I have often encountered, in person and on radio shows, Muslims who claim that the jizya, the special tax required of non-Muslim dhimmis under Islamic law, was actually less than zakat, the Muslim obligation of charitable giving. This is patently absurd on the face of it, of course, since innumerable respected historians (including A.S. Tritton, Maxime Rodinson, and Bat Ye’or) have noted that it was money from the dhimmis, not from Muslims, that financed the early Islamic empires; indeed, Muslims paid nothing at all into the state treasury in the days when there were large populations (i.e., in Egypt and Syria) of conquered dhimmi Christians. Rodinson even points out in his biography of Muhammad that at certain times conversions to Islam were forbidden, as they were destroying the tax base! If the jizya had really been less than zakat, human nature being what it is, we would have seen large-scale conversions of Muslims to Christianity in the great Islamic empires — but of course we don’t, because who would want to exchange the position of the dominator for that of the dominated?
Nevertheless, today people read propaganda like Edward Said instead of history like Bat Ye’or, Tritton, and Rodinson, so they may be misled by this that recently appeared at IslamOnline (thanks to Ali Dashti for the link):
Non-Muslims are called dhimmis and were required to pay a levy or jizya. The jizya was not paid as a bribe for practicing their faith, but rather as compensation for not serving in the army, protection for Crusading armies and tribal warfare. While most so-called journalists scream that the jizya is a tool of inequality, they fail to see that there is a tax levied on Muslims as well, the zakat, which non-Muslims are not required to pay.
This assumes that jizya and zakat are equivalent, and other Muslims assert, as I have said, that the jizya is actually less than zakat. So let’s look at the record:
For non-Muslims in Muslim societies, there was not just jizya, but kharaj, the land tax. Tritton in The Caliphs and Their Non-Muslim Subjects equates the two: “Hafs, another governor of Egypt, announced that all dhimmis who abandoned their religion would be free from kharaj, which is jizya” (pp. 35-6). It is important to remember the two names because while the jizya was generally set at a fixed amount by the jurists (although this was highly adjustable), the kharaj was another matter. In the Hedaya, an Islamic legal manual, in a discussion about the purchase of land by a dhimmi, it declares: “it is lawful to require twice as much of a Zimmee [dhimmi] as of a Mussulman [Muslim], whence it is that, if such an one were to come before the collector with merchandise, twice as much would be exacted of him as of a Mussulman” (Hedaya I.vi).
Also see these illuminating extracts:
The voluntary character of the zakat contribution as a religious duty is emphasized by Qudama in the beginning of Chapter Thirteen, where he states that Muslims are trusted with the declaration of what is due from them, in contradistinction to other taxes which are compulsory and pursuable. The Saudi law by charging Muslims with this religious tax is following the old precepts who lay down that the rate of the tax is fixed in accordance with the persons from whom it is collected, i.e., from a Merchant of a foreign country 10 per cent, from a merchant of an allied country 5 per cent, and from a Muslim 2.5 per cent.
That’s from A. Ben Shemesh, Taxation in Islam Volume II, Qudama b. Ja’far’s Kitab Al-Kharaj. Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1965, p. 14.
There is a desire to equate Zakat with Jiziyah to emphasize the fairness of the Islamic fiscal system. The Muslims pay Zakat and the non-Muslims Jiziyah. But the analogy is fallacious. The rate of Zakat tax is as low as 2.5 per cent and that on the apparent property only. All kinds of concessions are given in Zakat with regard to nisah or taxable minimum. In its collection no force is applied because force vitiates its character. On the other hand, the rate of Jiziyah is very high for the non-Muslims- 48, 24, and 12 silver tankahs for the rich, the middling and the poor, whatever the currency and whichever the country. Besides, what is central to Jiziyah is the humiliation of infidel always, particularly at the time of collection. What is central in Zakat is that it is voluntary; at least it cannot be collected by force. In India Zakat ceased to be a religious tax imposed only on the Muslims. Here Zakat was levied in the shape of customs duties on merchandise and grazing fee on all milk-producing animals or those which went to pasture, and was realized both from Muslims and non-Muslims. According to the Islamic law, ‘import duties for Muslims were 5 per cent and for non-Muslims 10 per cent of the commodity’. For, Abu Hanifa, whose Sunni school of law prevailed in India, would tax the merchandise of the Zimmis as imposts at double the Zakat fixed for Muslims.
From K.S. Lal, Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, Delhi, 1999, pp. 139-140.
Note that both have jizya as double the rate of zakat, as per The Hedaya.
And of course the bottom line is that radical Muslims who are working to impose Sharia on Muslim and non-Muslim states, will endeavor also to reimpose the jizya. In the name of the equality of rights of all people, this must be resisted.