The word Kaafir most probably should be one of the most
misunderstood terms in the history of world languages. The
term has been abused & projected by media in such a fashion
that it induces spontaneous hatred among people to whom this
term is being referred. Any language at it's best, conveys
what it's made out to convey.
Factually speaking there is nothing derogatory or insulting
about the term Kaafir. The term (derived from Kufr in Arabic
language) means 'One who rejects (denies) the truth' or 'One
who does not believe' or a 'Non-believer'. A person who is
not a Christian is called a Non-Christian; a person who is
not a Hindu is known as a non-Hindu; similarly, a person
who is not a Muslim is called a non-Muslim, which when translated
in to Arabic language is called a Kaafir.
It's as simple as that. In fact, the term Kaafir relates
more to the status of a person's belief system and reflects
less about the physical entity that he is. A more apt, politically
and socially significant term Zimmi used in Arabic literature
to denote non-Muslims has been ignored and has gone unnoticed
by Muslim bashers.
A non-Muslim subject in an Islamic state is called Zimmi
(derived from Zimma meaning responsibility) meaning a subject
whose life, honour and property will be protected by the
Islamic State. He will have freedom to follow his own belief
system. He will have his own set of laws, administered by
his own tribunals and own judges, without any interference
on the part of the Muslim authorities. He will also be exempted
from participation in the wars,
otherwise compulsory to the Muslim subjects of the state.
He will not be required to pay the compulsory annual Zakaat
(a type of compulsory tax collected annually from all Muslims
by Islamic Governments and disbursed to poor Muslims). Against
all these privileges the non-Muslim subject Zimmi have to
pay a nominal tax called Jizya.
The quantum of Jizya will be reasonable enough as not to
be a financial burden on him. In case of any uncertainty
with respect to the safety of non-Muslim subjects, an Islamic
state will forfeit its right to collect such tax. History
tells us that the second Caliph Umer (RA) returned a huge
sum of money collected through Jizya to the non-Muslim subjects
in one such compelling circumstance.
The Zimmis also will not be allowed to participate in legislation
process. For that matter, not even the Muslim subjects. Because
the law making (Legislation) authority rests with Allah and
hence will be solely based on Qur'an & Sunnah.
The Islamic State will only be a law-enforcing agency. At
the time of the revelation of the Holy Qur'an, when most
of the non-believers in Mecca and Madina had waged a pitched
battle with believers; Allah (SWT) sensing the question upper
most in the minds of most Muslims with respect to their dealings
with other non- believers who were not hostile to them issued
the following instruction: "Allah does not forbid you to
be kind and deal justly with non-Muslims, who do not wage
war against you on account of your religion and do not drive
you out of your homes. Verily Allah loves those who are just".
The above-mentioned verse in fact is a policy statement in
this matter. This is further exemplified by Prophet Mohammed
(pbuh) who said: "One who kills a Zimmi, will not get even
the scent of the paradise. In another statement he said: " I
shall stand witness against the believer, who will be guilty
of persecuting a Zimmi." It should be noted that while discussing
the rights of neighbours and the wayfarers, Islam does not
make any distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims.
A non-Muslim neighbour has as much rights over his Muslim
neighbour as the other Muslim neighbour next door. There
can not be a better example to illustrate Islam's stand vis-à-vis
the treatment to the non -Muslims, than the story narrated
by Abu Uzair (RA), one of the companion of the Prophet Mohammed
(pbuh), before embracing Islam. "I was one of the prisoners-of-war
and was handed over as captive to one of the Ansars (residents
Ever since Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) instructed his companions
to look well after the captives, the situation used to be
that my Ansar host used to eat only dates while providing
me a stomach full meal." No wonder, the entire Christian
population of a border town, preferred to live as Zimmis
under the rule of Hazrat Umar (RA) ,the second Caliph of
Islam instead of becoming sovereign subjects of a Christian
king in 640 CE.