By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
17 August 2015
This part of the article describes the
story from the Quran on the relationship between the Prophet and the “People of
the Book” and the conditions that lead to the promulgation of verse 9:29 on
Jiziya in Surah Taubah as part of Allah’s judgment on the immediate addressees
of the Prophet’s mission. The Surah was revealed towards the end of the
mission, when all territories and people in the Arabian Peninsula had come
under the political control of the Prophet. The People of the Book in Mecca
were few and the first real interactions with them started in Medina after the
Prophet’s migration to the city in 622 CE.
Conditions In Medina Before The Arrival
Of The Prophet
Arab society was tribal and lived by the
laws and norms of a tribe where every person was loyal to his tribe and the
tribe stood by every member. A fight between two individuals belonging to
different tribes easily escalated into a full scale tribal war. Medina had
twelve important pagan clans and there were frequent fights between them. The
Khazraj and the Aws clan were at war in 617 CE. The Khazraj demanded hostages
from the Jewish tribes of the Qurayza and the Nadir as a guarantee of their
neutrality in the war. These hostages were killed by the Khazraj after which
the Qurayza and the Nadir clans actually allied with the Aws and together
narrowly defeated the Khazraj. In this environment of mutual suspicion, deceit
and treachery, a need was felt for a neutral arbitrator who could adjudicate
disputes fairly and maintain peace between the clans. Muhammad (pbuh) had such
a reputation as he was called Amin or the trustworthy by all in Mecca.
A delegation from Medina, consisting of the
representatives of the twelve important clans of Medina, invited him as a
neutral outsider to Medina to serve as the chief arbitrator for the entire
community in 621 CE. The twelve representatives also accepted the Prophet's
call to Islam and signed a pledge in which they agreed to obey Allah, not
commit murder, adultery or steal. This is known as the First Covenant of
Al-Aqabah. The delegation from Medina pledged themselves and their
fellow-citizens to accept Muhammad into their community and physically protect
him as one of themselves. This is followed by the Second Covenant of Al-Aqabah
in which 73 Medinians take up the pledge, including 2 women.
While the people from Medina were eager to
have Muhammad (pbuh) in their midst, the people in Mecca were making life
difficult for the Muslims. Persecution of Muslims by the Quaraish in Mecca
intensified and in 615 CE a group of Muslims left for Abyssinia (modern
Ethiopia) and sought asylum on the advice of the Prophet. A second group
comprising a little over a hundred people emigrated in 616 CE. In the year 617,
the Quraysh under the leadership of Abu Jahl, banished the Muslims and their
supporters to a dry valley and refused to trade with them. Muhammad’s uncle,
Abu Talib, lost his business and the Muslims nearly starved. Abu Bakr, once a
wealthy trader, lost everything. In 619, Muhammad’s wife Khadijah died, and
then Muhammad also lost his protector and uncle, Abu Talib in 620.
Migration to Medina
The Muslims were offered asylum in a city
north of Makkah called Yathrib (later, Madinah). The migration of the Muslims
to Yathrib, in 622, is called the Hijrah. Hearing of a joint plot by all the
tribes of Mecca to kill Muhammad, he and Abu Bakr escaped to Madinah together
in the night, and received a joyful reception by the leaders of that town who
willingly adopted Islam. The migration is referred to in an early Medinian
Surah Al-Anfal verse 8:30, and also a late Medinian Surah Taubah verse 9:40
(8:30) Remember how the Unbelievers plotted
against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out (of thy
home). They plot and plan, and Allah too plans; but the best of planners is
(9:40) If ye help not (your leader), (it is
no matter): for Allah did indeed help him, when the Unbelievers drove him out:
he had no more than one companion; they two were in the cave, and he said to
his companion, "Have no fear, for Allah is with us": then Allah sent
down His peace upon him, and strengthened him with forces which ye saw not, and
humbled to the depths the word of the Unbelievers. But the word of Allah is
exalted to the heights: for Allah is Exalted in might, Wise.
Charter of Medina
Muhammad established a mutual defence and
cooperation pact called “The Charter of Medina”. The charter constituted an
agreement between the various Muslim (Muhajirun and Ansar), Jewish, Pagan, and
Christian groups in Medina, declaring them to constitute Ummah Wāḥidah or “one nation", and formed the basis of a multi-religious
Islamic state in Medina. This was the beginning of the Arab society moving away
from a purely tribal society to the concept of a single nation where an
individual was responsible to the state in his individual capacity and not collectively
as a member of a tribe.
The Charter was created to maintain peace
and cooperation among all Medinan groups and to forge a social and political
entity or a single nation. The Charter guaranteed freedom of religious beliefs
and practices for all citizens. The participation and involvement of all
interested parties in all important matters concerning the “new nation” such as
the negotiation with foreign states and defence of Medina from outside
aggression was ensured. It also established the security of women, a tax system
for supporting the community in times of conflict, and a judicial system for
resolving disputes. It declared the role of Medina as a ḥaram
or "sacred place" where no weapons can be carried and no blood
Rights of non-Muslims under the Charter:
The non-Muslims had the following rights
under the charter:
of life and protection against outsiders.
political and cultural rights and freedom of religion.
To fight against external aggression and
share the cost of war..
The Charter did not cover fighting or
helping the Meccan Muslims in case they were the aggressors but prevented the
others from siding with the enemy of the Meccan Muslims or aiding their enemy
in any manner.
Different Groups in Medina
While all the clans together were referred
to as a single nation, there were clearly the following major groups:
immigrant Muslims from Mecca
pagan tribes now converted to Islam who had invited the Prophet to Medina and
gave help and shelter to all the immigrants now known as the Anars or the
The Prophet was clearly the religious,
spiritual and political leader of the above group of people who had accepted
Islam. About these people it is said:
(3:103) And hold fast, all together, by the
rope which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves;
and remember with gratitude Allah´s favour on you; for ye were enemies and He
joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, ye became brethren; and ye
were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus doth Allah
make His Signs clear to you: That ye may be guided.
Then there were the Jews and the Christians
who do not appear to have become a part of the “single nation” even though they
may have become reluctant signatories to “The Charter”. As far as these groups are concerned, the
charter remained in practice a unilateral declaration by the Prophet as is
evident from the following verses of the Quran:
The Uneasy Relationship with the “People
of the Book”
(5:41) O Messenger! let not those grieve
thee, who race each other into unbelief: (whether it be) among those who say
"We believe" with their lips but whose hearts have no faith; or it be
among the Jews,- men who will listen to any lie,- will listen even to others
who have never so much as come to thee. They change the words from their
(right) times and places: they say, "If ye are given this, take it, but if
not, beware!" If any one´s trial is intended by Allah, thou hast no
authority in the least for him against Allah. For such - it is not Allah´s will
to purify their hearts. For them there is disgrace in this world, and in the
Hereafter a heavy punishment.
(42) (They are fond of) listening to
falsehood, of devouring anything forbidden. If they do come to thee, either
judge between them, or decline to interfere. If thou decline, they cannot hurt
thee in the least. If thou judge, judge in equity between them. For Allah
loveth those who judge in equity.
(43) But why do they come to thee for
decision, when they have (their own) law before them? - Therein is the (plain)
command of Allah; yet even after that, they would turn away. For they are not
(really) People of Faith
(44) It was We who revealed the law (to
Moses): therein was guidance and light. By its standard have been judged the
Jews, by the prophets who bowed (as in Islam) to Allah´s will, by the rabbis
and the doctors of law: for to them was entrusted the protection of Allah´s
book, and they were witnesses thereto: therefore fear not men, but fear me, and
sell not my signs for a miserable price. If any do fail to judge by (the light
of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) Unbelievers.
(45) We ordained therein for them:
"Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth,
and wounds equal for equal." But if any one remits the retaliation by way
of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by
(the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers.
(46) And in their footsteps We sent Jesus
the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the
Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had
come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.
(47) Let the people of the Gospel judge by
what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of)
what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel.
(48) To thee We sent the Scripture in
truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety:
so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain
desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you
have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have
made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given
you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it
is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute;
(49) And this (He commands): Judge thou
between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires,
but beware of them lest they beguile thee from any of that (teaching) which
Allah hath sent down to thee. And if they turn away, be assured that for some
of their crime it is Allah´s purpose to punish them. And truly most men are
(50) Do they then seek after a judgment of
(the days of) ignorance? But who, for a people whose faith is assured, can give
better judgment than Allah?
(51) O ye who believe! take not the Jews
and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and
protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for
friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.
(52) Those in whose hearts is a disease -
thou seest how eagerly they run about amongst them, saying: "We do fear
lest a change of fortune bring us disaster." Ah! perhaps Allah will give
(thee) victory, or a decision according to His will. Then will they repent of
the thoughts which they secretly harboured in their hearts.
(53) And those who believe will say:
"Are these the men who swore their strongest oaths by Allah that they were
with you?" All that they do will be in vain, and they will fall into
(nothing but) ruin.
(54) O ye who believe! if any from among
you turn back from his Faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He will
love as they will love Him,- lowly with the believers, mighty against the
rejecters, fighting in the way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproaches of
such as find fault. That is the grace of Allah, which He will bestow on whom He
pleaseth. And Allah encompasseth all, and He knoweth all things.
(55) Your (real) friends are (no less than)
Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of) believers,- those who establish
regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship).
(56) As to those who turn (for friendship)
to Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of) believers,- it is the
fellowship of Allah that must certainly triumph.
(57) O ye who believe! take not for friends
and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport,- whether
among those who received the Scripture before you, or among those who reject
Faith; but fear ye Allah, if ye have faith (indeed).
(58) When ye proclaim your call to prayer
they take it (but) as mockery and sport; that is because they are a people
(59) Say: "O people of the Book! Do ye
disapprove of us for no other reason than that we believe in Allah, and the
revelation that hath come to us and that which came before (us), and (perhaps)
that most of you are rebellious and disobedient?"
(60) Say: "Shall I point out to you
something much worse than this, (as judged) by the treatment it received from
Allah? those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some
He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil;- these are (many
times) worse in rank, and far more astray from the even path!"
(61) When they come to thee, they say:
"We believe": but in fact they enter with a mind against Faith, and
they go out with the same but Allah knoweth fully all that they hide.
(62) Many of them dost thou see, racing
each other in sin and rancour, and their eating of things forbidden. Evil
indeed are the things that they do.
(63) Why do not the rabbis and the doctors
of Law forbid them from their (habit of) uttering sinful words and eating
things forbidden? Evil indeed are their works.
(64) The Jews say: "Allah´s hand is
tied up." Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy)
they utter. Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched: He giveth and spendeth
(of His bounty) as He pleaseth. But the revelation that cometh to thee from
Allah increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy.
Amongst them we have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgment. Every
time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever)
strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth not those who do mischief.
(65) If only the People of the Book had
believed and been righteous, We should indeed have blotted out their iniquities
and admitted them to gardens of bliss.
(66) If only they had stood fast by the
Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord,
they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a
party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil.
(67) O Messenger! proclaim the (message)
which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst not
have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission. And Allah will defend thee from men
(who mean mischief). For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith.
(68) Say: "O People of the Book! ye
have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and
all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord." It is the
revelation that cometh to thee from thy Lord, that increaseth in most of them
their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. But sorrow thou not over (these)
people without Faith.
(69) Those who believe (in the Qur´an),
those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,-
any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them
shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
(70) We took the covenant of the Children
of Israel and sent them messengers, every time, there came to them a messenger
with what they themselves desired not - some (of these) they called impostors,
and some they (go so far as to) slay.
(71) They thought there would be no trial
(or punishment); so they became blind and deaf; yet Allah (in mercy) turned to
them; yet again many of them became blind and deaf. But Allah sees well all
that they do.
Nature of relationship with the ‘People
of the Book”
The relations with the “People of the Book”
continued to be on tribal lines as is evident by the entire tribe defending
their members ‘in, fractions which resulted in the entire tribe being punished
The examples of such tribes are the Banu
Qaynuqa, Banu Nadir and the Banu Qurayza who were punished for serious
infraction of the “The Charter”.
The charge against the Banu Nadir, a Jewish
incited the Quraysh after their loss at Badr for the revenge war at Uhud,
planned the killing of the Prophet by making it look like an accident after
having invited him for negotiations. The Prophet was fortunate in narrowly
escaping the attempt.
Muhammad besieged the Banu Nadir. He
ordered them to surrender their property and leave Medina within ten days. The
tribe at first decided to comply, but "certain people of Medina who were
not Believers of Muhammad sent a message to the Banu al-Nadir, saying, 'Hold
out, and defend yourselves; we shall not surrender you to Muhammad. If you are
attacked we shall fight with you and if you are sent away we shall go with
The verses of the Quran that refer to
this episode are:
(59:1) Whatever is in the heavens and on
earth, let it declare the Praises and Glory of Allah: for He is the Exalted in
Might, the Wise.
(2) It is He Who got out the Unbelievers
among the People of the Book from their homes at the first gathering (of the
forces). Little did ye think that they would get out: And they thought that
their fortresses would defend them from Allah! But the (Wrath of) Allah came to
them from quarters from which they little expected (it), and cast terror into
their hearts, so that they destroyed their dwellings by their own hands and the
hands of the Believers, take warning, then, O ye with eyes (to see)!
(3) And had it not been that Allah had
decreed banishment for them, He would certainly have punished them in this
world: And in the Hereafter they shall (certainly) have the Punishment of the
(4) That is because they resisted Allah and
His Messenger: and if any one resists Allah, verily Allah is severe in
About The Hypocrites among the Muslims
Hast thou not observed the Hypocrites say to their misbelieving brethren among
the People of the Book? - "If ye are expelled, we too will go out with
you, and we will never hearken to any one in your affair; and if ye are
attacked (in fight) we will help you". But Allah is witness that they are
(12) If they are expelled, never will they
go out with them; and if they are attacked (in fight), they will never help
them; and if they do help them, they will turn their backs; so they will
receive no help.
(13) Of a truth ye are stronger (than they)
because of the terror in their hearts, (sent) by Allah. This is because they
are men devoid of understanding.
(14) They will not fight you (even)
together, except in fortified townships, or from behind walls. Strong is their
fighting (spirit) amongst themselves: thou wouldst think they were united, but
their hearts are divided: that is because they are a people devoid of wisdom.
(15) Like those who lately preceded them,
they have tasted the evil result of their conduct; and (in the Hereafter there
is) for them a grievous Penalty;-
(16) (Their allies deceived them), like the
Evil One, when he says to man, "Deny Allah": but when (man) denies
Allah, (the Evil One) says, "I am free of thee: I do fear Allah, the Lord
of the Worlds!"
(17) The end of both will be that they will
go into the Fire, dwelling therein forever. Such is the reward of the
The Banu Nadir after their expulsion,
continued to fight with the Muslims by aligning with the enemy in the Battle of
the Trench and they also fought in the Battle of Khaybar.
Verse 59:15 refers to the Banu Qaynuqa
tribe which was expelled earlier after a series of incidents and their openly
challenge the authority of the Prophet.
The Banu Qurayza
In 627, when the Quraysh and their allies
besieged Medina in the Battle of the Trench, the Qurayza entered into
negotiations with the besiegers. Subsequently, the tribe was charged with
treason and besieged by the Muslims. The Banu Qurayza eventually surrendered
and all the men, apart from a few who converted to Islam, were beheaded, while
the women and children were enslaved.
The Quranic Verses That Mention This
Event Are As Follows:
(33:26) And those of the People of the Book
who aided them - Allah did take them down from their strongholds and cast
terror into their hearts. (So that) some ye slew, and some ye made prisoners.
(27) And He made you heirs of their lands,
their houses, and their goods, and of a land which ye had not frequented
(before). And Allah has power over all things.
To summarize, the Jews and the Christians
never became a part of the “single nation”. They not only did not lend support
for a joint defence when Medina was besieged by the Meccan army, but some of
them even lent open/clandestine support to the enemy.
The Final Judgment at the End of the
Surah Taubah announces the final judgment
on the people who were the immediate addressees of the Prophet or the people of
Hejaz. What this was for the Mushrikin has been discussed in my article:
The Story of the Prophetic
Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In the Qu’ran (Part 4): The Medinian Period
For the “People of the Book” who did not
openly fight with the Muslims but also did not become part of the “one nation”
under the charter of Medina, the judgment announced was:
(9:29) Fight those who believe not in Allah
nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah
and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, from among the People
of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel
The following verses further explain
(5:77) Say: "O people of the Book!
exceed not in your religion the bounds (of what is proper), trespassing beyond
the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went wrong in times gone
by,- who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even way.
(78) Curses were pronounced on those among
the Children of Israel who rejected Faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus
the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses.
(79) Nor did they (usually) forbid one another
the iniquities which they committed: evil indeed were the deeds which they did.
(80) Thou seest many of them turning in
friendship to the Unbelievers. Evil indeed are (the works) which their souls
have sent forward before them (with the result), that Allah´s wrath is on them,
and in torment will they abide.
(81) If only they had believed in Allah, in
the Prophet, and in what hath been revealed to him, never would they have taken
them for friends and protectors, but most of them are rebellious wrong-doers.
The ultimate argument of their lack of
“good faith” is that they took for friends those who were the enemies of the
Muslims and aided them when they had an understanding with the Muslims to at
least remain neutral. What they had covenanted with Allah according to their
own scriptures was as follows:
(3:81) Behold! Allah took the covenant of
the prophets, saying: "I give you a Book and Wisdom; then comes to you a
messenger, confirming what is with you; do ye believe in him and render him
help." Allah said: "Do ye agree, and take this my Covenant as binding
on you?" They said: "We agree." He said: "Then bear
witness, and I am with you among the witnesses."(82) If any turn back
after this, they are perverted transgressors.
The charge against the people of the Book
in 9:29 is that they did not believe in the Prophet let alone render him help.
Verse 9:29 does not negate the belief of
the People of the Book in God, the Prophet and scripture; but rather simply
states that they do not act on such belief because they are rebellious
wrong-doers or perverted transgressors.
(6:42) Before thee We sent (messengers) to
many nations, and We afflicted the nations with suffering and adversity, that
they might learn humility.
It is this rebellious nature that needed to
be tamed and they had to be taught to learn to be humble to the commandments of
God by making them pay Jiziya in willing subjugation to the political authority
of the Prophet or as willing subjects of the new political entity. Had they
become part of the “one-nation” under the “Charter of Medina” and acted
faithfully in accordance with its provisions or in accordance with the
covenants with Allah contained in their own Books, then they would have acted
as believers and there would have been no need to tame them or to teach them
humility. They would have been trusted with being required to pay Zakat alone
which as per the Quran is voluntary, without a fixed percentage and what is
surplus after meeting ones needs besides payment on one’s income as it is
(2:219) ….They ask thee how much they are
to spend; Say: "What is beyond your
needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to
you His Signs: In order that ye may consider-
It is also payable on the produce on the
day of harvest.
(6:141) It is He Who produceth gardens,
with trellises and without, and dates, and tilth with produce of all kinds, and
olives and pomegranates, similar (in kind) and different (in variety): eat of
their fruit in their season, but render the dues that are proper on the day
that the harvest is gathered. But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the
Negotiation of the Terms of Jiziya
There are several verses in the Quran that
give the Prophet the mandate within which he is free to negotiate. Verse 9:29
is one such. We know from history that Jiziya was implemented by the Prophet
not in terms of 9:29 but quite differently. Although no accounts are available
of what transpired, it would appear that the “People of the Book” were anxious
to avoid Jiziya as a punitive tax for their lack of good faith and bad
behaviour during the period of the Prophet’s struggles against the main enemy
of Islam and the Muslims. They therefore negotiated the terms to remove the
stigma of a punitive tax for their lack of “good faith “and succeeded. The final
form that Jiziya took is therefore a negotiated settlement between the two
parties where both parties came out winners having achieved their objectives.
Jiziya was to be levied only on males of
military age for their exemption from military service. In return the state
granted all people belonging to the community the status of “The Protected
People” or Zimmi meaning that the state undertook the responsibility of
defending them and protecting them. They also had the freedom to practice their
Jiziya was therefore never a one sided
imposition nor a punitive tax but “value” for money and a result of a
negotiated settlement between the parties. The People of the Book came out
winners and the Prophet also came out a winner having established a
relationship of willing taxpaying citizens with them.
Verse 9:29 also clearly applied only to the
immediate addressees of the Prophet’s mission or the People of the Book in
Hejaz. It is their behaviour that is described in the verse 9:29 and all other
verses in the Quran. It is not a command to fight “People of the Book” who were
not the immediate addressees of the Prophet just as verse 9:5 covers only the
Mushrikin who fought against the Muslims and not any other people elsewhere.
Verse 9:29 therefore has nothing to do with people outside the Arabian
Peninsula who were not the immediate addressees of the Prophet’s mission.
However, since Jiziya had taken a secular and non-punitive form even for the
people covered by 9:29, the practice was continued for all conquered people
subsequently. In this, it was like the tax levied by all conquerors with the
vital difference that it came with a guarantee of freedom to practice their own
religion, exempted their males from conscription, and guaranteed protection.
Jiziya was secular because it was clearly applicable only on males of military
age and for exemption from military duty and exempted women, children, old men
and even monks. Had it been based on religion, there should have been no
exemption for women, old men and monks.
It was non-punitive since it clearly rendered value for money in the
form of guarantees of protection, freedom to practice one’s religion and
exemption from military service. While all conquerors levied taxes, none gave
or guaranteed anything in return to the conquered population.
Where the practice of Jiziya can be
faulted, is that it continued even after centuries of peace when it should have
been abolished, after the state had introduced other taxes on land and produce
and on commerce. Jiziya has no religious sanctity as proved by the fact that
the Prophet himself did not implement it in the form it appears in 9:29. Verse
9:29 only proved to be an enabling mechanism for the Prophet to make the People
of the Book in the territory in which he had become a political leader, agree
to become willing subjects and pay tax for services rendered by the state. This
was something he had failed to achieve as the political leader in Medina.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an
independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private
sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent
contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.