Paul L. Caron

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Zakat: Islam’s Missed Opportunity To Limit Predatory Taxation

Timur Kuran (Duke), Zakat: Islam’s Missed Opportunity To Limit Predatory Taxation:

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.

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