Setting the record straight on Islam’s camel tax

March 28, 2010

Gulf News offered this syrupy ode to the camel yesterday:

Dubai: The UAE is historically known for its attachment to camels which are of social and economic value in the region.

The animal is famously known as the ship of the desert because of its walk, which is much like the motion of a ship at sea. Patience is one of its most observable features and camels are generally useful animal.

Historically, camels in the UAE were a dependable source of not only transport but also food and milk.

Arabs were proud of the number of camels they possessed.

The camels were given as a bride’s dowry among the Bedouin tribes. Not to mention its use as payment of Zakat — the annual portion of a Muslim’s personal fortune that is given as charity to people in need — as which was at times paid in camels instead of money.

The population of camels in the UAE in 2003 was estimated at over 178,000, according to the Abu Dhabi Culture and Heritage.

Contrary to what Gulf News states above, Islam requires camels to be used as payment for zakat.  Camels are themselves a form of wealth under Islam and are subject to taxation.  As payment, the camel owner must forfeit a number of camels based on complicated ratios set forth in the Hadith.

Like I’ve said before, more passages of the Hadith address the camel zakat than the 2½ percent monetary zakat.  The Gulf News should know better, and they probably do, but they are trying to make a religious obsession with camels sound quaint.

The reason why I spend any time blogging about this subject is that the zakat on camel wealth illustrates perfectly the anachronistic foolishness of carrying forward a tax system devised by Muhammad in the seventh century into the present day.

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