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A Functional Interpretation of Zakat

Proceedings of the AMI Contemporary Fiqhī Issues Workshop

This paper seeks to ascertain whether it is justifiable to equate the various types of state taxes in the modern era with legitimate instances of zakāt. This is because, by and large, they serve the same societal function as zakāt, which is to alleviate poverty and cater for societal needs. If this is justifiable, then the Qurʾanic obligation of zakāt – which is incumbent upon all Muslims – will have been discharged for Muslim taxpayers. To answer this question, an analysis of the notion of zakāt in the Qurʾan, supplemented by the ḥadīth literature, has been conducted to extrapolate its function, or essence, as per the ‘existential framework’.1 Since the occurrence of the word zakāt in the Qurʾanic verses is predominantly accompanied by the word ṣalāt (ritual prayer), this paper also includes analysis of the latter term. Accordingly, an in-depth analysis of the evolution of the forms of both ṣalāt and zakāt are presented, demonstrating that their respective evolutions were contingent upon maximising the growth of the individual and community in differing societal contexts.2 The analysis of the former will present its forms as it gradually evolved into the five daily prayers.3 The analysis of the latter will include the other extensions of taxation that are contingent upon societal need; that is, khums and fayʾ.

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