Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Jamadiul-Akhir / Rajab 1423 H
September 2002
Volume 15-09 No:189

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The True Spirit of Jizyah
Mosques in the Morning Mist


The True Spirit of Jizyah

It is high time that Islamic economists and historians bring to the notice of the world in general and
Muslim baiters in particular, the soft nature of the imposition of the jizyah,
which is a finer aspect of the early Islamic state, points out Sayed Afzal Peerzade

The humane nature of the imposition of jizyah is the most misunderstood these days. In fact, many historians, due to their biased and prejudiced approach, have interpreted incorrectly the essence of jizyah. Some argue that jizyah levied on non-Muslims is a rental for residing in an Islamic state and others maintain that it is a form of punishment for their disbelief. These interpretations have caused much mistrust and widened the gulf of misunderstanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. Citing the jizyah levy, detractors say that non-Muslims are discriminated against, but omit to say that Muslims are required to pay different forms of zakat. The word jizyah is derived from the word jaza which means compensation.

This is to mean a price paid for living in an organised society, (like a tax), which is expected to provide protection to its members in their day-to-day economic activities. As Muslim subjects of an Islamic state contribute to the national ex-chequer by paying zakat and other imposts, the non-Muslims too are required to contribute their share. Since zakat is a form of ibaadah and an integral part of the Islamic faith, its scope cannot be extended to cover non-Muslims. A zakat is purely a non-secular impost and it is to be paid by Muslims only. The whole problem of imposition must be understood in its historical perspective. In the primitive socio-economic set-up, imposition of different levies was possibly the best choice, because it was consistent with the principle of natural justice. Every subject of the state must be provided with security of life and property, and he in turn would bear the cost of protection, not necessarily in proportion to it. Taxing Muslims in the form of zakat and excluding non-Muslims was perhaps against natural justice.

Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) wrote numerous letters to the rulers of different countries and tribal chieftains asking them to embrace Islam. On their refusal they were asked either to be ready for war or pay jizayah and assume the status of protectorate. The approach of the Prophet was perfectly in conformity with the approach of other rulers. There were, however, basic differences between the two approaches. While the expansion of territories of empires and personal gains were the overriding considerations before other rulers, there were no such motives before the Prophet. He fought wars mostly in self-defence and to propagate the faith of Islam. The Prophet not only changed the course of wars but also the method of distributing war booty, wherein a portion was clearly ear-marked for the poor and deprived.

The Prophet is reported to have said: “If you fight with a people and overcome their resistance and they agree to pay you kharaj (according to another tradition: enter into a treaty with you) then you must not levy upon them a penny more than the stipulated amount”. “Beware that any one who terrorises over a pledged man or curtails his rights or puts burden on him beyond his endurance or obtains a thing from him without his consent, I shall myself be an accuser against him on the Day of Judgement”. Once an agreement is signed between Muslims and non-Muslims then in the true Islamic spirit there shall be no increase in agreed taxes, no appropriation of their lands or buildings nor will be they subjected to harsh penal laws nor will there be any interference in the religious matters nor any attack on divinity. In fact the doctors of Islam have agreed upon the principle that such people will be dealt with strictly in accordance with the terms of the treaty. Only that will be taken from them which has been agreed upon in the treaty and the treaty will be strictly observed without any subsequent addition. Mention could be made here of the treaty between Khalid bin Walid and the inhabitants of Qyss al-Natif. It was mentioned: “You and your people shall enjoy protection, in return of which you shall pay us but if we fail to provide protection we shall not be entitled to receive from you until we meet our contractual obligations”. It happened during the period of Umar that one of his most trusted and prominent generals Abu Obadiah had ordered his treasury officer, Habeen bin Musalima, to refund the jizyah collected from Syrian Christians as the Islamic army was not confident of defending them against the Roman attack.

It appears from the above narration that the payment of jizyah was conditioned to the provision of security. The return of jizyah by the Islamic state at the time of war, when actually funds are needed most, was an unprecedented feat. Till today, and also in the years to come, it will remain unparalleled. It speaks of an extraordinary sense of responsibility of the Islamic state towards its non-Muslims protectorates. During the time of the Prophet (Pbuh), 1,65,010 dirhams were collected in jizyah.

Some aspects of Jizyah

  1. 1.There should be a clear agreement between Muslim rulers and non-Muslim subjects on the imposition and collection of jizyah.

  2. 2.The agreement should be followed strictly and Muslim rulers should not demand a penny more than what is agreed to.

  3. 3.Jizyah should be imposed keeping in view the ability to pay, of the non-Muslim protectorates. It should not be beyond their endurance. In other words, rates should not be so high as to be termed regressive and discriminatory.

  4. 4.They would not be tyrannized nor would anything be collected without their consent.

  5. 5.When non-Muslims start paying jizyah, it would be a duty of the state to provide them equal opportunities and protection. The state would not do any thing to suppress their rights.

  6. 6.The Prophet himself shall be an accuser against a Muslim ruler on the Day of Judgement who destroys the spirit of agreement in one way or the other. This warning is of the most severe type as there is no way to attain salvation once accused by the Prophet himself.

Exemptions from Jizyah

  1. Non-Muslim women, children, old, blind and other disabled persons including young ones.

  2. Religious priests who are old and poor.

  3. Such non-Muslims who offer their military services in order to defend the Islamic state. Usman bin Hanif, who undertook survey of kharaji land during the period of Umar and who was appointed as the chief treasury officer during the caliphate of Ali, recommended jizyah at the rate of 48, 24, and 12 dirhams from the rich, average and poor non-Muslims respectively.

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Mosques in the Morning Mist

By S. Niazi

Bhopal Mosque

Is there any city that can boast of possessing both the largest and the smallest architectural structures of the same nature? If you catch the glimpse of Bhopal from any hilltop, the city would unfold a picturesque maze of mystic lakes and huge domes of mosques half-concealed under the morning mist. The medieval lanes of Bhopal depict an entirely different montage. All this adds to the beauty, diversity and charisma of the city. Talking of diversity, one is reminded of a small mosque. When some soldiers in the early 17th century sought permission to construct a masjid on the wall of the newly constructed Fatehgarh fort, hardly did they reckon that they were building Asia's smallest mosque.

The eighth ruler of Bhopal, Shahjahan Begum, also had no inkling of things to come when she initiated the construction of Taj-ul-Masjid. The masjid was completed much after her death. The construction was supposed to be completed in a short time, but it took much longer. Popularly known as Dedh Seedhi ki Masajid (Mosque with one and a half step), the smallest mosque of Asia is situated on the campus of the Gandhi Medical College inside Fatehgarh Fort. The mosque was built during the reign of Dost Mohammed Khan, the founder of Bhopal, in the early 17th century. It is believed that the soldiers on guard decided to build the mosque in order to perform namaz while guarding the fort walls. The round shaped mosque is so small that at a time only 7 to 12 people can perform namaz. Just as Deedh Sidhi Ki Masjid happened to be the smallest in the city and perhaps in Asia, Taj-ul-Masajid, too become the largest in Asia. Shahjahan Begum ruled Bhopal state from 1868 to 1901. The begum had a genuine interest in architecture and constructed many monuments in the city. The few aristocratic structures to her credit include Benazir complex, Taj Mahal complex and Bab-e-Aali. But with her death, the construction of Taj-ul-Masajid got mired in delays. Paucity of funds brought the construction to a halt till Maulana Imran Khan, a religious scholar, took a personal initiative. The work resumed in the 1970s and was completed in the late 1980s.

(The writer is based in Bhopal )

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