This post continues to trace out the political shape of the world back during Prophet Muhammad’s life, and it continues to explain the roots of combative Jihad as understood by main stream Muslims.
The kingdoms surrounding Arabia during Prophet Muhammad’s life were:
- Abyssinia (Ethiopia), ruled by King Negus.
- Bahrain, ruled by Al-Mundhir Ibn Sawi. It was occupied by Persia.
- ‘Oman, ruled by Ja’far Ibn Al-Julanda and his minister and brother ‘Abd. It was occupied by Persia.
- Yemen, ruled by King Bazan. It was occupied by Persia.
- Iraq, it was divided into several governorates like: Walaja – Ullais – Heira – Daumat Al-jandal – Ain Al-Tamr and many other governorates. It was occupied by the Persians who instated the rulers of these governorates from among their allies.
- Sham, it was divided into several governorates like: Damascus – Busra – Balqa’ – Ma’an – Darum – Ilya and many other governorates. It was occupied by the Romans who instated the rulers of these governorates from among their allies.
- Egypt, ruled by Juraij son of Matthew, known as Muqawqas. It was occupied by the Romans.
All of the countries surrounding Arabia at that time were occupied by either the Persians or the Romans except Abyssinia. Prophet Muhammad sent his emissaries to all kings, emperors and governors of the above places and more. Their reception of his invitation to Islam varied according to their knowledge and culture. Those who were Christians were the closest to accept Prophet Muhammad’s invitation to Islam. This was not the case with the kings only, but also with the people themselves. This was a confirmation to how Allah described the Christians of that day where He says: “You will find that the bitterest in their enmity to the believers are the Jews and the polytheists, while, the nearest in affection to them are those who say, ‘We are Christians.’ That is because there are priests and monks among them, and they are not arrogant.” [The Qur’an (5:82)]
King Negus of Abyssinia was a Christian very well known of his piety and justice. Before the advent of Islam, people used to say: “There is a king in Abyssinia at whose court, no one is wronged or unjustly treated.” He learned about Prophet Muhammad from the companions who escaped from Makkah seeking his refuge from the pagans’ persecution. He questioned them about Islam and listened to their recitation of the Qur’anic verses. When they recited to him the chapter titled “Mary”, Islam entered his heart and he said: “What Jesus taught and what you just recited, surely have come from the same source, I testify that your apostle is the messenger Jesus promised would come, and he is the one mentioned for us in the Injeel (i.e. Gospel). If I weren’t responsible for managing the affairs of my people, I would have traveled to him, followed and served him…” After he received the prophet’s invitation to Islam, he embraced it and sent an Abyssinian delegation to Madinah to learn about Islam directly from the prophet. When King Negus died, the prophet P.B.U.H. told his companions: “Your brother died at Abyssinia,” then he took them outdoors, made them stand in ranks and prayed for king Negus in absentia. By all means, Negus was a just pious king and a true believer who was never conceited by his high rank or glory.
Al-Mundhir Ibn Sawi, the Governor of Bahrain instated by the Persians also accepted Islam. Following the Qur’anic injunctions, he didn’t enforce Islam upon his people and he sent a message to the prophet asking him what to do? The prophet replied saying: “Whoever accepts admonition, does it for his own good, and whoever follows my messengers and acts according to their guidance, he, in fact, accepts my own advice. My messengers have highly praised your behavior. I hold you the mediator of your people. Give the new Muslims full chance to preach their religion, know that I pardon the offences of the offenders, therefore, you should also forgive them. And as long as you shall reform, we shall never replace you. As for the people of Bahrain, whoever prefers to keep his faith, let him be, but he should pay the Jizyah.”
Here a very important question must erupt in the reader’s mind: “Why should those who refuse Islam pay a fine?! Those are free citizens inside their own country, they should be free to do whatever they want. The application of Jizyah only signifies that Islam is not any different from the other false unjust religions.”
In order to answer this question, let’s follow the sequence of the historical events, and get to know what exactly is Jizyah. In the famous biography of the prophet “The Sealed Nectar”, the first time Jizyah was ever mentioned was in the previous occasion. When the governor of Bahrain accepted Islam and agreed to be an official ally to Muslims, this meant that he must expect an attack from the Persians who would try to subjugate Bahrain again. Bahrain was an important Persian port ever since Ardashir I sacked it during his reign. Hence, Muslims were compelled to prepare for war. Those who refused Islam from the people of Bahrain, refused also to fight alongside Muslims, consequently, Muslims bore the burden of defending themselves and their fellow citizens who were still too fainthearted to fight against the Persians. Bahrain lived under the Persian occupation for more than 400 years. Although the people of Bahrain were suffering from religious and political subjection, and high taxes were imposed upon the Christian citizens ever since Shapur II, non-Muslims refused to fight for their own liberation. Muslims never blamed those people for refusing Islam or even refusing to fight on their side against the tyrant empires of that day, they only demanded a financial contribution to prepare an army that can fight. This financial contribution was named “Jizyah”. Linguistically, Jizyah means compensation or requital, some scholars like to call it the defense tax.
Based on the logistics of that day, every foot soldier needed an outfit comprising at least a sword, a shield, armguards and a helmet. The cost of these 4 items was evaluated to be round 12 dirhams. Dirham was a silver coin weighing approximately 3 grams. Besides the previous, the minimum cost of a horse or a camel was approximately 40 dirhams. Consequently, the amount of Jizyah was calculated as follows: On annual basis, every rich man should pay 48 dirhams, every middle class man should pay 24 dirhams, and every solvent man should pay 12 dirhams. Women, old men, boys under 15 years of age, monks, poor men, ill men, blind men, crippled men and mad men, were all exempted from paying Jizyah. The defense of all those categories was the responsibility of the Muslim army without any requital.
In case of failing to defend the city and its people, all of the Jizyah gathered must be returned to their payers without any deductions as was ordered by the prophet P.B.U.H. This actually happened when Muslims retreated from some cities in Sham after freeing them from the Roman occupation. They had to abandon those cities in order to assemble a big army capable of fighting against Heraclius’s huge army at Yarmouk. It was recorded that the Christian Arabs who lived in those cities were overwhelmed by this act of honesty. Jizyah was not taken from those who agreed to fight for their countries alongside Muslims. It was not demanded from the Jews of Madinah for instance, because they agreed to fight if Madinah fell under attack. Unfortunately they betrayed their pact later on. Either way, this proves that non-Muslim citizens have the choice to join the army in defense of their own countries, or else, they should pay a proper requital for preparing the soldiers who would do so.
It should be mentioned here that adult Muslims, males and females, who lived in the same cities were obliged to pay “Zakah”. Islam teaches that all fortunes and wealth belong to Allah, He bestows them upon whom He wills. Hence, the wealth that some of us possess is a trust from Allah. Zakah is one of the 5 main obligatory deeds in Islam. It is a kind of charity imposed upon all capable Muslims. Zakah linguistically means both “Purify and Flourish”. So our possessions are purified by giving out a predetermined share for the needy and for reforming the society in general. Some scholars compare it to pruning plants, this cutting back, balances and encourages new growth.
Out of his or her possessions, every Muslim pays 2.5% of the owned assets that has completed a whole year under one’s possession, excluding daily used items necessary for one’s life (i.e. houses, clothes, cars, animals which people ride, etc…). Zakah is calculated and paid for money savings, owned cattle, horses, sheep and camels, raised crops, gold and silver. For each of the previous there is a minimum magnitude below which the owner pays no Zakah, except out of his or her own freewill. The reference minimum-magnitude for Zakah is 85 grams of gold. Zakah helps in redistributing the wealth of the society and eliminates poverty. Therefore, Muslims actually paid more money than non-Muslims who lived with them, and they also fought for their countries. During the reign of Caliph ‘Omar Ibn Abd El-Aziz, Muslims were wealthy and they were capable of defending their fellow non-Muslim citizens without any need to gather the Jizyah from them, so ‘Omar Ibn Abd El-Aziz ordered that gathering the Jizyah from non-Muslims should be stopped.
About this, Sir Thomas Walker Arnold the British historian says in his book, “The Preaching of Islam”:
“…..From the examples given above of the toleration extended towards the Christian Arabs by the victorious Muslims of the first century of the Hijrah and continued by succeeding generations, we may surely infer that those Christian tribes that did embrace Islam, did so of their own choice and free will. The Christian Arabs of the present day, dwelling in the midst of a Muhammadan population, are a living testimony of this toleration” [The Preaching of Islam, P.51, London, 1896]
“…..but this Jizyah was too moderate to constitute a burden, seeing that it released them from the compulsory military service that was incumbent on their Muslim fellow-subjects.” [The Preaching of Islam, P.59, London, 1896]
“This tax was not imposed on the Christians, as some would have us think, as a penalty for their refusal to accept the Muslim faith, but was paid by them in common with the other ‘Thimmis’ or non-Muslim subjects of the state whose religion precluded them from serving in the army, in return for the protection secured for them by the arms of the Muslims.” [The Preaching of Islam, P.60-61, London, 1896]
Written By: Ehab Shawky