Faith in the religion of Islam is based on rational thinking. Quranic teachings always encourage people to achieve faith through reasoning and do not consider mere devotional cognition as adequate. Hence one should accept the Islamic axioms (Monotheism (Tawhid), Prophethood (Nubuwwah), and Afterlife (Ma’ad)) logically.
The above-mentioned Islamic axioms are constant, immutable, and limited, whereas new events and issues of each time are changeable and infinite. Consequently, there needs to be some Islamic scholars or experts who know the Islamic teachings in general and are aware of the contingent issues of the time and their solutions in particular, which makes them responsible for inference of new laws from basic principles of Islam (Ijtihad) in accordance with the needs of changing times and the requirements of new phenomena of human civilization .
On the other hand, the Integration of different people to Islam with their particular way of thinking, living with leaders of various religions, the religious discussions between them and the Muslims, and the appearance of Islamic philosophy would always arise doubts and uncertainties. So it necessitated research on the principles of Islam and justifying them especially after the time of the last Prophet (PBUH) and the Imams.
Muslim scholars have always proved that the Islamic teachings are dynamic, compatible with the passage of time, and capable of fulfilling the requirements of each age, generation, and civilization; this would, in consequence, develop the Islamic society and lead it through the path of evolution and perfection in many parts of the world, especially in the first centuries.
The literal meaning of Ijtihad is to do one's utmost while striving and making effort to reach a goal which in this case is to endeavor to deduce the divine laws of Islam from the reliable sources and proofs, i.e. the Holy Quran, the historical tradition (Sunnah) [i], consensus (Ijma`) [ii], and reason (`Aql).
The term Mujtahid (the religious expert), derived from Ijtihad, refers to a person who endeavors in the way of Allah to derive laws and decrees regarding the religious fundamentals through all kinds of hardships and difficulties.
Ijtihad, which is of great importance in the religion of Islam, guarantees its persistence. Muslims have always been urged to study Islamic science and everything else which is necessary for the development and well-being of their society.
However, it is not compulsory (Wajib) for every single Muslim to become a religious expert (Mujtahid) due to its difficulty and some people’s inability to comprehend and derive Islamic laws all by themselves. It means that the obligation is on the community as a whole and so when a group of people devote themselves to the science of religion to guide the Muslims, then the obligation is lifted from the rest of the society .
Quran says: “why should not there go forth a group from each of their sections to become learned in religion, and to warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware?” (9:122)
It is noteworthy that even though it is a sufficiency duty, every single person in the Islamic community can learn the science of religion and do Ijtihad individually. Therefore this science is not associated with a particular class of the society; rather, it only depends on acquiring the necessary knowledge and intellectual skills. So if a Muslim is not capable of attaining such level of knowledge that would enable him/her to deduce religious laws for himself/herself, it is compulsory for them to refer to an expert who has specialized in this field, i.e., Mujtahid.
A fully qualified religious expert (Mujtahid), who is supposed to study and deduce the practical laws of Islam according to the time requirements, needs to have specific features, the most significant of which are:
Being able to fully understand the Holy Quran and the other religious sources to discover practical laws from their origins.
Being equitable and trustworthy
Being capable of refraining from sins
Being able to keep away from earthly desires
It is also important to bear in mind that the religious experts (Mujtahids) do not ever issue a decree (Fatwa) unless they have found adequate and reliable proofs and evidence in the Quran, historical tradition (Sunnah), reason, and consensus; which is when they inform the people of God’s commandments.
Taqlid in Islam literally means "to follow or imitate someone" in the realm of religious do’s and don’ts or the religious laws one must obey. In Islamic terminology, it means to comply with the edicts of a religious expert (Mujtahid) regarding practical affairs of religion. Broadly speaking, imitation is classified into four different categories among people:
An unlearned following another unlearned
A learned following an unlearned
A learned following another learned
An unlearned following a learned
Quran, however, mentions two of the above; “an unlearned following another unlearned,” which is strictly prohibited:
“For when they are told, "Come unto that which God has bestowed from on high, and unto the Apostle" - they answer, "Enough for us is that which we found our forefathers believing in and doing." Why, even though their forefathers knew nothing, and were devoid of all guidance?” (5:104)
And that of “an unlearned following a learned” (the focus of this article):
“Ask the People of the Book if you do not know” (21:7)
In Islamic thinking, the latter is the only acceptable kind of Taqlid in Islam that appeals to man's rationale. According to common sense, we follow the guidance of a religious expert (Mujtahid) who knows the laws of religion, just as we voluntarily conform to the advice of a doctor when we need medical attention, or in the same way, we consult lawyers and comply with their recommendations. It is inherent in man's nature to resort to experts in fields wherein he lacks expertise.
Practical matters of faith are no different. We, therefore, comply with an expert in the field of practical religious affairs too . In this kind of Taqlid in Islam, which is permitted in Islam, two important elements are involved; firstly, the imitator (Muqallid) must completely trust and have confidence in the religious expert (Mujtahid). Secondly, imitation (Taqlid) must fulfill the imitator’s (Muqallid) demands and lead him/her to perfection. Clearly, this does not make sense in the other forms of imitation (Taqlid) but the last one.
In short, the religious concepts and teachings of Islam fit into two main parts; the axioms and the practical commandments (practical principles). As for the Islamic axioms, i.e., Monotheism (Tawhid), Prophethood (Nubuwwah), and Afterlife (Ma’ad), no one is allowed to imitate; instead, each person is supposed to investigate and accept them individually since they are regarded as the main entrance to the religion of Islam.
But about Practical principles, which are obligatory practical commandments, Muslims are encouraged to investigate and find them out as individuals if they are able to do so; obviously, they are not allowed to imitate anyone. If they are not capable, though, they have to follow religious experts (Mujtahid) who have become specialized in Islamic science fully and deeply.
It is learned in this article that the cases in which Taqlid in Islam or imitation is allowed, are very limited in Islam. In fact, it is possible for every single Muslim to step on the path of investigation to attain knowledge and awareness about the truth and commandments of Islam themselves.
[i]. the primary source of law taken from the sayings, actions, and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
[ii]. acceptance of a matter by a specified group of Muslim scholars
As a kind of solution for decreasing the financial problems of the Islamic society, especially those of underprivileged people, Islam has offered some ways that one of the most effective of which is Khums. In the literal sense, Khums in Islam means one-fifth of something and in the sharia of Islam is one of the most important financial mandatory rules and is generally defined as paying one-fifth of the remainder of your yearly income.
Generally speaking, Khums becomes obligatory in seven cases, but the one which is inscribed to income is considered as the most salient kind. In this case, one has to pay one-fifth of what has remained from his income after subtracting his own expenses on the exact date that he has paid Khums in the previous year; in other words, one should specify a date on which he would pay his Khums every year.
There are certain kinds of income that would make the payment of Khums obligatory: agricultural income, commercial and trading income, income earned through renting something (e.g., house, car, etc.), the income that one earns through working for someone else.
On the other hand, in some cases, paying Khums is not necessary anymore, including the inherited money, gifts, rewards, marriage portion (Mahrieh)[i], mortmain property (Waqf), borrowed money, money paid by the insurance company, money paid as a scholarship to university students, money the Khums of which has been paid once, etc[ii] .
Basically, Khums is divided into two parts, one is given to Imam – who is your Religious expert (Marja Taqlid) or other qualified religious experts - and the other part is for descendants of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) (Sadaat) who are poor, orphan or faced with difficulty on their journey.
Generally speaking, paying Khums brings about two kinds of effects, in two scales: first of all spiritual effects upon each and second, financial advantages upon the whole society.
As one of the forms of serving God, Khums should be paid with the intention of Allah’s satisfaction; accordingly firm belief and true faith guarantees performing this task. What’s more, engaging in this activity will arise a sense of generosity and philanthropy in the person, wipes away greediness and avarice from his soul and provides the necessary condition for benefiting from Allah’s spiritual and material blessings.
Furthermore, by paying a certain amount of money to the religious experts (Marja Taqlid), one feels involved in the practice of spreading the religion and Islamic ideology in the society and will always remain in the right side, helping the people who follow God’s commands against those who have transgressed from His way.
Another result of performing the holy task of Khums is that it will make the person more financially organized and dutiful, feeling responsible for underprivileged Muslims in the society and striving in the way of Allah and His Prophet (PBUH&HP).
As we already know, one of the main reasons for sending prophets was to provide the necessary grounds for establishing social justice through people themselves. So, they brought many rules that would pave their way to achieve this aim, one of the most important of which is paying Khums.
In fact, Khums acts as an equalizer of wealth within the Islamic community; Each individual with the intention of God’s satisfaction and true faith, donate a part of the remainder of his earnings to one of the most reliable, faithful and God-fearing people in the society - religious expert - in order for him to spend it for the purpose of improving the society.
Paying Khums provides the sufficient resources for the people who are engaged in preaching Islam in the world and in some way reinforce the Islamic government. This money will help religious experts to spend their time and energy in inviting people to religion, answering their doubts and clarifying Islamic rules and regulations for them.
Moreover, this holy task will simultaneously produce two effects in Islamic society: involving religious experts in people’s financial difficulties will result in a closer and stronger relationship between them on one hand, and being responsible to give certain amount of money away, on the other hand, will make people more attentive to one another’s problems, create a bond between different classes within the society and reduce the gap between them through fairly distributing the wealth.
[i]. A mandatory payment, in the form of money or possessions paid by the groom, or by the groom's father, to the bride at the time of marriage that legally becomes her property .
[ii]. It is noteworthy that the cases above are varied according to different religious experts.
- Ayatollah Khamenei, Resale Amuzeshi (didactic treatise), Khums rules and regulations
Unlike many socialistic or capitalistic economies, the Islamic economy is the one in which all kinds of people have their own right to financially benefit from their society. Therefore, a typical feature of this kind of economy is essentially social justice in which poor people are not neglected or excluded from the beneficiary circle of society. Accordingly, Islam, the religion that even cares about animals and plants let alone human beings [i], has established some rules with regard to people who are suffering from deprivation; one of the most important of which is called “Zakat” (Alms Tax).
Alms-tax (Zakat) is an obligatory rule, which is considered one of the foundations of Islam [ii]. In a literal sense, Zakat means growth and purification while technically it is defined as “paying an exact amount of money that has become obligatory through the rules of Sharia in order to be used in favor of the people in need or for certain beneficial deeds in society”  in order to purify and cleanse one’s money or his incomes. Its significance becomes evident through many verses in the Holy Quran, which sometimes consider it along with prayer (Salat) as a sign of true believers .
Despite the fact that the concept of Zakat had never existed in the full form that Islam offers, it is not the first religion that introduces Zakat as a kind of task that should be done for the benefit of the individual as well as the society. According to the text of the Holy Quran, Jesus Christ and Moses, as well as Ishmael, are among the prophets who recommended their followers to carry out this advantageous task .
In the Bible, Christians are advised to help the poor financially: “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42) and “But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you” (Luk 11:41). Moreover, the act of “Tzedakah” in Judaism, is a religious obligation that includes almsgiving as one of its manifestations . However, in Islam Zakat is a compulsory rule while in others it is just a recommendation .
The performance of this vital task is accompanied by many definite and specific criteria:
A person will be obliged to pay Zakat if he is grown-up, of sound mind, and in possession of something.
A person is considered a good recipient of Zakat if he is living in poverty, in debt, and cannot pay for it. Also, it can be used for public jobs such as building schools, hospitals, etc.
The amount of money that should be paid depends on the kind of the material through which Zakat has become obligatory; these are two kinds of metal- gold, and silver-, four grains- barley, wheat, date, and raisin- as well as three kinds of animal - cow, sheep, and camel. Each of the aforementioned products has its particular amount and time of payment which have been specified in detail in the sharia of Islam . Nevertheless, under certain circumstances and based on the needs of people at every time, other things – whether an object or a concept (e.g., Knowledge) – may be included to which Zakat is ascribed.
There are certain manners that should be carefully observed when giving someone Zakat; for instance, it should be given with complete contentedness, respecting the person who is receiving it, and also should be from the best materials at hand .
Aside from its financial benefits - purifying one’s money, preventing the economy to be manipulated by a certain group of society, and enabling neglected people who are taken care of to act as advantageous agents of society and have a job-, it will also purify and elevate one’s soul.
This happens through collaborating and helping other members of the society which spread the spirit of kindness and affection, causes people to feel more attached to one another, form an unbreakable bond together, and finally direct one’s attention to others’ needs rather than his own. Also, it would relieve him from greediness and eventually make him a better person.
It is noteworthy that Zakat has been ascribed to those products that are provided for human beings through nature; most of the work has been done by nature for free and with the least effort of human beings. Of course, his mental and practical effort is involved, but the main part is accomplished by nature. So in order to make up for this generosity, we would give away a very small amount of money to the ones in need.
[i]. It is known through a hadith said by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that watering a thirsty tree is like quenching thirsty Muslims with water .
[ii]. There are many hadiths that consider the skeleton of Islam to be founded on five practices: prayer (Salat), holy pilgrimage (Hajj), fasting (Sawm), alms-tax (Zakat), and guardianship (Velayat) .
- Sheikh Al-Hur Al-Aamili. Wasail Al-Shia. Vol. 7.
- Muhammad ibn Yaqub Al-Kulayni. Al-Kafi (The Sufficient Book). Vol. II. Tehran: Masjed Publication.
- Mohsen Qaraati. Khums and Zakat. Ahl al-beit's Maaref research and publication institute.
- Holy Quran 2:177,277- 4:162- 9:71
- Morteza Avini website
- Holy Quran 19:31, 55 – 2:43