Umar and the Blind Beggar

According to the Shari‘ah, Non-Muslim citizens of the Caliphate are entitled to the same rights as Muslim citizens. For example, the elderly who cannot provide for themselves are looked after by the State, whether they are Muslim or not.

An incident from the time of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which illustrates this is mentioned by Qadi Abu Yusuf (a noted student of Abu Hanifah who died in the year 182 AH/798 CE) in his book on Islamic revenues entitled Kitab al-Kharaj.

Abu Yusuf says, Amr bin Nafi‘ related to me from Abu Bakr who said ‘Umar bin al-Khattab passed by an old man begging. He asked him: “To which of the People of the Book do you belong?” He said: “I am a Jew.” He replied: “What has compelled you to that which I see?” He said: “I am begging in order to pay the jizya [head tax] and on account of my need and old age.” Then ‘Umar got hold of his hand, took him to his house and gave him something from his home, then sent him to the treasurer of the Bayt al-Mal [State Treasury] and said: “Take care of this man and other similar men. By Allah, we have not done justice to him that we ate (jizya) from him when he was young but we forsook him when he was old. Verily, the alms are for the poor and destitute. The poor are the Muslims and this one is a destitute from the People of the Book.” So he removed the jizya from him. Abu Bakr said, “I have witnessed this (incident) of ‘Umar and I also have seen that old man.”

[cf. English translation of Kitab al-Kharaj by Abid Ahmad Ali, revised by Abdul Hameed Siddiqui, Islamic Book Centre, Lahore, 1979, pp. 253-254]

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