Some Context on the Jizyah


بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

People who have a problem with Islam always cite this particular verse, claiming that the religion seeks to subjugate the Christians and the Jews, and fight them until they yield and pay the jizyah, the poll tax on non-Muslims:

سُوۡرَةُ التّوبَة
قَـٰتِلُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يُؤۡمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَلَا بِٱلۡيَوۡمِ ٱلۡأَخِرِ وَلَا يُحَرِّمُونَ مَا حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ ۥ وَلَا يَدِينُونَ دِينَ ٱلۡحَقِّ مِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡڪِتَـٰبَ حَتَّىٰ يُعۡطُواْ ٱلۡجِزۡيَةَ عَن يَدٍ۬ وَهُمۡ صَـٰغِرُونَ (٢٩)

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been Forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Surah at-Tawbah:29)

We should look at this passage within the asbab an-nuzul, its context.  There is a verse before, and a verse after as well:

سُوۡرَةُ التّوبَة
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِنَّمَا ٱلۡمُشۡرِكُونَ نَجَسٌ۬ فَلَا يَقۡرَبُواْ ٱلۡمَسۡجِدَ ٱلۡحَرَامَ بَعۡدَ عَامِهِمۡ هَـٰذَا‌ۚ وَإِنۡ خِفۡتُمۡ عَيۡلَةً۬ فَسَوۡفَ يُغۡنِيكُمُ ٱللَّهُ مِن فَضۡلِهِۦۤ إِن شَآءَ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ حَڪِيمٌ۬ (٢٨) قَـٰتِلُواْ ٱلَّذِينَ لَا يُؤۡمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَلَا بِٱلۡيَوۡمِ ٱلۡأَخِرِ وَلَا يُحَرِّمُونَ مَا حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ ۥ وَلَا يَدِينُونَ دِينَ ٱلۡحَقِّ مِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ ٱلۡڪِتَـٰبَ حَتَّىٰ يُعۡطُواْ ٱلۡجِزۡيَةَ عَن يَدٍ۬ وَهُمۡ صَـٰغِرُونَ (٢٩) وَقَالَتِ ٱلۡيَهُودُ عُزَيۡرٌ ٱبۡنُ ٱللَّهِ وَقَالَتِ ٱلنَّصَـٰرَى ٱلۡمَسِيحُ ٱبۡنُ ٱللَّهِ‌ۖ ذَٲلِكَ قَوۡلُهُم بِأَفۡوَٲهِهِمۡ‌ۖ يُضَـٰهِـُٔونَ قَوۡلَ ٱلَّذِينَ ڪَفَرُواْ مِن قَبۡلُ‌ۚ قَـٰتَلَهُمُ ٱللَّهُ‌ۚ أَنَّىٰ يُؤۡفَڪُونَ (٣٠)

O ye who believe!  Truly the pagans are unclean; so let them not, after this year of theirs, approach the Sacred Mosque.  And if ye fear poverty, soon will Allah enrich you, if He Wills, out of His Bounty, for Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.  Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been Forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth from among the People of the Book, until they pay the jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.  The Jews call ‘Uzayr a son of Allah and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah.  That is a saying from their mouths; (in this) they but imitate what the disbelievers of old used to say.  Allah’s Curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (Surah at-Tawbah:28-30)

This verse was Revealed after al-Fath al-Makkah, when the Muslims finally took the Ka’bah from the Quraysh.  This verse made it haram for the pagans to circumambulate according to their practices, naked, covered in the blood of sacrifices, chanting the names of their idols and such.

Of course, if we are discussing the fiqhi ramifications, the various madzahib had their interpretations of what it entails.  For example, Imam Malik ibn Anas (r.a.) was of the opinion that disbelievers, not non-believers, could not enter any mosque.  This is not the general position of the Maliki madzhab, since it evolved as well.  Imam Abu Hanifah Nu’man ibn Tsabit (r.a.) was of the opinion that this was specific to circumambulating the Ka’bah.  Again, the Hanafi madzhab evolved and later fuqaha’, jurists, had their own opinions.

This fear of poverty Mentioned related to the revenue that Makkah made from the pagan pilgrimage.  Allah (s.w.t.) Promised that it would be missed, and it was replaced with something better: the revenue from the pilgrimage of the Muslims.

The second verse relates to the first, in that there would be those who would oppose this, and there was military action.  The most significant of these was the Battle of Hunayn.  This need not necessarily be viewed as a call to conquer the non-Muslims everywhere, and force their submission.  Otherwise, this would contradict other, clear verses about freedom of religion and never initiating conflict.  This was about them acknowledging the sovereignty of the Muslim state, and maintain treaties and borders.

Again, we have to consider the realities of the time, both religious and political.  This verse was used to justify military conquest and preemptive attacks.  This was not just to “spread” Islam, as they understood it, but also for booty, including slaves.  The Salaf had great Muslims, but it also was a period of great tyrants.  This was also the era of people like ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad, Yazid ibn Mu’awiyah, and Abu Muhammad al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf

The madzahib were also influenced politically, and we had questionable rulings on the need to conquer and dominate.  Because the current generation of Muslims sacralise these rulings without considering the makan wa zaman, the context of place and time, people regurgitate them, like some sort of superstition to justify everything from outrages to jizyah.

When we consider the jizyah, it was tax in lieu of military service.  The Muslims already paid their zakat, with the aswnaf of fisabilillah used to maintain law and order.  There were also other sources of revenue.  The reason for the jizyah was because the Muslims had compulsory military obligations in a time of constant war.  When the Arabs converted to Islam, they did not stop becoming warmongers.  They still are.  But non-Muslims who served in the military and government were exempted from the jizyah.



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