Jizyah – Non-Muslims’ Right of Protection and Security


Some writers have deliberately misinterpreted the Jizyah tax. Never did the Muslims force their religion on the non-Muslim citizens.

The Jizyah or poll tax is a personal tax levied on non-Muslims in an Islamic State. Jizyah means a reasonable tax that a non-Muslim citizen is required to pay.


According to the commentary of the Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali [1281], “the root meaning of Jizyah is compensation. The derived meaning, which became the technical meaning, was a poll-tax levied from those who did not accept Islam, but were willing to live under the protection of Islam (Protection against surrounding Christian Crusaders and Pagans) and were thus tacitly willing to submit to its ideals being enforced in the Muslim State.”

Non-Muslims under the Shariah would pay Jizyah in an Islamic country just as the Muslims give obligatory Zakat. In return, non-Muslims will have the rights of protection of their lives and their properties in an Islamic State. The Jizyah is a small sum of money indeed when compared to the services the Muslim State offers to protect non-Muslims and support the army in charge to keep them safe from others’ assaults.

Moreover, non-Muslims are not obliged or compelled to participate in the Military services. They are exempted from military services. On the other hand, the Muslims in spite of paying Zakat cannot escape the responsibility of military services and activities in an Islamic country and they have to respond to the call as and when called upon to do so.

If a non-Muslim wishes to render any military services voluntarily, then he will be exempted of the Jizyah tax (1). In other words, men of military age, would be excused from joining the army in exchange for paying Jizyah. Infact, in case of failure on the part of the Muslim ruler in protecting the life and property of non-Muslim citizens, he would have to return the Jizyah collected from them. An example in this regard can be given of Khalid bin Walid, an outstanding military genius of Islam. Since Khalid had failed to protect the city of the Christians of Homs (Emesa), as he did not posses the power to repel the attacks of the Christian Byzantine Emperor Heraclius on Homs, he returned to them their taxes. Thus said Khalid to them:

“We accepted (the Jizyah) as a token of your good will and in return for defending you, but (in this), we have failed (you).”(2)

In Islam, it is compulsory for a Muslim to take part in the battlefield when ordered by the Caliph. He has no choice of his own. There are some countries in the world like France and Israel, in which it is compulsory for citizens to take military training and fight for the country when required. If someone is living in such a country and is given the option whether to take part in the battlefield or pay a small sum of money, in return of which he is guaranteed protection and he need not take part in the battlefield, he would usually opt for the second.

Some writers have deliberately misinterpreted the Jizyah tax. Jizyah is not due from women or children of people of the Book, and Jizyah can be taken only from men who have reached the age of puberty. Exemptions from Jizyah also include the poor, destitute, slaves, monks, hermits, lunatics, the blind and the sick or crippled. (3)

A Muslim ruler has to judge by the light of what Allah revealed in all matters relating to lives, property and honour of citizens of an Islamic State, Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

He is under strict obligation to provide protection to them and shield them against any sort of potential or actual harm that may befall them.

An example of non-Muslims rights is found in the life of Caliph Umar (RA) who was stabbed by a Zoroastrian (the fire worshipper) named Abu Lu’Lu. In spite of lying on his deathbed, he admonished his successor in the following words: “…I recommend him (his successor) to abide by the rules and regulations concerning the Dhimmis (Non-Muslims under the Shariah) of Allah and His Messenger, to fulfill their contracts completely and fight for them and not to tax (overburden) them beyond their capabilities.(4)

The Jizyah is a right under the Shariah provided to non-Muslims for their protection, to retain their own languages and customs etc. Never did the Muslims force their religion on the non-Muslim citizens. Examples of intolerance if any that are found, should not be attributed to Islam or the Muslims in general, but to individual human weaknesses as they abound among all religious groups. There has never been an incident like the ‘Holocaust’ under the rule of a rightly appointed Caliph of an Islamic country governed within the framework provided by the glorious Qur’an and the authentic Ahadith.


1. Al-Tabari, Abu Jafar Muhammad bin Javir, Tarikh al-Tabari, vol.1, pp, 2497, 2665.

2. Azzam, Abd al-Rahman, The Iternal Message of Muhammad, Newyork, 1965, p. 62. For further details, see Mabsut, vol. 10, pp. 78-79.

3. Cf. Imam Abu Yusuf, Kitab al-Kharaj, pp. 69-72.

4. Sahih Bukhari, vol. 2, hadith No. 475.

– Zakir Naik

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