Islamic Laws

The Role of Khums in Improving the Economic Conditions of the Virtuous Community

By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
Khums on profits of earnings have continually been the most important financial resource in the economic system of the virtuous community. A large variety of public and private expenses of the virtuous community depends, in essence, on these funds, especially in the field of public affairs. Besides, there are other aspects which assign an additional significance to khums in the general system of the virtuous community.
To get a good idea of the complete portrait of the hypothetical and applied functions of khums in relation to the economic conditions of the virtuous community, we will display a number of general aspects.
Khums as a Financial Resource
Khums, along with properties for public and restricted use endowed as waqf, largely represent the main financial resources on which the general system of the virtuous community depended, especially after the doors were blocked to other financial resources, including zakat which was paid to the ruling authorities or to needy people directly, tributes which were seized by the ruling authorities, and other public funds that found their way to the public treasury after being levied from the Muslim regions.
As has been previously maintained, no community can build its social, political and cultural structure without the existence of funds to cover its expenses. As for the virtuous community which was built by the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), the political and social circumstances did not allow any other financial resources on which this community could depend, like common contributions or investments, because such economic activities became more of a menace and, at times, an extra economic burden that the majority of the individuals of the virtuous community, who were generally poor, would not be able to pay.
Flexibility in Khums Taxation
Khums has always been owned by the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), or was the right of Imamate and the leadership restricted to the Imams (‘a), and they had unrestrained authority to dispose these funds. The circle of expending these funds has widened, for it includes the rights of poor Sayyids and Hashemites for whom Almighty Allah determined as compensation for zakat and alms which are prohibited for their use. These rights have been granted to these Sayyids and Hashemites because the funds were originally possessed by the Holy Imams (‘a); therefore, the Imam (‘a) is responsible for meeting any deficiency in the expenses of the Sayyids and spending the remainder of these funds on public affairs. As a matter of fact, the logic of meeting the financial needs of Sayyids from khums is that they are clean and pure funds and not excess or left over funds of people, as stated previously.
The Imam (‘a), or the religious referential authority that represents him, are granted flexibility and opportunity to use these funds in various fields of public interest. The Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) confirmed this in the expenditure of khums to such a great degree that they allowed their Shi’ah to dispose the khums funds, and even give them back to their owners when interest necessitated, as is in the aforesaid narration of Abu-Sayyar Musmi’ ibn ‘Abd al-Malik.31
Expansive Financial Capacities
Because khums entails a high percentage of the totality of public wealth, it grants the the Imam (the custodian of this fund) vast financial capacity to serve Muslims and the sacred goals of the Islamic mission. Khums is levied from all essential funds that man may gain—in the words of the Holy Qur’an—minerals, earnings from diving, spoils of war and other income. Accordingly, khums is very much more important than alms and zakat because of this high percentage. The importance of khums in the profit of earnings increases when we recognize there was a general economic inclination among the Ahl al-Bayt’s followers towards commerce and agriculture. Being a vital element in khums, there was much attention paid to commerce by the Ahl al-Bayt.
Security against Enemies
Being ‘invisible funds’, according to the jurisprudential classification of funds, the payment of khums on net earnings to the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) does not draw the attention of their enemies; therefore, it is not considered a menace that threatens the security of the Holy Imams (‘a), unlike the payment of the ‘visible funds’, such as the zakat of cattle and yields, which were usually assessed and estimated by the ruling authorities.
Additionally, earnings subject to khums was not familiar among Muslims in general; therefore, the payment of this tax to the Holy Imams (‘a) did not arouse doubts about the movement or promulgation of the concept of Imamate in the milieus of their followers. As a result, their security was maintained and dangers stemming from the process of payment and collection of these taxes avoided.
Doctrinal and Spiritual Aspects
There are some doctrinal and spiritual aspects in the process of payment and collection of khums which increases the importance of the role this tax plays in the life of the virtuous community. To put this in plain words, khums is the right of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a); therefore, paying it manifests a belief in their right and in the fact that their rights had been violated. Likewise, it expresses loyalty to them, which includes love, affection, fulfillment of covenants and pledges made to them, and financial support.
According to a tradition, khums is the right of leadership; hence, to pay it to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) denotes believing in their Imamate and leadership. A doctrinal aspect that exists in khums exclusively is that it is unlike zakat which is paid to the poor. Therefore, to pay khums to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) is also another form of showing preference to them over other groups in the society, elevating them far above people’s unused excess funds and confirming their exclusive right to receive the khums funds. funds.
Organizational Aspect
The payment of khums to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) represents an organizational aspect in the system of the virtuous community. It symbolizes the connection of its individuals to the leadership and the religious referential authority through financial participation in the administration of the virtuous community and meeting public expenses made through the Imam (‘a) or the religious authority. Of course, such participation implies affiliation to and membership in the virtuous community. It is thus similar to the financial contributions of members of collective organizations and associations.
Actual aspect
The Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and the virtuous community historically demonstrate that khums was the most vital axis of all financial resources on which the virtuous community depended in administering its various affairs.
We now refer to a set of important faculties, issues and projects that were financially run through the funds of khums:
(1) Religious seminaries and cultural schools in various countries: in such faculties and schools, study is free-of-charge and instructors and teachers, in addition to researchers and investigators, usually receive nothing as remuneration for their efforts.
(2) Expenses of foreign scholars, propagators, and instructive missionaries.
(3) Expenses of printing and publishing religious books, such as books of practical laws and verdicts, religious teachings, theses in fields of Muslim jurisprudence, fundamentals of jurisprudence (usul), and reporting the traditions (hadith), as well as other articles, magazines, and periodicals.
(4) Construction and administration of mosques, Husayniyyahs, shrines of the Holy Imams (‘a) and their saintly descendants, religious schools and dormitories therein, housing for married students of religious studies, public libraries, and all sorts of religious establishments.
(5) Funds needed for managing religious associations of various activities founded for serving Islam.
(6) Funds needed for holding religious festivities and public ceremonies for commemorating the uprising and martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (‘a).
(7) Aid for unexpected events, such as earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters, as well as some public services, such as public baths, bridges and overpasses, and public accommodations for pilgrims and the like.
(8) Meeting the financial needs of the poor, the destitute, and the needy who are in urgent need of financial help, whether they are Hashemites or descendants of the Holy Prophet (S), in particular, who are entitled to something from the share of the Sayyids, or the poor, the destitute, and the needy individuals of the virtuous community. Of course, all uses of khums must be under the supervision and permission of the supreme religious referential authority.
From the above, we can perceive the great role that this financial duty has played in the building of the virtuous community, especially khums from the profit of earnings.
Restricted Social Solidarity
Social solidarity, shown by undertaking individual responsibility towards financial issues related to the lives and livelihoods of Muslims, is one of the principles towards which Islam has called people. This is maintained by many traditions some of which will be cited in this chapter.
Through a valid chain of authority, Shaykh al-Kulayni, in his book of al-Kafi, has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Muslims are brothers of each other. They neither wrong, nor disappoint, nor betray each other. The duties that are incumbent on Muslims towards each other include establishing communication, showing mutual sympathy, treating the needy as they treat themselves and empathizing with one another. If you abide by this, you will be as Almighty Allah has ordered you to be: compassionate and merciful towards one another and regretful upon missing any opportunity to help your brethren-in-faith, just like the conduct of the Ansar during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (S).32
As far as the virtuous community is concerned, the Ahl al-Bayt (S) emphasized this as a serious responsibility to be undertaken by the wealthy individuals of the virtuous community towards their brethren-in-faith.
Traditions reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) emphasize two main areas:

(1) Public Alms
Many texts and traditions, reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), demonstrate the significance of giving alms and the good results ensuing from them. However, the most important point manifested in this regard is that some traditions have confirmed that there is another public financial duty, in addition to zakat, imposed on Muslims. This duty has been mentioned in the following holy verse, which avers the obligation of paying an amount out of the funds of yields in the season of harvest before estimating the percentage of zakat. Accordingly, some scholars, such as Shaykh al-Tusi, issued a verdict deeming it obligatory to pay such an amount.33
The holy verse involved is the following: Pay the due of it on the day of its reaping. (6:141)
Through a valid chain of authority, Shaykh al-Kulayni, in his book of al-Kafi, has reported Zurarah, Muhammad ibn Muslim, and Abu-Basir as quoting Imam al-Baqir (‘a) to have said: The verse, “pay the due of it on the day of its reaping” (6:141), mentions a sort of alms. Muslims give one sheaf after another and from the fruit of date trees one handful after another until it pours out.34
Bearing the same purport, other narrations, interpreting the holy verse that reads, “Those, in whose wealth there is a fixed portion for him who begs and for him who is denied good” (70:24-25) have confirmed that this portion is a financial duty, other than zakat, which is flexible. Its amount has been left for the owner of the property to give at a definite time but in any amount that he identifies.
In this connection, Shaykh al-Kulayni, in his book of al-Kafi, has reported through a valid chain of authority that al-Qasim ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Ansari said that he heard Imam al-Baqir (‘a) relating the following: One day, a man came to my father, ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn (‘a), and asked him to identify the fixed portion mentioned in this holy verse, “Those in whose wealth there is a fixed portion for him who begs and for him who is denied good. (70:24-25)”
The Imam (‘a) said: The fixed portion is a duty, other than zakat and alms, which one pays from one’s funds.
The man asked, “If it is neither zakat nor alms, what is it then?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: It is the portion that one pays from one’s funds according to one’s property. One can pay much or little, according to one’s will.
The man asked, “What is that portion used for?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: One may make firm relations with one’s relatives, financially strengthen a destitute person, alleviate someone’s burden, improve relations with one’s brothers-in-faith, or aid someone in misfortune.
Impressed by the Imam’s knowledge, the man quoted: “Allah knows best where He places His message. (6:124)”35
However, master jurisprudents have not determined these two matters to be obligatory although authentically and validly reported traditions indicate the latter,36 assuming that there are other traditions contradicting these. As a result, these financial duties must be thought of as recommended (according to the principles of Usul al-Fiqh). Additionally, there is a scholarly consensus on the non-obligation of paying such financial duties openly, i.e. under all circumstances. Excepted from this consensus is the verdict of Shaykh al-Tusi who, in one of his opinions, has decided the payment of the earlier financial duty as obligatory.
From the previous discussion, we may conclude that such inconsistency in the traditions reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) on this topic should be taken to mean one of the following two probabilities:
(1) Such sorts of payments are strongly recommended (mustahabb), because they achieve social solidarity to an extent that corresponds with the circumstances surrounding each individual of the Muslim community.
(2) Such payments are provisionally obligatory; i.e. obligatory under certain circumstances and conditions. The Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) deemed these payments obligatory out of their understanding of the nature of the social obligations of that age, which would have been inescapably observed by the individuals of that community. Having not been decided as obligatory in the original Islamic legislation, this duty was, therefore, deemed obligatory by the religious referential authorities within the general responsibilities that they had to undertake towards the Muslim community and interests that contributed to social solidarity with the poor.37
No matter which probability is closer to the fact, the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), having worked towards building the virtuous community, took much interest in the issue of social solidarity, seeing it as one of the foundations of attaining an ideal economic condition.

(2) Rights of Brethren-in-Faith
The Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) laid much emphasis on the existence and observation of a set of rights and duties that a faithful believer must undertake towards his brethren-in-faith; i.e. the members of the virtuous community. Among these duties are aiding others financially to cover their needs and meet their requirements.
This emphasis has been taught in a number of ways.
First: The Holy Imams (‘a) confirmed that the observation of these rights is one of the actual and real obligations that must be carried out by faithful people, just like other religious duties and responsibilities.
According to a validly reported tradition, Shaykh al-Kulayni, in his book of al-Kafi, has reported Suma’ah to have said: I asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “If some people are wealthy, but their brethren-in-faith are too needy to be satisfied with zakat funds, are the wealthy people permitted to fill themselves in difficult times while their brethren-in-faith are hungry?”
Besides the tradition already cited on p. 92, as reported by Shaykh al-Kulayni in his book of al-Kafi from Furat ibn Ahnaf, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said: If any believer (mu’min) refrains from meeting the needs of another believer while he can do so or he can mediate with another person who can do it, Almighty Allah will resurrect him black-faced, downcast-eyed, and having his hands attached to his neck. Then, he will be introduced as a traitor who has betrayed Almighty Allah and His Messenger and will be led to the Hellfire by a divine command.38
Thus, this financial duty is a restricted obligation upon wealthy individuals under circumstances of harsh destitution. It becomes obligatory when a government or the Muslim society fails to assure the livings of deprived destitute people.
Second: The Holy Imams (‘a) explained that this duty was obligatory on individuals; however, it was still regarded as one of the duties that is difficult to impose generally and all-inclusively because people may abandon their faith or individuals of the virtuous community may shun carrying it out. This means that this duty is one of the private obligations that must be carried out in general for the purpose of solidifying the organizational structure of the virtuous community, strengthening the general relations among its individuals and promoting feelings of responsibility towards this duty even if it is treated as recommended. However, it becomes obligatory under certain conditions of harsh destitution.
Mufadhdhal ibn Yazid has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Whatever you gain (from the money of the ruler), you may donate it to your brethren-in-faith, for Almighty Allah says, “Surely, good deeds take away evil deeds.” (11:114) Allah’s Messenger (S) has said, “Three acts of conduct cannot be neglected by the individuals of this nation: (1) Halving one’s funds with brethren-in-faith, (2) treating people justly in personal issues, and (3) remembering Almighty Allah under all circumstances. To remember Almighty Allah does not mean just to utter such statements of praise for Him like ‘Glory be to Allah’, ‘praise be to Allah’, ‘there is no god save Allah’, and ‘Allah is the All-great’; rather, it means to fear Him before committing a forbidden act.39
Third: The Holy Imams (‘a) confirmed that such duties symbolized a morally perfect character without which one fell short of the required qualification of a true faithful believer, which is the main purpose behind the building of a virtuous community.
Aban ibn Taghlib has reported the following: While I was performing the ritual circumambulation (tawaff) in the company of Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), one of our fellows, who had previously asked me to accompany him on a mission, appeared before me. As he signaled to me, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) saw us, “O Aban, are you the one intended by that man?” asked the Imam (‘a).
“Yes, I am,” I answered.
“Is he of the same faith as you?” wondered the Imam (‘a).
“Yes, he is,” I answered.
“Then,” the Imam (‘a) instructed, “Go with him and break your circumambulation.”
“Should I do so even if the circumambulation is obligatory?” I asked.
“Yes, you should,” he (‘a) answered.
So, I went with that man. When I returned, I visited the Imam (‘a) and asked him about the duties towards brethren-in-faith.
“Leave the matter. Do not ask me about them,” said the Imam (‘a).
Nevertheless, I repeated the same question insistently until the Imam (‘a) answered me, saying, “O Aban, (the duty towards one’s brother-in-faith is that) you give him half of your wealth.”
As he looked at me and noticed my surprise, the Imam (‘a) said, “O Aban, you should have known that Almighty Allah has mentioned (with praise) those who give others preference over themselves?”
“Yes, I knew that,” I answered.
The Imam (‘a) said: “If you give your brother-in-faith half of what you have, you have not yet given him preference over yourself. Only when you give him from the other half, have you given him preference.”40
Imam ‘Ali Amir al-Mu’minin (‘a) is reported to have said: Whoever enjoys the following six features will be before and on the right hand side of Almighty Allah: Almighty Allah surely loves the Muslim individual who (1) loves for his brother-in-faith all that which he loves for himself, (2) hates for him whatever he hates for himself, (3) acts towards him sincerely on account of bonds of faith, (4) recognizes my leadership, (5) patterns himself after my example, and (6) accepts the government of my progeny.41
Master jurisprudents are not known for having determined that this sort of spending is obligatory although there are a good number of traditions and reported texts indicating this obligation. Thus, they have specified this matter to be emphatically recommended (istihbab mu’akkad).42 The reason for this may be to achieve the principle of social solidarity, or that this duty is an executive, local (i.e. temporary) procedure taken by the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) to put this originally obligatory principle into practice by leaving its application to the religious referential authority.
31. – Refer to al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:382, H. 12.
32. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:542, H. 2.
33. – Shaykh al-Tusi, al-Khilaf 2:5. The same verdict was issued by al-Jawad al-Kazimi, as is understood from his defense of Shaykh al-Tusi’s school of jurisprudence. Refer to al-Jawad al-Kazimi, Masalik al-Afham ila Ayat al-Ahkam 2:70.
34. – Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 3:565, H. 2.
35. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:29, H. 6.
36. – Refer to al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:27-32, S. Financial Duties other than zakat (bab al-huquq fi’l-mal siwa al-zakat).
37. – This notion can be treated as a religious principle on the strength of which the Muslim government imposes taxes according to its understanding of public interests.
38. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 11:599, H. 1.
39. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:415, H. 4.
40. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:547-548, H. 16.
41. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 8:549, H. 23.
42. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili seems to have decided these sorts of almsgiving as obligatory. This idea is derived from the titles that he uses for the sections containing traditions involved in this topic. For instance, he uses the title bab tahrim man’ al-mu’min shay’an min ‘indihi aw min ‘indi ghayrihi ‘inda dharuratihi (Chapter on prohibition against depriving a faithful believer of anything from himself or from others when necessary) and also bab tahrim tark ma’unat al-mu’min ‘inda dharuratihi (Chapter on prohibition of forsaking necessary aid to faithful believers). Likewise, Martyr al-Sadr, in his book of iqtisaduna (Our Economy), seems to believe in the obligation of the first duty, yet with the aforementioned stipulation. Finally, Almighty Allah knows best.

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