Advanced search
Last Updated: 2011/05/18
Summary of question
What is the reason behind the necessity of paying Khums and where is it spent? Why don't the Sunnis pay it?
Why should half of Khums be given to sayyids, and is Khums something that has been crafted and introduced by Shiites? As far as I know, there is only one verse in the Quran regarding Khums. I wonder why the Sunnis who claim to be the followers of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) do not recognize Khums. I believe paying Khums can be very helpful in adjusting wealth and reducing class gap.
Concise answer

1. There are few verses in the holy Quran that contain general ordinances about obligations such as purity, prayers, hajj, fasting etc. The exposition and clarification of those ordinances and their conditions have been designated to the Prophet (pbuh) and his successors. The rules regarding fast and hajj (the obligatory pilgrimage) have been mentioned in very few verses of the Holy Quran. It has not made mention of the specific details regarding fasting. The same is true with Khums; there is only verse about Khums and the details regarding this institution have to be found in the prophetic traditions.

2. Sunni exegetes have explained the Quranic verse on Khums (verse 41 of Al-Anfal) at length. According to Sunni traditions, payment of Khums by the Prophet (pbuh) and during his time is certain and uncontroversial. At present, the controversy does not revolve around the Khums itself because the Sunnis also believe in it. In fact, there is a difference of opinion as to the secondary rules concerning Khums.

3. The reason why half of Khums should be paid to Sayyids is because God, the Exalted, has forbidden Zakat and Sadaqa for them. Considering that there are also indigent and poor people among the Sayyids, a special budget has been allocated for them because of respect and reverence for the Prophet (pbuh) and his family.

Detailed Answer

Khums is one of the mandatory rites of the religion of Islam and it is an essential obligation for a Muslim. The importance given by the Quran to the issue of Khums can be understood from the following verse: "And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to Allah, - and to the Messenger, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer, - if ye do believe in Allah and in the revelation We sent down …"[1]

The Holy Quran has explained the principles of divine unity, resurrection and prophethood in great details but there are only few verses relating to Islamic law and legal ordinances. It is widely believed that that Ayat al-Ahkam do not exceed five hundred verses. If we minus the repetitive and overlapping verses, the number of verses dealing with Ahkam will be even less than five hundred[2] verses whereas the rules regarding each of the secondary obligations are many times more than that. That is why, Muslim scholars of all sects and denominations decipher rules, other than those mentioned in the Quran, from reliable traditions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and infallible Imams (a.s.).

Considering the extensiveness of Fiqh (jurisprudence) and profuseness of narrations from the infallible Imams on different jurisprudential themes, it is not strange, if there is only one verse about an issue like Khums. Therefore, like all other jurisprudential topics, the remaining rules concerning Khums should be derived from the sayings of the infallible Imams. Fast and Hajj are two of the pillars of the religion of Islam but there are not more than three or four verses about them in the Quran.[3] The Quran has not made mention of the obligatory parts of Salat, its basic elements, conditions etc. that are important. All Muslim religions have derived them from the tradition. It goes without saying that the verse concerning Khums is very clear and expressive.

Late Allamah Muhammad Hussein Tabatabai says in his Tafsir Al-Mizan: The words "ghanem" and "ghanimah" mean getting an income or a benefit through business, trade, industry or war.[4] Although the verse refers to war booty but the case or example cannot restrict or particularize it.[5] Therefore, the verse has a general meaning and it is inferred from the outward meaning of the verse that the ordinance in question applies to everything that is considered to be a benefit even though it may not be war booty which is taken from non-Muslims. It can therefore be minerals, treasure trove and pearls which are obtained from the sea by diving. Imam Jawad (a.s) said: "Khums is obligatory on booties and benefits (all kinds of profits and income) you earn. Then he recited the verse regarding Khums."[6]

Although the verse speaks of booties, the Imam (a.s) added "benefits" to it in its interpretation. Late Allamah Tabatabai says, "The fact that Khums is not applicable to war booties only is inferred from mutawatir reports.[7]

As for the term "Zil-Qurba", it means close relatives, and in this verse it refers to the close relatives of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) or specific people of them as per the decisive narrations. [8]

There are also many traditions in Sunni sources according to which Khums was distributed in the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), and the Prophet was fulfilling this obligation as long as he was alive. Suyuti narrates from Ibn-e Abi Shaybah and he from Jubair bin Mat'am that the latter said: "The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) distributed the portion of Zil-Qurba among Bani Hashem and Bani Abdul Muttalib. Then Uthman bin Affan and I went to him and asked him to give our share. We said: You are giving (Khums share) to our brothers from Bani Abdul Muttalib but you are not giving us anything despite that we are at the same level with them in terms of relationship?

The Prophet (pbuh) said: "They were never separated from us in (the time of ignorance) and in Islam."[9]

All Sunni jurisprudential sources have discussed Khums. Some have explained the rules regarding it after Zakat and some others have mentioned Khums in their discussions concerning Jihad. Qazi Ibn-e Rushd (595 A.H.), explaining Sunni religions' opinion about Khums, says: "There is a difference of opinion among the companions (Sunnis) as to who Zil-qurba are. Some have said that Zil-Qurba refers to the descendants of Hashem and some others have said that it includes both the descendants of Hashem as well as those of Abdul Muttalib. The latter put forth Jubair bin Mat'am's report as a proof of their view.[10]

It has therefore been clarified that Khums has not been introduced or crafted by Shiites, rather the only difference is that Shia persists on continuing and carrying on acting upon this obligation because the Prophet's relatives have always been present and there are poor people among them. Shafe'i, one of the Sunni leaders, has said that the obligation of Khums is not repealed with the death of the Prophet, peace and benedictions of Allah be upon him.[11]

As for the philosophy of paying Khums and the allocation of half of it for needy sayyids, it has certain reasons of which we will point out the following:

1. In order for the religion of Islam and its system to be revived and promoted in society by its leader, there should be a reliable source that should meet the expenses. The Prophet of Islam (pbuh) and after him the Infallible Imams (a.s.) and in the time of occultation, the Shiite jurists who are the successors of the Imams (a.s.) lead the Islamic society. They need to tackle the heavy expenses of helping the destitute, building mosques, equipping the army and other affairs. Thus, Khums is required to meet these expenses. The Imam (a.s.) has said: "Khums helps us implement the religion of God."[12]

2. Khums is a means for man's growth and perfection. He who pays Khums with the intention of complying God's order and seeking proximity to Him has fulfilled his duty and purified himself of sins.[13]

When it comes to allocating of half of the amount of Khums for sayyids, it should be said that Khums and Zakat are Islamic taxes aimed at redressing and remedying the financial problems of the Islamic Ummah, and at fair distribution of financial resources and boosting of the financial basis of Islamic government. "The important difference between Khums and Zakat is that the latter is considered to be a part of the public property. Hence, it is generally used for public purposes. As for Khums, it is a religious tax that belongs to Islamic government. That is to say, Khums is used to meet the needs and expenses of the Islamic administration and those on authority. The reason behind sayyids' being deprived of Zakat is not to give a pretext in the hands of the opponents to say that the Prophet (pbuh) has made his relatives dominant over public property. On the other hand, the needs of poor and indigent sayyids should be met somehow. In reality, Khums is not a privilege for sayyids but a kind of pushing them away for public good and to prevent any suspicion from coming into existence regarding them."[14] Can one believe that Islam aims to meet the needs of non-Bani Hashem orphans, destitute and needy ones through Zakat but it has worked out no plan for the needy people from Bani-Hashem? No, there must be a source to meet their needs also. Therefore, Khums law creates no class privilege for sayyids because in terms of financial benefits for the poor Khums does not differ from Zakat. "In fact, there are two boxes: Khums box and Zakat box. Each poor person has the right to use only one of the two boxes for his annual expenses."[15] The non-sayyid indigents use the Zakat box and the sayyid indigents use the Khums box. The sayyid indigents do not have the right to use anything from the Zakat property.


[1] - Chap. Al-Anfal: 41

. وَ اعْلَمُوا أَنَّما غَنِمْتُمْ مِنْ شَیْ‏ءٍ فَأَنَّ لِلَّهِ خُمُسَهُ وَ لِلرَّسُولِ وَ لِذِی الْقُرْبى‏ وَ الْیَتامى‏ وَ الْمَساکینِ وَ ابْنِ السَّبیلِ إِنْ کُنْتُمْ آمَنْتُمْ بِاللَّهِ وَ ...


[2] - Kanzul Irfan, edited by Aqiqi Bakhshayeshi, pg.29.

[3] - Kanzul Irfan, edited by Aqiqi Bakhshayeshi, pg.179 and 242.

[4] - Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan, vol.9, pg. 118.

[5] - Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan, vol.9, pg. 120

[6] - Wasail al-Shi'ah, vol.6, chap.8, (Things on Which Khums is Payable), vol.5.

[7] - Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan, vol.9, pg. 136, 137.

[8] - Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan, vol.9, pg. 118.

[9] - Bedayatul Mujtahid, Ibn-e Rushd, Kitab al-Jihad, pg.382.

[10] - Bedayatul Mujtahid, Ibn-e Rushd, Kitab al-Jihad, pg.382, 383.

[11] - Bedayatul Mujtahid, Ibn-e Rushd, Kitab al-Jihad, pg.382.

[12] - Questions and answers, vol.10, pg.32 (rules of Khums).

[13] - Imam Reza (a.s) says: ان اخراجه (خمس) مفتاح رزقکم و تمحیص ذنوبکم. Payment of Khums

s a key to sustenance and means for purification of sins." Wasail al-Shi'ah, vol.6, chap. Al-Anfal.

[14] - Tafsir Nomouneh, vol.7, pg.184.

[15] - Ibid. pg. 183.

Question translations in other languages
Number of comments 0
Please enter the value
Example : Yourname@YourDomane.ext
Please enter the value
Please enter the value

Thematic Category

Random questions