Islamic Taxes and Charity: The Nature of Zakat, Sadaqah and Khums

Islamic Taxes and Charity: The Nature of Zakat, Sadaqah and Khums

Islam encourages Muslimun to be aware of and concerned with the plight of those around us and throughout the world. Realizing that the state of mankind is that of relative obliviousness to the true needs and plight of others, charitable taxes are prescribed by the Qur’an, to gradually change the hearts of the masses from begrudgingly giving according to a prescribed obligation to evolving this giving into an act of pure love for our neighbors as ourselves.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In this modern age, perhaps more so than at any other time in recorded human history, there is a disproportionate distribution of wealth which leaves a large segment of society deprived of even basic necessities which had long since been taken for granted – food, clothes, and shelter – whilst at the other end of the spectrum there are those with more wealth and opulence than could have ever been dreamed of even a century earlier. In between these two ranges lies a Middle Class in many nations, which in its own wants and needs being met, finds it very easy to forget and lose touch with those suffering in the world (those whose basic needs are not being met).

Nevertheless, the reality of these peoples’ situation is not changed one iota by the masses turning their heads from them and shutting their eyes when such deprivation surrounds them on all sides. It is this reality that keeps those who truly care – those who love and empathize with even those considered to be the least in society – even more firmly set on bringing about equality throughout our local communities and the world at large. For as `Isa said in the Injil, You cannot be the slave of two masters!  You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than the other.  You cannot serve both God as well as money and possessions.” 

In order to bring about equality in the socio-economic condition of the people, the Qur’an instituted a system in the transferring of the excess wealth from the fortunate segments of society to its less fortunate members. This was to be done on both an individual level of personal, optional charity when one sees someone in need and seeks to help alleviate this need out of good will and love for one’s neighbor, and a collective level of Islamic taxes (zakat and Khums), being collected and distributed in a calculated manner. Yet the very fact that some of us have the choice to obey Allah and spend out of concern for the plight of others, whilst others do not even have the ability to choose if they are going to eat one thing or another (or even eat at all), should serve as a constant reminder of how seriously wrong things are in the world, and why it is so important for Muslimun to do the right thing.

Islam encourages Muslimun to be aware of and concerned with the plight of those around us and throughout the world. Realizing that the state of mankind is that of relative obliviousness to the true needs and plight of others, charitable taxes are prescribed by the Qur’an, to gradually change the hearts of the masses from begrudgingly giving according to a prescribed obligation to evolving this giving into an act of pure love for our neighbors as ourselves. In `Arabic, this voluntary form of giving is known as “Sadaqah.”

There are many Ayat in the Holy Qur’an which instruct Muslimun to help others voluntarily. In fact, there are more Ayat dealing with voluntary “sadaqah” than the obligatory “zakat” or “khums” taxes (though at times sadaqah and zakat are used interchangeably). In short, sadaqah is all charitable giving whether proscribed or spontaneous, but zakat is specifically that which is proscribed to be given. On the other hand, Khums is less specifically related to poverty, which is only part of the use of khums.

There is no specifically fixed dollar amount of how much someone owes in these taxes. For everyone is morally obligated to help others according to their own means and the resources at hand. Instead, these taxes are based on a percentage relative to one’s income; both standard percentage zakat tax on income of 2.5%, and a 20% of “Khums” (literally “one fifth”), on expendable income and luxury (excess) purchases.

These taxes of Khums and zakat are – like salaah and sawm in shahar Ramadan – acts of worship, of `ibadah, which are obligatory on all Muslimun. For Islam is not a deen limited merely to self-professed “faith” or “eemaan.” No, rather, one has eemaan rooted within their hearts and from this grows branches which are the works, the practices of the deen. If one does not have an outgrowth of works and practices from their heart, then it is obvious that there is no “root” therein. As well, if someone has poor branches growing out from the roots, then it will appear obvious that the root itself has died and it is for that reason that the branches are withered and rotten.

Yet regardless of faith or “eemaan,” Muslimun are required to submit to the tangible “works.” Accordingly, if Allah Wills, over time these works can take root like a cut off plant replanted in fertile soil, only to grow a solid rooting in time. Thus, works manifest from faith,  but works can also create the necessary conditions, the fertile soil for faith to take root in.

In Islam, wealth is not consider “ours,” but whatever we get, it is gotten from Allah, and to Allah we are called to offer back a portion in Hu’s Service, as a “good gift.” It is written in Surat al-Muzammil (73), Ayah 20: “Surely your Lord knows that you pass in prayer nearly two-thirds of the night, and (sometimes) half of it, and (sometimes) a third of it, and (also) a party of those with you; and Allah measures the night and the day. He knows that you are not able to do it, so He has turned to you (mercifully), therefore read what is easy of the Quran. He knows that there must be among you sick, and others who travel in the land seeking of the bounty of Allah, and others who fight in Allah’s way, therefore read as much of it as is easy (to you), and keep up the salaah and pay the zakat and offer to Allah a good gift, and whatever of good you send on beforehand for yourselves, you will find it with Allah; that is best and greatest in reward; and ask forgiveness of Allah; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”

إِنَّ رَبَّكَ يَعْلَمُ أَنَّكَ تَقُومُ أَدْنَى مِن ثُلُثَيِ اللَّيْلِ وَنِصْفَهُ وَثُلُثَهُ وَطَائِفَةٌ مِّنَ الَّذِينَ مَعَكَ وَاللَّهُ يُقَدِّرُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ عَلِمَ أَن لَّن تُحْصُوهُ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ فَاقْرَؤُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ عَلِمَ أَن سَيَكُونُ مِنكُم مَّرْضَى وَآخَرُونَ يَضْرِبُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَبْتَغُونَ مِن فَضْلِ اللَّهِ وَآخَرُونَ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَاقْرَؤُوا مَا تَيَسَّرَ مِنْهُ وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَقْرِضُوا اللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا وَمَا تُقَدِّمُوا لِأَنفُسِكُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ تَجِدُوهُ عِندَ اللَّهِ هُوَ خَيْرًا وَأَعْظَمَ أَجْرًا وَاسْتَغْفِرُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ


Khums is the tax which all adult Muslimun who have surplus income have to pay on savings, net commercial profits, and all moveable and immovable property which is not necessary for the true needs of the person. Zakat, on the other hand, is a tax which must be paid on certain kinds of agricultural produce and livestock, and on income itself (which until recently was in the form of gold and silver). The mandate for both of these forms of tax is found explicity within the Qur’an.

“Know that whatever of a thing you gain (Ghanimat), a fifth of it is for Allah, for the Messenger, for the near relatives, the orphans, the needy and wayfarer.” Al-Qur’an, Surat al-Anfal 8:41

وَاعْلَمُواْ أَنَّمَا غَنِمْتُم مِّن شَيْءٍ فَأَنَّ لِلّهِ خُمُسَهُ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ إِن كُنتُمْ آمَنتُمْ بِاللّهِ وَمَا أَنزَلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا يَوْمَ الْفُرْقَانِ يَوْمَ الْتَقَى الْجَمْعَانِ وَاللّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Islam aims at eliminating the need or “Hajat,” and elevating the needy people to the level of being free from want (Ghani). Thus, it is mandated that of whatever we gain one-fifth or 20% is to be paid as a religious tax. We do not pay 20% of all income, as we do not “gain” goods or services when we pay for necessities for living such as food, clothing and shelter. In the modern age this could extend to exempt such things as traveling expenses on non-luxury vehicles and trips. So living expenses which are necessary are not subject to this tax.

However, one cannot pretend that some things which the industrialized “First World” considers as“necessities” actually are. Thus, some items taxability is relative to their necessity. If one has a gym pass to strength train their bodies for the Revolution, the Thawratu-l-Qayim, then this is spending in the way of Allah. However, if one buys the same pass to look good on the beach or attract the opposite sex then this is expendable and unnecessary. If one buys a decent, affordable television for a masjid to show dawah videos then this is spending in the cause of Allah. However, to buy the same television for personal entertainment is a “gain” and is taxable. Thus, whether one saves $10,000 or they spend the same amount on a big, flat-screen, plasma television, they still must put aside 20% of this as “gain” which is to be paid as khums. There is no exception to this, and failure to do this is Islamically considered no different than failing to partake in sawm or salaah; for these are the very Furud that define Shariy`ah.

In many Suwar, the Qur’an also says that many acts of `ibadah were also prescribed by the former prophets; following the Qur’anic statement that there was nothing revealed to Muhammad which had not previously been found in the Sunnan of the ‘Anbiyah. We see this also in the case of forerunners of prophets (who were not necessarily always prophets themselves), as (for example), according to tradition, Khums was also recommended by `Abd al-Muttalib, the grandfather of Muhammad and continued under Qur’anic Shariy`ah.

Acting upon a command of Allah given to `Abd al-Muttalib in a dream when he discovered the well of Zamzam, he found in it many valuable things which were buried in it by the progeny of Isma`il when they feared their enemies would steal these valuables. When `Abd al-Muttalib found this buried treasure he took out one fifth (Khums) in the way of Allah and kept the rest. This became a custom in his House and after the Hijrah this same system was officially incorporated in Qur’anic Shariy`ah, in place of the former “tithe” of a 10% deduction from ALL income instituted since the days of Ibrahim.

In Sefer Ha’Berasheet (Genesis) 14:20 we read of the former system: “‘And blessed be El `Elyon (God Most High), who delivered your enemies into your hand.’ Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”

וּבָרוּךְ אֵל עֶלְיוֹן, אֲשֶׁר-מִגֵּן צָרֶיךָ בְּיָדֶךָ; וַיִּתֶּן-לוֹ מַעֲשֵׂר, מִכֹּל.

And in Sefer Ha’Berasheet 28:22, Yaqub said: “and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be Beyt Elohim (House of the Divine Ones), and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

 וְהָאֶבֶן הַזֹּאת, אֲשֶׁר-שַׂמְתִּי מַצֵּבָה–יִהְיֶה, בֵּית אֱלֹהִים; וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר תִּתֶּן-לִי, עַשֵּׂר אֲעַשְּׂרֶנּוּ לָךְ.

The problem with the former “tithing” system was that it did not differentiate between those who themselves earned a lower income and did not have much expendable income. Thus, the percentage of tax was the same for a millionaire as it would be for someone barely getting by. This was insufficient as the classes of wealth further developed over the years. Thus, a shift was mandated, that one with little expendable income would have to pay very little, and one with immense expendable income would have to pay from it, and certainly they would not miss it in terms of practicality and survival.

Accordingly, someone making $10,000,000 in expendable income a year would have to pay $2,000,000 in Khums. He would STILL retain $8,000,000 in expendable income every year, which would still leave him a very rich man. So the Islamic system is not purely Communistic in nature, nor purely Capitalistic. Income classes are permitted to exist, and those with immense wealth are permitted to retain more wealth than other. Nevertheless, they are NOT permitted to hoard this wealth and prevent it to circulate amongst the people. Thus, the entrepreneurial “free market”ideology is encouraged simultaneous with the limited notion of communally helping the poor. For as the wealthy continue to succeed financially, so too do the poor benefit from their success through the Khums and zakat taxes.


On the other hand, for those with little, only little is required of them. If one has only $100 in expendable income every month, then they only have to pay $20 a month. If they only have $20 a month in expendable income, then they only have to pay $4 a month in Khums. It is entirely possible that at some stages of a persons life they will have little or no money due in Khums. Islam is not oppressive and only requires what can be spared. In this way a poor person receiving aid from the government, or a student receiving aid from grants, is not held to the same standard of dues as is someone who is a “middle class” business owner or millionaire. Thus the Qur’an says in Surat al-Mujadilah (58), Aayah 13: “Do you fear that you will not (be able to) give in Sadaqaat before your consultation? So when you do not do it and Allah has turned to you (mercifully), then keep up the salaah and pay the zakat and obey Allah and His Messenger; and Allah is Aware of what you do.”

أَأَشْفَقْتُمْ أَن تُقَدِّمُوا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ نَجْوَاكُمْ صَدَقَاتٍ فَإِذْ لَمْ تَفْعَلُوا وَتَابَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَاللَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ

Accordingly, Sadaqah is encouraged, mustahab, but it is not Fard as zakat and Khums are. When we have money to give to aid the poor and needy, and to help in the propagation of the deen, then we are to give. But as a minimum, we must at least pay zakat and Khums “at the time of harvest,”(when we acquire it).

“They ask you (O Muhammad) as to what they should spend (in way of charity). Say, ‘Whatever can be spared (from your wealth after your own expenses).'” Al-Qur’an,Surat al-Baqarah 2:219

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلِ الْعَفْوَ كَذَلِكَ يُبيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمُ الآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ

No matter how much we owe in these relative percentages of zakat and Khums, these are not merely taxes to be paid begrudgingly, but acts of worship which we should give with a cheerful heart, knowing that this money goes to benefit the poor and needy, as well as to propagate the deen. Thus, in every day that we work, we are working for Allah, and facilitating the propagation of the deen through our earnings. Just as prayer is an act of worship which involves the performance of certain acts and recitations, and fasting involves physical hardship, thirst, and hunger, these two acts ofzakat and Khums can also be viewed in terms of their own expenditure. For through the act of giving, the illusion of the ego-self, or “nafs” is wounded.

Thus, the meaning of “zakat” is “that which purifies.” This meaning is demonstrated in Sooratu-t-Tawbah (9), Aayah 103: “Take Sadaqah out of their wealth, you would cleanse them and purify them by it, and pray for them; surely your prayer is a relief to them; and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.”

خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلاَتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَّهُمْ وَاللّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيم

These two religious taxes purify the individual from selfishness and greed, as well as purifying wealth itself by making those less fortunate share in a portion of it. By paying the religious taxes a person demonstrates the belief that wealth is a means and not an end in itself; the ultimate end is to act out of pure Love of Allah, to fulfill the Divine Will. For the Qur’an emphasizes that one cannot hope to gain spiritual perfection and the pleasure of Allah unless one expends one’s wealth for the needy and for the deen.

“Those who keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and they are certain of the hereafter.” Al-Qur’an, Surah Luqman 31:4

الَّذِينَ يُقِيمُونَ الصَّلَاةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ يُوقِنُونَ

This is why people speak of “giving until it hurts” because that miserly thing which “hurts” is the nafs. When it is caused to hurt, it is because it is wounded. The more we wound this illusory nafs, the sooner it dies. Thus, one should not merely seek to give some change to a poor beggar on the street and then think to themselves that they have done some great deed. They should give until there is psychological “pain” to their ego in departing with this money, which was merely on loan from Allah in the first place. The Qur’an makes it clear that we were given whatever wealth we have  in the first place. Thus, the Mu’min has no place to look at zakat and Khums as “their” money. Put simply, this is Allah’s money which we have been entrusted with. To retain it when it is due or to misappropriate it for us contrary to what is described in the Qur’an is nothing short of THEFT of money which is no our own.

“Those who believe in the unseen and keep up the Salaah and spend out of what We have given them.” Al-Qur’an, Surat al-Baqarah 2:3

الَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاةَ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ

The ironic nature of giving is that it is far greater for someone who has very little to give $10 to a beggar even though they do not feel they have the financial position to part so easily with this amount, than it is for a millionaire to happily give that same $10 when this much means nothing to them.

“And keep up salaah and pay the zakat and obey the Messenger, so that mercy may be shown to you.” Al-Qur’an, Sooratu-n-Noor 24:56

وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

Islam wants to prevent the excessive accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few people so the society may not fall into two classes: one excessively wealthy, while the other is starving. The Qur’an spells out the reason for this taxing of wealth by saying:

“Whatever Allah has restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns, it is for Allah and for the Messenger, and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, so that it (the wealth) may not circulate among those who are rich among you.And whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it, and from whatever he forbids you, keep back, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in retribution.” Al-Qur’an, Surat al-Hashr 59:7

مَّا أَفَاء اللَّهُ عَلَى رَسُولِهِ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَى فَلِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ وَلِذِي الْقُرْبَى وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاء مِنكُمْ وَمَا آتَاكُمُ الرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَاكُمْ عَنْهُ فَانتَهُوا وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ شَدِيدُ الْعِقَابٌِ

According to Islam all wealth and sovereignty belong to Allah. Allah entrusts it to us in order to test whether we can act responsibly and with piety, or whether we will forget our true circumstances and be dominated by our nufoos (egos). The first and foremost purpose of Khums and zakat is to profess our loyalty to our Master, our Lord. At every moment of our life, our health, vitality and sustenance are Allah’s gifts to us. Thus we should not forget to give thanks and be grateful. Khumsand zakat are tokens of our thanksgiving to Allah. This is how such acts of charity are acts of `ibadah.

In an Islamic society all must live together as brothers and sisters and share their wealth as prescribed. Every member of society should have the means to survive. If one segment of society lacks it, it is the duty of the others to support them and get them to stand on their own two feet.

If such means exist then not only is a greater state of universal brotherhood achieved but also, on a social level, plagues of human society such as greed, robbery, burglary, shoplifting, and various other crimes are reduced if the needs of everyone are truly being met. As well, with a more equal distribution of wealth things like vandalism and general class resentment dissolve. Thus it is written in the Injil that “money is the root of all sorts of evil.”

The Holy Qur’an is very clear on this, saying: 

Sadaqaat are only for the poor and the needy, and the officials over them, and those whose hearts are made to incline (to truth) and the (ransoming of) captives and those in debts and in the way of Allah and the wayfarer; an ordinance from Allah; and Allah is knowing, Wise.” Al-Qur’an, Surat at-Tawbah, 9:60

إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاء وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللّهِ وَاللّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ


The Qur’an associates abrogation of zakat with kufr, disbelief itself in Surat al-Foossilat, Aayah 41:7 wherein are condemned: those who do not give poor-rate and they are unbelievers in the hereafter.”

الَّذِينَ لَا يُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ

In a hadith attributed to Imam `Ali ar-Rida said: “The Almighty and Exalted Allah has decreed three rites each depends on yet another one: Hu decreed the Salaah and the payment of zakat; so, Hu does not accept the salaah of anyone who makes salaah but does not pay zakat; Hu decreed that one must thank Hu and thank his parents too; so, Hu does not accept the thanks of one who thanks Hu but is not grateful to his parents; and Hu decreed that one should fear Hu and remain in constant contact with his kin; so, anyone who does not remain in close touch with his relatives does not in turn fear Allah, the Exalted, the Almighty.”

Thus, in many places the Qur’an mentions zakat, immediately after Salaah, showing its importance: “And keep up the Salaah and pay the zakat and bow down with those who bow down.” Al-Qur’an, Surat al-Baqarah 2.43

وَأَقِيمُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَآتُواْ الزَّكَاةَ وَارْكَعُواْ مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ

Thus we are to give of the percentages that we owe. How much the dollar amount is is not the issue. Whether one owes $3.00 a month or $300.00 so long as they are paying the correct percentages and paying when the Qur’an says “at the time of harvest” when the earning of this money takes place, then there is no difference between a wealthy man who gives a tremendous amount, or a lower income earning man who gives very little.

“And Hu it is that produces gardens (of vine), trellised and untrellised, and palms and seed-produce of which the fruits are of various sorts, and olives and pomegranates, like and unlike; eat of its fruit when it bears fruit, and PAY THE DUE OF IT ON THE DAY OF HARVEST, and do not act extravagantly; surely Hu does not love the extravagant.” Al-Qur’an, Surat al-An`aam 6:141

وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَ جَنَّاتٍ مَّعْرُوشَاتٍ وَغَيْرَ مَعْرُوشَاتٍ وَالنَّخْلَ وَالزَّرْعَ مُخْتَلِفًا أُكُلُهُ وَالزَّيْتُونَ وَالرُّمَّانَ مُتَشَابِهًا وَغَيْرَ مُتَشَابِهٍ كُلُواْ مِن ثَمَرِهِ إِذَا أَثْمَرَ وَآتُواْ حَقَّهُ يَوْمَ حَصَادِهِ وَلاَ تُسْرِفُواْ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ

These taxes of Khums and zakat should be given regardless of finding themselves in financial ease or in dire straits unless they are of those eligible to receive monetary aid from zakat.

“Those who spend (in charity) in ease (richness) as well as in poverty, and those who restrain anger and pardon men; and Allah loves the doers of good.” Al-Qur’an, Surat Ali Imran 3:134

الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ فِي السَّرَّاء وَالضَّرَّاء وَالْكَاظِمِينَ الْغَيْظَ وَالْعَافِينَ عَنِ النَّاسِ وَاللّهُ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

While many in recent times have spoken of zakat not being due on income anymore (an idea not shared by all Shi`ah nor by the non-Shi`ah madhahib), this clearly is in error. For while the Qur’an and Ahadith speak of taxing “gold” and “silver” these were at that time and until VERY recently the monetary form or standard backing of minted and printed symbolic coin and paper wealth.


According to the Surat al-Anfal 8:41 Khums tax is for Allah, the Messenger of Allah, the near relative of the Messenger, the orphans, needy, and stranded traveler. This is important to note as there has been much confusion and miscommunication of the break down of Khums throughout the generations. The Aayah makes it clear that six categories here are listed which the khums should be divided and distributed to.

Obviously Allah does not split open the fabric of the Dunyaa’, reach in with an anthropomorphic hand and take hold of khums. So we know that when the Qur’an speaks of the category of “Allah, the Messenger of Allah and the near relatives of the Messenger” this is referring to one group, namely Muhammad and his House (near relatives), who are the Ahl al-Bayt. We see the first as “Allah” because this law is eternal in nature, and should no other category exist, this khums tax would still be due to Allah, and would be spent in the cause of Allah in whatever generation, or world one was in.

The Sunni scholars however, disagree with each other on this issue of what is to be done with the Prophet’s share after his death. Some say that the Prophet’s share goes to the “Khalif” who may use it as he so desires. Others say it should go to the Prophet Muhammad’s descendents. Others still maintain that it should go to the Ummah in general. Regardless, this is mere qiyas, conjecture, subjective guesswork on their part.

Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid, vol. 1 (Cairo: al-Maktabatu-t-Tijariyyatu-l-Kubra, 1952) pp. 13-14; 377-378

In general Khums is broken into two main categories, based upon the six listed in the Qur’an, grouped into two main categories of “Sahm al-Imam” (the Imam’s portion) and “Sahm as-Saddat”(the portion of those who are noble).

During the era when the A’immah were physically present and led their small Shi`ah of disciples and followers, how one paid Khums was not difficult at all. A safir (deputy) of the Imam would periodically travel to the cities and regions which he was put in charge of and would go to all of the Shi`ah and collect; then returning, often under the guise of butter or clothing merchants, smuggling the money back to the Imamu-z-Zaman. This was a necessary act, because thisKhums was seen as what would be called today “fundraising” for an individual and a party which the governing forces viewed as dissident and potentially volatile. For it had long been suspected that the A’immah had secretly funded and been involved in Zaydiy revolutionary activities, and for this reason, there was no receipt given for Khums, nor any public acknowledgement of exactly how much was collected, from who, when and where.

The A’immah, since Imam Ja`far as-Sadiq’s days, had also initiated the system of wikalah(deputyship) whose function, among other things, was to collect the Khums and bring it to the Imam or distribute it according to his instructions. For example, a letter of Imam Muhammadu-t-Taqiy about the financial obligations of Shi`ah, says: “As for the gains and profits, it is obligatory on them [to pay Khums ] every year…Therefore, whosoever has anything of those [items on which Khums is applicable], then he should bring it to my wakeel; and the person who lives far away should try his best to bring it to my wakeel even if it takes some time…”

Al-`Amili, Wasa’ilu-sh-Shi`ah, vol. 6, p. 348-349

The A’immah never suspended the obligation of Khums as an annual financial tax. However, there are individual cases where the Imam had exempted certain persons from the Khums because of the tough economic circumstances of the time. But such exemption were for individuals and limited in time.

The fact that Khums as an annual tax on the Shi`ah in general was wajib at all times can be seen from the followings: Once a Sheey`iy from Persia wrote to Imam `Ali ar-Rida asking to be exempted from paying Khums. The Imam did not approve his request and wrote: “…And theKhums is a help to us in [propagation of] our deen, [upliftment of] our family, and our followers… Do not deprive yourselves of our prayers as long as you can because paying [the Khums] is the key to sustenance, the forgiveness for your sins… Wa-Salaam.”

Al-`Amili, Wasa’ilu-sh-Shi`ah, vol. 6, p. 375-376

Muhammad bin Ja`far al-Asadi wrote to Imam al-Mahdi, to which he answered, “As for what you have asked about the issue of a person using our property without our permission, then he should know that whosoever does so is cursed and [on Yawm ad-Din] we will be his opponent…And whosoever devours anything from our property [without permission], he is actually devouring fire and will surely reach Al-Jahannam.”

Al-`Amili, Wasa’ilu-sh-Shi`ah, vol. 6, p. 377

At the present time, our Imam, the Mahdi, is in occultation, ghaybah; some such as the Shaykhiy school, believing that this ghaybah is within the realm they called “Hurqaliyyah” (known in the Qur’an and Ahadith as the “Barzakh”). Since the death of his fourth Safir Abu-l-Husayn `Ali ibn Muhammadu-s-Samarri, the 12th Imam has not appointed anyone as his special agent. Thus, in accordance with the hadith by the tenth Imamu-l-Haadiy we – the Shi`ah of the Ahl al-Bayt – are to expect faraj, relief to come from beneath our own feet, not from beneath his.

“If your Imam goes into occultation, expect freedom from grief (to come from) beneath your feet.”

Bihar al-Anwar, 51, p. 161

Thus, we are left with the question of what should be done with the Sahmu-l-Imam during the ghaybah? All `ulamaa’ of our time are unanimous in saying that during the period of occultation, the share of the Imamu-z-Zaman must be used for the causes with which the Imam would agree. In determining this, one cannot use subjectivity, but instead must look at the objective, tangible actions, and results of the specific things which the Khums is being diverted from this hidden Imam to fund. For without a doubt, whether our Imam continues to lead from this hidden realm of the Barzakh, of Hurqaliyyah, or whether his return is manifest, (literally: “particularly”), within the realm of the Dunyaa’, we will be held accountable for how every last penny is spent which the Qur’an says is for him.

Thus, if one sees billions of dollars coming in to someone in collection of Khums and they see that this person not only is averse to funding revolutionary causes, but also only accounts for a few million dollars of the money he collects, then we must ask ourselves if we might not actually be punished for given our Fard Islamic taxes to such a person.

Similarly, if someone is collecting Khums and we see them driving expensive vehicles, living in luxurious houses and the like, and we know that they have no external source of income besides the Islamic taxes they are collecting, then we are to seriously question whether or not this is how our Imam would want his portion to be collected and spent. For there is no doubt that all who collectKhums will be held to account for how they spend this money, and if there is any unethical expenditure of this money, in disharmony with the intentions of the Imam, and ultimately the Will of Allah, then for certain, there will be a severe punishment as a result of this.

As well, there are unfortunately some Shi`ah who take the issue of paying Khums lightly; thinking in vain that giving some money from time to time (when in times of financial ease), absolves them of their duty. Such Shi`ah apparently do not realize that not paying Khums , zakat and the fitrah are obligatory dues, and NOT paying them amounts to misappropriation of the money which rightfully belongs to the Imam and the needy, orphan and poor people.

Imam `Ali made it abundantly clear how he looked upon the misappropriation of such funds. In a letter which he wrote to one of his wukala’ – who was in fact his own cousin – about the latter’s misappropriation of this money:

“As soon as it was possible for you to misappropriate the Ummah’s trust, you hastened to turn around and attack (them), and made a swift leap to snatch away whatever you could from their property meant for their widows and their orphans as a wolf snatches a wounded and helpless goat. Then, you happily loaded it off to Hijaz without feeling guilty for having misappropriated it…It was as though you were sending to your family what you had inherited from your father and mother!

“Glory be to Allah! Do you not believe in the Yawm ad-Din, or do you not fear the exaction of account? O’ you who were considered by us among the men possessed of mind, how can you enjoy food and drink when you know that you are eating the unlawful and drinking the unlawful. You are… marrying women with the money of the orphans, the poor, the believers and the mujahideen to whom Allah has dedicated this money… Fear Allah and return to these people their properties. If you do not do so and Allah grants me power over you, I shall excuse myself before Allah and strike you with my sword with which I did not strike anyone but that he went to Jahannam.

“By Allah, even if Hasan and Husayn had done what you did there would have been no leniency with me for them and they could not have won their way with me till I had recovered from them the right and destroyed the wrong produced by their unjust action. I swear by Allah, the Lord of all beings, that I would not be pleased to regard the people’s money which you have appropriated as lawful for me and to leave it to my successors by way of inheritance.

“Mind yourself and consider for a while as though you had reached the end of life and had been buried under the earth. Then your actions will be presented to you in the place where the oppressor cries ‘Alas’ while he who wasted his life yearns for return (to the world),but time was none to escape.”

Nahj al-Balaghah, Letter No. 41

Imam `Ali minced no words about such misappropriation of the public trust. In his eyes, and in the Sight of Allah, the punishment that one was deserving of for stealing, for misappropriating this money is nothing short of death itself, should the thief refuse to pay it. Furthermore, `Ali drew the attention to his traitorous cousin to the fact that for him to threaten to kill a man for this was not something to be taken lightly as every other person he killed was sent to Jahannam. Thus, Imam `Ali was clearly saying that not only does one deserve to die for misappropriating such funds, but that they are also damned for it, (lest they turn in repentance and pay this money back).

There is no doubt that such a wakil of the Imam would be permitted funds necessary for to live, but we see the charges leveled against him are not that he did this, but that he was off marrying women, spending money on things that this money was simply not designated for. This is important for all who collect even a small amount of khums to remember, whether a marja’ or an organization. For we will be held to account for how every single penny is spent. For every diligent expenditure, we will be rewarded for our shrewdness and tact with which we invested this money for the cause of Allah. But for every foolish expenditure, whether theft out rightly or waste out of stupidity, we will be punished. Thus, it is written in the Injil:

“The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money” (Gospel narrative attributed to Luke 16:8-13).

Thus, `Isa spoke of the “end of the age” in the Gospel attributed to Matthew, Chapter 24.45-51, saying: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This is the state of things at the end of the age. This is how the master, the sahib will find his so-called Shi`ah in some cases. For those hypocrites, those munafiqoon, `Isa tells us that they will be cut into pieces and sent to the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Furthermore, in the following chapter, in verses 14-30, he relays a parable following this subject:

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

We must seriously reflect upon these things. For it is not acceptable in the sight of Allah to merely“bury” our money away, saving it for some hypothetical and unknown date. Now, the master has gone away as a test to us, to see what we will do with the deen he has left us with; to see how we will grow it, and to see how we will take what we have been entrusted with, and expand it exponentially increasing the TRUE spiritual profit. Thus, our khums, our zakat, and even our sadaqah and daily expenditures should be done bearing in mind that for everything given to us, we will be held accountable for it. We will first and foremost be held accountable for the obligations to pay our dues, and secondarily we will be held accountable for the wisdom or foolishness behind our use of money.

In all things we must remain mindful of Allah, and think about how Hu would wish for us to spend our money. We know how Allah commands us to spend the portions allocated in the Qur’an for khums and zakat, but beyond that, we must be ever-mindful of seeking to enact the Divine Will every time we go to purchase anything:

Is this food helping me or hurting me? Is this food going to make me weak and diseased, or strong and healthy? Are these clothes modest and becoming? Will they serve the function that we need them for or are they just a needless and expensive fashion statement? Is this music going to be of some use to me in my training and deen? Will it help motivation me while exercising? Will it help motivate me towards righteous actions? Or is it merely glorifying the weakness and disease in modern society? Is it promoting a type of illusory “love shirk?” Or is it promoting a universal love of my neighbor as myself. Do I really need this video game when there are untold millions who cannot even afford the means to live? Does their invisibility to me from inside the walls of my home make it easier for me to forget them when I spend this money on useless distractions of the dunyaa’?

These are the sorts of questions that we need to ask ourselves in all things even once we have insured that we are truly practicing our Din by paying the fardayn of khums and zakat. For this is truly the nature of those who the Qur’an refers to as “spending their money in the cause of Allah.”