Jizyah, Compulsion and Islam

Name of Questioner

Muhammad   – Singapore



Jizyah, Compulsion and Islam






Salam, I have a question regarding the history of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). For one of his dawah, Prophet Muhammad sent a letter to a country called Najran if I’m not wrong. They were mostly Christians and had received the Prophet’s invitation to join Islam. Please correct me if I’m wrong. What I like to know is that the Prophet told them they had to pay the jizyah if they didn’t join Islam. And if they didn’t want to pay, they would have to fight against the Muslims in a war.


Is this true? Would the Prophet use this kind of strategy to get people to join islam? Thank you in advance for answering.




Prophetic Ethics


Name of Counselor

Mohsen Haredy


Salam, Muhammad.


Thank you for your interesting question. Thank you also for your keenness to have a clear picture of the history of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).


The ABCs of Dawah


Let me start with the last part of your question. Simply put, it is a fact that throughout his life, Prophet Muhammad never forced anybody to join Islam. He was applying the clear statement made by Allah in the Quran which can be translated as follows:


*{Let there be no compulsion in religion.}* (Al-Baqarah 2:256)


His dawah was based on calling people to Islam with wisdom and good exhortation. In doing so, he was following the divine order which reads:


*{Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way.}* (An-Nahl 16:125)


Therefore, his mission was to let people know about his message and just to call them to follow it. Here ends his mission. The issue of guidance is always left to Allah Who guides whom He chooses. The Prophet was told in the Quran:


*{Surely you cannot guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases, and He knows best the followers of the right way.}* (Al-Qasas 28:56)


Najran’s Delegation


Concerning the specific incident you mentioned in your question, Najran is located south of Makkah towards Yemen. It included seventy three villages. They arrived in Madinah in the year 9 A.H. The delegation comprised sixty men. Twenty-four of them were of noble families. Three out of twenty-four were at one time leaders of Najran.


When that group of delegates arrived in Madinah, they met the Prophet, exchanged inquiries with him. When he called them to Islam and recited the Quran to them, they refused. They asked him what he thought about Jesus (peace be upon him. The Prophet , he waited a whole day till the following Quranic reply was revealed to him:


*{Verily, the likeness of Jesus before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: ‘Be!’ — and he was.}* (Aal `Imran 3:59)


After long discussions with the Prophet, the chiefs of the delegation came to him and said: “We grant you what you have demanded.” The Prophet acknowledged that agreement and ordered them to pay jizyah. In return they will have the covenant of Allah and His Messenger. He gave them a covenant that provides for practicing their religious affairs freely. They asked the Prophet to appoint a trustworthy man to receive the money agreed on for peace, so he sent them the trustworthy man of this nation Abu ‘Ubaidah ibn Al-Jarrah to receive the amounts of money agreed on in the peace treaty. (Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum)


It is worthy mentioning here that Najran’s delegation stayed at the Prophet’s mosque. They were free to practice their Christian rituals inside the mosque while hanging the cross on their bodies. The Muslims were protecting and serving them as they were guests in the Prophet’s mosque.


The Dhimmah Covenant


The covenant that the Prophet concluded with Najran’s delegation was the first to include the word dhimmah (pledge of security).


The covenant granted them protection that embraces their property, their souls, their land, their religion, those of them who were present or absent, and all that which they possessed, whether ample or little. No bishop, monk, or priest shall be removed from his office. No army shall enter their land. If anyone of the people of Najran demanded their rights, justice must be given to him. Neither shall they oppress nor shall they be oppressed.


Today, there is no place for the word dhimmah. It can be replaced by citizenship. And the term ahl al-dhimmah can be replace by the term citizens.




As we have seen the covenant did not mention the jizyah. Muslims were paying zakah which was used in all sorts of services and social welfare. It was fair to make non-Muslims pay jizyah. So, it was a compensation for not going to war as it was not fair to ask these non-Muslim citizens to fight with Muslims against fellow believers of their same religion.


The Companions and Successors absolved non-Muslims who participated with Muslims in defending their country from the tax. Because of this, Suraqah ibn Amr absolved Armenians from paying jizyah in 22 AH, as did Habib ibn Maslamah Al-Fahri with the non-Muslims of Antioch. The Companions of Abu Ubaidah ibn Al-Jarrah, with his approval and the Companions’ approval, absolved a non-Muslim community on the Turkish–Syrian border known as Al-Jarajimah. (Dr. Mohammad Salim Al-Awa, A Lecture delivered at the Arab Christian Media Men Conference, The Middle East Council of Churches, Beirut, Oct. 10, 2002.)


In today’s world, non-Muslim citizens living in Muslim countries perform military service and protect their nations. Therefore, it is not obligatory on them to pay jizyah.


Non-Muslim Minorities


In Muslim countries, non-Muslim citizens are guaranteed the freedom to practice their religion. Their places of worship are protected and no one is allowed to attack them.


Non-Muslims are our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, etc. Muslims are to treat them gently. There is much to agree on with non-Muslims. Islam does not disrespect anyone for whatever reason. We have a saying in Islam attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’ cousin, that says: (People are of two types, either those who are brothers in faith or those who are brothers in humanity.)


So, Muslims are the brothers of non-Muslims in humanity regardless of their different beliefs.


The Quran recommends Muslims to show non-Muslims who are not at war with Muslims kindness. We read what means:


*{Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you in the matters of your religion and those who did not expel you from your homes, that you show them courtesy and kindness and act justly with them because Allah loves those who are Just.}* (Al-Mumtahanah 68:8)


This is what Islam teaches Muslims. If some Muslims are not practicing this, then the problem is with the Muslims’ understanding of Islam not with Islam itself. Islam should not be judged by the bad practice of Muslims.


I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.