Islamic Laws

General Economic Legislation

By: Ayatullah Shaheed Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim
The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) instructed their followers to accept and conform to general economic legislation, including commercial transactions and contracts and their financial resultants and commitments. These instructions also dealt with disagreements by jurisprudents about transactions and the degree of obligation towards a certain law. Such differences between the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) school and other jurisprudential schools are trivial.
Laws regarding transactions and contracts depend upon the Holy Legislator’s consent according to the rationally approvable line of conduct (i.e. al-Sirah al-’uqala’iyyah), with a few exceptions like usury and transactions which include illegal profit about which there is a slight disagreement among the Muslim jurisprudential schools.
According to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) school, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are the rightful rulers of the Muslim nation as designated by Almighty Allah. In the field of economic legislation, it might be strange if there were no disagreement among the Muslim jurisprudential schools in spite of being firmly based on the laws of Islam, and strongly related to the interests of the Muslim leadership and the virtuous community.
We will refer to four of the most important rulings in the field of finance and economy by looking at the instructions given to the partisans and followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) in order to demonstrate the standpoint of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) regarding these issues.
Confirmed by the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Holy Prophet (S), zakat is held to be the most important legislation in the field of finance. Islam has very accurately delineated private assets owned by Muslims that are subject to this tax. These assets are nine in number and include two monetary standards: gold and silver; four types of produce: wheat, barley, dates, and raisins; and the three types of livestock: camels, cows, and sheep.
Furthermore, Islam has designated the ruler of the Muslim community as the supervisor and custodian of these taxes whose mission is to estimate, calculate, assess, and collect the correct amount of zakat from the owners of these assets. The Holy Qur’an has also regulated the use of these taxes and dedicated them to the following categories that are mentioned in this holy verse: The alms are only for the poor, the needy, those who collect them, to influence hearts (to belief), to free captives and debtors, for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer—a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise. (9:60)
Four major aspects of zakat are as follows:
(i) Significance and origin of zakat
(ii) Items subjected to zakat
(iii) Expenditure of zakat
(iv) Supervision of zakat
Ahl al-Bayt’s view of the significance of zakat
The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) adopted the same level of emphasis on this religious duty as adopted by other Muslim groups, although among other groups the funds of zakat were often held by unjust rulers.
According to an authentic narration, Muhammad ibn Muslim, Abu-Basir, Burayd, and Fudhayl have reported Imam al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Almighty Allah has deemed zakat obligatory along with the (duty of) prayer.1
According to another authentic narration, Muhammad ibn Muslim has reported Imam al-Baqir (‘a) as saying: As for any servant (of Allah) who refrains from paying zakat (out of his wealth), Almighty Allah will certainly transform his assets into a fiery serpent, encircling his neck and biting his flesh until the settlement of accounts with him is finished. This is the meaning of Almighty Allah’s saying, “They shall have that, whereof they were niggardly, cleave to their necks on the Day of Resurrection. (3:180)”2
One who refuses to pay zakat and violates this duty or denies zakat as a religious obligation is deemed kafir (apostate from Islam) because zakat is one of the essential duties of Islam.
Abu-Basir has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Whoever refrains from paying even a carat of zakat is neither a believer (mu’min) nor Muslim. This is the meaning of Almighty Allah’s saying, “(Until when death overtakes one of them, he says:) ‘Send me back, my Lord, send me back! Haply I may do good in that which I have left.’ (23:99-100)”3
According to another authentic narration, Abu-Basir has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: He who refrains from paying even a carat of zakat may die a Jew or Christian, whichever he likes.4
Funds Subject To Zakat
Regarding the items subject to zakat, there is some disagreement among the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) school and other Muslim jurisprudential schools. The disagreement lies in two major points and arises from the difference between the jurisprudential ijtihad-based outcome of the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and the followers of other Muslim sects. Such difference, however, is not found in narrations and traditions reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).
• According to the general and familiar jurisprudential opinion of the Ahl al-Bayt’s followers, assets of commerce and goods that are in merchants’ shops and stores are not subject to zakat; however, the general jurisprudential opinion of other Muslim sects maintains that these items are subject to zakat. Several traditions, reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), do declare such items as obligatory for zakat and, as a result, some scholars from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) school have adopted this opinion; however, these traditions have been understood by the master scholars of this school as recommending the payment of zakat on such items or as having been said as a consequence of taqiyyah because of the fact that other sacred texts and traditions restrict this tax to the nine aforementioned categories of property.
• Like the previous point, disagreement on the ruling concerning additional produce and livestock—such as rice, corn and horses—arises from the difference in the jurisprudential, deductive outcome between the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) school and other Muslim schools of jurisprudence. Once again, there are some traditions reported from the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) involving the possible obligation of paying zakat on these items, but these traditions have been understood by the scholars of this school as being only a recommendation or as having been said as a consequence of taqiyyah.5
We can give two explanations for this minor difference supported by some points of evidence notwithstanding the scope of their accuracy.
(a) In Islamic legislation, zakat is in fact obligatory on the nine previously mentioned items, while it is only recommended to pay zakat for other items. The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) are well known for their in-depth knowledge of this fact (i.e., the distinction between the items on which zakat is obligatory and those on which it is recommended), while other Muslims show confusion about it. Some authentic traditions support this observation.
‘Abdullah ibn Sinan quoted Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) to have said: When this holy verse was revealed: “Take charity out of their property, in order to cleanse them and purify them thereby, (9:103)” the Holy Prophet (S), in the month of Ramadhan, ordered his caller to call out, “O people, Almighty Allah has prescribed for you as an obligation to pay zakat just as He has prescribed for you performance of the prayers. Hence, He is imposing on you (a proportion) of gold, silver, camels, cows, sheep, wheat, barley, dates, and raisins.” The Holy Prophet (S) announced these to people in the month of Ramadhan, excluding all other items…6
Imam al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) are reported to have said: Almighty Allah has imposed (as a religious duty) the payment of zakat from assets along with the (religious duty of) prayers. The Messenger of Allah (S) enacted zakat to be paid from nine things only and he excluded everything else: from gold, silver, camels, cows, sheep, wheat, barley, dates, and raisins. The Messenger of Allah (S) excluded everything else.”7
Muhammad (ibn Ja’far) al-Tayyar has reported that he asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) about the items that are as an obligation subjected to zakat.
The Imam (‘a) answered: These are nine things; gold, silver, wheat, barley, dates, raisins, camels, cows, and sheep. The Messenger of Allah (S) excluded everything else.
The reporter said, “May Allah lead you to ever more righteousness! We have other grains.”
“Which ones?” the Imam (‘a) asked.
“Rice,” answered the reporter.
“Yes,” the Imam (‘a) commented, “there is much.”
“Is it subjected to zakat?” the reporter asked.
The Imam (‘a) reproached him and said: I have told you that the Messenger of Allah (S) excluded everything else, yet you tell me that you have other grains and ask me whether they are subjected to zakat or not!8
According to another authentically reported narration, Zurarah said that he was sitting with Imam al-Baqir (‘a) and no one else was with the Imam except his son Ja’far (al-Sadiq). At that time, the Imam (‘a) narrated to me: O Zurarah, during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (S), Abu-Dharr and ‘Uthman disagreed about a question. ‘Uthman said, “Every item of finance, be it gold or silver, that is used in one’s business, trade and profession is subjected to zakat after the passage of a complete year (of earnings).” Abu-Dharr said, however, “Assets that are used in one’s business, trade, and profession are not subjected to zakat. Zakat is paid only from assets that are stored or saved like treasure. Hence, when a year passes, such assets become subject to zakat.” They then presented the matter before the Messenger of Allah (S) who said, “Abu-Dharr’s opinion is correct.”
Abu-’Abdullah al-Sadiq (‘a) said to his father, “If this narration is announced, people will stop giving to the poor and needy. Do you want this?”
The Imam (‘a) replied: Stop this here! I have no other alternative.9
(b) The Islamic legislation with regard to finance decides that zakat (in the sense of charity) is obligatory upon the wealthy who are thus required to satisfy and meet the needs of the poor. Almighty Allah, having introduced the nine aforementioned assets as obligatory charity, entrusted the mission of identifying the extent of these funds to the Guardians (wali) appointed by Him—the Holy Prophet (S) and the Infallible Imams (‘a).
In the beginning of the formulation of Islamic law the Holy Prophet (S), in his capacity as the guardian of Muslims, completely restricted this religious duty to nine items which were obligatorily subject to zakat, and he exempted all others because the interests of Muslims at that stage required such and also because this amount of zakat could achieve the purpose behind its legislation.
However, it is acceptable for a succeeding Guardian, alone or with the participation of others, to subject other finances to this religious tax in the light of the supreme interest of Islam or in order to make sure that the purpose of establishing the law of paying zakat is achieved. Unfortunately, the origin of this law has been confused with other types of local authoritarian legislation10 by both jurisprudents of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) school and the other Muslim schools. However, it is worth mentioning that exercise of this political authority is quite clearly entrusted to the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a).
Zurarah and Muhammad ibn Muslim have reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Verily, Almighty Allah has ordained a sufficient share for the poor to be taken from the assets of the wealthy that meets all their needs. If He had known that this determined share would not meet the needs of the poor, He would certainly have added to it. People have not remained poor because of a duty that Almighty Allah has prescribed or because of the share that Almighty Allah has determined for them but because they have been deprived of what was due to them. Had people given the poor their due, they would certainly have lived in welfare.11
‘Ali ibn Mahziyar has reported that Imam al-Ridha (‘a) wrote the following statement in a letter he sent to ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad: Zakat is levied from everything that can be measured by sa’.12
So, that is what ‘Abdullah recorded.
Another man has reported that he once asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) about zakat on grains. “What kind of grain do you mean?” the Imam (‘a) asked.
“They are sesame, rice, and millet,” the man answered, “and these are all grains, just like wheat and barley.”
The Imam (‘a) responded: All grains are subject to zakat.
Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) is also reported to have answered the question of someone, saying: Whatever is measured by qafiz13 is treated just like wheat, barley, dates, and raisins.
The questioner continued, “May Allah accept me as ransom for you! Please tell me whether rice and its likes, such as chick-pea and lentils are subject to zakat or not?”
The Imam (‘a) answered in writing: Everything that is measured is subject to zakat.14
Zurarah has reported that he asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) whether corn is subject to zakat or not, and the Imam (‘a) answered: Corn, lentils, shelled barley, and all cereals are subject to zakat just like wheat and barley. Everything that is measured by sa’ and amounts to wasqs15 that are subject to zakat, is subject to this tax.16
Abu-Basir has reported that he asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) whether rice is subject to zakat, and the Imam (‘a) answered affirmatively and then added: Because there were no rice farms in al-Madinah at that time (of legislation), nothing was mentioned about its taxation. Nevertheless, rice was included in the taxable grains. How could it be excluded when the majority of the taxes of Iraq are levied from rice?17
Suma’ah has reported that he asked the Imam (‘a) whether the working partner must pay zakat on assets used in a partnership.
The Imam (‘a) answered: A working partner in a partnership who does the business with the money of the other partners is required to advise the owner of the money to pay the zakat of the money. If the owners say that they have done so, then he is not required to do more, but if they order him to pay the zakat, then he is required to do so.
The reporter further asked, “What if the owner of the money claims that he is paying the zakat of the money, while the other party knows for sure that he (i.e. the owner) is not?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: If the owner of the money declares that he is paying the zakat of the money, the other partner is not required to do more than that; however, if the owner professes that he is not paying the zakat, then the working partner must not accept that money and must not do business with it until the partner pays the zakat.18
Muhammad ibn Muslim has reported that he asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) when zakat must be paid in the case of a person who bought goods with money for which zakat had been paid, and later the goods remained unsold.
The Imam (‘a) answered: If the man withheld the goods in order to recuperate his capital, the goods are not taxable, but if he withheld the goods after he had recuperated his capital, then this money becomes subject to zakat for withholding it after regaining his capital.
The reporter further asked, “If one is given money to do business, is this money subject to zakat?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: After the passage of a complete year, he must pay its zakat.19
Usage of the Money of Zakat
As for categories that are entitled to the money of zakat, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) confirmed that these are exclusively the eight categories mentioned in verse 60 of Surah al-Tawbah (Surah 9). However, it is not obligatory to include all these eight categories when paying the money of zakat; rather, it is acceptable to restrict payment to one or more category. The religious authority who supervises the distribution of zakat decides the details of this issue. Apart from some minor details, this issue is unanimously agreed upon by all Muslims.
Additionally, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) instructed their Shi’ah to distribute the money of zakat to the individuals of the virtuous community restrictedly, where possible. This instruction was made as a result of the Ahl al-Bayt’s understanding of the nature of needs imposed upon the virtuous community which was besieged economically and politically.
Consequently, the individuals of this community had become the worthiest to receive the money of zakat because of being exposed to various sorts of pressures that caused their deprivation, especially considering the fact that the majority of the zakat money went to the ruling authorities and nothing of it was kept at the disposal of individuals except a very small amount that could be excluded from the tax itself.
In addition, the individuals of the virtuous community deserve the money of zakat as much as other Muslims. Accordingly, it was necessary to compensate the virtuous community for the deprivation caused them by the rulers because of their adherence to the doctrine of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a). Hence, these funds were restricted to these individuals.
It is not improbable that this very idea has been intended in the authentic report of Zurarah and Muhammad ibn Muslim, which has been cited by the three master scholars—Shaykh al-Kulayni, Shaykh al-Saduq, and Shaykh al-Tusi.
Zurarah and Muhammad ibn Muslim report that they asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) about Almighty Allah’s saying: ‘The alms are only for the poor, the needy, those who collect them, to influence hearts (to belief), to free captives and debtors, for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer—a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise.’ (9:60)
They asked whether the categories entitled to the funds of zakat included those who do not recognize (the divinely commissioned loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a)).
The Imam (‘a) answered: The Imam gives to all these categories only because they recognize obedience to him.
Zurarah asked, “What if they do not recognize him?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: O Zurarah, if the Imam gives only to those who recognize (loyalty to him) and deprives those who do not, then these funds will not find people to receive them! The Imam gives also to those who do not recognize (loyalty to him) so as to attract them to this faith and so that they embrace it firmly. However, you and your acquaintances should give only to those who recognize. Hence, if you find such people among Muslims, you may give them rather than others. The shares of those whose hearts have inclined towards the truth (al-mu’allafah qulubuhum) and the share for the ransoming of captives (al-riqab) are common, while the other shares are restricted.
Zurarah asked, “What if we cannot find any of the mentioned groups?”
The Imam answered: Any duty that Almighty Allah has made incumbent must be practicable and there must be deserving individuals.
Zurarah asked, “What if the charity (of zakat) is not sufficient to cover the needs of recipients?”
The Imam’s answer is already cited on p. 31.
Rooted in this concept, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) instituted an economic directive that dealt with some of the needs of the individuals of the virtuous community. This directive bound the wealthy individuals of this community to pay zakat to the poor individuals of their community exclusively and defined the distribution of these funds.
Isma’il ibn Sa’d al-Ash’ari has reported that he asked Imam al-Ridha (‘a), “Is it possible to distribute zakat funds to those who do not recognize (loyalty to the Ahl al-Bayt)?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: Neither zakat funds nor zakat al-fitrah20 (can be distributed to them).21
Urays has reported that al-Mada’ini asked Imam al-Baqir (‘a), “There is a portion of the zakat that we pay from our money. Who should we give it to?”
The Imam answered: Give it to the people of your faith.
Al-Mada’ini said, “I am living in a country where no one of my faith lives.”
The Imam (‘a) instructed: You may send these funds to a country where people of your faith live. Do not pay them to people who will not respond to you if you call them to your faith and may even slay you!22
To reconcile these traditions with the previously cited report of Zurarah and Muhammad ibn Muslim, it seems that this special and restricted instruction was a local decision that the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) took on the strength of their recognition of the common interests of the virtuous community within their surroundings but not a law that is found in original Islamic legislation. However, Almighty Allah knows best.
At the same time, this decision stands for a policy that must be observed at all times according to the general rule of “the nearer, the worthier.”
Nevertheless, there are some exceptions, as shown in the following tradition: Ya’qub ibn Shu’ayb al-Haddad has reported that he asked the Righteous Servant (i.e. Imam al-Kazim (‘a)), “What should one of our creed who lives in a remote region do with the funds of the zakat that he must pay?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: He must distribute them on his brethren-in-faith and followers of his belief.
The reporter asked, “What if he cannot find such people?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: He may send them the funds.
The reporter asked, “What if he cannot find any means to transfer these funds to them?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: He may then distribute the funds among those known for bearing no hostility (against the Ahl al-Bayt).
The reporter asked, “What if these cannot be found either? Should he pay others?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: The others’ share is nothing but stones!23
‘Ubayd ibn Zurarah has reported that he asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “A man of our faith paid the zakat funds to unworthy people for a considerable time, but later he found worthy recipients. Should he again pay the former funds to the worthy people?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: “Yes, he should.”
The reporter asked, “What if a person had not found worthy recipients and, therefore, had not paid zakat, or he had not known that it was obligatory upon him to pay but came to know recently?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: He must pay all the previous to worthy people.
The reporter asked, “What if he could not find worthy people and paid his zakat to unworthy people, but after investigation he concluded that he was wrong (about them being unworthy)?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: In this case, he is not liable to pay it once more.24
In the light of these traditions, we can conclude that this procedure is one of the clear-cut distinguishing attitudes of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) on the issue of zakat—an attitude that ensures the virtuous community an important financial resource.
Supervision of Zakat Funds
In accordance with the procedures of the Islamic state, supervision of the zakat funds was done by the Muslim ruler.25 It is not improbable that this was enacted in the original Islamic legislation, since the supervision of the zakat funds entails giving the poor a part of the fortunes of the rich, transferring these funds to their beneficiaries or spending them in doctrinally defined fields; therefore, it must be carried out by the ruler of the Islamic state who collects these taxes, just as the Holy Prophet (S) and the caliphs used to do.
The problem is that the majority of so-called Islamic governments throughout history have been illegitimate and, according to the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), not suited to supervise the zakat funds for reasons too numerous to be mentioned in this discussion.26
Consequently, the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) encountered a problem: The illegitimate ruling authorities would collect the zakat and not leave the option for the payers to distribute it themselves to worthy recipients. The followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) were not sure as to whether it was correct or not to pay their zakat to these unjust ruling authorities. If this payment were mandatory but at the same time would not discharge the religious responsibility, would it then be obligatory to pay these taxes once more (putting additional economic pressure on the virtuous community)?
To remove this legal problem, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) offered the following solution: They advised their followers not to pay the governmental tax collectors to the extent possible so that they could carry out their religious duty themselves with the remaining amount. In the event that they could not escape payment because of political or social circumstances (the necessity to practice taqiyyah), they were permitted to pay it to the governmental officials.
The Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) delegated the assessment of the situations to the owners of the taxable funds and determined that payment under such circumstances would fulfill the religious responsibility of the payers, justifying this action with the concept that although such governments might be unqualified for supervision of religious taxes, they are still Muslims. In addition, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) wanted the virtuous community to associate and coexist under this Islamic rule within the Muslim society lest they, in the case that they refrain from defraying the zakat funds to the government tax collectors, become exposed to additional political or economic pressure—which they certainly did not want.
In a set of traditions, this solution has been discussed and explained.
According to the authentic report of Ya’qub ibn Shu’ayb, which has been recorded by Shaykh al-Kulayni, in al-Kafi, and Shaykh al-Saduq, in man-la-yahdhuruhu’l-faqih, the reporter asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) whether ‘ushur tithes(27) that are taken as taxes are or are not accounted as zakat.
The Imam (‘a) answered: “They are so accounted, God willing.”
According to another authentic narration of al-’Ays ibn al-Qasim that is reported by Shaykh al-Kulayni, in al-Kafi, and Shaykh al-Tusi, in Tahdhib al-Ahkam and al-Istibsar, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said the following about the zakat tax: As for anything that is taken from you (as zakat) by the ruling authorities of the Umayyads, you may account it as zakat. However, try to give them as little as you can. It is not feasible to pay zakat for the same money twice.
According another authentic report of Sulayman ibn Khalid that is also reported by Shaykh al-Kulayni, in al-Kafi, and Shaykh al-Tusi, in Tahdhib al-Ahkam and al-Istibsar, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said: His companions came to my father and queried about the taxes that were being levied by the ruling authorities. My father sympathized with them even though he knew that zakat was illegitimate if not paid to worthy beneficiaries. Still, he ordered them to account it as their zakat. I thought considerably about the question for their sake and then said to my father, “If they hear this ruling, none will give alms (or pay zakat).” My father replied, “Son, this is a right that Almighty Allah likes to make manifest.”28
Derelict Lands
Derelict lands29 are uncultivated and uninhabitable lands forsaken because of a dearth of water, waterlogging, salinity, dense brush, or any natural barrier to benefit.
The Imamiyyah Shi’ah scholars believe that such lands are basically owned by the Imam of each age because they are anfal (windfalls), which have been specified in the following holy verse as being owned by Almighty Allah and the Holy Prophet (S): They ask you about windfalls (anfal). Say: Windfalls are for Allah and the Messenger. So be careful of (your duty to) Allah and set aright matters of difference among yourselves, and obey Allah and His Messenger if you are believers. (8:1)
The Imam, being the legal successor of the Holy Prophet (S) and his representative, enjoys all his rights of leadership and supervision. Many traditions, some of which have openly declared the Imam’s ownership of such properties (anfal), indicate this ownership. For instance, in an authentic narration that is reported by Shaykh al-Kulayni, in Usul al-Kafi, Hafs ibn al-Buhtari reports Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Windfalls (anfal properties) include estates towards which neither horse nor riding camel are pressed forward,30 estates that are gained due to reconciliation or gift, any useless land, and the bottoms of valleys—all these are owned by the Holy Prophet (S) and then by the Imam, who has the right to use them as he determines.31
In Tahdhib al-Ahkam, Shaykh al-Tusi has reported Muhammad ibn Muslim to have said that he heard Imam al-Baqir (‘a) saying: The fay’ and anfal are lands which have been seized without bloodshed, lands given as gifts due to a reconciliation contract with their owners, all useless lands, and valley floors—all these are regarded as fay’ properties and they are owned by Almighty Allah and His Messenger (S). The Messenger (S) has the right to do whatever he wills with properties that are owned by Almighty Allah. After the Messenger (S), the Imam has the right to make use of these properties.32
Generally, Muslim jurisprudents have determined such derelict lands to be legitimate for common use, just like the water of rivers and oceans, fish, birds and sand that can be owned privately only by means of control or seizure.
For that reason, the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), who represent the virtuous community, had to face a real problem concerning their economic activities in this vital and important field. When they wanted to invest time in or make use of a derelict land, the ruling authorities did not interfere because the authorities had no reason to ban processes of utility and investment in these lands since they themselves considered them to be legitimate for common use.
However, the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) faced a problem related to the religious ruling regarding use of such lands which the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) included with anfal properties that are legitimately owned by the Imam; therefore, to invest in or use such lands required permission of the Imam.
However, this matter has been solved and such permission, which seems to be local (i.e. restricted) permission, was declared by the Holy Prophet (S) not disregarding the fact that such lands are before all else owned by the Imam. Following the course adopted by the Holy Prophet (S) the Holy Imams (‘a) also gave their followers and other Muslims permission to develop these lands.
In his book of Tahdhib al-Ahkam, Shaykh al-Tusi, through an authentic chain of authority, has reported Imam al-Baqir (‘a) as saying: Any people who cultivate or improve any area of land are the worthiest to own it.33
According to another authentic tradition, Shaykh al-Kulayni, in al-Kafi, and Shaykh al-Tusi, in Tahdhib al-Ahkam and al-Istibsar, have also reported Imam al-Baqir (‘a) and Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as quoting the Holy Prophet (S) to have said: Whoever cultivates a derelict land possesses it.34
Scholars of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) school, however, have disagreed about the significance of this permission. According to the opinion of some Shi’ite scholars, this permission entails that investment in or cultivation of an area of land results in the investor or the cultivator owning that land. Other scholars have argued that this broad permission gives the investor or the cultivator a right to use that land, but the ownership of the land is still in the hand of the Imam.35 The following authentic tradition, which has been reported by Shaykh al-Tusi in Tahdhib al-Ahkam and Shaykh al-Kulayni in al-Kafi, supports the latter opinion: ‘Umar ibn Yazid has reported that Musmi’ ibn ‘Abd al-Malik delivered some money to Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) but the Imam refused to accept it from him. I met Musmi’, at al-Madinah, and asked him the reason. He narrated: During my meeting with him, I said to the Imam (‘a), “In Bahrain, I worked as a diver and extracted items from the sea worth four hundred thousand dirhams. As a consequence, I have brought eighty thousand dirhams as the Khums (one-fifth tax) of my gain. I do not wish to withhold this amount from you; therefore, I am offering it to you because it is your right that Almighty Allah has made obligatory from our wealth.”
The Imam (‘a) answered: Abu-Sayyar, is our share from our lands and their extracts only one-fifth? Verily, the entire land is ours and whatever thing that Almighty Allah allows to be extracted from it is also ours.
I said, “I have the entire amount with me and I offer it to you.”
The Imam (‘a) replied: Abu-Sayyar, I now declare our property as valid and legitimate for you. You can now add it to your money. Everything from the lands that is obtained by our Shi’ah is lawful to them to own until the uprising of the Rising Imam (the Mahdi). He will then levy from them land tributes and leave the lands at their disposal. As for others (i.e. non-Shi’ah), all that which is possessed by them and all their gains therefrom are illegitimate up to the uprising of our Rising Imam. He will then take these lands from them and dismiss them with humiliation (empty-handed).36
Annexed Lands
Annexed lands are cultivated lands owned by polytheists or Scripturists that Muslims had seized through conquests, or lands that were cultivated or mortmained by the Islamic state for the common interests of Muslims.
Islamic authorities would treat such lands as being possessed by all Muslims and managed by the Islamic state. These lands were often developed by Scripturists or others who converted to Islam afterwards. They would pay tributes to the Islamic state on such lands that were either definite amounts of money called kharaj (land tribute) or a percentage of the yields. The Islamic government would distribute this tribute for the welfare of Muslims.
As previously cited, during the first period of Islam, after 11 A.H, a question concerning such lands was raised. Some believed that the lands should be distributed among the warriors who participated in the conquest, while others adopted other opinions. The second caliph, with the help of Imam ‘Ali (‘a), solved the problem by deciding that all such lands should be owned by all Muslims, and this method was used for the lands of Iraq.37
Thus, the Ahl al-Bayt’s traditions on this issue correspond with this decision by which Muslim rulers abided.
In Tahdhib al-Ahkam, Shaykh al-Tusi, through an authentic chain of authority, has reported that Muhammad al-Halabi asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) about the ruling on the lands of Iraq. The Imam (‘a) answered: They are for all Muslims, including those who will convert to Islam in the future and Muslims who have not been born yet.
The reporter asked, “What is the ruling on purchasing lands from non-Arab chiefs of peasants?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: It is illegal for anyone to do so unless those who purchase such lands dedicate them to all Muslims commonly. Then, the legal (religious) authority has the right to take them, if he wishes.
The reporter asked, “If the legal authority takes them, what should he give in compensation?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: He (i.e. the legal authority) may give the purchaser back his capital and allow him (a share) in the yields that he produces in return for his work.38
There is no real problem in the issue of annexed lands except the question of whether payment to unjust rulers is or is not considered payment to the legal religious authority. As clarified by this tradition and the conduct of the companions of Holy Imams (‘a), such payment releases a person from religious liability. These lands were marked and recorded in the official records of the government of that time; therefore, it was inescapable to pay their tribute to the ruling authorities.
Private and Public Awqaf
Waqf39 is considered vital in the Islamic economic concept, because it contributes fundamentally to the distribution of fortunes and prevents accumulation of wealth, on the one hand, and organizes spending of wealth by directing it towards the common interests of Muslims, on the other. Furthermore, waqf represents one of the resources of common expenditure of the Islamic state and nurtures its welfare programs for the poor and the needy.
Waqf was one of the common regulations or laws of Islam by which Muslims and the Islamic state abided. An endower of a waqf used to be granted authority to specify his/her private stipulations and direct the method of utility of that waqf in the most suitable way he/she might see fit.
Making use of this common Islamic financial resource to supply the virtuous community with financial aid, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) endowed many of their assets as waqf. Such charitable endowments have been reported from the Holy Prophet, Imam ‘Ali, Lady Fatimah, and the rest of the Holy Infallibles, peace be upon them, as an ongoing practice that history has left no Imam (‘a) without mentioning a number of his contributions of designating properties as waqf. More specifically, Imam ‘Ali Amir al-Mu’minin and Imam al-Kazim (‘a) are known for their vast activities in this field. This may be because these two Imams (‘a) had more opportunities than the other Infallibles (‘a) to do so.
Imam al-Ridha (‘a) has reported that the Holy Prophet (S) endowed as waqf the Seven Walls (i.e. orchards); namely, al-dalal, al-’awaf, al-husna, al-safiyah, mali-ummi-ibrahim, al-manbat, and Barqah.40
Sharif al-Radhi has recorded in Nahj al-Balaghah that Imam ‘Ali (‘a), immediately after the Battle of Siffin, endowed his property as waqf in a will.41
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (‘a) is reported to have said that Lady Fatimah al-Zahra’ (‘a) endowed her property as waqf and made Imam ‘Ali (‘a) the custodian.42
Shaykh al-Kulayni, Shaykh al-Saduq, and Shaykh al-Tusi have reported a detailed precept on waqf from Imam Musa al-Kazim (‘a).43
Having attracted attention to the significance of waqf in improving the financial conditions of the virtuous community, the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) persuaded their followers to involve themselves in such charitable deeds in order to gain great rewards. In authentic traditions reported from them, waqf is connected to two matters of great importance in man’s life: first, true guidance and exemplary tradition and, second, a righteous son who benefits his parents and the people.
Husham ibn Salim has reported Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) as saying: Only three things reward man after his death: (1) a recurrent charitable deed that he established in his lifetime; thus, it continues after his death, (2) a course of true guidance that he established in his lifetime such that it is still activated after his death, and (3) a righteous son who prays for him.44
Mu’awiyah ibn ‘Ammar has reported that he asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), “What is attached to man after his death?”
The Imam (‘a) answered: (Rewards of the following deeds are linked to a person after his death:) An observance that is continued after a man’s death for which the dead man receives an equal reward to those who continue to observe his practice; a recurrent charitable deed that continues after his death; and a good son who prays for his parents after they have died and, on behalf of them, goes on Hajj pilgrimage, gives alms, manumits slaves, offers prayers, and observes fasting.
The reporter asked, “Is it acceptable to give my (dead) parents a share in my Hajj pilgrimage?”
The Imam (‘a) answered affirmatively.45
Complying with such instructions, waqf has become one of the common features in the general social and financial system of the virtuous community. Although it is common among other Muslims, the activity of waqf endowments is, to a great extent, practiced distinctively by the individuals of the virtuous community. This matter has therefore been discussed by the messages, known as tawqi’ (signed document), coming from Imam al-Mahdi (‘a) during his minor occultation.
Shaykh al-Saduq, in his book of Ikmal al-Din, has reported from Abu’l-Husayn Muhammad ibn Ja’far al-Asadi, a document signed by Imam al-Mahdi (‘a) involving several paragraphs about waqf, the last of which was the following statement: As for your question about the man who dedicates an orchard to us and appoints a custodian to manage and cultivate it, and pays religious dues from its income, tributes, and provisions and devotes the rest to us, the answer is that this is lawful only for the custodian appointed by the owner of the orchard, but unlawful for anyone else.46
In the Islamic law, the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a), according to the common social conditions of the virtuous community, have classified waqf into two categories: public and private.
Public Waqf is the endowment of property that is purposed to achieve the common interest of Muslims or the virtuous community, such as mosques, schools, Husayniyyahs, libraries, lands, arches, houses of residence for pilgrims, and the like.
Such endowments can include all people or be dedicated to the people of a certain country or a certain category. Yet, the purpose is still public even if it is dedicated to a certain group for the purpose of maintaining a certain status quo or because of deficiency in funds.
Private Waqf is the endowment of a property to the endower’s offspring; hence, this category of waqf is also called “lineal waqf.” It is spent on the private affairs of all of one’s offspring, such as residence, provisions, marriage, and other affairs.
As a result of such flexibility in spending and peculiarity in benefit, waqf has played a vital role building the virtuous community and in supporting its financial needs, similar to the role that khums played in improving the economic conditions of the virtuous community and in contributing to the establishment of foundations restricted to this community.
Due to such contribution, the public social life of the virtuous community has witnessed large properties endowed as waqf, including mosques, schools, Husayniyyahs, libraries, and other public services. In addition to private waqf, these endowments have acted as an important pillar in the economic structure of the virtuous community.
1. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:5, H. 8.
2. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:11, H. 3.
3. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:18, H. 3.
4. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:18, H. 5.
5. – In the current discussion, we do not intend to discuss this topic in detail and display the points of evidence according to Muslim jurisprudence; rather, we just bring up the jurisprudential result and try to explain it from an economic and political viewpoint in a probable mode.
6. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:3, H. 1.
7. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:34, H. 4.
8. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:36, H. 12.
9. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:48, H. 1.
10. – ‘Local authoritarian legislation’ (al-tashri’at al-sultaniyyah al-wila’iyyah) stand for laws and regulations that are enacted by the political authority or ruler as the guardian of Muslims to organize the social lives of Muslims. By virtue of the authority vested in him, the ruler implements the universal laws originally enacted by religious legislation and uses the latitude that is given by the Holy Legislator for the guardian to make decisions with the supreme interests of religion in mind. All such authority must be exercised within the framework of the general goals of legislation.
11. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:3, H. 2.
12. – Sa’ is a unit of mass or weight, usually used for grains; one sa’ is equal to approximately three kilograms.
13. – Qafiz is a unit of weight. Its value differs in each country; however, one qafiz is equal to approximately 26064 grams.
14. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:39, H. 1.
15. – 1 wasq = 60 sa’s.
16. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:41, H. 10.
17. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:41, H. 11.
18. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:50, H. 1.
19. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:46, H. 3.
20. – Zakat al-fitrah is a payment given after the termination of the obligatory fasting in Ramadhan, with certain conditions and regulations.
21. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:152, H. 1.
22. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:152, H. 3.
23. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:153, H. 7.
24. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:147, H. 1.
25. – According to reference books on local laws of Islam, there is a difference between funds designated as ‘visible funds’ which include produce and livestock, and those classified as ‘invisible funds’ such as savings, business investments, and the like. Supervision over visible funds is delegated to the Muslim ruler while payment of invisible funds is the responsibility of the payer of zakat. (Refer to Abu-Ya’li al-Farra’ the Hanbalite scholar, al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah, pp. 115; al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah, pp. 113)
26. – This topic will be discussed in the coming book of Imamate and Religious Authority.
27. – ‘ushur is the proportion of zakat on produce. This word may also be used as zakat in general.
28. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:173-174, H. 1, 3, 4.
29. – As has been previously indicated, we do not aim at discussing this topic (usually mentioned with zakat) from a jurisprudential aspect and will not cite the specific points of evidence representing the various opinions here; rather, we only intend to display the general opinions in order to discuss the relationship between this topic and economic issues from the viewpoint of the Holy Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (‘a) and the virtuous community.
30. – This is an indication of the following verse of the Holy Qur’an:
31. And whatever Allah restored to His Messenger from them you did not send forward towards it any horse or riding camel but Allah gives authority to His messengers against whom He pleases, and Allah has power over all things. (59:6)
– Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:364, H. 1.
32. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 6:368, H. 12.
33. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 17:326, H. 3.
34. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 17:327, H. 5.
35. – Refer to Martyr Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Iqtisaduna (Our Economy), 2:744, Appendix IV.
36. – Shaykh al-Kulayni, al-Kafi 1:408, H. 3.
37. – This historical fact has been mentioned by some researchers, such as ‘Ali ibn Muhammad al-Mawardi, in his book of al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah pp. 176. Although Sunni jurisprudents had various and diverse opinions about the question and its explanation, they generally agreed on applying this decision to the lands of Iraq at least.
38. – Shaykh al-Tusi, Tahdhib al-Ahkam 7:147, S. Laws of Lands, H. 1.
39. – An endowment made by a Muslim to a religious, educational, or charitable cause.
40. – Al-Himyari al-Qummi, Qurb al-Isnad, pp. 363, H. 1301; ‘Allamah al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar 103: 183, H. 10 as quoted from the previous reference book.
The Seven Walls were the heritage of the Holy Prophet (S) who dedicated them to his daughter, Lady Fatimah al-Zahra, as private waqf.
41. – Nahj al-Balaghah, Epistle No. 24. The same has been recorded by Shaykh al-Kulayni, in Furu’ al-Kafi, and Shaykh al-Tusi, in Tahdhib al-Ahkam, with further details.
42. – Shaykh al-Tusi, Misbah al-Anwar, pp. 262; ‘Allamah al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar 103:184-85, H. 13 as quoted from the previous reference book.
43. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 13:314, H. 5.
44. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 13:292, H. 1.
45. – Al-Hurr al-’Amili, Wasa’il al-Shi’ah 13:293, H. 4.
46. – Shaykh al-Saduq, Ikmal al-Din, pp. 530-531, H. 49; Shaykh al-Tabrisi, al-Ihtijaj 2:298-300; al-Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar 53: 182-183, H. 11.

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