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Jurisprudence

Khums in the Qur'an & History

Adopted from the Book : "Khums; An Islamic Tax" by : Sayyid Mohammad Rizvi

Khums" literally 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 as an Islamic tax" . The Qur'an mentions it in the following verse:

    Know that whatever of a thing you acquire, a fifth
    of it is for Allah, for the Messenger, for the near
    relative, and the orphans, the needy, and the
    wayfarer ...( 8:41 )

In this verse, the word " ghanimtum" has been used which has been translated as "you acquire" . As explained above, it means "certain items which a person acquires as wealth." What are these certain items? According to the ahadith of the Imams of Ahlu 'lbayt, the items which are eligible for khums are seven:

1. the profit or the surplus of the income.
2. the legitimate wealth which is mixed with some illegitimate wealth.
3. mines and minerals.
4. the precious stones obtained from sea by diving.
5. treasures.
6. the land which a dhimmi ( Afir buys from a Muslim.
7. the spoils of war.

However, there are some people who interpret the word "ghanimtum" as "whatever of a thing you acquire as spoils of war," thus confining the obliga­tion of khums to the spoils of war only. This inter pretation is based on ignorance of the Arabic language, the history of khums, the Islamic laws and of the interpretation of the Qur'an. To make this point crystal clear, I would like to quote the following arguments from my father, `Allämah Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi. In reading the following para­graphs, remember that the word ghanimtum has been derived from alghanimah.