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Title: Kharaj  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Jizya, Ubayd Allah ibn al-Habhab, Islam and other religions, Taxation, Tax per head
Collection: Arabic Words and Phrases in Sharia, Islam and Other Religions, Taxation
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Kharaj is a type of Islamic tax on agricultural land and its produce developed under Islamic law.[1]

With the first Muslim conquests in the 7th century, kharaj initially denoted a lump-sum duty levied upon the lands of conquered provinces, which was collected by hold-over officials of the defeated Byzantine Empire in the west and the Sassanid Empire in the east; later and more broadly, kharaj refers to the land tax levied by Muslim rulers on their non-Muslim subjects, collectively known as dhimmi. At that time, kharaj was synonymous with jizyah, which later emerged as a per head tax paid by the dhimmi. Muslim landowners, on the other hand, paid only ushr, a religious tithe on land, which carried a much lower rate of taxation,[2] and zakat.

This discriminatory tax system and the inability to compete however, led to the mass conversion to Islam of otherwise subjugated indigenous Christians and Zoroastrians. Indigenous Jews, unwilling to change their religion, soon left their homesteads and emerged as an urban minority in the developing commercial centers.[3][4] These changes soon eroded the established tax base of the early Arab Caliphates. Additionally, a large, but unsuccessful, expedition against the Byzantine Empire undertaken by the Umayyad caliph Sulayman in 717 brought the finances of the Umayyads to the brink of collapse. Even before Sulayman's ascent to power, Al-Hajjaj, a governor of Iraq, attempted to raise revenues by demanding from Muslims a full rate of taxation, but that measure met with opposition and resentment. To address these problems, Sulayman's successor Umar II worked out a compromise that beginning from 719, land from which kharaj was paid could not be transferred to Muslims, who could lease such land, but in that case, they would be required to pay kharaj from it. With the passage of time, the practical result of that reform was that kharaj was levied on most land without regard for the cultivator's religion. The reforms of Umar II were finalized under the Abbasids and would thereafter form the model of tax systems in the Islamic state.[5] From that time on, kharaj was also used as a general term describing all kinds of taxes: for example, the classic treatise on taxation by the 9th century jurist Abu Yusuf was called Kitab al-Kharaj, i.e. The Book On Taxation.[2]

20th-century Russian orientalist, A. Yu. Yakubovski, compares the land tax system of Persian Sassanids with that of the post-Islamic Caliphate era:

A comparison between pre-Islamic documents and those of the Islamic period reveals that conquering Arabs increased the land taxation without exception. Thus, raising taxes of each acre of wheat field to 4 dirhams and each acre of barley field to 2 dirhams, whereas during reign of Khosro Anushiravan it used to be a single dirham for each acre of a wheat or barley field. During the later stage of Umayyad Caliphate, conquered and subjugated Persians were paying from one fourth to one third of their land produce to the Arab Empire as kharaj.[6]

In the Ottoman empire, kharaj evolved into haraç, a form of poll tax on non-Muslim subjects. It was superseded by cizye.


  1. ^ Böwering, Gerhard, ed. (2013). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought. Princeton University Press. p. 545. 
  2. ^ a b Lewis (2002), p. 72
  3. ^ Reeva Spector Simon, Michael Menachem Laskier, Sara Reguer, Eds. The Jews of the Middle East and North Africa in Modern Times, p.6, Columbia University Press [2003]
  4. ^ Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, p.171
  5. ^ Lewis (2002), p. 79–80
  6. ^ N. V. Pigulevskaya, A. Yu. Yakubovski, I. P. Petrushevski, L. V. Stroeva, A. M. Belenitski. The History of Iran from Ancient Times to the End of Eighteenth Century (in Persian), Tehran, 1967, p. 161.


  • Cooper, Richard S. "The Assessment and Collection of Kharaj Tax in Medieval Egypt", Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 96, No. 3. (Jul. – Sep., 1976), pp. 365–382.
  • Cummings, John Thomas; Askari, Hossein; Mustafa, Ahmad. "Islam and Modern Economic Change" in Esposito, 1980, pp. 25–47
  • Esposito, John L. (ed.). Islam and Development: Religion and Sociopolitical Change (Syracuse, NY, Syracuse University Press, 1980)
  • Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Maurice (tr. John P. MacGregor). Muslim Institutions (London, Allen & Unwin, 1950)
  • Hourani, Albert, A History of the Arab Peoples (Cambridge, MA : Belknap-Harvard University Press, 1991)
  • Melis, Nicola, “Il concetto di ğihād”, in P. Manduchi (a cura di), Dalla penna al mouse. Gli strumenti di diffusione del concetto di gihad, Angeli, Milano 2006, pp. 23–54.
  • Melis, Nicola, “Lo statuto giuridico degli ebrei dell’Impero Ottomano”, in M. Contu – N. Melis - G. Pinna (a cura di), Ebraismo e rapporti con le culture del Mediterraneo nei secoli XVIII-XX, Giuntina, Firenze 2003.
  • Melis, Nicola, Trattato sulla guerra. Il Kitāb al-ğihād di Molla Hüsrev, Aipsa, Cagliari 2002.
  • Hawting, G. R. The First Dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750 (London, Routledge, 2000)
  • Lambton, Ann K. S. Landlord and Peasant in Persia: A Study of Land Tenure and Land Revenue Administration (London, Oxford University Press, 1953)
  • Lewis, Bernard (2002). The Arabs in History. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  
  • Poliak, A. N. "Classification of Lands in the Islamic Law and Its Technical Terms". The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 57, No. 1. (Jan., 1940), pp. 50–62.
  • Stillman, Norman (1979). The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America.  
  • Watt, W. Montgomery. Islamic Political Thought: The Basic Concepts (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1980)

External links

  • The Institute of Ismaili Studies, Glossary H-K (kharaj)
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