A Brief Introduction of Zakat And Khums

A Brief Introduction of Zakat And Khums

Zakat (Taxation)

We may consider salat (Praying) and sawm (Fasting) as two acts of worship whose immediate basis is physical rather than spiritual. Zakat (taxation) is of an entirely different nature. According to the Shi'as, after salat in rank comes "zakat"; indeed from some of the traditions of the Holy Imams (PBUTH ALL) it is understood that if somebody does not give "zakat" his salat also is invalid Like all other Muslims the Imamiyah consider "zakat" compulsory on nine things: camels, cows, goats; wheat, barley, dates, raisins; gold, silver coins.

The precise conditions and regulations can be found in the appropriate books of jurisprudence. It is interesting to note that all the rules are in basic conformity with those of the "fiqh" of the four Sunni schools of thought, Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki and Hanbali. Among those entitled to receive zakat are the poor and the needy, according to Allah the Almighty's command in Surah at-Tawbah:

“The charities are only for the poor and the needy”,…(9:60)

Zakatu 'l-fitrah (poor-tax on the day or 'idu 'l-fitr) is compulsory for every adult and sane person who can financially support himself and his wife and children and other members of the household dependent on bun. Its quantity is approximately 3 kilos of wheat, barley, or dates on behalf of every individual.

The nature of zakat is basically the same; whether from the point of Shi'a or Sunni fiqh.


"Khums" which is another kind of tax, is compulsory on six things:

  1. the booty taken from an enemy in war;
  2. the pearls and minerals drawn from the sea;
  3. hidden treasures mineral substances extracted from the land;
  4. lawfully gained money which has been mixed with unlawful money,
  5. profits gained from business,
  6. land transferred to a "dhimmi" (a Christian or a Jew, living within the Muslim nation) from a Muslim.

The obligation of "khums" is based on the command of Almighty Allah:

“Know that whatever thing you may come by, a fifth of it is for Allah and the Apostle, for the relatives and the orphans, for the needy and the traveler (on the way person who does not have enough money), if you have faith in Allah and what We sent down to Our servant on the Day of Separation, the day when the two hosts met; and Allah has power over all things.”(8:41)

Moreover, we believe that "khums" is a right which Allah the Almighty particularly reserved for the descendants of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP). Since charity is unlawful for the children of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) (they cannot receive zakat), "khums" is a kind of compensation from the bounty of Allah the Almighty.

"Khums" is divided into six parts: three are for Allah, the Prophet and his Progeny (PBUTH ALL); and the other three parts must be paid to the holy Imam, when he is present to spend for orphans, the needies and the travelers (an on the way person who does not have enough money).

However, "khums" should be handed over to the representative of the Imam, that is the just “mujtahid", when the former is in occultation, The Imam is to use these funds to protect the religion of Islam and to complete the development plans of the Muslim nations. This is the real purpose for which is to be used.

The remaining three parts of "khums", as we have said, are the right of the poor people. Such were the commandments of "khums" which have been followed from the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) until now. After the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP), the Muslim rulers suppressed this right to "khums" of the Al-Hashim (the progeny of the Prophet) and instead collected the money into the baytu 'l-mal in order that they themselves could control its use. This family, who had no right to "zakat", were now also deprived of "khums".

It seems that Imam Shafi'i himself, in his book entitled "Al-Um", pointed out that the descendents of the Prophet (PBUH&HP), for whom "khums" was set aside in place of charity, can neither be given anything out of the prescribed charities, nor may they take it, and if the giver of charity knowingly gives it to them he will have to forego his heavenly reward. Moreover, he adds: "if they have been deprived of the right of "khums" it does not mean that charity and other such things which are unlawful for them will become lawful." Indeed, since the people in power did away with this "right" altogether the books of jurisprudence of the majority community are quite silent upon this topic and not surprisingly Imam Shafi'i has omitted to mention this topic in his books on "fiqh".

In all Shi'a books of "fiqh", "khums" has been given a special chapter just like "zakat". (we must admit however that the learned scholar Hafiz Abu 'Ubayd al-Qasim ibn Salam (died 224 A.H.), in his great work "Kitab al-amwal", dealt with all the problems of "khums", including the ways in which it should be spent, in a special chapter. Most of the points he discussed are in perfect consonance with Shi'a beliefs.