kafirs as above, take recourse to hejira (hijrah) and bide your time.

Jihad is said to have four forms, as culled by responsible theologians from the sayings and doings of the Prophet.

  1. Jihad by heart (Jihad bi I-qalb)
  2. Jihad by tongue (Jihad bi’I-lisan)
  3. Jihad by hand (Jihad bi ‘I-yad)
  4. Jihad by sword (Jihad bi ‘s-sayf)

Which form of Jihad to adopt depends upon the particular situation which the Muslim finds himself in.

Jihad is virtual genocide with a difference, and the difference is made by Jizyah, as we shall see in the sequel.

Centre For Indic studies
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