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Are Non-Muslims Second Class Citizens in Islamic Countries?

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*Understand Islam *

*Are Non-Muslims Treated as Second Class Citizens in Islamic Country? Is levying ‘Jizya’ a Discrimination Towards Them?*

Some people have erroneously viewed the concept of ‘Jizya’ (Quran 9:29) as a form of injustice, oppression and humiliation of nations and peoples who came under Islamic rule. Undoubtedly those to hold to this view have neglected the great privileges attributed to the rights of those who are imposed the Jizya upon in Islam. Rather, these persons believe that Islam is similar to other ruling regimes that preceded and succeeded it.

‘Jizya’ is derived from the root ‘Jaza’ or ‘compensate’ meaning ‘a sum of money given in return for protection’.

*Jizya in Pre-Islamic Times:*

Islam was not the first religion to pre-ordain the Jizya and Muslims were not the first nation to levy the Jizya unto the peoples subdued by them. Victorious nations throughout history have persisted in levying the Jizya on their conquered subjects. Examples of such an action are abundant in human history. This is reflected in the New Testament (Matthew 17:24-25).

Joshua had both enslaved and levied Jizya on the people of Canaan (Joshua 16:10). Christ (PBUH) even commanded his followers to pay the Jizya to the Romans and he himself had expediently paid it. (Matthew 17:24-27) The New Testament considers the payment of Jizya to the ruler as a legislative right. It is clad in holiness and is rendered as a religious matter. Please read Romans 13:1-7.

*Jizya in Islam:*

When the Muslim army was victorious over the enemy, any of the defeated people who wished to remain in the land could do so under a guarantee of protection for their life, religion and freedom, and if they wished to leave they could do so with safe conduct.

If they chose to stay among the Muslims, they could become members of the Muslim community. If they wished to continue in their faith, they had the right to do so and were offered security.

The only obligation on them then was to pay ‘Jizya’, a tax exempting the person from military service and from paying ‘Zakat’, which the Muslims have to pay (Zakat is considerably heavier than the Jizya). Neither had the option of refusing to pay, but in return the non-Muslims were given the protection of the state.

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Islam elevated the Jizya to become not merely a poll-tax paid by the conquered to the victorious but as a binding covenant made between the Muslim nation and the people who eventually came under Islamic rule.

Jizya was not a poll-tax, and it was not charged on the old, poor people, women, or children. The sum of Jizya was never large to the extent that the men were unable to pay. Rather, it was always available and reasonable. During the reign of the Prophet, Jizya never exceeded one dinar annually and it never exceeded four dinars under the Umayyad rule.


*Warning Against Injustice Towards the People of Dhimma:*

Islam gave unique guarantees to the People of Dhimma that were and will never by encountered by humanity. In return for very few dirhams to be paid by men who are able to go to war and fight, they enjoy living in security and absolute protection by Muslims in addition to the security of their churches and faith.

Allah in His Book and the Prophet in his hadith preordain benevolence and good deeds to the People of Jizya. Shari’a staunchly prohibits injustice and oppression toward them. The Holy Qur’an urges Muslims to be good and just with peaceful People of the Book who do not aggress Muslims [Quran 60:8]


The Prophet also gives warning against being unjust to the People of Dhimma or impairing their rights: “The one who wrongs a covenanter or impairs his right or overworks him or forcibly takes something from him, I will be his prosecutor on the Day of Judgment” [Abu Dawood 3052, Nasa’i 2749].

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