What is the difference between zakaah and taxes, and is it permissible to impose taxes? Is it obligatory to pay them?
Zakaah is one of the pillars of Islam which Allah, may He be exalted, has enjoined upon the rich Muslims so as to achieve a kind of social security, solidarity and financing some common interests, such as jihad for the sake of Allah.
Allah, may He be exalted, has mentioned it alongside prayer in more than one verse of the Qur’an, which confirms its importance. The fact that it is obligatory is proven according to the Qur’an, Sunnah and scholarly consensus.
With regard to the taxes that are decreed by the state and imposed on the people, they have nothing to do with what Allah has enjoined upon them of giving the zakaah of their wealth.
Taxes in general terms are a financial obligation imposed by the state on people, from which the state spends on the public interest, such as transportation, health, education and so on.
Taxes come under the heading of man-made systems, and are not prescribed by Allah, may He be exalted. As for zakaah, it is divinely ordained and it is one of the greatest acts of worship in Islam.
Some people do not pay zakaah on their wealth, because they think that the taxes they pay to the state are sufficient, but this is not permissible, because taxes are one thing and zakaah is something else altogether.
The scholars of the Standing Committee for Issuing Fatwas said:
It is not permissible to regard the taxes that the owners of wealth pay on their wealth as coming under the heading of the zakaah on that on which it is obligatory to give zakaah. Rather it is obligatory to give the zakaah ordained by Allah to those who are entitled to it according to sharee‘ah, as Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): “As-Sadaqat (here it means Zakat) are only for the Fuqara’ (poor), and Al-Masakin (the poor)…” [at-Tawbah 9:60].
End quote from Fataawa al-Lajnah ad-Daa’imah, 9/285.
The basic principle with regard to the imposition of taxes on people is that it is haraam, and in fact is a major sin, for which the one who does it is subject to the warning that he will never enter Paradise. In the Prophet’s Sunnah there is an indication that imposing taxes is a greater sin than zina. This has been discussed previously in the answer to question no. 39461.
It may be permissible in exceptional circumstances for the state to impose taxes on the people, according to specific conditions, which include the following:
1. That it should be imposed fairly, in the sense that the obligation is fairly distributed among the people. So no group or class should be burdened with it to the exclusion of another; rather it should be imposed on the wealthy, each according to his wealth. It is not permissible to impose it on the poor or to treat the poor and the rich equally in this regard.
2. The bayt al-maal (which nowadays is known as the state treasury) should be empty. But if the state is rich in resources, it is not permissible to impose taxes on the people; in that case taxes would come under the heading of mukoos (levies) which are haraam and are regarded as major sins.
3. That should be in exceptional cases where it is required to ward off some harm. It is not permissible to make this an ongoing system at all times.
In al-Mawsoo‘ah al-Fiqhiyyah (8/247) it says that the resources of the bayt al-maal include the following:
Taxes imposed on the people for their own interests, whether that is for jihad or otherwise. They should not be imposed on them unless what is in the bayt al-maal is not sufficient and it is a case of necessity. Otherwise it is an illegitimate source of revenue. End quote.
There are many permissible and legitimate sources of revenue for the bayt al-maal of the Muslims. They have been discussed previously in the answer to question no. 138115.
If the Muslims follow these guidelines, Allah, may He be exalted, will make them independent of means and they will have no need to impose taxes except in very rare circumstances.
4. (The revenue) should be spent in the real interests of the ummah; nothing of it should be spent in acts of disobedience towards Allah or anything that is not in their interests, such as money that is spent on actors, artists and sports players.
Shaykh Ibn Jibreen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
With regard to paying the taxes imposed by governments, such as sales tax, income tax, taxes on industry and on workers, and so on, this is a matter that is subject to ijtihaad. If the state collects taxes instead of the obligatory zakaah that merchants and the like should pay, then it must be paid. If it collects taxes in addition to zakaah, but the bayt al-maal needs to finance essential interests such as schools, bridges and mosques, and to pay civil servants, it is permissible to pay it and it is not permissible to withhold it.
But if the state takes taxes from its citizens other than zakaah, and wastes it on extravagance, corruption, idle leisure and other haraam things, and it does not spend it on legitimate interests, such as those who are entitled to zakaah, then it is permissible to conceal wealth and profits so as not to give them haraam wealth and help them in doing haraam things. Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): “but do not help one another in sin and transgression” [al-Maa’idah 5:3]. End quote.
Shaykh al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) said, discussing the difference between the public interest and innovated interests:
The public interest (al-maslahah al-mursalah) is completely different from so-called “good innovation” (bid‘ah hasanah). The public interest is for the purpose of achieving some interest dictated by place and time, that is approved of by Islam. In this regard, Imam ash-Shaatibi confirmed that it is Islamically permissible to impose taxes that are different from the taxes that are imposed nowadays in many, if not all, Muslim countries on the basis of unclear, ambiguous laws, in imitation of the kuffaar who were deprived of the blessing of following the path of Allah that is based on the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). For those who were deprived of the guidance of the Qur’an and Sunnah, it became a necessity to draw up for themselves a specific system and to promulgate laws to deal with their problems. But for the Muslims, Allah caused them to have no need of such things, by virtue of the Book which He sent down to them and by virtue of what the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) explained to them. Hence it is not permissible for the Muslims to replace sharee‘ah with man-made laws, lest the words of Allah, “Would you exchange that which is better for that which is lower?” [al-Baqarah 2:61] become applicable to them. So it is not permissible under any circumstances to impose taxes as a fixed, immutable law, as if it is a law divinely revealed from heaven for all time. Rather the kind of taxes that it is permissible for the Muslim state to impose is in specific circumstances that the state is going through. I think that this example is the one that was given by Imam ash-Shaatibi: If a Muslim country is attacked, and there are no funds in the state treasury to prepare and equip armies to ward off that attack by the enemies of Islam, then in such circumstances the state may impose a specific tax on particular people who can afford to pay what is imposed on them. But that should not become a binding tax and established law -- as we stated above. Once the passing reason, which is the kaafir attack and the need to defend the Muslim land, is no longer applicable, then the taxes are waived from the Muslims, because the reason for which the taxes were imposed is no longer present. The ruling -- as the fuqaha’ stated -- is connected to the reason for it: if the reason exists then the ruling applies, but when it is no longer present, the ruling no longer applies. The reason or cause that makes this obligatory duty essential is no longer present, and when it has disappeared the taxes should also disappear.
To sum up: there are no taxes that should become part of Islamic law and regulations; rather the Muslim state may impose specific taxes in specific circumstances, and when circumstances change, the taxes should be abolished. End quote.
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
Everything that is taken unlawfully is like a tax, and is haraam. It is not permissible for anyone to take his brother’s wealth unlawfully, as the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “If you sell fruit to your brother then the crop (on the tree) fails, it is not permissible for you to take anything of it (his brother’s money). On what basis would you consume your brother’s wealth unlawfully?” But the Muslim is required to hear and obey; he should listen to those in authority and obey those in authority. If they ask him for money for such matters, he should give it to them. Then if he has a right to it, he will find it restored (i.e., on the Day of Resurrection), and if it he does not have any right to it, in that it was taken from him in a justifiable manner, then there will be nothing to be settled. What matters is that what we are obliged to do is to hear and obey with regard to those in authority. The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Hear and obey, even if your back is beaten and your wealth is taken.” It is not permissible to take these matters as an excuse to criticize those in authority and to slander them in gatherings and the like. We should be patient and whatever we do not get in this world we will get in the Hereafter. End quote.
Liqa’ al-Baab al-Maftooh, 65/12.