Where should the Sihmu 'l-Imam Go?
- :Sayyid Mohammad Rizvi
Adopted from the Book : "Khums; An Islamic Tax" by : Sayyid Mohammad Rizvi
(a) During the Presence of the Imam :
The first half of khums is the share of the Imam. During the presence of the Imams, the sihmu Imam as well as the sihmusadat was given to them directly or to their specially appointed agents. The 'Imam, as the head of the sadat, was also responsible for distribution of sihmu s-sadat among the sadat.
The Imams, since Imam Ja` far asSkliq's days, had also initiated the system of wikalah (deputyship) whose function, among other things, was to collect the khums and bring it to the Imam or distribute it according to his instructions. For example, a letter of Imam Muhammad atTaqi (a.s.) about the financial 'obligations of Shi`ahs, says : "...As for the gains and profits, it is obligatory on them [to pay khums] every year...Therefore, whosoever has anything of those [items on which khums is applicable], then he should bring it to my wakil; and the person who lives far away should try his best to bring it to my wakil even if it takes some time ..."1
Did the Imams release the Shi `ahs from the obligation of khums at any time? The Imams never suspended the obligation of khums as an annual financial tax. However, there are individual cases where the Imam had exempted certain persons from the khum because of the tough economic circumstances of the time. But such exemption were for individuals and limited in time.
The fact that khums as an annual tax on the Shi` ahs in general was wajib at all times can be seen from the followings: Once a Shi`ah from Persia wrote to Imam 'Ali arRiza ( a.s. ) asking to be exempted from paying khums. The Imam did not approve his request and wrote: " ...And the khums is a 'help to us in [promotion of] our religion, [upliftment of] our family, and our followers...Do not deprive 'yourselves of our prayers as long as you can because paying [the khums] is the key to sustenance, the 'forgiveness for your sins...Wassalam."2
Muhammad bin Ja`far al-Asadi wrote to Imam alMahdi (a.s.). Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) answered, "As for what you have asked about the issue of a person using our property without our permission, then he should know that whosoever does so is cursed and [on the day of judgment] we will be his opponent ... And whosoever devours anything from our property [without permission], he is actually devouring fire and will surely reach the Hell."3
So khums was always wajib and collected by the Imams directly or through their wakils.
(b) During the Ghaybat 'of the Imam :
At the present time, our Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi ( upon whom be him ), is in occultation; and he has not even appointed anyone as his special agent. So what should be done with his share of khums?
All 'ulama' of our time are unanimous in saying that during the period of occultation, the share of the Present Imam must be used for the causes with which the Imam would agree. They also believe that the best persons to know such causes are the mujtahids. Therefore, according to all our present `ulama, sihmu 'lImam must be handed over to the most learned and trustworthy mujtahid or be used in the way authorized by such a mujtahid. The condition of religious knowledge and trustworthiness are important to guarantee the right use of sihmu Imam
It is an individual's responsibility to transfer the sihmu '1Imam to the mujtahid. If it is given to the representative of the mujtahid, then the responsibility will shift from the khumspayer to the representative. ( For example, if the representative looses the money before it reached the mujtahid, then the khumspayer is no longer responsible for that. )
If a trustworthy person who is not a representative of the mujtahid agrees to take the sihmu '1Imam to the mujtahid, then, in case of being lost, the responsibility will not shift from the khumpayer to that person: either the messenger should make up the loss or the khumspayer has to pay again. In the latter case, the khumspayer may request the mujta hid to exempt him for that year.
1. Al-'Amili, Wasa'ilu sh-Shi'ah, vol. 6, p. 348-349
2. Al- Amili, Wasa'il sh-shiah, vol 6, 374-376
3. Ibid, vol. 6 p. 377
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