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The Return and Extortion of Jizya (Payment)

Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians.

Muslim demands for non-Muslim "infidels" to pay jizya on pain of death are growing, even as the West fluctuates between having no clue what jizya is and thinking that jizya is an example of "tolerance" in Islam.

In the video where the Islamic State slaughters some 30 Christian Ethiopians in Libya last April, the spokesman repeatedly pointed out that payment of jizya (which the impoverished Ethiopian migrant workers could not render, nor the 21 Copts before them) is the only way for Christians around the world to safeguard their lives:

But whoever refuses [to pay jizya] will see nothing from us but the edge of a spear. The men will be killed and the children will be enslaved, and their wealth will be taken as booty. This is the judgment of Allah and His Messenger.

When the Islamic State invaded ancient Christian regions around the Ninevah Plain last June, it again declared: "We offer them [Assyrian Christians] three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract—involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword."

The Islamic State—which most Western politicians ludicrously insist "has nothing to do with Islam"—is not alone in calling for jizya from Christian "infidels." In 2002, Saudi Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman, discussing the Muslim prophet's prediction that Islam will eventually conquer Rome, said, "We will control the land of the Vatican; we will control Rome and introduce Islam in it. Yes, the Christians . . . will yet pay us the jizya, in humiliation, or they will convert to Islam."

And in a video recently posted, Sheik 'Issam Amira appears giving a sermon in Al Aqsa Mosque where he laments that too many Muslims think jihad is only for defense against aggressors, when in fact Muslims are also obligated to wage offensive jihad against non-Muslims:

When you face your pagan enemy, call them—either to Islam, jizya, or seek Allah's help and fight them. Even if they do not fight [or initiate hostilities], fight them!... Fight them! When? When they fight you? No, when they refuse to convert to Islam or refuse to pay jizya…. Whether they like it or not, we will subjugate them to Allah's authority."

In short, if the Islamic State is enforcing jizya on "infidels," demands for its return are on the increase all around the Muslim world. Put differently, if Abu Shadi, an Egyptian Salfi leader, once declared that Egypt's Christians "must either convert to Islam, pay jizya, or prepare for war," Dr. Amani Tawfiq, a female professor at Egypt's Mansoura University, once said that "If Egypt wants to slowly but surely get out of its economic situation and address poverty in the country, the jizya has to be imposed on the Copts."

The Doctrine and History of Jizya

So what exactly is jizya?

The word jizya appears in Koran 9:29, in an injunction that should be familiar by now: "Fight those among the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid what Allah and his Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth, until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (emphasis added)."

In the hadith, the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad, regularly calls on Muslims to demand jizya of non-Muslims: "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 jizya, seek Allah's help and fight them."

The second "righteous caliph," Omar al-Khattab, reportedly said that any conquered "infidel" who refuses to convert to Islam "must pay the jizya out of humiliation and lowliness. If they refuse this, it is the sword without leniency."

This theme of non-Muslim degradation appears regularly in the commentaries of Islam's authorities. According to the Medieval Islamic Civilization Encyclopedia, Muslim "jurists came to view certain repressive and humiliating aspects of dhimma as de rigueur. Dhimmis [subjugated non-Muslim Christians and Jews] were required to pay the jizya publicly, in broad daylight, with hands turned palm upward, and to receive a smart smack on the forehead or the nape of the neck from the collection officer."

Some of Islam's jurists mandated a number of other humiliating rituals at the time of jizya payment, including that the presiding Muslim official slap, choke, and in some cases pull the beard of the paying dhimmi, who might even be required to approach the official on all fours, in bestial fashion.

The root meaning of the Arabic word "jizya" is simply to "repay" or "recompense," basically to "compensate" for something. According to the Hans Wehr Dictionary, the standard Arabic-English dictionary, jizya is something that "takes the place" of something else, or "serves instead."

Simply put, conquered non-Muslims were to purchase their lives, which were otherwise forfeit to their Muslim conquerors, with money. Instead of taking their lives, they took their money. As one medieval jurist succinctly put it, "their lives and their possessions are only protected by reason of payment of jizya."

Past and increasingly present, Muslims profited immensely by exacting jizya from conquered peoples.

For instance, Amr bin al-As, the companion of Muhammad who conquered Christian Egypt in the early 640s, tortured and killed any Christian Copt who tried to conceal his wealth. When a Copt inquired of him, "How much jizya are we to pay?" the Islamic hero replied, "If you give me all that you own—from the ground to the ceiling—I will not tell you how much you owe. Instead, you [the Christian Copts] are our treasure chest, so that, if we are in need, you will be in need, and if things are easy for us, they will be easy for you."

Yet even that was not enough. Caliph Uthman later chided Amr bin al-As because another governor of Egypt had managed to increase the caliphate's treasury double what Amr had. In the words of Uthman, the "milk camels [Egypt's Christians, that is] . . . yielded more milk." Years later, yet another caliph, Suliman Abdul Malik, wrote to the governor of Egypt advising him "to milk the camel until it gives no more milk, and until it milks blood."

Little wonder Egypt went from being almost entirely Christian in the seventh century to today having a mere 10%—and steadily dwindling, thanks to ongoing persecution—Christian minority.

Related to the idea of institutionalized jizya is the notion that non-Muslims are fair game to plunder whenever possible. The jizya entry in the Encyclopaedia of Islam states that "with or without doctrinal justification, arbitrary demands [for money] appeared at times." Even that medieval traveler, Marco Polo, whose chronicles appear impartial, made an interesting observation concerning the Muslims in Tauris (modern day Iraq) in the thirteenth century:

According to their doctrine [Islam], whatever is stolen or plundered from others of a different faith, is properly taken, and the theft is no crime; whilst those who suffer death or injury by the hands of Christians [during the course of a plunder-driven raid], are considered as martyrs…. These principles are common to all Saracens [Muslims].

All this is echoed in recent times by the words of Sheikh Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini, spoken a few years ago, concerning what the Muslim world should do to overcome its economic problems:

Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam specialist, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). Ibrahim's dual-background—born and raised in the U.S. by Coptic Egyptian parents born and raised in the Middle East—has provided him with unique advantages, from equal fluency in English and Arabic, to an equal understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets, positioning him to explain the latter to the former and making him a much sought after expert.

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