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In Islamic tradition, Khums (Arabic: خمس Arabic pronunciation: [xums], literally 'Fifth') refers to the historically required religious obligation of Muslim army to pay one-fifth of spoils of war, booty collected from non-believers after a military campaign; this tax was paid to the Caliph or Sultan, representing the state of Islam.
Khums is a 20% tax that must be paid on all items regarded as ghanima (Arabic: الْغَنيمَة, booty seized with war). There are differing legal traditions within Islam about what constitutes ghanima, and thus how far-reaching khums should be. In some jurisdictions, Khums included a 20% tax paid on business profit and minerals. Khums is different and separate from other Islamic taxes such as zakat and jizya.
In Sunni tradition, ghanim is defined as the spoils of war. In Shia tradition, the definition also includes taxes on profit and minerals. There are differences of opinion about the scope of Khums in Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, as well as who owns it and how should the collected khums be spent.
They ask thee concerning (things taken as) spoils of war. Say: "(such) spoils are at the disposal of Allah and the Messenger: So fear Allah, and keep straight the relations between yourselves: Obey Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe."
"Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do. And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to Allah,- and to the Messenger, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer,- if ye do believe in Allah and in the revelation We sent down to Our servant on the Day of Testing,- the Day of the meeting of the two forces. For Allah hath power over all things."
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The delegates of the tribe of 'Abdul-Qais came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! We are from the tribe of Rabi'a, and there is the infidels of the tribe of Mudar intervening between you and us, so we cannot come to you except in the Sacred Months. So please order us some instructions that we may apply it to ourselves and also invite our people whom we left behind us to observe as well." The Prophet said, "I order you (to do) four (things) and forbid you (to do) four: I order you to believe in Allah, that is, to testify that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah (the Prophet pointed with his hand); to offer prayers perfectly; to pay Zakat; to fast the month of Ramadan, and to pay the Khums (i.e. one-fifth) of the war booty to Allah.
When the Messenger of Allah appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and to be good to the Muslims who were with him. He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils [of war, booty]; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate the dead bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to accept Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhairs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muslims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' except when they actually fight with the Muslims against other disbelievers. If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them.
Khums means "one-fifth or 20%". In Islamic legal terminology, it means one-fifth of certain items which a person acquires as wealth, and which must be paid to the state of Islam. This is one of many forms of tax in Islamic jurisprudence that applies on Ghanima and Fai (or Fay). In early and middle history of Islam, Ghanima was that property and wealth that was looted by the Muslim army after attacking the nonbelievers and a battle. Fai was that property and wealth that was gained from confiscation without strife, that is if the nonbelievers refused to fight or violently oppose the raid. Over time, the concept and scope of Ghanima was expanded by Islamic scholars, and variations emerged between Sunni and Shia scholars on interpreting the definition of Ghanima. Similarly, the percentage of Fai was expanded to 100% using verse 59.7 of Quran, thus placing it beyond khums. The 80% amount left after paying the 20% khums, was distributed among the army commander and soldiers who attacked the unbelievers.
The Items eligible for khums are referred to as Ghanima →"الْغَنيمَة" in the Quran. The Arabic word ghanima (also referred to as ghanimah, ghana'im, ightindm in Africa and Asia) has been interpreted to have several meanings:
- spoils of war, or war booty looted or confiscated from enemy / nonbelievers (of Islam)
- minerals or any other form of buried treasure
However one hadith (Imams of Ahlu’l-bayt) lists seven items regarded as ghanima:
- the profit or the surplus of the income.
- the legitimate wealth which is mixed with some illegitimate wealth.
- mines and minerals.
- the precious stones obtained from sea by diving.
- the land which an unbeliever buys from a Muslim.
- the spoils of war.
Sunnis confine the term to cover only
- “whatever of a thing you acquire as spoils of war”.
Khums, in the Shia tradition, is applied to the business profit, or surplus, of a business income. It is payable at the beginning of the financial year, though this is regarded as being the time at which the amount becomes clear. Ghanima and one-fifth tax of Khums applies wherever gain or profit is involved. "Ghanima" has two meanings as mentioned above; the second meaning is illustrated by the common use of the Islamic banking term "al-ghunm bil-ghurm" meaning "gains accompany liability for loss or risk"
In 13th century Shia region, the khums was divided into two portions. One portion went to the descendants of Muhammad, the other portion was divided equally and one part given to Imam and clergy, while the other part went to the orphaned and poor Muslims. Khums became a major source of income and financial independence of the clergy in Shia regions.
The Sunni View
Sunnis that follow one of the four Sunni Schools of fiqh do not consider khums as an innovation. Followers of a contemporary Islamic movement -- Salafism, the adherents of which claim to adhere to the path of the 'as-Salaf aṣ-Ṣāliḥ' (righteous predecessors) consider the payment of Khums to be an innovation—a bid'ah.
The adherents of this movement (sometimes referred to as Salafis) consider it as such, because they find no evidence for its establishment in any of the four major Sunni sources of jurisprudence (Qur'an (the central religious text of Islam) • Sunnah (the observed ways of living and sayings of Muhammad) • Ijma' (consensus of the community of Muslims) • Qiyas (process of analogical reasoning from a known injunction (nass) to a new injunction)).
Khums is applicable on Ghanayam (property, movable and immovable) booty seized from the enemy in any battle or as a result of actual warfare, according to some Sunni scholars. Others, such as Abu Ubayd and Qardawi, the khums applies to any windfall for Muslims, but not to income as is the case according to Shia scholars.
Khums in history
Khums was practiced by Muslim commanders who raided African communities from 8th century through early 20th century. However, khums was treated as a concept and the share of booty transferred to the Islamic state was 50%. For example, the West African Muslim ruler Hamman Yaji in 1919, recorded in his diary,
"I raided the pagans of Rowa and captured 50 cattle and 33 slaves. We calculated my fifth share [khums] as 17 slaves and 25 cattle."
— Hamman Yaji, Translated by Humphrey Fisher
From 8th century onwards, Southern Europe became a target of raids and military campaigns from Morocco and by the Ottoman Sultanate. After the conquest of Cordoba by Muslim armies, khums (20%) of all moveable booty seized from Christians and Jews after war was transferred to Caliphal treasury, the rest distributed among the commanders and Muslim soldiers of invading army. According to Musa Nusayr, the army commanders also set aside 20% of land vacated by non-Muslims to the Caliph. The land that was surrendered by Christians and Jews, but not vacated, became subject to jizya payable by the dhimmis. However, Ibn Hazm states that Muslim soldiers did not set aside or pay khums from the looted property or riches from the annexed land, each kept the spoils for himself. This became one source of distrust and dispute between the Muslim rulers and clergy based in Africa and the new Caliphate of Cordoba in Southwestern Europe. Outside Spain, Ghanima and Fay were sought from Muslim conquests in Sicily, Greece and Caucasian region of Europe. Khums was paid from all seized movable property to the Caliphal treasury.
From 10th century through the 18th century, Muslim armies raided non-Muslim kingdoms of India. Some of these Muslim armies came from northwest, consisting of Turko-Mongols, Persians and Afghans. In other times, these were commanders of Delhi Sultanate. War spoils and looted movable property from infidels (Hindus, Jains, Buddhists) was subject to khums. The 20% tax was transferred to the treasury of the Sultanate, and the 80% was distributed among the commanders, mounted soldiers and foot soldiers. The mounted soldiers were given 2 to 3 times as much of the war booty as the foot soldiers. The collected war booty from the treasuries and temples of Hindus were an incentive for war, and the Khums (Ghanima tax) a source of wealth for the Sultans in India. One such loot was from Warangal, and it included the Koh-i-noor, one of the largest known diamonds in human history.
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- Other religiously required taxes in Islam include zakat, jizya, kharaj, ushur, etc.
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