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The Zakat

November 6, 2009

Part I:  Four problems with an uncharitable tax

Given the popularity of last weekend’s threepart series on the jizya, Money Jihad now offers, at no charge to you, an introduction to the complications the zakat.

Leaf through the indexes of several translations of Korans at your local library or bookstore.  You probably won’t find anything listed under “taxes,” and you may not even find an entry for “zakat.”  The original Arabic word zakat, rather than being translated for what it actually is—a 2½ wealth tax on Muslims—it is variously translated as “alms,” “the alms levy,” the “impost,” or “charity.”

Problem 1:  This deceptive translation of “alms” may stem from the multiple references in the Koran that the zakat may be used to help the poor.  But the zakat may be used for purposes other than the amelioration of poverty.  Most significantly and most dangerously, the zakat is to be used for jihad:

The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and the wayfarer; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is Knower, Wise.  (Koran, 9:60

Other translations of the Koran flesh out the phrase underlined above in footnotes or parenthetically by explaining that “the cause of Allah” refers to holy war, and, in the case of the Hilali-Khan Koran, that the mujahidin are eligible zakat recipients.

Problem 2:  Zakat supports Islamic holy war, not only on paper in the Koran, but in current practice.  According to Burr and Collins’s Alms for Jihad, that zakat dollars helped fund mujahidin’s repulse of the Soviets in Afghanistan, the Sudanese Islamist revolution, the East Africa embassy bombings, have paid for the deployment of jihadists to the Balkans in the 1990s, and contributed to the May 12, 2003, bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“Donations” also funded, most famously, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to the 9/11 Commission Report:

Bin Ladin did not fund al Qaeda through a personal fortune and a network of businesses in Sudan.  Instead, al Qaeda relied primarily on a fund-raising network developed over time.  The CIA now estimates that it cost al Qaeda about $30 million per year to sustain its activities before 9/11 and that this money was raised almost entirely through donations. (pp. 169-70)

 Thus 9/11 was funded, not through drug money, extortion, embezzlement, or Osama Bin Laden’s personal fortune, or other media red herrings, but by ordinary Islamic “charity.”

Problem 3:  Unlike our concepts of alms or charity, where we give of our own free will, the zakat is obligatory on Muslims.  The Islamic emphasis on the zakat is highlighted by the zakat’s position as the third of the famous Five Pillars of Islam, and zakat is mentioned 80 times in the Koran.  To those who hoard their riches and fail to pay the zakat, the Koran taunts, “Taste ye the torment of the burning” (3:77).

In the Bible, the tithe is generally voluntary.  In Genesis 28:22, Jacob made a personal pledge when building a sanctuary for the worship of God that, “of all that thou givest me I will give the tenth to thee.”  The Hebrews were instructed to tithe on their crop yields, with the proceeds made available to, “the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled” (Deuteronomy 14:29).  Notably absent from the list of who could receive the Hebrew tithe are the mujahidin.

In the New Testament, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for strict adherence to tithing while they neglected weightier matters of mercy and faith (Matthew 23:23).  When given from the heart, Christians regard the tithe as voluntary blessing for the giver and the receiver.

Problem 4:  The zakat is a tax.  However, it is a tax imposed by a religion, not by a state operating with the consent of the governed.  Oh how I wish that John Locke could have travelled back in time to tell Muhammad what he told us in his Second Treatise of Government!

It is true, governments cannot be supported without great charge, and it is fit every one who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate his proportion for the maintenance of it.  But still it must be with his own consent—i.e., the consent of the majority, giving it either by themselves or their representatives chosen by them. (Sec. 140)

With sharia instead of the social contract, Muslims throughout history could not vote their caliphs out of office in an effort to lower zakat rates.  Muslims today are subject to an arbitrary zakat rate set 14 centuries ago.  And whether or not Muslim taxpayers wish for their dinars to fund charity or jihad, the gruesome reality is…it funds both.

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2 comments

  1. I am a african american muslim. i just want to say That i love GOD and ALL people. Only GOD will judge me. the flesh is wrong not the faith.


  2. seek zakat fund money for my children education in Bangladesh. I am a serious dibetic patient since 2005 and now jobless & helpless.
    I can aford to meet their educational expenses. My son is reading in BBA and daughter reads in class 10. Have no flat of my own to stay and now living in a rental house. If any scope to assist me with zakat fund then please send to my account, details as given below for your kind perisal. Janata Bank, Ramna Corp. Branch, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
    A/c no. 34037525 (saving) TLX: 675840 JBD BJ and Bank Swift code. JANBBDDHJBC, JANBBDDHJBD. My National ID # 2696654295745



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