Zakat: Islam’s Missed Opportunity to Limit Predatory Taxation
32 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2019 Last revised: 10 May 2019
Date Written: April 8, 2019
One of Islam’s five canonical pillars is a predictable, fixed, and mildly progressive tax system called zakat. It was meant to finance various causes typical of a pre-modern government. Implicit in the entire transfer system was personal property rights as well as constraints on government—two key elements of a liberal order. Those features could have provided the starting point for broadening political liberties under a state with explicitly restricted functions. Instead, just a few decades after the rise of Islam, zakat opened the door to arbitrary political rule and material insecurity. A major reason is that the Quran outlines the specifics of zakat as they related to conditions in seventh-century Arabia, without making explicit the underlying principles of governance.
Keywords: Zakat, Islam, taxation, predation, governance, property rights, poverty
JEL Classification: N25, N45, O43, O53, K34, H13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation