Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists – Part 4

December 19, 2014

Below is the continuation and part of three of previous article previous article, Eradication of Poverty from the Viewpoint of Shia Jurists – Part 3.
By: Mostafa Daneshgar

  1. The government’s responsibility toward poverty from the standpoint of jurists

The financial resources of the government can be divided into two parts. 1-Resources used for special purposes and allocated by religious rulers:

Zakat is one of the most important resources that’s spent among others in favor of the poor and needy. Khoms is also used for special purposes and is spent as a share of the Imam and the needy Sayyids [descendants of the Prophet Muhammad]. The jurists have maintained that if the share of the Sayyids is short of their needs and they are still in need, the ruler is obliged to compensate the deficit by using the assets at his disposal.

Sheikh in Mabsut (18), Ibn Borraj in Muhaddeb (19), Muhaqqeq in Sharaye (20), Sahrashti in Asbah al-Shiah (21), Yahya ibn Saeed in al-Jame Lil-Sharaye (22), the First Martyr in Bayan (23) and Dorous [Lessons] (24) and Allameh in Irshad al-Azhan (25) have all strengthened the idea. However, Allameh in Qawaid (26) and Talkhis al-Maram (27) have interpreted it as “as one wills” which highlights its weakness. Ibn Idris is the only opponent of the notion who has absolutely rejected it.

He believes that the right of the penniless Sayyids is half of Khoms and this amount is spent in favor of them whether it is short of their needs or not.  Hence, the ruler has no responsibility toward the penniless Sayyids if their share is less than what’s needed to fulfill their needs. (28) In case we accept the jurists’ opinion which says the needs of the penniless Sayyids must be fulfilled out of the public funds, then the question is: Out of which public funds should they be paid? Some believe that only such assets as public property can be used in favor of the poor and penniless. Some others maintain that other assets that are not spent for any clear purpose can be used to this end. Most jurists support the latter notion.

The second type of government financial resource is that which has no purpose and the ruler can allocate the funds in favor of Muslims. Naturally, one such interest is the eradication of poverty. Spoils of war belong to the religious government. Mines are an important subdivision of this category. The swathes of land which have been captured by Muslims during wars are the property of Muslims. These territories are under the supervision of the religious ruler and they are used to serve the public interest like [the construction of] bridges, mosques, [the payment of] state servants and army personnel’s salaries.

Public property also belongs to the religious government. Tax is an instance of public property.  Sheikh in Mabsut, Mohaqeq in Sharaye, and Allameh in Taxkerah and Montaha say tax serves the interests of Muslims. Clearly, the poor and penniless are part of the interests of the Muslim society. (29) Jizya does not constitute a large part of the public property. However, it is some sort of tax that was received from the people of the book. Jurists are divided over how it should be spent. Sheikh in Khelaf, Nehayah and Mabsut and Allameh in Tazkerah consider it as spoils of war and say it must be spent on soldiers and those who assist Islam. Mofid in Moqneah and Ibn Idris in Saraer say it should be spent in the interests of Muslims including satisfying the needs of the poor and penniless. (30) Endowments and desirable charities and on the whole popular aid are a huge resource for the government to meet the requirements and cover expenses. If a government is efficient and decent, there will be bilateral trust between the government and the people. As a result, the latter will make an effort to fulfill its responsibilities in the best possible way by using that aid. (31)

Fighting absolute poverty in the eyes jurists  
(coming soon)

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