(j) Alms and the Man: Fiscal Sectarianism in the Legal Statements of the Shiʿi Imams


  • Edmund Hayes




The sociological dimensions of the development of a sectarian orientation in early Imami Shiʿism have remained sparsely explored since Marshall Hodgson posed the question ‘How did the early Shia become sectarian?’ in 1955. This article explores Imamic hadith statements on the canonical ritual payment of zakāt/ṣadaqa as a way of tracking the crystallisation of communitarian boundaries. It argues that the Shiʿi Imams, especially Imam Bāqir, fit into a common Muslim discourse regarding the payment of zakāt, for example in the case of an unjust Imam. However, the hadiths of the Imam Ṣādiq show a pivot towards the more clearly differentiated Shiʿi juristic positions of the Occultation period. Imamic statements on zakāt, therefore, must be seen as neither identical to Sunni positions, nor to classical Twelver Shiʿi formulations, but rather as dynamic responses to developing circumstances. In using Imamic hadiths to track early Shiʿi doctrine, this article also suggests directions for the development of a methodology for using hadiths to track historical developments, a venture which has barely begun. In dealing with the Shiʿi Hadith corpus, the author calls for an epistemological scepticism, coupled with a methodological positivism, assuming that while Imamic hadiths may merely act as mouthpieces for later doctrinal positions, it is also very possible that they do originate in the circles of the Imams to whom they are ascribed, and should be analysed as such in order to track chronological developments in the Hadith corpus.

Keywords: Minorities, sectarianism, Shia, Shiʿism, Hadith, Islamic law, zakāt, ṣadaqa, alms, taxation, charity, group identity


How to Cite

Hayes, E. (2018). (j) Alms and the Man: Fiscal Sectarianism in the Legal Statements of the Shiʿi Imams. Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, 17, 280–298. https://doi.org/10.5617/jais.6119



Islamic Law and Minorities