Jurisprudential Principles & Implementations in Society
By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
The revenue generation method of today’s modern states is conducted through taxation, which varies from a country to another according to the GDP and financial obligations of that specific state toward its citizens. The revenues generated from these taxes enables the state to provide necessary services for its citizens, which include infrastructure, health care, pension, education, security, social welfare and other services. Therefore, taxation in another word is the financial life line of any system, which presents itself as the governing entity to manage the affairs of a state or a nation.
However, one of the principles that is exclusive to Shia Muslims that falls under the category of taxation, is the concept of ‘Khomos’, which translates to one-fifth in English. The direct indication to this concept is found in the 41st verse of Chapter 8 in the Holy Quran, where it says: “and know that anything you obtain, then indeed, for Allah is one fifth of it and for the messenger and for his holy household and the orphans, the needy, and the stranded traveller”. This concept is also legislated through many other narrations from the Holy Prophet and the 12 Imams, where they have clarified the criteria, details, collection methods, deliverance and disbursement methods and means.
According to this principle, Shia Muslims are obligated to pay 20% of their earnings to an Imam or an agent of an Imam, where he will spend those revenues in the fields provided by the Quran and the narrations from the Prophet and his holy household. However, this Islamic obligation considers all the aspects of a Shia Muslim’s life, as Islam acknowledges the various financial responsibilities that each individual carries. Therefore, the actual law goes as following:
- Each Shia Muslim, who has reached the age of adolescence is obligated to take aside 20% of his/her yearly earnings, after he/she covers all of the debts obligations, shelter, food, transportation and other financial responsibilities. Therefore, if a Shia Person earned $50,000 during a year cycle, he should pay all of his/her financial obligations, then whatever is left from that earning is subjected to that 20% taxation (Khomos).
- The legal taxation that a Shia Muslim is subjected to, where he/she resides is included in the financial obligations that he/she has to fulfill before taking that 20% aside.
- For Example:
$50,000 Yearly Earning
– $9,000 Taxes
– $38,000 Financial Obligations (Shelter, Health Care, Education, Transportation, Food, etc…)
$3,000 x 20% = $600 (Khomos)
Therefore, whether the remaining balance of the yearly earnings is $3,000 or $1,000,000, the Khomos rate applies and mandatory to be paid before the end of yearly cycle, which is set according to the person’s decision. Note: the start of each yearly cycle can be set on any date, the Shia Muslim chooses, however, it must be according to the Islamic Lunar calendar.
Who Do I give the Khomos to?
The deliverance of Khomos, was not a major issue during the life time of the Imams, as Shia Muslims were either delivering those funds to them directly, or giving them to the agents sent by the Imams around the Muslim world. However, after the occultation of the 12th Imam, many questions about the legitimacy of this concept have been raised, where some scholars have argued that Shias are not subjected to this principle during the absence of an infallible Imam. A specific school of thought within Shia Islam, argued that Shia Muslims are obligated to save aside the khomos during the absence of the Imam, but they should either bury it, or hide far away from ever being found. Nonetheless, these hidden and buried funds will be taken out by the 12th Imam, once he returns and reappears to his followers.
However, majority of Shia scholars and Shia Muslims practice this principle, as this law is considered to be behind the continuous independent Shia scholars have benefited from since the occultation of the 12th Imam. According to this school of thought, jurists (Shia Scholars) are the general agents of the Imam, where Shias are obligated to follow and take the laws and rules of their religion from, as they are considered the narrators of Prophet’s traditions. Therefore, majority of Shia Muslims give their Khomos to the scholars, and scholars distribute these funds according to the guidelines set by the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Mohammad and his holy household.
How is Khomos spent and distributed?
Presently, Shia scholars divide the Khomos into two categories:
- Right of the Imam (Imam Al-Mahdi, which falls under the category of: for Allah, his messenger and his household)
- Right of the Sadah (Plural of Sayed, which means the progeny and descendants of Prophet Mohammad)
The right of Sadah is allocated to this group, since they are not allowed to receive charity, as charity is forbidden for the Prophet, his holy household and his progeny and descendants. Therefore, this allocation was designated to be a mean for this category to help them in case they face hardships and financial problems, where they are not able to provide for themselves and their families. However, in certain occasions the scholars allow Shia Muslims to deliver the Sadah Right themselves to virtuous individuals and families, who descend from the progeny of Prophet Mohammad. This method is followed in places, where delivering the Khomos to the scholar is hard or harmful for Shias, as they are allowed to distribute this part of the Khomos themselves. In addition, due to other necessities such building a mosque, school, orphanage, shelter house and other means, Shia scholars allow their followers to distribute the entire Khomos on their behalf by themselves. However, this type of exemption require a direct permission and ruling from the scholar himself, as Shia Muslims are not allowed take this decision by themselves.
The first part of the Khomos (Right of the Imam) is usually taken by Shia scholars, and it is spent on issues and necessities sought as important and mandatory by them. The funds allocated to the Right of the Imam category are spent for seminaries, as these religious schools require substantial funds to operate. The necessity of these seminaries come from the desperate need of the Shia communities around the world for Shia Imams and clergies to manage their religious and spiritual affairs.
The other means for spending the right of the Imam, include, helping the needy, the stranded travellers, orphans, sheltering the homeless, marriage allowances for the needy and other means to simplify the lives of those who need such help.
The deliverance of Khomos to Shia scholars has enabled them to stay away from the influence of states and governments, since these political entities view the religious authority of scholars as a great tool for obtaining legitimacy and validity. Therefore, Shia religious authority has been able to mandate its needs and requests upon the governments, during oppression and dictatorships, where the state is very hostile toward them. However, Shia scholars have managed to stay away from politics during this entire time, and never let their financial independence be a mean for interfering with the affairs of the state, whether the state is democratic or coercive.