Misrepresenting Islam

Misrepresenting Islam

The Problem of Jizyah:

One of the problems raised by missionaries and orientalists is the imposition of the Jizyah on all non-Muslims. This institution has been so misinterpreted and misexplained that even the non-Muslims feel that it is some kind of religion-based discrimination against them. This is not the case. All the Jizyah amounts are to be a financial obligation placed upon those who do not have to pay the Zakat. As the ratio of these two taxes is the same, it is obvious that the Jizyah is simply a technique used by Islamic governments to make sure that everyone pays his fair share. If the term 'Jizyah' is too offensive to non-Muslims, it can always be changed: ‘Umar bin Al-Khattaab, may Allah be pleased with him, levied the Jizyah upon the Christians of the Bani Taghlib and called it Sadaqah (alms) out of consideration for their feelings.

The noted historian Sir Thomas W. Arnold in his Call to Islam, states:

"This tax was not imposed on the Christians, as some would have us think, as a penalty for their refusal to accept the Muslim faith, but was paid by them in common with the other Thimmies or non-Muslim subjects of the state whose religion precluded them from serving in the army, in return for the protection secured for them by the arms of the Mussalmans, (i.e. the Muslims). When the people of Hirah contributed the sum agreed upon, they expressly mentioned that they paid this Jizyah on condition that: 'The Muslims and their leader protect us from those who would oppress us, whether they be Muslims or others.’"

In his covenant with the people of certain cities near Al-Hayrah, Khaalid bin Al-Waleed, may Allah be pleased with him, recorded: “If we are able to protect you, we deserve the collection of Jizyah; otherwise, we shall not offer you protection."

The seriousness with which the Muslims took their covenants with the non-Muslims is well illustrated by the following incident. During the reign of the second caliph, ‘Umar bin al-Khattaab, may Allah be pleased with him, the Roman emperor, Heraclius, raised a huge army to repel the Muslim forces. It was, thus, incumbent upon the Muslims to concentrate their efforts on the battle. When the commander of the Muslims, Abu ‘Ubaydah, may Allah be pleased with him, heard this news, he wrote to his officials in all conquered cities in Syria and ordered them to return the Jizyah which had been levied in those cities. He also addressed the public saying; “We are returning your money because we know that the enemy has gathered troops. By the terms stipulated in the covenant, you have obliged us to protect you. However, since we are now unable to fulfil these conditions, we have returned to you what you paid to us. We shall abide by the terms agreed upon in the covenant, if Allah helps us to rout the enemy”. Thus, a huge amount was taken from the state treasury and returned to the Christians, making them very happy. They prayed for and blessed the Muslim commanders. They exclaimed: “May Allah help you to overcome your enemies and return you to us safely. If the enemy were in your place, they would never have returned anything to us, rather they would have taken all our remaining property!"

The Jizyah was also imposed on Muslim men who could afford to buy their way out of military service. If a Christian group elected to serve in the state’s military forces, it was exempted from the Jizyah. Historical examples of this abound: the Jarajima, a Christian tribe living near Antioch (now in Turkey), by undertaking to support the Muslims and to fight on the battle front, did not have to pay the Jizyah and were entitled to a share of the captured booty. When the Islamic conquests reached northern Persia in 22 A.H., a similar covenant was established with a tribe living on the boundaries of those territories. They were consequently exempted from Jizyah in view of their military services.

Other examples are to be found during the history of the Ottoman Empire: the Migaris, a group of Albanian Christians, were exempted from the Jizyah for undertaking to watch and guard the mountain ranges of Cithaeron and Geraned (which stretch to the Gulf of Corinth). Christians, who served as the vanguard of the Turkish army for road repairs, bridge construction and so on were also exempted. As a reward, they were also provided with some lands, free of all taxes. The Christians of Hydra were exempted when they agreed to supply a group of 250 strong men for the (Muslim) naval fleet. The Armatolis, Christians from southern Romania, were also exempted from the tax, for they constituted a vital element in the Turkish armed forces during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Mirdites, an Albanian Catholic clan who lived in the mountains of northern Scutari, were exempted on the condition that they would offer an armoured battalion in wartime. The Jizyah was also not imposed on the Greek Christians who had supervised the building of viaducts, which carried water to Constantinople, nor on those who guarded the ammunition in that city, as just compensation for their services to the state. However, Egyptian Muslim peasants exempted from military service were still required to pay the Jizyah.

[From: 'Islam at the Crossroads', by Muhammad Asad]

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