23. This has been mentioned to allay the fears of those who were afraid of the consequences of the declaration of the abrogation of the treaties, as if to say, “Why are you afraid of war.” That Allah, Who helped you in far worse and dangerous situations on so many occasions before this, is there even now to help you. Had this mission depended on your might, it could not have come out victorious in the hard trials at Makkah, nor in the battle of Badr when the odds were heavily against you. This is because Allah’s power has been helping you, and past experiences have shown you how effective that power is. Rest assured that the same power will help you to succeed in your mission.
The battle of Hunain had taken place in the valley of Hunain between Taaif and Makkah in the month of Shawwal A.H. 8, a year or so before the revelation of this discourse. This was the first battle in which the Muslim army consisted of 12,000 fighters and this far outnumbered the army of the disbelievers. But in spite of this the archers of the Hawazin clan wrought havoc among the Muslim army and put them to rout. The Prophet (peace be upon him) and a few of his bravest companions, however, firmly stood their ground and rallied the routed army, and ultimately won the victory. It was because of their perseverance that the army reassembled and the Muslims ultimately won the victory; otherwise they would have lost much more at Hunain than they had gained by the conquest of Makkah.
24. “Allah will accept repentance” refers to the large number of the disbelievers who embraced Islam after the victory at Hunain as a result of the kind and generous treatment they received from the Prophet (peace be upon him), in spite of their former antagonism. This was mentioned to allay the anxiety of those new Muslims who feared that, as a result of the declaration, all of their mushrik relatives would be put to death. (E.N. 16). They have been told to expect, in the light of the previous experiences, that the mushriks would be obliged to accept Islam, when they realize that neither any hope of the revival of the order of ignorance was left nor of any props to support it.
25. This prohibition was meant to root out all the vestiges of shirk and ignorance. For the mushriks were prohibited not only from the performance of Hajj and attendance at the AlMasjid-AlHaram but also from entering into its sacred precincts.
They are unclean in their creeds, in their morals, in their deeds, and in their ways of ignorance, and not in their physical bodies by themselves. That is the reason why they have been prohibited from entering the sacred precincts of the holy place.
This prohibition has been interpreted in different ways. Imam Abu Hanifah is of the view that it prohibits them only from the performance of Hajj and Umrah, and from the observance of the rites of ignorance in the holy precincts. But Imam Shafii is of the opinion that they have been forbidden even to enter the AlMasjid-AlHaram for any purpose whatsoever. Imam Malik is of the opinion that they are forbidden not only to enter AlMasjid-AlHaram but any mosque at all. It is, however, obvious that the last opinion is not correct, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself permitted mushriks to enter the Prophet’s mosque at Al-Madinah.
26. Though the people of the Book professed to believe in Allah and the Hereafter, in fact they believed in neither. For only that person really believes in Allah who acknowledges Him as the only one God and the only one Lord, and does not associate with Him any other, whatsoever, in His Being, in His characteristics, in His rights and in His powers and authority. But according to this definition of shirk both the Christians and the Jews were guilty of shirk as has been made plain in the verses that follow: therefore their profession of belief in Allah was meaningless. Likewise they did not really believe in the Hereafter, in spite of the fact that they believed in resurrection. For it is not enough: one must also believe that on that Day absolute justice will be done on the basis of one’s belief and actions. One should also believe that no ransom and no expiation and no spiritual relationships with any saint shall be of any avail on that Day. It is absolutely meaningless to believe in the Hereafter without this. And the Jews and the Christians had polluted their faiths because they believed that such things would protect them against justice on that day.
27. The second reason why Jihad should be waged against them is that they did not adopt the law sent down by Allah through His Messenger.
28. This is the aim of Jihad with the Jews and the Christians and it is not to force them to become Muslims and adopt the Islamic way of life. They should be forced to pay jizyah in order to put an end to their independence and supremacy so that they should not remain rulers and sovereigns in the land. These powers should be wrested from them by the followers of the true faith, who should assume the sovereignty and lead others towards the right way, while they should become their subjects and pay jizyah. Jizyah is paid by those non-Muslims who live as zimmis (proteges) in an Islamic state, in exchange for the security and protection granted to them by it. This is also symbolical of the fact that they themselves agree to live in it as its subjects. This is the significance of “they pay the tribute out of (their) hand,” that is, “with full consent so that they willingly become the subjects of the believers, who perform the duty of the vicegerents of Allah on the earth.”
At first this command applied only to the Jews and the Christians. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself extended it to the Zoroastrians also. After his death, his companions unanimously applied this rule to all the non Muslim nations outside Arabia.
This is jizyah of which the Muslims have been feeling apologetic during the last two centuries of their degeneration and there are still some people who continue to apologize for it. But the way of Allah is straight and clear and does not stand in need of any apology to the rebels against Allah. Instead of offering apologies on behalf of Islam for the measure that guarantees security of life, property and faith to those who choose to live under its protection, the Muslims should feel proud of such a humane law as that of jizyah. For it is obvious that the maximum freedom that can be allowed to those who do not adopt the Way of Allah but choose to tread the ways of error is that they should be tolerated to lead the life they like. That is why the Islamic state offers them protection, if they agree to live as its zimmis by paying jizyah, but it cannot allow that they should remain supreme rulers in any place and establish wrong ways and impose them on others. As this state of things inevitably produces chaos and disorder, it is the duty of the true Muslims to exert their utmost to bring to an end their wicked rule and bring them under a righteous order.
As regards the question, “What do the non-Muslims get in return for jizyah”, it may suffice to say that it is the price of the freedom which the Islamic state allows them in following their erroneous ways, while living in the jurisdiction of Islam and enjoying its protection. The money thus collected is spent in maintaining the righteous administration that gives them the freedom and protects their rights. This also serves as a yearly reminder to them that they have been deprived of the honor of paying Zakat in the Way of Allah, and forced to pay jizyah instead as a price of following the ways of error.