Banking on God

Controversial Islamic charity system


Banking on God
by Jahanshah Rashidian

Khums and Zakat are two charitable sums paid respectively by Shiites and Muslims collected by religious authorities in charge of them. Although, they are primordially supposed to be contributed among poor Seyyeds (descendents of the Prophet Muhammad) and the poor in the community.To some extent, they cover the questions of financial support for Jihad and terrorist activities in and out of the Muslim community, legitimacy of booty, and the financial benefit of the collectors, in Iran, the clergy.

Booty (Ghanima / Ghanaemis taken by Mulims from “Infidels”) is legal after paying Khoms / Zakat. However, the lands which have been seized as spoils of war belong to the Muslim society. It is commonly held that a Muslim can appropriate things owned by a non-Muslim enemy and just pay its Khums, when the country is occupied, there is no difference between movable and immovable booty. A historical example is ancient Persian occupied and robbed by the early Muslim Arabs.

Khums is a Shiite tradition, originally concerns about the distribution of one-fifth of booty. Furthermore, it also applies wherever gain or profit is involved. Calculating is to be counted up all the profit at the end of the each lunar year. Shiites, furthermore, oblige payment of an extra Khoms tax, to the Hidden Imam (Mahdi) and his deputies on earth.

Since Seyyeds, are not allowed to receive “Sadaqeh” (alms), they have learnt from the Koran (ayah 41, Surah Al-Anfaal) to keep their part out of the booty. Alms has been an important financial resource of “poor” Seyyeds and their co-partners, Sheiks, who have literally never worked in Iran, as the rest of the population have to.

Zakat “purification” is technically a fixed proportion of 2.5% from the net income or surplus wealth of a Muslim at the end of the “Hijri” year (lunar year). It is an almsgiving which every Muslim pays to the poor of community.

Wealth is not supposed to be frowned upon in Muslim communities. After all, Allah blesses the faithful rich. Feudalism was until 1960th the dominant social system in Iran. Landlords held lands in exchange for loyalty to the Monarch and tax collection for the state. In a global aspect, feudalism is considered a primitive system of private ownership of the means of agricultural production. It is a system in which the landlord is given a free hand and hence there is no room for fair conditions of the peasants.

A cleric, beneficiary and distributor of Khoms / Zakat funds in a rural area, remedies the pains the peasants suffer from their landlord. He religiously justifies the legitimacy of landlord’s ownership. He appreciates his “benevolent and generous” almsgiving. Since a collector and distributor has the right to keep a part of the alms for him, in reality, our cleric lives on these relations.

It is in this perspective that Ayatollah Khomeini ardently opposed to the land reforms under the Shah. The land reforms could restrain a cleric’s income “on the day of harvest.” The Iranian clergy have never had interests to work, as other segments of the society. Neither have they ever had interests in social reforms to reduce any social inequality.

In the course of Iranian post-Islamic history, Seyyeds achieved the top of the caste system. The religious society was divided into several groups with determined status and it was a tenet of religion that the only way to be a part of society was to live an exemplary humble life, following the rules of the caste into which people are born. Regarding the imposition of Shiite sect by the Safavid Dynasty, Lebanese Seyyeds were recruited to supervise the process of Shiitisation in Iran.

This non-Iranian caste helped the dynasty to enforce its rule through the atrocious process of Shiitisation. Later, from this limited number of Seyyeds, alleged descendants mushroomed in four corners of Iran to gain both social and financial privilege. Hence, all of the Seyyeds in Iran must not automatically have roots in Lebanon or any Arab background, but are most likely Iranians whose ancestors somehow entitled themselves “Seyyed” — a cleric, at best a Seyyed, could better collect Khums / Zekat in a rural or little town.

Khoms and Zakat function like tax systems and are based on the premise that the society is divided into rich and poor classes. In absence of a social and welfare system, they advocate tolerance, solidarity amongst Muslims of different social classes. Apart from this two Islamic tax systems, Islam has not recognised other tax systems limiting the means of acquiring wealth to prevent the excessive accumulation of wealth by a minority in the cost of poverty imposed on an increasing majority of an Islamic community, Ummah. Charities given to hospitals, schools, non-religious foundations or humanitarian organisations cannot be considered Khums or Zakat because the funds are not collected by the religious authorities in charge of them.

Khoms / Zakat funds are also invested to expand “Dar-al Islam” (territory of Islam). Zakat considers financially direct helps to the new converts to Islam. For those who may be enticed to Islam, Islamic foundations, cultural centres, mosques and the increasing networks of Islamic propaganda in the West are not only financially set up by petrodollar, but also the funds collected from Khoms / Zakat.

Dar-al-Islam is the ultimate goal of political Islam. Should the above peaceful methods fail to expand Islam, “Jihad-Fi-Sabi-Allah” (war for the Case of Allah) will be the possible alternative. Political Islam manages that those Jihadis or Mujahideen defending the “Case of Allah” receive financial supports. The fighters are in fact the militant organisations around the world which are considered by both moderate Muslims and non-Muslims terrorist organisations.

Moderate Muslims say that the Islamic economic system is not in itself complete; it is a part of the general system of life and must be adapted to the new world. In their belief, Islam however remains a compact system of life in which all religious, ideological, social, political and ethical aspects are well to be synchronised. They dream of an economic security which is to be extended to all the subjects within the society. However, the last word in any Islamic society is pronounced by the conservative clergy who attempt to hold their caste over any other Islamic group.

Conventionally, government is responsible for reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. Secular governments are expected to fulfill the task through the obligatory taxes on the excess wealth and other social reforms like welfare or health care system. However, Islamic societies suffer from the traditions of inequality left in the whole aspects of their social life. One of the typical examples is the Iranian society which suffers from the increasing ills of inequality and social injustice caused by economic mismanagement and the interests of clerical caste system.

Although, the priority should be given to the poor and needy, today, Islamist and terrorist groups rely on the contributions from both petrodollar and money diverted from the funds of Khums / Zakat. These Islamic funds can be funneled through reputable charities into the hands of operatives. The funds provide religious books, useful propaganda, newspapers, magazines and other necessary means of propagation to recruit, educate and train people especially children and youths to convert to Islam.

One of the purposes of the IRI, which is responsible for the increasing poverty in Iran, is to financially support those struggles aimed “in the Cause of Allah. Radical Islam propagates the idea that Allah's Cause entails supporting “Jihadis and Mujahideen” (those who are fighting in the battles and wars of Allah). It is no wonder that IRI’s charitable organisations and foundations send a part of their funds collected from Khoms / Zakat to those militant organisations, pro-IRI, and IRI’s lobby groups who defend the legitimacy of the regime.


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Mr. Varjavand, fair enough

by BK (not verified) on

Clearly I misunderstood who were referring to in your earlier comment. So, thank you for the clarification.

We may not think exactly alike on every single issue, but it's good to know that we share the same fundamental aspiration and objective, the prosperity, success and well being of Iran and the Iranian people.

All the best.


Mr. Bk While I agree with

by varjavand on

Mr. Bk While I agree with most of what you said and your valid analyses, my comments concerning accusation was not in any way directed at you because you did not accuse me of anything. If you read the last paragraph in my previous comment, I said “most people who come to this site . . . . . . “ I was referring to those, such as the writer of this mediocre article, who come to this site with a mission to trash everything including religion. Even though I am not a devotedly religious person, I always believe that outright rejection of any religion is not prudent. The reasons are many and cannot be described in this short comment When I said “if you have something to say . .. . … . “ I was not again addressing you personally. I was referring to typical you (noee). Perhaps, my poor choice of sentence has triggered your strong and somewhat angry reaction and I understand that. No one in his rightful mind wish bad things for his country and for his people. It is a matter of difference of opinions and seeing things from different perspectives.


Mr. Varjavan you need to a take deep breath,,

by BK (not verified) on

...and chill out a little, because you do seem to find it difficult to handle other people expressing their disagreement with a particular point you are making. We are only having a discussion here, where people will post opposing as well as supporting views. After all, this is one of the main purposes of this site.

First of all, I didn't call you an IRI apologist or anything else for that matter. Nor did I state that I was anti or pro religion. So be kind enough not to throw unfounded accusations at people. I merely responded to a specific point that you made.

Secondly, this is a free website and if people wish to speak against IRI or Islam or any other subject they are, (and should be) free to do so. This is not the Islamic Republic of Iran where people who dare say anything against the regime can expect to endure severe consequences. You can respect your folks all you like for helping to bring the Mullahs to power, that’s your prerogative. I have no respect for anyone who supports repressive totalitarian regimes like the IRI that has violently suppressed million of Iranians. That’s MY prerogative.

Thirdly, do not presume to tell me to remain quite. My right to speak and have my say is none of your business. If you don’t like my views you can state your opposition to them or you can move along and go on about your business, which might actually be advisable since you do seem to get upset easily.

Forth, it’s good that you are aware of the mismanagement of Iran’s economy by the IRI when you state that “...a central bank under the influence of politicians, improper fiscal policies reinforce the inflationary pressure further...” have contributed to the inflationary pressure.

However, where your argument once again falls flat is when you try to defend the role of Islamic doctrine in the many problems that we see in Iran. The economic theories preached by Islam might‘ve made sense in the world of 7th century Arabian peninsula, but they are not suitable for the economy of a country that aspires to be modern, efficient and productive in the world of 21st century.

More to that point, the Islamic constitution (which I referred to earlier) and the haphazard, corrupt and incompetent system that runs Iran’s economy, neither allow the liberalization of the economy and the placement of the apporpioate impetus for a progressive market economy, nor do they allow suitably qualifed, competent and experienced Iranians (of which there is no shortage) to be involved in working to steer the economy to the right path, because they are not ideologically acceptable to the IRI bigwigs i.e. they are not sufficiently Islamic for the liking of the Mullahs, Mr. Ahmadinejad et al.

Iran's economy is a mixture of central planning, state ownership of oil and other large enterprises, village agriculture, and small-scale private trading and service ventures. Effectively it is a cross between the mob and old-style Soviet enterprises. As it been pointed in another article on this in 1977, Iran's per capita income was equivalent to Spain's. Now it is little better than that of the Gaza Strip"

Despite record level oil revenue the regime in Iran has squandered the wealth of the country and made a total mess of Iran’s economy and resources. Inflation is near 30% per year, unemployment soaring (11.5% according to the IRI, but far higher in reality). This is a regime that is rotten and corrupt to the core with back-handers and bribery rife everywhere. The Revolutionary Guards and various bonyaads (supposedly upholding Islamic values) have enriched themselves to tune of billions by taking over countless people’s livelihoods all over the country.

Per capita gross domestic product has been stagnant for years, and take-home pay for Iranian workers is now about a third less than it was when followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah in 1979.

Educated Iranians have the hardest time finding good jobs. Only 75,000 positions await the 270,000 Iranians who graduate each year from colleges and universities. As a result, Iran has one of the largest "brain drains" of any country in the world. Approximately one of every four Iranians with a college degree is living and working outside the country.

So there we have it. Iran is country abundant with natural resources and so much potential, not least its hard working and diligent people who could be as enterprising as any another nationality, if only they were allowed to be. Instead this great country is slowly being flushed down the toilet by a bunch of reactionary, narrow-minded and intolerant religious zealots.

Have a nice say sir, and try not to blow another fuse.


Dear Mr. BK; I don’t

by varjavand on

Dear Mr. BK;

I don’t intend to be a hit and run commenter in this site as many are. Often shortage of time is a binding constraint for me and prevents me from posting more comments.


I believe, run-away inflation combined with excessive speculations by greedy individuals, a central bank under the influence of politicians, improper fiscal policies reinforce the inflationary pressure further widening the income gap I Iran. Incidentally, teaching of Islam discourages excessive speculations and exploitations.


I still believe that religion per se is not the source of income inequality. However, when religion is mixed with politics it gets the blame, wrongfully, for the social and economic problems. I do believe that religion plays a much more effective role, and gets much more respect, as a moral authority in the sideline setting the framework and the standards. Even in the US which is the champion of secularism, religion is a big political force. Once I asked a prominent US politician who came to our university for a presentation; how can you believe in something (religion) so strongly in the meantime keep it away from your public life? He said “you don’t”


It is surprising that most people who come to this site, they come either to reject religion or to voice their opposition to IRI and they waste no opportunity to do that. No one responded to my original concern which was about the quality of the articles, and the suitability of other items, posted on this site. Instead, they accused me as the IRI apologist, agent, etc. My friends, unsubstantiated accusation does not solve anything. If you have something valid to say, say it. Otherwise, please remain quiet. You get more respect by dong so. I have been living in the US before, during, and after revolution. My folks back home are the ones who poured to the street and sacrifice their life to install the IRI and I respect that. If they want to change their government it is their prerogative, as another commenter have also mentioned but I cannot find his comments, it seems it is removed



Mr. Varjavand states:

by BK (not verified) on

".....religion in general and Islam in particular has nothing to do with income inequality. As I mentioned, inequality is very much the case in the US, should we blame Christianity for it?....."

The system of governance in the US is far from perfect (as indeed is the case with various systems in all other countries), however, since you've chosen to use the US as an example to defend the IRI and Islam in this context, allow me to point this out to you.

The system of governance in the US is not a religious based system. It does NOT use Christianity as the basis of the constitution and running of the country's affairs whether they be political, economic and social etc. In contrast, the Islamic Republic of Iran (as the name suggests) operates on an Islamic constitution. Islamic doctrine (IRI’s version anyway) dominates political, economic and social policies and agenda. The IRI has chosen to politicize Islam, and religious dogma permeates the entire society.

To summarize, in the US there is separation of Church and State; in Iran Massjed runs the State. So, unfortunately, your counter-argument does not hold much water.



by KavehV (not verified) on

"They have to make sure that materials posted here are appropriate and possess professional quality."

What a joke! wanna turn this into an IRI controlled forum ?
FYI, the only professionals here are the IRI Islamists who get paid for their time in this forum!!


Excellent. I think Islam is

by Anonymousas (not verified) on

Excellent. I think Islam is a very bourgeois religion and extremely unfair. I think Khamanei directs 1/7th of all the oil revenues into his persoanl account. There is absolutely no transparency or accountability...


Mr. Rashidian:   Your

by varjavand on

Mr. Rashidian:


Your writings are like your appearance, they say a lot about you. When you feel so compassionately about a subject that you criticize it so strongly and blame it as a source of social injustice and inequality, you should be able to get your point across clearly and fluently.


This is not the first time I am questioning the wisdom of the organizers of this site. It has nothing to do with you and or your writings. It is lapse in judgment in their part. They have to make sure that materials posted here are appropriate and possess professional quality.

Again, religion in general and Islam in particular has nothing to do with income inequality. As I mentioned, inequality is very much the case in the US, should we blame Christianity for it?


I did not make any accusation against you and I expected you to follow the rules of cordiality and do not resort to false accusation.



Jahanshah Rashidian

Mr. Farhad Kashani

by Jahanshah Rashidian on

Thank you for your support.



Jahanshah Rashidian

Mr. Varjavand

by Jahanshah Rashidian on

For the payment of Khums and Zakat, you may find the terms “on voluntary base / obligation of payment…” in various related texts. I moderately assume your terminolohy of "voluntry base."

Almsgiving is highly appreciated by any religion, secularist, humanitarian activist in any society. However, for them, it cannot be invested on terrorism and repressive organs like those of the IRI or the account of foundations run by corrupt Mullahs.

Khums in Shiite Islam is a traditional source of income for “poor” Saddat. As seen, clerical Seyyeds have not been interested in working, as other people have to—contrary to the allegations that Imam Ali, both the first Shiite Imam and the fourth Caliph, used to work personally like any member of the society.

If the site is to avoid posting some materials, in priority, these should be the materials defending the fascist and criminal IRI, not materials with “grammatically incorrect sentences!”

Instead of banal accusations and belittling the opposition , you and your like minded IRI’s apologists should find other counterarguments to save face of your regime. The catastrophal records / results of political slam in Iran are more critical than the alleged grammaticl mistakes of a critc.


Controversial Islamic charity system

by Faribors Maleknasri M.D. (not verified) on

Mr. Rashidian, great article as always. Keep up the good work.
I have mailed allready your, in fact a very very good work, to GHOM, ISLAMABAD, JEDA,MEKKA and of course to London, NY and Munich. The three later cities are the Center of all wisdom on the earth. They will decide and change things up to your very very wise oppinions. I for my part can only repeat: Please please keep up the good work. Do not get disappointed if the others, named centers show no response. Those poeple are notorious Nonresponders. Dont take it personaly. Greeting


Dear Mr. Rashidian  

by varjavand on

Dear Mr. Rashidian


Your article is not only poorly written, it lacks truthful analyses. Your arguments concerning Khums and Zakat are mostly flawed and represent your shallow information about these two subjects. You don’t have to write about something if you are not knowledgeable enough to do so simply because you want to criticize IRI or discredit the religion of Islam. There is no shortage of typo and grammatical errors in your article. Here are some of them that caught my eyes and there might be many more:


“Although they are primordially supposed to be contributed among poor seyyeds .. . .. . .”


“… also applies wherever again or profit is involved”


“Calculating is to be counted up all the profit at the end of the each lunar year”


“Since a collector and distributor has the right to keep the part of the alms for him, ….”


“In the absence of a social and welfare system, they advocate tolerance, solidarity amongst Muslims of different social classes”


“Apart from this two Islamic tax systems, Islam has not

recognised other tax systems limiting the means of acquiring wealth to prevent

the excessive accumulation of wealth by a minority in the cost of poverty

imposed on an increasing majority of an Islamic community, Ummah”


“Zakat considers financially direct helps to the new converts to Islam.”


These sentences, copied from your article, are either grammatically incorrect or don’t make sense at all. Sometimes, I wonder how the wisdom of the people who manage this site allows them to post the  articles like this.


I am not a religious researcher; however, I want to draw your attention to the following points as well:


Almsgivings are not limited to Islam it is recommended by all Abrahamic religions, even by Buddaism. Khums or Zakat are both based on interpretation of verses from Koran. They are shared by both Shia or Sonni. However, there is a difference of opinions between Shia and SonnI scholars when it comes to the distribution and the subjects of Khums and Zakat


Khums and Zakat are both voluntary almsgivings totally based on honor system. It is totally up to the individuals of they want to pay them. They are not like tax system, as you implied in your article, because there is not enforcement mechanism


Inequitable distribution of income is not limited to Iran and religion does not have anything to do with it. Income inequality exists, even severely, in most affluent countries like the US, it is not because of religion, it is because of the prevailing economic system. Capitalism does not address the income distribution directly and there is no built-in apparatus in capitalistic countries to promote income equality.  


Outright rejection of Islam, simply because you don’t like the IRI is neither prudent, nor practical. It seems that you are determined to utilize every chance you can think of to make a mockery of our religion and further despise us in the eyes of the world. Why don’t you try to find cracks on the debilitating walls that are built around our religion our religion and inject plausibility through them instead of trying to reject everything. Outright rejection of any religion is counterproductive


Farhad Kashani

Mr. Rashidian, great article

by Farhad Kashani on

Mr. Rashidian, great article as always. Keep up the good work.