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, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (surah 9 verse 29)
The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (surah 9 verse 30)
Verse 28 appearing earlier referred to Jihzd against the Mushirks
of Makkah. The present verses talk about Jihad against the People of
the Book. In a sense, this is a prelude to the battle of Tabuk that was
fought against the People of the Book. In Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthur, it
has been reported from the Qur’an commentator, Mujahid that these
verses have been revealed about the battle of Tabuk. Then, there is the
reference to ‘those who were given the Book.’ In Islamic religious terminology, they are referred to as ‘ahl al-Kitab’ or People of the Book. In its literal sense, it covers every disbelieving group of people who believe in a Scripture but, in the terminology of the Holy Qur’an, this term is used for Jews and Christians only – because, only these two
groups from the People of the Book were well-known in and around
Arabia. Therefore, addressing the Mushriks of Arabia, the Holy Qur’an has said:
“lest you should say, “The Book was sent down only upon two
groups before us, and we were ignorant of what they studied.” (6:156)
As for the injunction of Jihad against the People of the Book given
in verse 29, it is really not particular to the People of the Book. The
fact is that this very injunction applies to all disbelieving groups –
because, the reasons for the injunction to fight mentioned next are
common to all disbelievers. If so, the injunction has to be common too.
But, the People of the Book were mentioned here particularly to serve
a purpose. Since, it was possible that Muslims may hesitate to fight
against them on the ground that they too are believers in a certain degree, believers in Torah and Injil, and in Sayyidna Musa and ‘Isa, (may peace be upon them both). So, it was possible that their
connection with past prophets and their Books may become a factor in
dissuading them from Jihad. Therefore, fighting with them was
There is yet another element of coherence at this place. This particularization of the People of the Book in the verse is also releasing a hint that, in a certain way, these people are deserving of greater punishment. The reasons were simple. They were people with knowledge. They had the knowledge of Torah and Injil. These Scriptures referred
to the Last among prophets, Sayyidna Muhammad al-Mustafa (S), giving his blessed identity in details. They knew all this, yet elected to reject the truth and went on to mount conspiracies against
Islam and Muslims. When they did what they did, their crime became
much more serious. That explains why fighting against them was
The injunction to fight spells out four reasons in this verse:
- They do not believe in Allah.
- They do not believe in the Hereafter.
- ‘They do not take as prohibited what Allah and His
Messenger have prohibited.
- They do not submit to the Faith of Truth.
This raises a doubt. Is it not that the People of the Book, that is,
the Jews and Christians, obviously believe in Allah – and in Hereafter
and a Last Day too? Why, then, their faith (‘lman) in these things has
been negated? The reason is that mere words of faith are hardly sufficient to prove one’s actual belief in it. Not having the kind of faith desirable in the sight of Allah would amount to having no faith at all. Of
course, the Jews and Christians did not openly reject the belief in
Tauhid, that is, oneness of Allah or pure monotheism. But, as says the
next verse, the Jews took Sayyidna ‘Uzayr, (AS) and the Christians took Sayyidna ‘Isa (AS) to be the sons of God and thereby assigned to them partnership in His divinity. Therefore, their confession of pure
monotheism became ineffectual and any claim to faith, false.
Similarly, the kind of faith desirable in the Hereafter was something not to be found with the People of the Book. Many of them went
by the belief that, on the Last Day (the Qiyamah) there will be no return to life in body forms they had in the mortal world. Instead, it will
be a kind of spiritual life. As for Paradise and Hell, they did not consider them to be any particular places. Spirit when happy was Paradise and spirit when gloomy was Hell. Since all this is patently contrary to what Allah says, therefore, even their faith in the Last Day too turns out to be no faith in real terms.
The third thing – that these people do not take, what Allah has declared to be unlawful, as unlawful – means that they do not believe in
the unlawfulness of many things prohibited by Torah or Injil – for example, riba(interest). Similarly, there were many edibles prohibited in
Torah and Injil. They just did not consider these unlawful and indulged in them freely.
This tells us about a religious rule of conduct. According to this
rule, taking anything declared unlawful by Allah Ta’ala as lawful is
not simply the commitment of a sin, in fact, it is kufr, a flat rejection of
the faith itself. Similarly, taking something lawful to be unlawful is
also kufr. However, should someone inadvertently fall short in practice
while still taking the unlawful as unlawful, then, that would be sin,
Since all wars must end, a limit and end of the action of fighting against those people has also been set forth in this verse where it has been said: (until they pay jizyah with their own
hands while they are humbled)
Literally, jizyah means return or recompense. In the terminology of
the Shari’ah, it refers to the amount of money taken from disbelievers
in lieu of killing.
The reason is that kufr and shirk are rebellion against Allah and
Rasul. Killing is the real punishment for it. But, Allah Ta’ala has, in
His perfect mercy, reduced their punishment by giving them an option.
The option is that, should they agree to live as subjects of the Islamic
state under the general Islamic legal framework, they may be allowed
to remain there against the payment of a nominal amount of jizyah.
Since, they would be living there as citizens of a Muslim state, the protection of their life, property and honor will be the responsibility of the
Islamic government and no hindrance will be placed in the observance
of their religious duties. The amount thus taken is called jizyah.
Should jizyah be fixed by mutual conciliation and agreement, there
is no prescribed limit imposed by the Shari’ah. It accepts the amount
and thing for which a mutual peace treaty is arrived at – as was done
by the Holy Prophet (S) with the people of Najran. A peace
pact was concluded between him and the whole group of these people.
They agreed to give him two thousand hullahs annually. A hullah is a
pair of clothes. It could be a waist wrap for the lower part of the body
with a top sheet wrap, or a long, loose shirt or cloak. Even the estimated monetary worth of every hullah was pre-determined. The value of
each hullah was supposed to be one ‘nqiyah of silver. An ‘uqiyah is
equal to approximately 122.472″ grams of silver, according to our
A similar agreement was reached between Sayyidna ‘Umar (RA),
and the Christians of Bani Taghlib which stipulated that the jizyah
on them be levied at the rate of Islamic Zakah – but, twice the Zakah.
Furthermore, in the event Muslims conquered a certain land
through war, then allowed the properties of its residents to remain under their ownership and possession, and they too agreed to continue living there as law-abiding citizens, a jizyah was levied on them. The
rate of jizyah fixed and implemented by Sayyidna ‘Umar (RA) during the period of his Khilafah was four dirhams from the rich, two dirhams from the middle class and only one dirham from the active poor
who earned by working on wages, or by making or vending things.
This monthly payment of one dirham was equal to about 3.618 grams*
of silver or its equivalent amount. According to rules, nothing was to
be taken from the very poor, disabled or handicapped. Similarly, nothing was to be taken from women, children, aged people and religious leaders living in seclusion.
Holy Prophet (S) that no one should be made to pay more
than he could afford. If anyone oppressed a non-Muslim, the Holy
Prophet (S) himself will support that non-Muslim against his
oppressor on the day of Qiyamah (Mazhari)
Reports such as these have led some Muslim jurists to hold the position that there is no particular rate of jizyah payment as fixed by the Shari’ah. Instead, this has been left for the ruler of the time to determine the appropriate action in terms of existing conditions.
The comments appearing above also make it clear that jizyah is a compensation for removing the punishment of killing from disbelievers not a substitute for Islam. Therefore, there is no justification for
doubting as to why were they given the permission to keep staying on
their policy of aversion from and denial of Islam for a paltry price. The
proof is that permission is given to many other people also who live in
an Islamic country with the freedom to keep observing the percepts of
their religion. Jizyah is not taken from them – for example, women,
children, the aged, religious leaders, the disabled and the handicapped. Had jizyah been taken in lieu of Islam, it should have been taken from these as well.
It should be noted that the paying of jizyah in this verse has been
qualified with the words: ‘with their own hands.’ Here, the first
word: (‘an: with) denotes cause, and (yad: hands) signifies power
and subjugation. It means that the payment of this jizyah should not be in the spirit of some voluntary contribution or charity. Instead of that, it has to be in the spirit of recognition and acceptance of Islamic
victory and of the willingness to live under it. (As in Ruh al-Ma’ani) As for
the later part of the sentence: (while they are humbled), it
means, according to the explanation given by Imam Shafi’i (RA)
that they should subscribe to the common law of Islam and take the
responsibility of remaining obedient to it. (Ruh al-Ma’ani and Mazhari)
Regarding the instruction given in this verse that once these people have agreed to pay jizyah, fighting should be stopped, a little explanation may be useful. According to the majority of Muslim jurists, it
includes all disbelievers – whether from the People of the Book or from
those other than them. However, the Mushriks of Arabia stand excluded from it for jizyah was not accepted from them.
In the second verse (30), the subject taken up briefly in verse 29
(where it was said that these people do not believe in Allah) has been
enlarged. In the second verse, it has been said that the Jews take
Sayyidna ‘Uzayr (AS) to be the Son of God.’ [This is not the belief of all the Jews; it was the belief of some Jews of the
Arabia. Now, the Dead Sea Scrolls have also proved the fact that some
Jewish sects believed Ezra to be the son of God. It is learnt from some
scholars who have studied the Scrolls. (Muhammad Taqi Usmani)]
So do the Christians.
They say that Sayyidni ‘Isa (AS) is the Son of God. Therefore, their
claim that Allah is One and that they have faith turns out to be false.
After that, it was said: (That is their saying [invented]
by their mouths). This could also mean that these people profess it
openly and clearly through their own tongues. There is nothing secret
about it. Then, it could also mean that this blasphemy they utter remains the work of their tongues. They can give no reason or justification for it.
Finally, it was said: (They resemble the earlier disbelievers in their saying. Be they killed by Allah,
how far turned away they are!). It means that the Jews and Christians, by calling prophets sons of Allah, became the same as disbelievers and Mushriks of past ages, for they used to say that the angels,
and their idols, Lat and Manat, were daughters of God.
Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .4 surah 9 verses 29-30). English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-4.pdf (islamicweblibrary.com)