The official legal opinion (fatwa) from his eminence, Sayyid al-Sistani, in response to a question…
Depending on how good you are at following directions, this blog might go one of two ways for you. By the end of this blog, you might say: “Okay, I knew this, thanks anyway.” Otherwise, you’ll be among a growing number of Muslims, unfortunately, who are waking up to a sobering and cold reality that they need to pay their khums…again.
Chances are, if you’re on this website and reading this blog, you already know what “khums” is. But if you don’t or simply need a refresher, then very quickly, “khums” is an Islamic income tax, which is 1/5 (20%) of your remaining yearly income after all legitimate expenses have been paid. Whatever is left and unused doesn’t get taxed again if it remains until the next year. For more jurisprudence details about khums, you can find them here. We’ve got other things to discuss today.
So why might someone need to pay their khums again? The answers are actually quite simple.
#1 – NO OFFICIAL RECEIPT
You read it correctly. No receipt, no khums fulfillment. According to the legal opinion (fatwa) of Grand Ayatullah Sayyid al-Sistani, when asked if a khums payer is relieved of their religious duty by just delivering their dues to an authorized agent (wakeel), His Eminence says no. “…they are obligated to ask him for a receipt which is issued by us (our offices). Otherwise, the payer’s obligation is not considered fulfilled without an official receipt even though the cause may be due to forgetfulness, inadvertent mistake, or otherwise.”
For an authorized agent of Sayyid al-Sistani, for example, issuing an official religious receipt shouldn’t be an issue. If you’ve paid khums to an authorized agent of Sayyid al-Sistani and you didn’t get your receipt, then there is still hope! Just get in touch with them today and ask that they give you your official receipt and you can rest easy! But if, for whatever reason, they don’t or can’t issue a receipt, then we have another problem, which brings us to our second issue.
#2 – KHUMS GIVEN TO AN UNAUTHORIZED AGENT
So, you gave your khums to a person or scholar who identified himself to be authorized to collect it, but he didn’t give you a receipt. Okay, the first step is to find out if the agent is, in fact, authorized. According to another legal opinion of Sayyid al-Sistani, the agent (wakeel) of a jurist “…must hold a written (documented and signed) authorization letter from the jurist.” Furthermore, when asked how to verify this, Sayyid al-Sistani says “To ask that he show his written (documented and signed) authorization letter.”
If he can produce this document, great! It shouldn’t be a problem then for him to get an official receipt. But, if the person you gave your khums to is incapable of showing you his written authorization letter from the jurist (documented and signed), then, unfortunately, he is not an authorized agent. In such a case, if you still wanted the dues which you paid to him to be considered khums, then you would need to ask that he return the funds, and then you would be able to pay it to a correct, authorized agent. If the person can not return the funds, you are still obligated to fulfill your khums requirement again to a legitimate agent, which brings us to the third issue.
#3 – NEGLIGENCE IS NOT AN EXCUSE
According to the legal opinion of Sayyid al-Sistani, even if a person pays their khums to an agent that they believed was eligible, only to learn later on that they were not, “The person is not relieved of the religious responsibility if he/she fell short in checking out the condition of the recipient. Rather, as a matter of obligatory precaution (ihtiyat luzumi), the person is not relieved of the religious responsibility even if he/she did not fall short in checking out the condition of the recipient.”
In other words, even if you find out after the fact, that the “agent” is not authorized, you must pay your khums to the right party. His eminence even goes a step further saying that even if you did your homework and concluded that the agent was eligible only to find out later that they were not , you would still need to pay as a matter of “obligatory precaution”.
Pay khums once!
So how do you make sure that you pay khums correctly the first time around? The most important step is to make sure you pay your khums to an authorized agent! As mentioned above, an authorized agent will have written (documented and signed) authorization from the jurist. And just as Sayyid al-Sistani advised, a person should ask the agent to “…show his written (documented and signed) authorization letter.” The office of the jurist will only issue official receipts to verified agents to whom they have granted this letter. So, an authorized agent should have no trouble at all getting a receipt.
For example, if you would like to pay khums through I.M.A.M., the liaison office of the Supreme Religious Authority, Ayatullah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, in North America, first you should ask us for our authorization letter. For your convenience, we’ve posted them online right here. As an authorized agent of the jurist, I.M.A.M. can obtain and issue official religious receipts that satisfy the religious requirements to relieve payers of their religious obligations when it comes to khums and many other religious dues. To learn more about how to pay your khums and other religious dues through I.M.A.M. click here.