Historically, cizye had been a poll-tax on nonmuslims which, in the Ottoman empire, was theoretically a substitute for military service, as Christians and people of other religions were not permitted to bear arms. Over time, the transition from feudal conscripts to professional armies led to many members of the Muslims public, paying a charge in lieu of military service, too.
However, the Khatt-i Humayun firman in 1856 - a cornerstone of the tanzimat reform process - explicitly granted more equal tax treatment to people of all religions. This would have abolished the use of the cizye system to maintain an all-Muslim army; but there was little interest in creating a multi-faith army, so the Porte replaced the cizye with bedl-i askeri, a tax which was only payable by non-Muslims who would have been liable for conscription.2 The bedl-i askeri was set at 50 lira per person. Not all men within a certain age-range would have been liable for conscription (in order to maintain a certain size of army), so only certain individuals were liable - and the proportion shrank as the empire's population grew. Over time, this bedl-i askeri began to be shared out amongst most nonchristian men, not just those who would have been conscripted, so the new tax came to resemble the old cizye again, and each person's share might only be 5 to 7 piasters.
The 1909 constitution introduced compulsory conscription, and abolished any payment in lieu of conscription; so the bedl-i askeri ceased.3
The term "askeri" literally meant "military", but over the course of Ottoman history it had come to refer to a ruling class; civil servants, ulema, and officers - set in contrast to the raya - who were taxpayers rather than decision-makers.45
- Encyclopedia of the modern Middle East, Volume 1. Macmillan Reference USA. 1996. p. 338. ISBN 978-0-02-897061-5.
- Stillman, Norman. The Jews of Arab lands: a history and source book. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-8276-0198-7.
- Shaw, Stanford (October 1975). "The Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Tax Reforms and Revenue System". International Journal of Middle East Studies 6 (4): 421–459. JSTOR 162752.
- Bulut, Mehmet (July 2009). "Reconsideration of Economic Views of a Classical Empire and a Nation-State During the Mercantilist Ages". American Journal of Economics and Sociology 68 (3): 817.
- Acun, Fatma (2002). "The Other Side of the Coin: Tax Exemptions within the Context of Ottoman Taxation History". Bulgarian Historical Review 1 (2).