In a shocking development which has gone virtually unnoticed, the UPA government has sought to turn history upside down and redefine Islamic theology beyond recognition. While defending the Darul Qaza or Shariat, the centre in an affidavit filed in Supreme Court recently has described the ?jazia tax? as a mere ?special tax? which non Muslims had to pay for failing to render military service.
?Jazia?-a tax imposed in an Islamic state on a vanquished infidel population-is one of the five fundamentals of Jehad; apart from forcible conversion, mass slaughter and two kinds of ghanimah (plunder). Is it not ironical that an effort is being made now to paint Jazia as a gesture of benevolence by an Islamic state towards its non-combatant non Muslim subjects?
What is ?Jehad?? The concept draws its theological sustenance from holy Koran, accepted as the word of Allah. Hadis and Sunnah act as precedents for the faithfuls to help them to carry out the injunctions of Koran. They guide the Muslims the world over in all facets of their life, including Jehad.
Jehad is not a war for self defence. In fact it over-rides over all other Islamic duties. ?Count ye the slaking of a pilgrim'sthirst and tendence of the Inviolable Place of Worship (i.e. the Ka?ba) as (equal to the worth of him) who believeth in Allah and the Last Day, and striveth in the way of Allah (i.e. engages in jehad)? They are not equal in the sight of Allah? Those who believe and have left their homes and striven with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah are of much greater worth in Allah'ssight? (K 9/19-22).
This is how most of the believers have understood Jehad and drawing inspiration from prophet'slife have marched into various parts of the globe over the centuries carrying with them Koran in one hand and sword in the other. In most of the cases, the vanquished were given a choice between death and conversion to Islam; or survival as a Zimmi. A Zimmi was condemned to the life of semi – slavery.
The Sufis, however, interpreted jehad differently. According to them the canonical jehad is jehad al Asghari or the lesser jehad. In contrast Jehad al-Akbar or Greater jehad is the one which the faithfuls carry against their own short-comings and for self control.
Irrespective of the merit of their belief, Sufis have not been able to make any tangible impact on their co-religionists in shaking their faith in the blood thirsty version of Jehad. The world today is threatened by terrorists who call themselves fidyans, willing to stake their own lives in order to kill the Kafirs. They are inspired by what Sufis term as jehad al-Asghari.
So jazia is a part of violent Jehad and in fact has nothing to do with military duty or exemption from it. The humiliating tax on the unbelievers is sanctioned by Allah in Koran in these words ?Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low? (9/29). (emphasis added)
Originally, only Christians and Jews, the people of the Kitabi (book) were targeted by the above mentioned verse. It was much later that idolaters outside Arabia became its victims. It'sclear that this Koranic injunction is no way connected with any type of military duty. In simple words, the Koran calls upon the faithfulls to punish the Jews and Christians for their refusal to convert to Islam when called upon to do so.
Jazia was introduced in India for the first time after Muhammad bin Quism, a 19 year old Arab, conquered Sindh in 712 AD following Hajjaj bin Yusuf'sorders. He imposed jaziya on the Hindus and Buddhists who refused to embrace Islam. The Ulama advised Sultan Iltutmish and the succeeding Sultans not to impose jazia and but ask idol worshiping Hindus to chose between Islam and death. In view of the overwhelming number of Hindus, the Sultans thought it prudent to ignore the Ulema'sadvise and met obligations to their faith by imposing jazia.
Firoz Shah Tughlaq imposed jazia through an ordinance. He proudly mentions (Futhuhat-I Firozshahi ed. by Shaikh Abdur Rashid Aligarh 1954. pp 16-17) ?the Hindus thronged in clusters after clusters and groups after groups and were glorified by the glory of Islam. And likewise to this day of ours, they come from far and wide, embrace Islam, and jazia is off from them.?
Akbar was the first emperor to abolish jazia. His son and grandson followed his example. In 1679, Aurangzeb brought back the demeaning tax. Another insult the Hindus had to suffer during his regime was that they had to pay double the duty on commercial goods compared to Muslims.
Aurangzeb also ordered that, as per tradition, the Zimmi had to carry the jazia with his own hand and should come on foot. He should pay it standing while jazia collecter is sitting. The Zimmi'shand should be below that of the collector, who should snatch away the jazia from the former'shands with the remark, ?Pay the jazia, O Zimmii.
Koran does not prescribe any rates for jazia. Jadunath Sarkar in his History of Aurangzeb discusses this question at some length and says: ?In violation of the modern canons of taxation, the jazia hit the poorest portion of the population hardest. It could never be less than Rs. 3.33 on a man, which was the money for nine maunds of wheat flour at the average market price at the end of the 16th century. The State, therefore, at the lowest incidence of the tax, annually took away from the poor man the full value of one year'sfood as the price of religious indulgence.?
No wonder, many of the poor chose to embrace Islam rather than suffer this financial burden. As a result the number of faithfuls multiplied in India. Amir Khusrau appears to be right when he says that, had Hanafite law (which alone of the four schools of Muslim law allows to polytheists the concession of survival on payment of jazia) not prevailed in India, the Hindus would have vanished root and branch:
Ba-dhimmah gar na budi rukhsat-I shar
Na mandi nam-I Hindu zi sl ta far
Literally translated, ?Did the Zimmis not enjoy the concession of the Shariah, all trace of the Hindus would vanish root and branch?.
Muslims had privileged position in India before the arrival of the British. The vanquished Hindu majority was made to subsidise the minority Muslim rule through discriminatory taxation. With the state offering special subsidies targeted for Muslim (such as on Haj and for madrasas) and spectre of reservations looming large on Indian political scene in the wake of Sachar Committee report, we are fast moving backwards. Is jaziya coming back in a new avatar in independent India?
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