Since ISIS proclaimed Islamic State and reportedly imposed ‘Jizyah’ (a kind of special tax) on non-Muslims, much has been written about it in the western media. As usual, Islam was made the culprit for Jizyah constituted a perfect example of discrimination of religious minorities in Islam. There is a long history of deliberate misrepresentation of Islam in the west by “jack of all” type miscast experts on Islam who are often driven by bigotry and prejudice. With prevalent Islamaphabia in the west, one can imagine how such writings will have magnified the damaging effects upon general understanding of Islam. This is not to derecognize some of the excellent works produced in the west directed by objective research and investigation which are definitely valuable contributions to Islamic literature.
What is an Islamic State? is the question many Muslims and non-Muslims ask, former perhaps with a critical mind and latter with a phobic mind. It is not wrong if we define Islamic State as a theocracy provided we have a broader definition and understanding of theocracy. In the dictionaries of English language, theocracy is defined as a form of government in which the clergy or the religious scholars have the power and authority. But this definition does not truly represent the governing structure of the model Islamic State that came into existence during the Prophet’s lifetime, in which the emphasis was not on religious scholars but on religion itself. Historically this Islamic State had rather a short life span lasting only a few decades after the Prophet. During this period Muslims were governed by pious leaders whose goal was to follow and apply sincerely and entirely, the dictates of this new faith that had revolutionized their society. If we try to project that form of government to the present age, it has to be based upon two important elements. First, its leaders will not only have to be of high moral stature but also elected by people, as Islam in its very spirit rejects totalitarianism that subjugates people unconditionally. Secondly, the constitution of such a government will have to be heavily derived from the directive principles given in Quran and those sayings of the Prophet which are found to be indisputably in line with Quran, have unquestioned authenticity established through strict interrogative scrutiny and possess a permanent applicability. So it will be a new form of theocracy. In such a state what would be the rights of those non-Muslim citizens who do not subscribe to Islam is a matter of research and debate. The issue of Jizyah needs to be understood in this background.
We have produced here for your review, a scholarly analysis of this issue based upon authentic Islamic references, by Bassaqm Obeid. The purpose is to give an incisive understanding of this matter that is free of immature and biased conclusions. At the same time we do appreciate that there may exist an equally thought provoking dissent that certainly needs our critical examination.
Masood N. Khan M.D