Zakat: Islam’s Missed Opportunity to Limit Predatory Taxation

32 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2019 Last revised: 10 May 2019

See all articles by Timur Kuran

Timur Kuran

Duke University - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 8, 2019

Abstract

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

Kuran, Timur, Zakat: Islam’s Missed Opportunity to Limit Predatory Taxation (April 8, 2019). Economic Research Initiatives at Duke (ERID) Working Paper No. 284. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3368292 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3368292

Timur Kuran (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
45
Abstract Views
195
PlumX Metrics