Zakat: Islam’s missed opportunity to limit predatory taxation


Kuran, T


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.


Kuran, T. “Zakat: Islam’s missed opportunity to limit predatory taxation.” Public Choice 182, no. 3–4 (March 1, 2020): 395–416.
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