Kharāj and Jizya

views updated


KHARĀJ AND JIZYA , Arabic-Turkish for tribute or remuneration in general which later came to mean land tax and poll tax, respectively. According to the constitution of the Muslim state, as conceived by the legislators, the payment of the poll tax by the non-Muslim gives him the right to live within the state. Many times the jizya is named jilya or aljavali. Although the jizya is mentioned in the *Koran (Sura 9:29), the poll tax probably was a continuation of the policies of the Persian and Byzantine empires. In Sassanid *Persia all subjects, with the exception of the aristocracy, had to pay a poll tax according to their wealth. The poll tax in the various provinces of the Byzantine empire was not collected in the same way and when the Arabs conquered the lands of the Fertile Crescent, they concluded treaties with certain towns and districts, determining lump sums to be paid to them and to be collected by local notables. Therefore, the sources of the early period of Muslim rule reveal a bewildering confusion. Kharāj (Sura 23:74) and jizya were apparently used interchangeably in various regions, reflecting the lack of uniform fiscal systems. Under the later *Umayyads, from Omar ii (717–720), the authorities began to distinguish between the kharāj, the land tax to be paid by most landholders, and the jizya, the poll tax to be paid by non-Muslims. Under the first *Abbasids, at the end of the eighth century, the Muslim lawyers fixed the rules of the jizya. According to the precepts of Abū Ḥanīfa, which were taken over by most jurists, the poor had to pay one dinar per year; the middle class, two; and the rich, four. Women, children, old men, the sick, the mentally ill, and those without any income were to be exempt. They also established that the tax should be paid at the beginning of the lunar (Muslim) year. The majority of the Muslim jurists thought jizya as a punishment, a means to degrade the non-Muslims.

Both Arabic reports referring to the period of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, and Judeo-Arabic documents from the 11th century show that the authorities used very harsh methods in collecting the jizya, imposing it even on those exempt from paying by virtue of the sharī ʿ a (the canon law of Islam). Under the first caliphs the punishment of those who had not paid the jizya consisted of pouring oil on their heads and exposing them to the sun. Many extant *Genizah letters state that the collectors imposed the tax on children and demanded it for the dead. As the family was held responsible for the payment of the jizya by all its members, it sometimes became a burden and many went into hiding in order to escape imprisonment. For example there is a Responsum by *Maimonides from another document, written in 1095, about a father paying the jizya for his two sons, 13 and 17 years old. From another document, written around 1095, it seems that the tax was due from the age of nine. Even foreigners and transients were compelled to pay the poll tax; hence, nobody dared travel without a certificate of payment (barā ʾ a). Everyone paid where he was registered as resident. These documents also prove that the non-Muslims had to pay the jizya in advance (i.e., some time before the beginning of the Muslim year). The Jews in the Muslim territories did not try to ask exemption from the jizya, because they wanted to be protected. The stability of this tax gave the Jews stable security. There is a famous legend from the tenth century about the Jewish banker *Natira, who objected to the idea of an Abbasid caliph to exempt the Jews from paying jizya. The leaders of Egypt in the *Fatimid period were requested many times by poor people to help them out of difficulties incurred with the Muslim jizya collectors. Since the payment of the jizya was considered a sign of humiliation, Muslim lawyers insisted that it be paid in person. Such was the practice in 12th- and 13th-century Iraq and in Fatimid and *Ayyubid*Egypt. Sometimes the authorities made agreements with local communities, fixing a lump sum to be paid regardless of the number of taxpayers. Several extant Genizah letters point to the fact that the Jews in *Jerusalem in the 11th century paid the jizya as a fixed sum; the Italian rabbi Obadiah di *Bertinoro presents a similar situation in Jerusalem in the second half of the 15th century. In Ottoman Turkey the method of collecting the jizya (called kharāj) underwent several changes. At the end of the 15th century it was paid individually, but in later agreements, communities apparently would pay a lump sum (maḳṭūʿ). A letter written c. 1500 points out that the Jews of *Aleppo were arrested by the *Mamluk ruler because they could not pay the high jizya following a very difficult winter in which their economic life had declined.

In the second half of the 16th century the Jews of Jerusalem, like the local Christians, paid personal jizya through the community. The community had to pay the Ottoman authorities a sum of money for jizya according to a list of Jews which was prepared during the censuses. That list was the basis for the annual jizya payment, and everyone paid it for the male members of his family (hane). A law promulgated in 1691 provided for the reestablishment of the old system of individual payment. The new law was acted upon in Ereẓ Israel. In any case, it is clear that the leaders of Jewish communities in various Muslim lands (or in the confederations of the communities) were not responsible for the payment of the jizya. The rates of the jizya varied throughout and usually did not correspond to those fixed by the sharī ʿ a law. Generally, Jews from poor communities paid a low rate of jizya. In Egypt during the reign of the caliphs, all non-Muslims paid two dinars per year. Ibn Mammātī stated that under the *Ayyubids the *dhimmīs paid according to three rates; the rich paid 4.16 dinar; the middle class, 2.08; and the poor, 1.59. At the beginning of *Mamluk rule the rate of the poll tax was doubled. At the end of the 14th century, however, the highest rate amounted to one dinar and the lowest to 0.4 dinar. In 1412 the Egyptian government once more decided to levy the poll tax according to the rates fixed in the sharī ʿ a law, i.e., 1, 2, and 4 dinars. The accounts of Italian Jews who visited or settled in Ereẓ Israel in the late 15th century indicate a lower rate. According to their reports the (uniform) rate of the jizya would have been between one and two ducats. In Ottoman Turkey the rate was relatively low, in comparison with the rates fixed in the sharī ʿ a. In most provinces during the 17th century it was collected at a uniform rate, from 25 to 50 akçe, whereas in the provinces conquered from the Mamluks it reached up to 80 akçe (60–70 akçe equaled the value of one silver piece). In addition to these rates, all non-Muslims had to pay a collection fee. In the 18th century the Jews continued to pay jizya individually. In the *Ottoman Empire men paid the jizya until they were 60 or 65 years old. In the list of jizya taxpayers in Ruschuk in the year 1831, many children 12 years old and even younger were included. After the conquest of *Istanbul in 1453 the Ottomans determined a total assessment for the Jewish community as a whole and submitted it to the community representative. In the 16th century the secular leaders of every congregation apportioned its share among its individual members. In the second half of the 16th century all Jews paid the jizya according to the lowest rate: 80–90 akçe. The tax was sent to the Central Treasury in Istanbul, but the jizya of 85 Jews was sent to the Wakf of the Dome of the Rock. Throughout this century the government explored the jizya lists and requested the *Jerusalem community to pay the real jizya. The Jews often complained about these lists, especially in times when the community was in steep decline. They also complained frequently about the authorities oppressing them and forcing them to pay a high rate of the poll tax. In addition, there were many complaints about forcing the Jewish pilgrims to pay this tax. The Grand Vezir Sinan Pasha issued an order in 1586/7 to examine the subject of the jizya of the Jews and to bring him a list of Jews who had to pay this tax. A special official was sent from Istanbul to make enquiries about the Jews evading the Jizya. In the Muslim court of Jerusalem and in the responsa literature many documents deal with these difficulties. Few lists of poll tax taxpayers in Jerusalem and *Hebron have survived. These together cover the course of 400 years. For example, we can point to a list of 400 Jerusalem Jews who paid the jizya during 1760–1763. In the year 1762 only 31 persons paid the high rate (evla) of jizya, 123 persons paid the medium rate (evsat), and 195 persons paid the low rate (edna). Women were exempted from this tax, but rich widows who had inherited land from their husbands were listed and paid the jizya. In the 18th century Rabbi Raphael Shelomo Laniado of Aleppo wrote a halakhic decision that persons who could not pay the jizya could pay it from their charity money (ma ʿ aser kesafim), "because it is like a ransom mitzvah." He meant that everyone who did not pay the poll tax was arrested by the Ottoman authorities. Until the 19th century this tax in Aleppo was personal, but it was the duty of the community to collect the money from its members, and the leaders of the community were responsible for the sum of the requested tax. In 1672, 380 Jewish residents of Aleppo paid jizya. Under the Safavid government in *Persia the nasi of *Isfahan was responsible for collecting the jizya and delivering it to the local officials. Under *Reza Shah this tax was cancelled. In Ruschuk the jizya was collective. In 1831/2, 15 Jews paid a total of 420 grossos, 53 paid 1,272 grossos and 36 paid together 432 grossos. Under the reign of Sultan Bayezid ii in 1510–1511 the Ottomans used the monies raised by the poll tax in *Salonika and its environs for the purchase of textiles to outfit the Janissary corps. The Ottoman registry books from the reign of *Suleiman the Magnificent indicate tax payments according to the congregations of the community. But the tax total shown in the registry books was a tally for all the Jews of Salonika, without an itemization by congregation. Rabbi Moses Almosnino wrote in 1568 that he had succeeded in his mission to Istanbul in modifying the poll-tax procedures for the Jews of Salonika.

Undoubtedly the poll tax was a burden to the poor for more than one thousand years. Therefore, the Jewish communities collectively raised money to pay the tax, the poor contributing only a small amount. Many documents referring to these drives are extant in the Cairo Genizah. These drives helped prevent the compulsory payment of the poll tax from becoming a reason for conversion to *Islam, as it had been for Christians. In urgent cases the local leaders of the communities regarded the payment of the jizya for the poor as a holy obligation and a pious deed. For example, there are letters given by the nagid Abraham Maimonides dealing with the payments in place of the poor living in Fustat. The poll tax continued to be levied in the Ottoman Empire until the hatti-sherif (the order of the Sultan) in 1856, when the jizya was abolished by law and non-Muslims were required to pay a tax exempting them from military service (bedel i-askeri). This tax continued to be levied until the Young Turk Revolution, when military service was imposed upon non-Muslims (1909). In Egypt the jizya was abolished by the Napoleonic regime that briefly ruled in Egypt and later in 1855 by Sa ʿ id Pasha. During the Ottoman era it was stipulated that the communities must guarantee the jizya payment for merchants away from the town. In many Jewish communities the family (hane) paid the jizya. There are numerous censuses from the Ottoman period which give the number of the families and the number of bachelors who paid this tax in many communities. The jizya taxpayers were males aged 15–60. We have many documents from the Ottoman period dealing with disputes between rich and poor, in the communities where the jizya was collective. In other communities the jizy a was personal. The community of Istanbul in 1771/2 had a list of taxes paid by it to the state; it suggests that the community had to pay the jizya for 1,200 impoverished taxpayers who could not meet their tax obligations to the government. In Ottoman Egypt the government demanded the jizya from the Jewish community collectively and the Jewish leaders collected the money from the taxpayers according to their economic status, It is possible that in the later years of the 17th century Egyptian communities changed this system and adopted a new jizya that was personal and not collective. In the 18th century the rich Jews in Egypt paid 440 para every year, the middle class community members paid 220 para, and the poor paid 110 para. Other documents give other rates of jizya: 420, 270 and 100 paras, respectively. In Ottoman Egypt the jizya money was sent by the Ottoman government to the Ulema and other pious Muslims in Egypt. In some cities, such as Hebron, the revenues of the jizya were earmarked for Muslim religious institutions. The 17th-century historian Joseph *Sambari writes that "…in the time of Mehmed Gazi Pasha the Oriental Jews, named al-Masharika, began to pay the kharāj to the Sherif Ali Savis, because [until that time] they had an old order from the Sultan of that time exempting them and their descendants from kharāj, and that minhag has been cancelled."

The Jews did not object to the jizya, but there were certain Jews under Islam who were granted exemption from the jizya. A few such cases occur in *Genizah letters related to Egypt, and there are documents about Jewish communities that paid the tax burden for their scholarly officials. This was an internal arrangement. There seem to have been special arrangements in the Ottoman communities exempting Torah scholars holding recognized positions from all tax obligations, including the jizya. The communities undertook these payments. Scholars who had no recognized positions were obliged to make jizya payments during most of the 16th century, in spite of the regulation of the *nagid R. Issac Hacohen Solal in Jerusalem at the beginning of that century, which was also adopted in *Safed. But from 1535 until the end of the 16th century the scholars in Safed paid it gradually. While in Jerusalem during the 16th century the payments were fixed and uniform, in Safed they were progressive until the mid-1560s, a fact which caused many Jews to settle in Safed, and from then on they were apparently made in full. About 1560 Rabbi David Ibn Zimra (Radbaz) decided to demand jizya from the community scholars of Jerusalem. At the end of the 16th century Rabbi Moshe Alshekh urged the establishment of yearly support from the communities of *Venice and Istanbul for paying the jizya of 25 Safed Jewish residents.

In Egypt Rabbi Mordechai Halevi and the other spiritual leaders of Cairo in the 17th century issued a regulation exempting scholars who did not work but rather studied Torah all day from paying jizya. The Jewish communities in the Ottoman Empire tried to prevent new jizya censuses as well as government inquiries about this tax. Many Jews left the city and hid when Ottoman officials came to write new lists of jizya taxpayers. Generally, the number of persons in the jizya lists is incorrect and probably the real number of community members was higher. Many communities arranged special jizya record books. Sometimes there were congregations (synagogues, kehalim) in the community that paid the Ottoman authorities the jizya of their members by themselves and were listed in the Ottoman records as independent communities. Such registration existed in 16th century in Salonika and Safed. The francos active especially in the great communities of the Ottoman empire were exempted from jizya, but there were francos who had been settled in the Ottoman Empire for 10 years and were compelled to pay the jizya according to the Ottoman law.

In Africa, especially in Arab sources, the term jāliya (plur: jawālī) is used many times in place of the term jizya. The meaning of jaliya is exile. We know nothing concerning its collection, but we may suppose that it was collected by the Jewish authorities together with other taxes and charges to which the members of the community were liable, the amounts due to the government being set apart from the general collection. The Tunisian constitution of 1857 contains a reference to the jizya. Exemption from personal taxes is mentioned in the *capitulations concluded in the second half of the 19th century between *Morocco and European countries; therefore, the poll tax must have remained in force there. In the emirate of *Bukhara the jizya was collected from the Jews, but not from the Russian Christians. This and other forms of discrimination continued even after Bukhara had become a Russian protectorate. Complaints about the existence of a poll tax do not occur but at times the collection methods were a source of hardship to the non-Muslim populations. The Jews of *Tripoli (Libya) paid the bedeli-askari until the year 1901.


Løkkegaard, Islamic Taxation (1950), chapter 6; D.C. Dennett, Conversion and the Poll-Tax in Early Islam (1950); A. Fattal, Statut légal des non-musulmans en pays d'Islam (1958), chapter 7; S.D. Goitein, in: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 6 (1963), 278–95; Ashtor, Toledot, 2 (1951), 259–316; 3 (1970), 11–12, 85, 102, 121; P.K. Hitti, History of the Arabs (19679), 171. add. bibliography: H. Inalcik, "Djizya," in: eis2, 3 (1965), 146–48; M. Gil, Documents of the Jewish Pious Foundations from the Cairo Geniza (1970), index; A. Cohen, Palestine in the 18thCentury (1973), 249–56; S.D. Goitein, Mediterranean Society, The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza, 1–3 (1967, 1971, 1978), index; A. Shochet, in: Sefunot, 11 (1971–1978). 301–8; S.J. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, (1977), 1, 84, 95, 96, 97, 100, 104, 128; M. Benayahu, in: Sefunot, 14 (1971–78), 92; H.Z. Hirschberg, A History of the Jews in North Africa, 1 (1974), 117, 120, 132, 207, 288, 199, 267–69; A. Cohen and B. Lewis, Population and Revenue in the Towns of Palestine in the Sixteenth Century (1978), 28–75, 155–69; A. Schochet, in: Cathedra, 13 (1979), 6–9, 15, 30–37; M.R. Cohen, The Jewish Self-Government in Medieval Egypt: (1980), 217, 260, 320; M.A. Epstein, The Ottoman Jewish Communities and their Role in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1980), 62, 66, 72, 90, 111, 122, 134f, 178. 184f., 191, 195; M. Kunt, in: B. Braude and B. Lewis (eds.), Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire, 1 (1982), 58; J.R. Hacker, in: ibid. (1982), 117–26; F. Ahmad, in: ibid., 398, 447; H. Gerber, Yehudei ha-Imperya ha-Otmanit ba-Me'ot ha-Shesh Esre veha-Sheva-Esre, Ḥevrah ve-Kalkalah (1983), 27, 36–37, 122–26, 130–31; 40–43, 48, 105, 109, 117–19, A. Cohen, Jewish Life Under Islam (1984), index; A. Shmuelevitz, The Jews of the Ottoman Empire in the Late Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1984); J. Hacker, in: Shalem, 4 (1984), 63–117; M. Rozen, Ha-Kehillah ha-Yehudit bi-Yrushalayim ba-Me'ah ha-Sheva-Esre (1985), index. S. Bar Asher, in: S. Ettinger (ed.), Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Arẓ ot ha-Islam, 1 (1981), 145; 2 (1986), 333–39; L. Bornstein-Makovetsky, in: Jacob M. Landau (ed.), Toledot Yehudei Mitzrayim ba-Tekufah ha-Otmanit (15171914) (1988), 131, 181–182, 188; M. Winter, ibid., 387, 390–92, 404; Rozan, ibid., 423–25, 443, 458–59; M. Zand, in: Pe'amim, 35 (1988), 57–59; B. Masters, The Origins of Western Economic Dominance in the Middle East: Mercantalism and the Islamic Economy in Aleppo, 1600–1750 (1988), 38, 89, 107 no. 49, 127; A. Marcus, The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century, (1989), 148, 338; M. Gil, A History of Palestine 6341099 (1992), 242, 245, 262, 761; A. Levy, The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire (1992), 15, 59, 92, 144; A. Cohen, Yehudim be-Veit ha-Mishpat ha-Muslemi (1993), 37–52, 70–84; M. Rozen, in: A. Levy (ed.), The Jews of the Ottoman Empire (1994), 254–62; Y. Barnai, in: Cathedra, 72 (1994), 135–68; M.R. Cohen, Under Crescent and Cross, The Jews in the Middle Ages (1994), index; M. Ben- Sasson, Ẓemiḥat ha-Kehillah ha-Yehudit be-Arẓot ha-Islam (1996), 354, 386–88, 398; N. Gruenhaus, Ha-Misuy ba-Kehillah ha-Yehudit be-Izmir ba-Me'ot ha-Sheva-Esre ve-ha-Shemone-Esre (1997), 57–59; I. Abramski-Bligh (ed.), Pinkas ha-Kehillot: Libya, Tunisia (1997); Y. Avrahami, Pinkas ha-Kehillah ha-Yehudit Portugezit be-Tunis (1997), 27–28; B. Rivlin (ed.), Pinkas ha-Kehillot: Yavan (1999); A. David, To Come to the Land: Immigration and Settlement in the 16th Century Eretz Israel (1999), index; J.R. Hacker, in: Shalem, 7 (2002), 133–50; Y. Barnai, ibid. (2002), 199–205; M. Rozen, A History of the Jewish Community in Istanbul: The Formative Years, 14531566 (2002), 26–27; D. Schroeter, in: A. Levy (ed.), Jews, Turks, Ottomans (2002), 90, 92, 99; Y. Harel, Bi-Sefinot shel Esh La-Ma'arav, Temurot Be-Yahadut Surya bi-Tekufat ha-Reformot ha-Otmaniyyot 18401880 (2003), 103, 173–74; M. Gil, The Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages (2004), 166, 172, 173, 252, 268, 307, 324, 326, 353, 363; A. Levy (ed.), Jews, Turks, Ottomans (2002), 6, 90–92, 99, 109; E. Alshech, in: Islamic Law and Society, 10 (2003), 348–75; Z. Keren, Kehillat Yehudei Ruschuk, 1788–1878 (2005), 56, 77, 84, 95–96, 102, 106, 130–32, 134, 143–44.

[Eliyahu Ashtor /

Leah Bornstein-Makovetsky (2nd ed.)]