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Zakat: Islam’s missed opportunity to limit predatory taxation

Timur Kuran ()
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Timur Kuran: Duke University

Public Choice, 2020, vol. 182, issue 3, No 9, 395-416

Abstract: Abstract 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 does not make explicit the underlying principles of governance. It simply outlines the specifics of zakat as they related to conditions in seventh-century Arabia.

Keywords: Zakat; Islam; Taxation; Predation; Governance; Property rights; Poverty (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N25 N45 O43 O53 K34 H13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s11127-019-00663-x

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