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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