Khums (The Islamic Tax)
"Khums" literally means "one-fifth or 20%". In Islamic legal terminology, it means "one-fifth of certain items which a person acquires as wealth, and which must be paid as an Islamic tax". The Qur'an mentions it in the following verse:
"Know that whatever of a thing you acquire, a fifth of it is for Allah, for the Messenger, for the near relative, and the orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer..."(8:41)
In this verse, the word "ghanimtum" has been used which has been translated as "you acquire". As explained above, it means "certain items which a person acquires as wealth." According to the ahadith of the Shi'i Imams, the items which are eligible for khums are seven:
1. The profit or the surplus of the income.
2. The legitimate wealth which is mixed with some illegitimate wealth.
3. Mines and minerals
4. The precious stones obtained from sea by diving.
6. The land which a dhimmi (a non-Muslim living under the protection of Islamic Government) buys from a Muslim.
7. The spoils of war.
Khums becomes wajib at the beginning of the new financial year on the profit or surplus of the past year's income.
The "beginning" of a new year means the time when the profit or surplus of the income becomes clear. So whenever there is profit or surplus of the income and it is not used up on the household or commercial expenses of that year, then pay one-fifth of it as khums.
The consideration of the "year" in khums is because in most cases the surplus of the income becomes clear at the end of the year. Otherwise, the khums is actually associated with the profit or the surplus of the income as soon as it is known, and the owner may pay the khums before the end of the year.
THE DISTRIBUTION OF KHUMS
According to the verse of khums, this Islamic tax is for (1) Allah, (2) the Messenger of Allah, (3) the near relative of the Messenger, (4) the orphans, (5) needy, and (6) stranded traveler.
The first two shares are clear: they belong to Allah and Prophet Muhammad respectively. The third share, that of "the near relative" belongs to the infallible Imam of the time. The latter three shares belong to those of the Hashimite family who are orphan, needy and stranded traveler.
Obviously, Allah does not come in person to take His share of khums; therefore the Prophet, as Allah's representative on this earth, used to receive both his own share of khums and that of Allah.
What is to be done with the Prophet's share after his death? The Sunni scholars are in great disagreement with each other on this issue. For example, some say that the Prophet's share (which obviously included the share of Allah) goes to the caliph who may use it as he pleases; others say it goes to the Prophet's relatives (the Hashimites); and still others say that it should go to the Muslims in general. (Ibn Rushd, Bidayatu-l-Mujtahid, vol. 1 ,Cairo: al-Maktabatu-t-Tijariyyatu-l-Kubra, 1952, pp. 13-14; 377-378.)
According to the Shi'a view, after the Prophet's death, the shares of Allah and the Prophet belong to his rightful successor. And the present rightful successor of the Prophet is Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi (upon whom be peace).
Since the Present Imam, besides owning his own share as "the near relative," is also the rightful owner of Allah's and the Prophet's shares of khums, the first half of khums is commonly known as "sihmu-l-Imam "(the share of the Imam) and during the present time it should be given to a Mujtahid, who fulfils all conditions, or be spent for such purposes as allowed by that Mujtahid. As an obligatory precaution, that Mujtahid must be a'lam, and well versed in public affairs.
The second half of khums is for the orphan, the needy and the stranded traveler from the Prophet's family, that is, the Hashimi or, in its Latin form, the Hashimite. A Hashimite is the one who, from his father's line, is a descendent of Hashim, the great grandfather of the Prophet.
However, the Hashimites who descend from Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, have preference over other Hashimites. Since the descendants of Fatima are commonly known as "sayyid, pl. sadat" ,the second half of khums is known as "sihmu-s-sadat -- the share of the sayyids". (In non-Shi'a parts of the Arab world, the sayyids are commonly known as "sharif, pl. ashraf").
Thus we divide the khums into two equal shares: 1. the share of the Present Imam; 2. the share of the sadat (the sayyids).
KHUMS: A CHARITY OR A DUTY?
Khums and zakat come under the second category and, therefore, it should never be looked upon as an act of charity. Rather, it is a duty, an obligation which must be fulfilled whether one likes it or not. In fulfilling this obligation, you must train yourself to pay khums and zakat with the intention of seeking the pleasure of Allah.
1- al-ghanim and al-ghanimah means: (a) what is taken from the fighting enemies by force. (b) All earnings generally...Furthermore, the saying al-ghunm bi 'l-ghurm means that the profit stands against expenses, i.e., as the owner is the sole proprietor of the profit and nobody shares it with him, therefore only he bears all the expenses and risk. Louis Ma'luf, al-Munjid(The famous Arabic dictionary), Beirut, Dar el-Machreq, 1986.
http://www.al-islam.org/[ Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi]