For the city in Libya, see Al Khums.

In Islamic tradition, khums (Arabic: خمس Arabic pronunciation: [xums], literally 'one fifth') refers to the historically required religious obligation of any Muslim army to pay one-fifth of the spoils of war, the booty collected from non-believers after a military campaign; this tax was paid to the caliph or sultan, representing the state of Islam.[1][2]

In Sunni tradition, the scope of khums tax has been ghanim, which is defined as the spoils of war. In Shia tradition, states Abdulaziz Sachedina, the scope of khums tax has included, (1) booty (al-ghanima), (2) objects obtained from the sea (al-ghaws), (3) treasure (al-kanz), (4) mineral resources (al-ma'adin), (5) gainful earnings (arbaah al-makaasib, business profits), (6) the lawful (al-halaal) which has become mixed up with the unlawful (al-haraam), and (7) land which is transferred from a Muslim to a dhimmi (a free non-Muslim who is protected by a treaty of surrender) by the latter's purchase of it.[2][3] The recipients of the collected khums have been the descendants of Muhammad and the Islamic clergy.[4][5]

Khums is a 20% tax that must be paid on all items regarded as ghanima (Arabic: الْغَنيمَة, booty seized with war). There are differing legal traditions within Islam about what constitutes ghanima, and thus how far-reaching khums should be. In some jurisdictions, khums included a 20% tax paid on business profit and on minerals extracted in regions under the control of the state. Khums is different and separate from other Islamic taxes such as zakat and jizya.[1][6]

There are differences of opinion about the scope of khums in Sunni and Shia sects of Islam, as well as who owns it and how the collected khums should be spent.[7]


The Arabic term khums literally means one-fifth. It is referred to in the Quran in the sura Al-Anfal ("spoils of war, booty"), especially verse no 41, and in various Hadiths.

Islamic scriptures

Khums and ghanima are revealed in the Quran. For example,[3]

They ask thee concerning (things taken as) spoils of war. Say: "(such) spoils are at the disposal of Allah and the Messenger: So fear Allah, and keep straight the relations between yourselves: Obey Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe."
Quran 8:1
"Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them). And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do. 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 to Our servant on the Day of Testing,- the Day of the meeting of the two forces. For Allah hath power over all things."

This teaching is repeated in Sahih Hadiths, books which are considered authentic records of examples set by Muhammad,

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The delegates of the tribe of 'Abdul-Qais came and said, "O Allah's Apostle! We are from the tribe of Rabi'a, and there is the infidels of the tribe of Mudar intervening between you and us, so we cannot come to you except in the Sacred Months. So please order us some instructions that we may apply it to ourselves and also invite our people whom we left behind us to observe as well." The Prophet said, "I order you (to do) four (things) and forbid you (to do) four: I order you to believe in Allah, that is, to testify that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah (the Prophet pointed with his hand); to offer prayers perfectly; to pay Zakat; to fast the month of Ramadan, and to pay the Khums (i.e. one-fifth) of the war booty to Allah.
When the Messenger of Allah appointed anyone as leader of an army or detachment he would especially exhort him to fear Allah and to be good to the Muslims who were with him. He would say: Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war, do not embezzle the spoils [of war, booty]; do not break your pledge; and do not mutilate the dead bodies; do not kill the children. When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to accept Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhairs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muslims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' except when they actually fight with the Muslims against other disbelievers. If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them.

Sunnah in Volume 4, Book 52 of Sahih Bukhari is dedicated to khums.[8]

Khums means "one-fifth or 20%".[3] In Islamic legal terminology, it means one-fifth of certain items which a person acquires as wealth, and which must be paid to the state of Islam. This is one[9] of many forms of tax in Islamic jurisprudence that applies on ghanima and fai (or fay). In early and middle history of Islam, ghanima was that property and wealth that was looted by the Muslim army after attacking the nonbelievers and a battle. Fai was that property and wealth that was gained from confiscation without strife, that is if the nonbelievers refused to fight or violently oppose the raid.[10] Over time, the concept and scope of ghanima was expanded by Islamic scholars, and variations emerged between Sunni and Shia scholars on interpreting the definition of ghanima. Similarly, the percentage of fai was expanded to 100% using verse 59.7 of Quran,[11] thus placing it beyond khums. The 80% amount left after paying the 20% khums, was distributed among the army commander and soldiers who attacked the unbelievers.[12][13]


The items eligible for khums are referred to as ghanima →"الْغَنيمَة" in the Quran. The Arabic word ghanima (also referred to as ghanimah, ghana'im, ightindm in Africa and Asia)[14][15] has been interpreted to have several meanings:[1]

  1. spoils of war, or war booty looted or confiscated from enemy / nonbelievers (of Islam)
  2. profit
  3. minerals or any other form of buried treasure[16]

According to medieval Muslim scholars Al-Tusi and Al-Hakim, seven items were subject to khums 20% tax:[2]

  1. Al-ghanima, booty seized during a raid and the spoils of war.
  2. Arbdh al-mdkasib, the profit or the surplus of the income.
  3. Al-hardm, Al-Haldl, the legitimately earned wealth which has become mixed with illegitimate wealth.
  4. Al-madin, mines and mineral resources extracted anywhere within the Islamic state.[16]
  5. Al-ghaws, objects obtained from sea.
  6. Al-kanz, treasure found.
  7. the land which is transferred to a non-Muslim dhimmi when the later buys it from a Muslim, and which was previously acquired by the Islamic state by a treaty of surrender by the dhimmis.

Sunni scholars have confined the khums 20% tax to apply on only two items,[2][16][17]

  1. Al-ghanima, booty seized during a raid and the spoils of war.
  2. Al-madin, mines and mineral resources extracted anywhere within the Islamic state.

After paying the 20% khums tax, the remaining 80% of the booty seized, spoils of war and treasure found was distributed between the commanders and soldiers as a reward for the effort, making the raid or going to war against non-Muslims.[2] The origins of the khums, states Abdulaziz Sachedina, go back to "the pre-Islamic Arab custom wherein the chief was entitled to one fifth of the ghanima (booty) in addition to the safw al-ndl (the portion of the booty which especially attracted him). The remainder of the booty was normally divided among the raiders who had accompanied the chief, but the latter reserved the right to dispose of the ghanima as he chose".[18]

Shia policy

Khums, in the Shia tradition, is applied to the business profit, or surplus, of a business income. It is payable at the beginning of the financial year, though this is regarded as being the time at which the amount becomes clear. Ghanima and one-fifth tax of khums applies wherever gain or profit is involved. "Ghanima" has two meanings as mentioned above; the second meaning is illustrated by the common use of the Islamic banking term "al-ghunm bil-ghurm" meaning "gains accompany liability for loss or risk"[19][20]

In 13th century Shia region, the khums was divided into two portions. One portion went to the descendants of Muhammad, the other portion was divided equally and one part given to Imam and clergy, while the other part went to the orphaned and poor Muslims.[5] Khums became a major source of income and financial independence of the clergy in Shia regions. This practice has continued among Shia Muslims.[4]

Sunni policy

Scholars of the four Sunni Schools of fiqh - Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali - have historically considered khums' 20% tax to applicable on ghanayam (property, movable and immovable) booty seized in any raid or as a result of actual warfare, as well as buried treasure or resources extracted from land, sea, mines of any kind.[17] Others, such as Abu Ubayd and Qardawi, the khums applies to any windfall for Muslims, but not to income as is the case according to Shia scholars.[21]


The 8th century Hanafi scholar Abu Yusuf stated, according to Abdulaziz Sachedina, that the khums collected was historically distributed into three equal portions: one for Muhammad, which went to the caliph (or sultan) after Muhammad's death; the second portion to the family of Muhammad; and the third portion among Muslim orphans, poor, and wayfarers.[22] Abu Hanifa stated that the portion meant for Muhammad and his family should be used instead for amassing weapons and growing the Muslim army for further raids and wars with unbelievers.[22] Al-Shaybani interpreted Abu Hanifa to be suggesting that the collected khums tax should be spent equally on Muslim orphans, poor and warfarers.[22]


Malik ibn Anas, the founder of Maliki sect of Sunni Islam, stated that the right the spend the khums belonged to the caliph (Imam) after the death of Muhammad, and he had freedom to dispose the 20% khums tax collected from war booty between poor and rich as he wishes, and that he may, if he desired, give any part of the khums tax to Muhammad's family.[22]


Al-Shafi‘i, the founder of Shafii madhhab of Sunni Islam, provided two scenarios on how 20% khums tax on seized raid and war booty was to be spent.[22] He explained that during the time Muhammad was alive, khums was divided into five portions, the first portion were for Allah and his messenger and given to Muhammad, the second portion was for Muhammad's family members, the remaining three to Muslim poor, orphans and warfarers.[22] After Muhammad's death, the khums tax was divided into four portions, one for the family of Muhammad, and the other three for the general good of all Muslims.[22]

Most Muslim scholars after Al-Shafi'i agreed that a portion of the 20% khums tax should go to the descendants of Muhammad, but they disagreed on who these rightful descendants were.[22] These Islamic scholars also concurred that khums tax should be spent, among other things, to maintain the Muslim army and the general good of the Muslims.[22]

Khums in history


Khums was practiced by Muslim commanders who raided African communities from 8th century through early 20th century. However, khums was treated as a concept and the share of booty transferred to the Islamic state was 50%. For example, the West African Muslim ruler Hamman Yaji in 1919,[23] recorded in his diary,

"I raided the pagans of Rowa and captured 50 cattle and 33 slaves. We calculated my fifth share [khums] as 17 slaves and 25 cattle."
Hamman Yaji, Translated by Humphrey Fisher[24]

Similarly, from 8th to 10th century, the Berber people in North Africa were treated as pagans, raided and the booty of seized wealth and slaves were subject to khums.[25]


From 8th century onwards, Southern Europe became a target of raids and military campaigns from Morocco and by the Ottoman Sultanate. After the conquest of Cordoba by Muslim armies, khums (20%) of all moveable booty seized from Christians and Jews after war was transferred to caliphal treasury, the rest distributed among the commanders and Muslim soldiers of invading army.[26] According to Musa Nusayr, the army commanders also set aside 20% of land vacated by non-Muslims to the caliph.[26] The land that was surrendered by Christians and Jews, but not vacated, became subject to jizya payable by the dhimmis. However, Ibn Hazm states that Muslim soldiers did not set aside or pay khums from the looted property or riches from the annexed land, each kept the spoils for himself.[26] This became one source of distrust and dispute between the Muslim rulers and clergy based in Africa and the new Caliphate of Cordoba in Southwestern Europe.[27] Outside Spain, Ghanima and Fay were sought from Muslim conquests in Sicily, Greece and Caucasian region of Europe. Khums was paid from all seized movable property to the caliphal treasury.[28]


From 10th century through the 18th century, Muslim armies raided non-Muslim kingdoms of India. Some of these Muslim armies came from northwest, consisting of Turko-Mongols, Persians and Afghans. In other times, these were commanders of Delhi Sultanate. War spoils and looted movable property from infidels (Hindus, Jains, Buddhists) was subject to khums.[29] The 20% tax was transferred to the treasury of the sultanate, and the 80% was distributed among the commanders, mounted soldiers and foot soldiers.[30] The mounted soldiers were given 2 to 3 times as much of the war booty as the foot soldiers. The collected war booty from the treasuries and temples of Hindus were an incentive for war, and the Khums (Ghanima tax) a source of wealth for the sultans in India.[31][32] One such loot was from Warangal, and it included the Koh-i-noor, one of the largest known diamonds in human history.[33]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Zafar Iqbal and Mervyn Lewis, An Islamic Perspective on Governance, ISBN 978-1847201386, pp. 99-115
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Abdulaziz Sachedina (1980), Al-Khums: The Fifth in the Imāmī Shīʿī Legal System, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Oct., 1980), pp. 276-277, 275-289, note 10
  3. 1 2 3 Abdulaziz Sachedina (1980), Al-Khums: The Fifth in the Imāmī Shīʿī Legal System, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 39, No. 4, 275-289
  4. 1 2 Malik, Jamal (2008). Islam in South Asia a short history. Leiden: Brill. pp. 405–406, note 6. ISBN 978-90-04-16859-6.
  5. 1 2 John L. Esposito (2004), The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195125597, p. 174
  6. Seri-Hersch (2010), "Transborder" Exchanges of People, Things, and Representations: Revisiting the Conflict Between Mahdist Sudan and Christian Ethiopia, 1885–1889, The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 1-26
  8. One-fifth of Booty to the Cause of Allah (Khumus) University of Southern California
  9. Other religiously required taxes in Islam include zakat, jizya, kharaj, ushur, etc.
  10. Vikør, K. S. (2000), Jihād,'ilm and taṣawwuf: Two Justifications of Action from the Idrīsī Tradition, Studia Islamica, No. 90 (2000), 153-176
  11. Quran 59:7
  12. R Swarup (2002), Understanding the Hadith: The Sacred Traditions of Islam, ISBN 978-1591020172, pp. 109-112
  13. MA Shomali, Message of Thaqalayn, Imamah and Wilayah VI, Spring 2013, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp 129
  14. Fisher, H. J. (1990), Review - A Chronicle of Bornu A Sudanic Chronicle: the Bornu Expeditions of Idrīs Alauma (1564–1576) according to the account of Amad b. Furū by Dierk Lange, The Journal of African History, 31(01), 141-143.
  15. Ghanimah Oxford Islamic Studies, Oxford University Press
  16. 1 2 3 Some scholars disagree that minerals are subject to khums, see Zafar Iqbal and Mervyn Lewis, An Islamic Perspective on Governance, ISBN 978-1847201386, pp. 99-115
  17. 1 2 Ali Reza Jalili (2006), A Descriptive Overview of Islamic Taxation, Journal of American Academy of Business, Vol. 8, No. 2, p. 22
  18. Abdulaziz Sachedina (1980), Al-Khums: The Fifth in the Imāmī Shīʿī Legal System, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Oct., 1980), pp. 277
  19. Glossary of Islamic Banking Terms
  20. ...Challenges Facing Islamic Banking by Ibrahim F I Shihata
  21. Robert W. McGee (2011), The Ethics of Tax Evasion: Perspectives in Theory and Practice, Springer, ISBN 978-1461412861, pp 181
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Abdulaziz Sachedina (1980), Al-Khums: The Fifth in the Imāmī Shīʿī Legal System, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Oct., 1980), pp. 278-280
  23. James H. Vaughan and Anthony H. M. Kirk-Greene (1995), The Diary of Hamman Yaji - Chronicle of a West African Muslim Ruler, Indiana University Press, ISBN 978-0253362063
  24. H Fisher (2001), Slavery in the History of Muslim Black Africa, New York University Press, ISBN 978-0814727164, pp. 49-51
  25. Nabia Abbott, Arabic and Islamic Studies in Honor of Hamilton A. R. Gibb, Editor: George Makdisi, Brill and Harvard University Press, pp. 33-34
  26. 1 2 3 Peter Scales (1994), The Fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba: Berbers and Andalusis in Conflict, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004098688, pp. 59-60 and 119-147
  27. Nicola Clarke (2012), The Muslim Conquest of Iberia: Medieval Arabic Narratives, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415673204, pp. 42-49, 131-137
  28. Jeremy Johns (2007), Arabic Administration in Norman Sicily: The Royal Diwan, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521037020, pp. 22-29
  29. S. Kumar, The emergence of the Delhi Sultanate, 1192-1286, ISBN 978-8178241470, pp. 176-179
  30. S. Agarwal, Daan and Other Giving Traditions in India, ISBN 978-8191085402, Chapter 3
  31. Frank Fanselow (1989), Muslim society in Tamil Nadu (India): an historical perspective, Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, 10(1), pp 264-289
  32. S. Chandra, Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals, ISBN 978-8124112670, pp. 62-63
  33. Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, 3rd Edition, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-415-15482-0

External links

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