Please explain the Jizya verse

The Jizya verse is verse 9:29. Jizya means defense tax and it applies to Jews and Christians under Muslim rule. They are not required to join the military but it’s the Muslim ruler’s duty to defend them at time of war, hence the name defense tax.

Because Islamic law does not institute regular taxes, the Islamic state’s main revenue is the Zakah (alms). Since non-Muslim citizens do not pay the Zakah, it would be unfair that they do not pitch in but still be defended. Jizya balances that. That’s what the Arabic word means: compensation.

The command to fight in 9:29 means that People of the Book under Muslim rule are required to pay the Jizya, or be fought until they pay it. In all modern societies, the authorities are legally empowered to collect taxes by force if citizens refuse to pay them. Jizya collection is no different.

The Jizya collector of caliph Umar ibn Abdil-Azeez, may God have been pleased with him, went to him one day complaining that Jizya revenue is shrinking! He said that Christian and Jewish citizens are accepting Islam in large numbers and that’s why less and less Jizya is collected. Umar said to him, “Almighty God sent Muhammad (PBUH) a guide, not a tax collector.”

How do we reach the conclusion that this verse speaks about non-Muslim citizens under Muslim rule?

We know that because it was the understanding of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the Sahaaba (his fellows), may God have been pleased with them. They took the Quran in its entirety together and that’s how one can understand the Quran correctly. Extracting one verse and making conclusions from it will not work.

When the early Muslims went to Egypt to call its people to Islam, the Egyptians liked them very much and asked them if they could stay and help them get rid of their Greek occupiers. They agreed and, with God’s help, succeeded in driving the mighty Greeks out of the country. Muslims were suddenly in power in Egypt! Something which historians and orientalists have called a miracle. What did they do with the population which was mostly Christian? They left them with total freedom to choose Islam and simply collected the Jizya from those who chose not to and the Zakah from those who chose to convert. That was the primary revenue for the new Islamic state of Egypt. Muslims did not even try to impose the Arabic language on the Egyptians. Many Muslims learned the Coptic language so that they can be effective governors to the population that did not know a single Arabic word.

That went on for seventy years! During which, Egyptians learned Islam from role models of it and learned Arabic. They converted in droves and they chose Arabic as their new language.

To this day, one of every ten Egyptians is Christian. If the Jizya verse meant forced conversions of non-Muslims, the early Muslims must have misunderstood its meaning

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