From the early Islamic conquests in the seventh and eighth centuries, down to the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, under Sharia law, Muslim rulers generally allowed non-Muslim subjects (‘dhimmis’) to practice their religions on certain conditions. These included being disarmed, not serving in the army and paying a tax called the ‘Jizya’.
The Jizya was abolished as a result of Western influence or pressure, or Western colonial rule, in most Muslim countries during the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. More recently e.g. the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Syria reportedly demanded payment of a ‘Jizya’ from non-Muslims, although whether that was a proper use of the practice is I believe disputed.
Can anyone provide any figures or examples, with sources and preferably some idea of what it was worth compared to present day prices?
Most of us do not know off the top of our heads what, say, 1 dinar would actually buy in Eleventh Century Aleppo, and how much of a hardship it was to have to pay it.
Sources examined till now
A number of books and websites mention the ‘Jizya’ e.g. Lyn Julius’s book ‘Uprooted’ about historic Jewish communities in the Middle East, who historically were of course subject to the Jizya.
The Wikipedia article on ‘Jizya’ gives a few examples, but beyond that I have found no information on the actual amount that had to be paid.
One Muslim website I saw said that the Jizya that non-Muslims had to pay was less than the ‘zakat’ (annual donation of 1/40th part of their personal wealth for Muslim charitable and religious causes) that Muslims are expected to give. It suggested that non-Muslims were therefore not oppressed by the Jizya and if anything better off than Muslims. However, it provided no figures to back this up. My understanding is that the Jizya and Zakat are not directly comparable as the former was a ‘head tax’ and the latter a wealth 'tax', so which was greater would depend on individual circumstances, although Wikipedia cites one example when the amount of Jizya payable was set in bands according to social class. The fact that in many countries, including the whole Middle East, Sudan and North Africa, following Muslim conquest, the majority, sometimes all, of the population eventually converted to Islam suggests that being a Jizya-paying non-Muslim under Muslim rule was not usually advantageous. Otherwise, fewer would have given up that status by converting.
On the other hand Bostom & Warraq (editors, who are critical of Islam, but that does not prove that what they say is untrue)’s book ‘The Legacy of Jihad’ suggests that the Jizya was a heavy burden on Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and others ‘dhimmis’ under Muslim rule, although again they provide no statistics to show this. They also say that it was collected in a way intended to remind non-Muslims of their inferior status e.g. only announcing the amount shortly before it was due, to maximise the anxiety and inconvenience it caused, and even striking the dhimmis in the face to humiliate them as they handed over the money. That book includes an account by an Italian businessman to whom this happened in nineteenth century Morocco.
The words like “Islam” and “Sharia” are emotive these days. Some things I have read about the Jizya seem to be coloured by the authors’ own views for or against Islam. I am grateful for all answers, but please keep your answers moderate in tone, open minded and based on evidence, rather than setting out to attack or defend Islam.