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Jizyah, Zakah, And Citizenship

14 January, 2017
Q As-salaamu `alaikum, Respected Scholars, I have a question regarding jizyah. Actually, what I want to know is: What is the description of jizyah and zakah tax in the Shariah? Are non-Muslims, regardless of their military participation, required to pay jizyah? Are Muslims, regardless of their military participation, exempted from jizyah? Can non-Muslims participate in the military of an Islamic state? Is it up to the Muslim government to collect or not to collect jizyah from non-Muslims?


Asalamu Alaikum Hasan,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question. 

Zakah is an obligatory payment, to be paid by all Muslims to amir-ul-mu’mineen (the commander or ruler of Muslims). It signifies, among other things, recognition of that ruler by the Muslims. 

The ways this money should be used is spelled out in the Quran:

{Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the [funds]; for those whose hearts have been [recently] reconciled [to truth]; for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of God; and for the wayfarer: [thus is it] ordained by God, and God is full of knowledge and wisdom.} (Quran 9:60)

If there is no head of state, then this verse is still clearly valid. The amount of zakah to be paid is usually agreed to be 2.5% of the unused wealth of each Muslim, based on the example rate set by Muhammad (peace be upon him-PBUH). 

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As for jizyah, it is a payment by non-Muslims, which is done to demonstrate their agreement, not to fight against Muslims. 

The amount is not specified in the Quran, but the purpose of the payment is clear and the amount should reflect the purpose. This is illustrated historically where sometimes this payment was large and reflected the hostility that a party had against the non-Muslims. 

In one case, a Jewish tribe had offered half of the date harvest to the pagans, in order to help them fight Muslims. Suitably, once Muslims defeated that tribe, they were required to pay that amount as their jizyah as a sort of punishment.

In other times, non-Muslims living among Muslims only had to pay a token amount as their jizyah, if anything at all. 

Inviting non-Muslims to defend the community, alongside Muslims was the basis of the constitution that established the first Islamic state in Madinah.

This state recognized multiple nations, living together, and pledging them to fight their common enemies together. The Prophet (PBUH) also made numerous treaties with the tribes of Arabia for mutual alliance.

In fact, it was an attack on one of the allied tribes by the people of Makkah that broke the truce between Muslims and the pagans of Makkah. 

Parties, which are actively fighting for the side of Muslims, could not be fighting simultaneously against them. So, there is a clear case for saying that the jizyah does not apply to them, just as it was not applied to any of the allied non-Muslims, living among Muslims under the constitution of Madinah. 

Muslims are not required to pay jizyah as they pay zakah. In fact, if we are to take what the Quran says about jizyah literally – not historically – we can say it does not apply to anyone who is not actually fighting against Muslims.

The payment here clearly refers to a sign of ending a war and a token of civil obedience or regional reconciliation. Jizyah signifies the end of fighting. 

However, historically this meaning of jizyah shifted in semantics to match the zakah Muslims pay and can simply be compared to taxes in a modern state.

The shift happened when the political community itself moved from a tribal structure of power to a more metropolis system of government.

Almost all non-Muslims were often required to continue paying different amounts of jizya, generation after generation – as an obligation of membership in the socio-political community, if we use modern terms.

If you want to know more about the exceptions to who historically had to pay jizya, who did not, the amounts involved, or detailed questions about zakah, then you might like to visit our Ask the Scholar section.

Walaikum Asalam. Please keep in touch. 

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Foreign Policy of Islam: Peace or War?

Quranic Verses Misinterpreted as Teaching Violence

Jizya: A Humiliation to Non-Muslims?!