The Jizya, Part II

October 31, 2009

Part II of III:  The Islamic basis of the jizya

The Koran 9:29 says:

Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

 The word “tax” here has been translated in different versions of the Koran as “tribute” or simply “jizya.”  Christians and Jews, “who have been given the Book,” but do not accept Islam, must convert or pay the jizya.

The Hadith, the collection of the words and deeds of Muhammad, are even more explicit.  The Sahih Muslim, one of the Hadith accepted by all Muslims, lays out Islam’s famous three-part ultimatum of conversion, payment of the jizya, or death:

When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them…  If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them.  (Book 19, Number 4294.)

The jizya is collected annually from men whom, were they Muslim, would be subject to military conscription.  In other words, women, children, and people with disabilities would be exempt from the jizya.  The jizya is referred to as a poll tax because it is a tax on persons, not a tax on income, property, wealth, or sales.  The exact per-person rate of the jizya, however, is not spelled out in the Koran or Hadith.

In the 8th Century, the caliph himself, Harun al-Rashid, commissioned his chief jurist, Abu Yusuf, to write a book on taxation and fiscal matters of the Islamic caliphate.  Abu Yusuf’s treatise, Kitab al-Kharaj, laid out a three-tiered jizya tax rate scheme, levying the highest charge on the richest dhimmis.  Poor dhimmis would pay one gold dinar, middle-class dhimmis would pay two, and rich dhimmis pay four.  (I believe that two gold dinars equaled one-quarter of a troy ounce, or about $250 today.  It is worth noting that in 2000, the World Bank calculated that the average income in Muslim countries is only $3,700, which would result in an average jizya levy of 14 percent of income if the Abu Yusuf precedent were applied.)  However, the absence of a clear limit on jizya rates in the Koran or Hadith has enabled Islamic caliphs to set whatever rate helped meet their revenue needs.

The jizya was administered by Muhammad himself against “pagans” (Sahih Bukhari Book 53 Numbers 384-386 among others).  The first caliphs after Muhammad—the Umayyads (7th to 8th Centuries)—even levied the jizya against new converts to Islam from Persia because of the dire straits of Umayyad finances at the time (see Encyclopedia Brittanica’s entry on the Abu Muslim rebellion).  The Abbasid caliphs (8th to 13th Centuries) standardized the application of the jizya somewhat in order to maintain social order and public revenues.  Under the last caliphate of the Ottoman Empire (16th to 20th Centuries), the Ottomans initially used existing tax rates in the lands they governed, but increased rates to classical jizya levels over time in a failed effort to sustain Ottoman fiscal health, according to Halil İnalcik’s history of the Ottoman Empire.

In summary, the jizya is mandated by all important Muslim texts, and it has been collected throughout Islamic history.  Although there is no caliphate or uniform international jizya law in the Muslim world today, it should be surprising to nobody that an average Muslim, not just fervant jihadists, would support the concept and practice of jizya given its clearly articulated, well-documented place in Islam.  The jizya is held dear in Islam, not only as an important revenue source, but as an enduring signal of the rightful social order of Christian and Jewish dhimmitude.

Tune in tomorrow for Part III of this essay, as Money Jihad examines the jizya as it is currently used against non-Muslim minorities around the world.


  1. […] addition to being a terrorist income source, jizya is mandated by the Qur’an and serves as an inducement to non-Muslims to convert to […]

  2. […] addition to being a terrorist income source, jizya is mandated by the Qur’an and serves as an inducement to non-Muslims to convert to […]

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