The Sharīʿa on the Financing of Jihād

By Mehdi Berriah

This is part three in a series of four posts on the financing of jihād during the Mamlūk period.

In the cases presented in the sources discussed in the previous post, sultans and amīrs met, in general, with firm opposition on the part of several ʿulamāʾ to the imposition of additional taxes on the population. However, did the Mamlūk sultans respect the opinion of these ʿulamāʾ? Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī (d. 771/1370) reports that after al-ʿIzz b. ʿAbd al-Salām issued his fatwā, the Mamlūk army sold all of its remaining property to finance the war effort.[1] Ibn Aybak al-Dawādārī, however, confirms that the sultan Quṭuz, who later defeated the Mongols at the battle of ʿAyn Jālūt on 25 Ramaḍān 658/3 September 1260, had taken several measures to collect money from the population to finance the jihād against the Mongols, in particular the imposition of a new tax. [2] These measures were put to an end by Baybars once he became sultan[3]; however, as we have seen, he also attempted to impose such taxes during his reign. Did Quṭuz respect the fatwā or not? By cross-checking and analyzing the two stories, one can propose two hypotheses: either Quṭuz did not take into account the opinion of ʿIzz al-Dīn b. ʿAbd al-Salām and went on to impose new taxes, or he respected the fatwā and ordered the amīrs and the combatants to sell any possessions that were not essential for the jihād effort but then had to impose a tax after all, as additional financial resources were still required. Considering al-ʿIzz b. ʿAbd al-Salām’s prestige and influence, the second hypothesis is possible. However, it is unlikely that Baybars took into consideration al-Nawawī’s remarks, and probably did not retract the new taxes, at least for a certain time. Introducing new taxes to finance the jihād effort continued under Baybars’ successors. Before fighting the Mongols at Wādī al-Khāzindār in Rabīʿ al-Awwal 699/December 1299, the Mamlūk army, at its halt in Damascus, had been forced to borrow money from orphans and prisoners.[4] As al-Maqrīzī reports, after Syria’s reinstatement in the sultanate following the withdrawal of Ilkhanid troops in the autumn of 700/1300, heavy taxes were imposed and the property was confiscated in both Egypt and Syria to finance the war effort.[5] This money was largely wasted, as it was used to pay Kurdish and Turkoman auxiliary troops, who fled when they learned that the Mongols were attacking once again.[6] The power to impose this type of additional taxes on the population to finance war or any other activity is known as mukūs in Islamic law, as will be explored further in what follows.

The mukūs

Most Muslim jurists are of the view that any tax on Muslim population, other than those legislated by the Qur’ān and the Sunna, is prohibited, based on a Prophetic ḥādīth reported by Aḥmad, Abū Dāwūd, Ibn Khuzayma and al-Ḥākim:

Lā yadkhulu al-janna ṣāḥib al-mukūs

“The unjust tax collector will not enter paradise.”

The word maks (pl. mukūs) refers to any tax or duty that was not originally imposed by the Qur’ān nor the Sunna. Mukūs cannot, in theory, be imposed on any Muslim. In his Taḥrīr al-aḥkām fī tadbīr ahl al-Islām, Badr al-Dīn b. Jamāʿa says clearly:

“As for collecting taxes and duties on the goods of Muslims transiting from one country to another, or on the sale of goods, this is forbidden from a religious point of view; neither Islamic law nor justice allows it. To the contrary, this measure is a well-defined type of illegal tax (mukūs) that constitutes an obvious injustice.”[7]

Badr al-Dīn b. Jamāʿa’s Taḥrīr al-aḥkām fī tadbīr ahl al-Islām

A little further in the text, he emphasizes that:

“And all that is taken of the property of Muslims, whether from their businesses or subsistence through taxes, is a clear and obvious injustice […].”[8]

Ibn Taymiyya’s position is no different. For him, there is a consensus that the payment of mukūs is not an Islamic principle.[9]

However, there is a gap between theory and practice. As Yossef Rapoport has demonstrated, towards the end of the Ayyūbid era, many localities of Fayyum in Egypt were subjected to several different taxes.[10] Were these taxes considered legal by the jurists and the authorities? This question remains open. The Mamlūk period is characterized by many episodes of new tax impositions (mukūs). Generally, during the Mamlūk period, sultans imposed taxes then retracted them for a time, and then re-imposed them. Although the abolition of these taxes was always good news for the population, the primary reason for such a measure (the abolition of taxes) was not necessarily the well-being and comfort of the population. The repeal of mukūs could be decreed in order to diminish the economic power of certain amīrs who could represent a potential political danger for the sultan.[11]

The imposition of mukūs on the Muslim population was criticized by ʿulamāʾ. In 1386, during the revolt called the Ẓāhīrī fitna, the scholar Aḥmad al-Burhān al-Ẓāhirī was imprisoned and then presented to al-Ẓāhir Barqūq who asked him about the reasons of his revolt. Among them, Aḥmad al-Burhān al-Ẓāhirī reproached the sultan for the levying of non-sharʿī taxes, namely mukūs.[12] In the last decades of the Mamlūk Sultanate, the mukūs issue became recurrent.[13]

Distinction Between al-amwāl al-sulṭāniyyā and amwāl bayt al-māl

In his al-Siyāsa al-sharʿiyya, Ibn Taymiyya devotes an entire chapter to forms of income and property belonging to rulers (al-amwāl al-sulṭāniyyā) that are distinct from those of the bayt al-māl (Public Treasury). They are of three kinds, all of which are legislated by the Qur’ān and the Sunna: al-ghanīma[14] (the spoils of war), al-ṣadaqāt[15] (gifts, alms) and al-fayʾ (booty taken from the enemy without any fighting).[16] However, as Abdul Azim Islahi showed, Ibn Taymiyya does not limit the sources of income to these three, but he leaves the door open for new taxes, if necessary.[17]

According to Ibn Taymiyya, of the eight categories of people mentioned in Qur’ān 9:60 (al-Tawbah)[18] soldiers are those who act “in the way of God” and may receive the ṣadaqa (alms) as zakāt, the third pillar of Islam, compulsory for every Muslim who has the financial capacity:

“As for alms, they are for those whom God has mentioned in his Book […] and ‘in the way of God’ means those who undertake military expeditions and do not have enough goods to acquire what would allow them to go on an expedition; then we give them some or all the equipment necessary for the harnessing of horses, weapons, equipment costs, salary […].”[19]

More than its social aspect, zakāt for Ibn Taymiyya can be used by the authorities, in a context of war, as a tool for financing jihād.

In case of a warrior’s death, his wife and children should also be taken care of by using the money of the bayt al-māl.[20]

As part of the fayʾ, only a tenth (ʿushr) of the income of traders coming from the territories of Dār al-ḥarb (the abode of war), that is to say from the territories with which Muslims are at war, is taxable.[21] The ʿushr (plural aʿshār/ʿushūr) is a tax that was introduced by the second caliph ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb (d. 26/644) in response to similar taxes imposed by other countries on Muslim traders, and seems to have become a substantial revenue for the Islamic state ever since.[22] Dhimmī traders have to pay half of the ʿushr.[23] This requirement is to be considered as a kind of customs duty and not a tax like the maks. The payment by non-Muslim traders of the ʿushr falls under the category of fayʾ (booty taken from the enemy without any fighting), mentioned in the Qur’ān and the ḥādīth, and such payment is lawful.[24] Of course, the ʿushr establishes a considerable difference between a Muslim and non-Muslims trader, given that only the second had to pay ʿushr each time he entered Muslim territory for trading.[25]

In theory, dhimmīs cannot be required to participate in a war effort, even if the enemies are their co-religionists. However, in practice things were sometimes differentt. In 767/1365, Christian powers launched an important expedition against the Mamlūk Sultanate from Cyprus by attacking Alexandria. The Franks managed to take the city and, according to Christian and Mamlūk sources, they slaughtered a part of the population, and plundered the city during many days before returning to their fleet with a large number of captives and a huge booty.[26] After this humiliation, Mamlūk authorities decided to attack Cyprus in reprisal and ordered to take a quarter of the money of all the Christians of Syria. Informed of the latter decision, Ibn Kathīr met the nāʾib al-saltāna and explained to him that sharīʿa’s rules do not permit (lā yajūz) to take from the dhimmīs more than the amount of the jizya they have to pay.[27] Although the nā’ib al-saltāna was convinced by Ibn Kathīr, he told him that the Mamlūk authorities of Cairo had obtained fatwās from ʿulamāʾ allowing them to impose such taxes. Here, Ibn Kathīr’s position shows that ʿulamā’ were sometimes required to play the role of “advocate” of the population, both Muslims and non-Muslims, in the face of the imposition of new taxes.[28]


[1] Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī, Ṭabaqāt al-shāfiʿiyya al-kubrā, eds. Maḥmūd Muḥammad al-Ṭannāḥī and Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ al-Ḥaluw (Cairo, 1964), 8:215.

[2] Ibn Aybak al-Dawādārī, Kanz al-durar wa jāmiʿ al-ġurar, ed. Bernd Ratke (Cairo, 1960-1994), 8:63.

[3] Ibid.; Al-Maqrīzī, Kitāb al-sulūk li-maʿrifat duwal al-mulūk, ed. Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Qādir ʿAṭā (Beirut, 1997), 1:657.

[4] Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāya, ed. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Turkī (Giza, 1998), 17:717.

[5] Al-Maqrīzī, Kitāb al-sulūk li-maʿrifat duwal al-mulūk, 2:335.

[6] Ibid. 2:335-336.

[7] Badr al-Dīn b. Jamāʿa, Taḥrīr al-aḥkām fī tadbīr ahl al-Islām, ed. Fu’ād ʿAbd al-Munʿim (Qatar, 1985), 145.

[8] Ibid. 150.

[9] Ibn Taymiyya al-Siyāsat al-sharʿiyya fī iṣlāḥ al-rāʿī wa-l-raʿiyya, ed. Saʿd b. al-Murshidī al-ʿAtībī (Riyadh, 2015), 129.

[10] Yossef Rapoport, Rural Economy and Tribal Society in Islamic Egypt. A Study of al-Nābulusī’s ‘Villages of the Fayyum’  (Brepols:Turnhout, 2018), 75-104.

[11] Lutz Wiederhold, “Legal-Religious Elite, Temporal Authority, and the Caliphate in Mamluk Society: Conclusions Drawn from the Examination of a “Zahiri Revolt” in Damascus in 1386,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 31, no. 2 (1999): 215-16.

[12] Ibid. 215.

[13] Kristen Stilt, Islamic Law in Action: Authority, Discretion and Everyday Experiences in Mamluk Egypt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 187.

[14] Ibn Taymiyya, al-Siyāsa al-sharʿiyya fī iṣlāḥ al-rāʿī wa-l-raʿiyya, ed. Saʿd b. al-Murshidī al-ʿAtībī (Riyadh, 2015), 99-108.

[15] Ibid. 109-16.

[16] Ibid. 117-29. For more details see Caterina Bori, “One or Two Versions of al-Siyāsa al-Sharʿiyya of Ibn Taymiyya? And What Do They Tell Us?,” ASK Working Paper 26 (2016): 8-10.

[17] Abdul Azim Islahi, Economic Concepts of Ibn Taymīyah (London: Islamic Foundation, 1988), 211-20.

[18] “Charities are for the poor, and the destitute, and those who administer them, and for reconciling hearts, and for freeing slaves, and for those in debt, and in the path of God, and for the traveler in need—an obligation from God. God is All-Knowing, Most Wise.”  Qur’ān, 9:60.

[19] Ibn Taymiyya, al-Siyāsa al-sharʿiyya fī iṣlāḥ al-rāʿī wa-l-raʿiyya, 109-113.

[20] Ibn Taymiyya, Majmūʿ al-fatāwā, ed. Wizārat al-shu’ūn al-islāmiyya wa-l-irshād al-Saʿūdiyya (Riyadh, 2004), 28:586.

[21] For more information on ʿushr see Ziauddin Ahmed, “Ushr and Ushr Lands,” Islamic Studies 19, no. 2 (1980): 76-94; Ziauddin Ahmed, “Ushūr and Maks in Early Islam,” Islamic Studies 27, no. 1 (1988): 1-11.

[22] Ahmad Oran and Salim Rashid, “Fiscal Policy in Early Islam,” Public Finance 44, no. 1 (1989): 89; Volker Nienhaus, “Zakat, taxes and public finance in Islam,” in Islam and the Everyday World: Public Policy Dilemmas, eds. Sohrab Behdad and Farhad Nomani (New York: Routledge, 2008), 178.

[23] Ibn Taymiyya, al-Siyāsa al-sharʿiyya fī iṣlāḥ al-rāʿī wa-l-raʿiyya, 122-23. The other category is that of pilgrims.

[24] Badr al-Dīn b. Jamāʿa, Taḥrīr al-aḥkām fī tadbīr ahl al-Islām, ed. Fu’ād ʿAbd al-Munʿim (Qatar, 1985), 99.

[25] Volker Nienhaus, “Zakat, taxes and public finance in Islam,” 178-79.

[26] Al-Maqrīzī, Kitāb al-sulūk, vol. 4, 283-84; Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāya, ed. ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Turkī (Giza, 1998), 18:705; Guillaume De Machaut, La prise d’Alexandrie ou chronique du roi Pierre Ier de Lusignan, ed. Louis de Mas Latrie, Imprimerie Jules-Guillaume Fick (Genève, 1877).

[27] Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāya wa-l-nihāya, 18:706-07.

[28] Yaacov Lev, “Symbiotic Relations: Ulama and the Mamluk Sultans,” Mamluk Studies Review 13, no. 1 (2009): 25.

(Suggested Bluebook citation: Mehdi Berriah, The Sharīʿa on the Financing of Jihād, Islamic Law Blog (Sept. 23, 2021),

(Suggested Chicago citation: Mehdi Berriah, “The Sharīʿa on the Financing of Jihād,” Islamic Law Blog, September 23, 2021,

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