The word “dhimmi” refers to non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state.  Dhimmi means “protected,” which is based on the idea that a Muslim state must guarantee the safety of non-Muslim citizens within its borders. Dhimmis were required to pay Jizya [see the article on this web site] but were exempt from Zakat [charity tax] which Muslims are required to pay [2.5% of their savings, each year] as well as from military service. However, if Dhimmis agreed to serve in the armed forces, they were not required to pay Jizya, since Jizya was only taken from able-bodied men who could serve in the military.

Statements of Prophet Muhammad on Dhimmis:

1. “He who hurts a dhimmi [a member of a minority living in a Muslim state]   I am his adversary, and I shall be an adversary to him on the Day of Judgement.”
2. “He who hurts a dhimmi hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys God.”
3. “On the Day of Resurrection I shall dispute with anyone who oppresses a person from among the People of the Covenant [Jews and Christians], or infringes on his right, or puts a responsibility on him which is beyond his strength, or takes something from him against his will.”

The rights of Christian minorities are well established in Islamic theology. 

Muslim jurist Saha al-Deen al-Qarafi has stated:

“The covenant of protection imposes upon us certain obligations towards the “ahl al-dhimmah,”  [members of Christian and Jewish minority]. They are our neighbors, under our shelter and protection upon the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger (peace be upon him), and the religion of Islam. Whoever violates these obligations against any one of them by so much as an abusive word, by slandering his reputation, or by doing him some injury or assisting in it, has breached the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger (peace be upon him), and the religion of Islam.” (from the book Al-furuq” by al-Qarafi.)

Another Muslim jurist Ibn Hazm has stated:

“If one is a dhimmi, and the enemy comes with his forces to take him, it is our obligation to fight the enemy with our soldiers and weapons and to give our lives for him, thus honoring the guarantee of Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him). To hand him over to the enemy would mean to dishonor this guarantee.” (From the book, “Maratib al-jima” by Ibn Hazam.


Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

What was the amount of Jizya paid bu Dhimmis?

Imam Abu Hanifa ‘s pupil Imam Abu Yousuf in his book “Kitab al-Kharaj” clarified that Jizya is to be paid by males only, and women and children were exempt from it. [See also al-Mawardi’s al-Ahkam
as-Sultaniyah]. That makes sense because only men could serve in the army and they could avoid military service by paying Jizya (See Tarikh by Tabari). Abu Yousuf also exempted the poor, sick, crippled, the insane, monks, the blind, and the very old people from paying Jizya. His reasoning was this Hadith: “Whoever oppresses a non-Muslim subject or taxes him beyond his capacity, then I shall be the opposite party to him in the litigation.” {See Kitab al-Kharaj, pp. 69-72.)

As far as the amount of Jizya is concerned, during the time of Prophet Muhammad it amounted to 10 dirhams per year (which represented the expenses of an average family for ten days). Caliph Uthman fixed the amount to an equivalent of about 20 cents per month for the rich, 10 cents for the middle class, and about 5 cents for the ordinary people. Destitutes were exempted from the tax. Imam Shafi’I suggests one dinar per year but “adds that it would differ according to the time of ease or difficulty and the capacity of those on whom it is imposed.” (See Non-Muslims Under Shari’ah Law by A. Rahman I. Doi).

How Much Tax Muslims Paid?

Normally, 2.5% on surplus property and  savings at the end of the year. Unlike Jizya, Muslim women, children were not excluded and they too paid taxes. Muslims were also required to pay taxes on farm
animals such as cows, camels, sheep and goats. Non-Muslims were excluded from paying those taxes. (for reference see al-Sarakhsi’s Sharh Siyar al-Kabir, Vol. IV, p. 293). In addition, Muslims are
required to pay ‘fitrah’ for each individual family member. So, in a way, non Muslims were much better off.

Was the Jazia tax a voluntary tax?

Jizya can be waived whenever it is necessary. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) himself expressed a wish that he would have waived Jizya on Copts had his son Ibrahim survived, who was born to Maria, a Copt. That means that Jizya is not mandatory under all circumstances. Muslims also returned Jizya when they were unable to protect non-Muslims. Khalid bin Walid returned all the taxes collected to Christians of Homs when he was not able to repel the attack of the Christian Byzantine Emperor
Heraclous on Homs. He said 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.)” {See Abd al-Rahman Azzam’s “The Eternal Message of Muhammad” ; ‘Mabsut, Vol. 10, pp. 78-79; Fath al-Qadir, Vol. 4; and A. Rahman I. Doi’s “Non-Muslims Under Shariah Law.”} Saladin also returned the Jizya when he was compelled to withdraw from Syria. {See A. Rahman I. Doi’s “Non-Muslims Under Shariah Law.”)

Did any Christians join Muslim armies?

As far as I know Christian tribe of Bani Taghlib, the Christians of Najran, and Armenian chief Shahbaraz decided to fight alongside Muslims. 

Why and when was the Jezia tax abolished?

It was abolished in the Ottoman Empire under European pressure but the fact is that Europeans never understood the principles behind “jizya.” And as I have stated above, there were many occasions in history when Muslims exempted non-Muslims from paying Jizya anyway. Muslims, on the other hand, continued to pay Zakat.






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