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14 Nw. J. L. & Soc. Pol'y 1 (2018-2019)

handle is hein.journals/nwjlsopo14 and id is 1 raw text is: 

Copyright 2018 by Northwestern University School of Law                     Volume 14 (Fall 2018)
Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy




    Charity Disparity: The Challenge of Applying

      Religious Law on Zakit in the United States

                                  Ahmed E. Taha*
                                  Sohaib   I. Khant
      Legal pluralism is generally defined as a  situation in which two or more  legal
systems  coexist in the same social field.' One type of legal pluralism occurs when  a
group of people is subject to both the law of its country and to a religious law. Practicing
Muslims  in the United States are in this situation-they must fulfill numerous personal
obligations imposed  by Islamic  law within the context of the American   legal system.
Doing  so is usually not difficult; however, it causes significant problems in at least one
area: calculating their annual almsgiving (zakat) required by Islamic law. Muslim jurists
disagree about how  much  zakat should be paid on certain modern financial assets created
by American  corporate, securities, and tax law, such as publicly traded stocks and 401(k)
retirement accounts. As  a result, American Muslims  can  choose from  a wide range  of
zakat  calculation opinions, which  are  usually presented  on  the internet without  a
framework   of legal reasoning. This  causes inequity, confusion, and  creates a moral
hazard  for American  Muslims   that threatens to undermine  the  societal and spiritual
purposes of zakdt.
      Zakat is a mandatory  almsgiving in Islam. As  one of the five central pillars of
Islam, paying zakat is one of the most important religious obligations of Muslims.2 Each
year, Muslims  whose wealth  exceeds their basic needs must donate a specified portion of
their financial assets and certain tradable assets, such as business inventories, livestock,
and agricultural produce. Detailed rules exist for calculating zakat, and these rules differ
somewhat   by asset type. Thus, Muslims seeking guidance  regarding how  much  zakat to
pay  have  turned to  Islam's scriptural sources and  jurisprudential tradition, Muslim
scholars and jurisconsults, and, in present times, even Islamic websites for information
about these rules.





* Ahmed Taha is a Professor of Law, Pepperdine University School of Law; J.D., Ph.D., Stanford
University; B.A., B.S., University of Pennsylvania.
T Sohaib Khan is a Ph.D. candidate in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia
University; M.A., Duke University; B.S., Lahore University of Management Sciences. The authors are
grateful for helpful comments and suggestions from Abdullah Ali, Sami Catovic, Michael Helfand,
Yousseflsmail, Asifa Quraishi, and Asma Sayeed.
1 Sally Engle Merry, Legal Pluralism, 22 LAW & Soc'Y REV. 869, 870 (1988).
2 The other four pillars are the profession of faith (sincerely declaring belief that there is no god except
God-Allah in Arabic-and that Muhammad is a messenger of God), the five daily prayers, fasting from
dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one's
lifetime. THE STUDY QURAN: A NEW TRANSLATION AND COMMENTARY 740 n.30 (Seyyed Hossein Nasr et
al. eds., 2015).

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