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How Political Islam Legitimized Corruption?

The pool set up by Erdogan during his Metropolitan Mayor of Istanbul days and still sustained after his reign started thanks to the commission and bribes he received from the tenders has been on the agenda for many years. The stealing and corruption mentioned cannot be accepted as an absolute assertion. Because the corruption cases that have been filed against him, thousands of indictment pages prepared about him throughout the 17-25 corruption cases, operations carried out targeting the AKP leadership, investigations, detentions, news revealed by the media, headlines, accusations by the opposing party leadership, warnings and alarms by the column writers close to AKP, and the tapes circulating online do not leave any reasonable doubt for this.

The very fact that the “Public Tender Act” had been changing stupendously for 187 times as of 2019 for a period of 17 years, the virtual shattering of the Court of Accounts with the laws enacted, and the blocking of the reports of the Court of Accounts to be delivered to the parliament are important traces revealing there were bid-rigging and corruption in public tenders.

Suleyman Soylu stated the following in his speech on 10 December 2008: “Corruption is all over them. There is favoritism with tenders and partisan municipalism in Turkey.” In another speech on 25 February 2009, he states, “The government who says that it will fight corruption has sunk turkey into the pit of corruption. Mr. Prime Minister said that he will not allow this country to become a country of unearned income, but he brought the worst of it himself. The following statement of Numan Kurtulus was on the headlines for many days in the media: “They came like Aaron, and they became Karun.”


Ahmet Tasgetiren had been writing out since 2003-04 in many of his articles how the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government was infected with viruses, how they were weakened by corruption, how they created their own wealthy people just like any other rulership, how they were lascivious about riches, how they parted away from their mission, and their overall defilement. Likewise, Abdurrahman Dilipak focused on not to have gravitated to money, position, and women in his articles. He listed some warnings with his following words: “Let us give the job to the competent people. Let us secure the tender to the one who deserves it the most. Let us abandon compatriotism, chauvinism, and do not favor any religion, cult, or sects. Let us not be partisans!”

Mehmet Sevket Eygi’s articles on 7 August 2010 titled “God damn you!” included even more severe criticism: “Does Islam support the practice of siphoning off the state and municipality budgets? Is there bribing? Is haram (forbidden/illegal) allowed? Is breach of trust allowed? Is it possible to lie to or deceive the people? Does Islam allow receiving haram commissions by submitting permissions that legitimize the buildings to have extra floors after opening the lands and plots for housing? Is bid-rigging allowed during tenders? Is it allowed to be super-rich through haram methods?” After these questions, Eygi continued his words with further imprecations: “I am cursing at you. God damn you! I wish you will not make both ends meet! I hope you cannot enjoy your haram fortunes in peace! You let the Muslims down. I hope you will not see a day without trouble.”

The following incident mentioned by Ahmed Donmez in his book “Ten Percent” reveals that corruption had started much earlier. Omer Dincer, who had been responsible for the companies held by Istanbul municipality, conveyed the problems he had faced to Ali Bulac in 1996 with his following words: “Ali Abi (Abi means older brother, a sign of respect), there are many wrong things going on. Cuts are being received with Chief’s orders. These cuts are being collected in one place. They are being transferred to the associations and foundations close to us.” He continues that he repeatedly told Erdogan about his discomfort only to fetch up nowhere and eventually asks Bulac to do the same thing. Of course, nothing changes. According to Erdogan, it is not possible to move towards the “big objectives” without setting up this pool. (p 37-38)

Ali Bulac’s article titled “Water of the Pool” written after many years supports the incident above: “The financing of politics and monetary backing of the jamaat and other groups close to the government cross the path of this “pool system” that has been monitored for almost 20 years and clearly revealed in recent days. According to this system, a certain percentage is received by the municipalities or central administration from the companies, holdings or individuals that acquire some kind of job.”

There are some questions being raised almost in any place where various kinds of corruption such as bribery, embezzlement, extortion, and graft are mentioned: How is it possible for the people who are known for their religious and conservative identity to impinge public property? How can they be unfair to the poor orphan? How can they make jaw-dropping fortunes by exploiting public properties and sources, tenders, and privatizations? How do the administrators, who forgive the tax fines of their supporters, ignore their tax evasions, and give them the biggest shares from the public ads and announcements relieve their consciences?

Ahmet Donmez states, “Indeed, I have witnessed the people defending themselves in general and do not believe that the things they do are actually wrong throughout hundreds of corruption stories I have encountered in my journalism career.”

Rationalization and legitimization are among the things human beings use frequently in order to salve their consciences. But how is it possible for such big sins and harams to be viewed “normal” and “legitimate” by the people who have such religious sensitivity? Do the people, who are really involved in such corruption, seek any kind of fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law) about it? The more striking question is this: Is there anybody who issues a fatwa for all these harams? 

Turkish-Iranian Businessman Reza Zarrab who was involved in a big corruption scandal with Turkish AKP Government.

It has been discussed for a long time that “the caliph can receive his share from the “booty” under the name of “khums”. I am not sure how true this is. However, discussing whether the head of state has a right on public revenues and state properties or not, and up to what extent he can benefit from them would leave no room for doubt and answer some of the questions.

In addition, supposing that the issue is brought forward together with the religious sources, it will be revealed how the tyrant governments manipulate religion with some compelling fatwas in order to seize the properties of the people and abuse them for their own sordid ambitions. More importantly, the people, who have been witnessing AKP’s corruption, theft, immorality, and pack of lies, will see the fact that all of this absurdism actually has nothing to do with Islam.

Some might start asking questions such as “Is Islamic law being enforced in Turkey?”, “Is there a war going on?”, “Where did the booty come from?”. However, it is very easy to see how the prominent religious notions such as caliph, aid, obedience, bagy (rebellion), war, and bootie are abused and used out of concept when we consider that Metin Balkanlioglu actually claimed the properties – by referring to the properties of the Gulen Movement – are considered “booties” and it is possible to “make the most out of them”; Ahmet Akgunduz enacted the death of the Gulen Movement after declaring it “the rebels who committed the crime of rebellion against the caliph”; Hayrettin Karaman issued a fatwa claiming that it is possible to transfer the commissions and bribes received from the tenders to religious foundations.

Just like the above, it is very possible that the Shiites could have issued a fatwa for the commissions received from the tenders based on the khums tax. Therefore, we would like to bring forward the provisions of Islam about khums first, and then talk about the position of the head of state over the public properties and eventually the religious ruling of such corruption. 

Khums According to the Ahl al-Sunna (Followers of Sunnah)

The lexical meaning of khums is “one fifth”. According to the terminology of fiqh, it is explained as the one fifth (twenty percent) share received by the stated from the bootie seized in war and other properties under this provision. Here is the verse in the Quran mentioned in Surah Al-Anfal: “And know that anything you obtain of war booty – then indeed, for Allah is one-fifth of it and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and the orphans, the needy, and the [stranded] traveler.”

This verse was revealed after the Battle of Badr. Although some prophetic biographists state that the khums provision was enforced in Badr, the majority of the ulama agree that it was revealed after the distribution of the bootie. According to Ibn Sa’d, the first khums enforcement had taken place for the booties of Banu Qaynuqa. (Ibn Sa’d, et-Tabakatu’l-kubra, 2/29/30) The provisions of khums were enforced by the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) for the booties seized throughout the following wars.

First, the bootie should be divided into five (or six) shares; four-fifth of this should be distributed among the veterans of the war; the remaining one-fifth share should be divided into five to be given to the Prophet (PBUH), His relatives, orphans, poor, and to the travelers according to the provision in the verse. According to this calculation, everybody would be able to receive 1/25 of the total bootie. In other words, this means that the fourth-fifths of the bootie is spent on the veterans, and the other one-fight is spent for the public services. Therefore, khums had taken its place among the public revenues just like Fay and Zakat.

Islamic scholars are in agreement that the state must take one-fifth of the bootie in order to spend it accordingly for the places mentioned in the verse. However, there were some controversies about the matters of fay (bootie obtained without war), seleb (property of the enemy soldier who is killed), jizya (head tax received from the non-Muslims), and riqaz (treasure and mines). Although some of the scholars conclude that khums should be received from the properties received from the non-Muslims such as fay, and jizya, the majority of the ulama opposed and stated that khums is exclusively for the bootie properties. According to the hadith “Khums is compulsory on Rikaz.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Zakat, 24/66) there is an agreement that one-fifth tax should be collected from the treasures and mines. However, according to the majority of the ulama, this one-fifth share is a form of zakat. There is general consent that any treasures found underground fall under the scope of riqaz. However, whether the mines are subject to the same provision is controversial.

It is clearly stated in the verse where the khums properties should be spent. According to this, the khums properties must be given to Allah (SWT), the Prophet (PBUH) and His close relatives, orphans, poor, and travelers. However, there are some different opinions stated around the subject. According to the majority of the ulama, Allah (SWT) is mentioned at the beginning of the verse for the purpose of gratuity. Therefore, there is no need to allocate a share o Him. As a matter of fact, khums was divided into five shares and these shares were provided to the Prophet (PBUH), His close relatives, orphans, travelers, and poor in the time of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) according to the Hanafi, Shafi, and Hanbali sects. Therefore, they perceived that the two shares reserved for Allah (SWT) and the Prophet (PBUH) were accepted as one single share.

There were also some disputes about the nature of the share (1/25) given to the Prophet (PBUH). While the majority of the ulama, primarily the Hanafis and Malikis, attributed the reason to give a share to the Prophet to his prophethood, Imam Shafii attributed the reason to the Prophet (PBUH) being the head of state. The Prophet’s (PBUH) share will be dropped after He passes away according to the scholars supporting the first opinion. Because there will not be any other prophets after Him. And according to Imam Shafii, this share will be given to the head of state succeeding the Prophet (PBUH).

Imam Shafii states that the succeeding caliphs will also need some expenditures just like the Prophet (PBUH) needed in order to give presents to the visiting envoys and delegations. However, this share originating from the fay and bootie does not pass to the head of state as personal property or right. On the contrary, it must be spent on public services. And the Hanbali scribes are of the opinion that the shares of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) should be allocated directly to public services and expenditures after His death.

Different opinions have been put forward about who will be included in the “dhawi l-qurba” which means the close relatives of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). Some of the ulama limited the people, who are included in the dhawi l-qurba and would be able to receive a share from the bootie, only to the clan of Hashim. Another part of the ulama extended this limit even more and stated that dhawi l-qurba actually covers the tribe of Quraysh. And according to the majority of the scholars, Clan of Hashim and clan of Muttalib are actually implied for the coverage. The reason for the Prophet’s (PBUH) relatives to have such a privilege is that they are prohibited to receive zakat or sadaqah (charity).

There was no significant divergence about the third group (orphans, poor, and travelers) that should be given a share from the khums. The reason for these three groups to receive a share from the khums is poverty. The Hanafis devoted the share of the Prophet and His relatives from the khums to these third group after the death of the Prophet (PBUH).

On the other hand, Shafiis and Hanbalis state that the khums is to be divided into five shares, just like when the Prophet (PBUH) was alive, even after His death. The share of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) is to be used for public services according to them. And the Malikis left the decision of the distribution of fay and khums properties to the head of state and stated that the head of state may use them for the benefit of the Muslim community at his sole discretion.

Shia’s Khums Provisions

While the Sunni fiqh kept the definition of khums very narrow, the Shia fiqh and practice evaluated it in a more comprehensive way allowing the term to gain more importance and focused on it in a separate and private chapter after zakat in fiqh books and eventually institutionalized gradually. The fact that many Shiite scholars such as Murtada al-Ansari, Murtada al-Hairi, Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei, and Mohammad Taqi wrote books about the provisions of khums shows the importance they attached on khums.

Shiite scribes (Imammiyah) expanded the area of khums, which is included in a verse in the Quran, since bootie means “gain and profit”. Aside from the treasures and mines, the surplus of the annual profits is also subject to khums. In other words, one-fifth of any kind of commercial, industrial, and agricultural profit made by someone at the end of the year that is more than his/her needs must be given as khums.

Likewise, they stated that the goods removed from the sea, the lands which are transferred to the non-Muslims, halal goods which are mixed with haram also subject to khums. In other words, one-fifth of the goods included in all these groups must be given to the state according to the Shiite scribes. And no quorum shall be sought for the goods subject to khums aside from the treasures and mines. Whether a person earns more or less, s/he must provide the khums. It is useful to remind that the khums is an additional tax to zakat. It is such a great religious duty to fulfill the obligation of khums which corresponds to the properties and earnings, anybody that violates this will torment Ahl al-Bayt and entrench upon them. (Sheik Nasir, Kitabu’l-hums ve’l-enfal, p. 15-271; Mustafa Oz, “Humus”, DIA, 18/369)

The Shiite ulama states that the share of Allah (SWT), who is mentioned in the verse, will be directly transferred to the Prophet (PBUH), and then will be left to the imam by proxy. They also believe that the term “dhawi l-qurba” in the verse refers to the imam after the death of the Prophet (PBUH). Therefore, they argued that the imam has the right on the three shares allocated to Allah (SWT), the Prophet (PBUH), and His relatives.

The remaining three shares are to be given to the orphans, poor, and travelers of the clam of Hashim according to Shi’a. The Shia stipulated that the person who would receive khums must believe in twelve imams and stated that the poor who do not comply with this condition could not get a share from the khums.

And the right over the huge amounts of khums after the gaybat (absence) of the imam is left to the mujtahids (interpreters of Islamic law) who are viewed as the representatives and regents of the secret imam. As a result, the Shi’a saved the imams from being financially dependent on political authorities by allocating them a great fortune under the name of khums and appointed the mujtahids as guardians of budgets that can reach high amounts. (Tabersi, Mecmeu’l-beyan fi tefsiri’l-Kur’an, 4/345)

As Abdulaziz Sachedina stated, the debate around khums has become an inseparable part of the Shiite studies about law, and it has become one of the most significant differences between the law schools of the Shiites and Sunnis. (Abdülaziz Sachedina, “Imamî Şiî Hukuk Sisteminde Humus”, Marife, year: 4, print: 3)

Undoubtedly, this type of interpretation and gloss which is only seen with the Shiite scholars is contrary to the clear and explicit provision of the verse of the Quran. Because, while the clear wording in the verse attributes khums to the bootie of war, the context (phraseology) of the verse clearly indicates this. No hadith that supports the opinions and jurisprudence of Shi’a has been reported neither. Moreover, it has been stated that there is no narrative that supports this extended meaning of khums in the hadith books that Shi’a deems valid.

The very fact that the Prophet (PBUH), the succeeding Rashidun Caliphate, and peculiarly Ali not taking their one-fifth share from the profits and earnings under the name of “khums” shows that this practice of Shi’a is not based on any kind of religious nas (hadiths and the verses of Quran). The fact that this practice emerged towards the end of the fifth century of the hejira and the absence of the meaning of khums that is perceived by the Shi’a throughout the fiqh books written earlier indicate that is actually a bid’ah (innovation) propound later for different reasons. (Musa el-Musevî, The Struggle Between Shia and Shiism, p. 83)

Dr. Yuksel Cayiroglu is a scholar focusing on Islamic Law and Religious Studies.

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Professor Yuksel Cayiroglu is a scholar focusing on Islamic Law and Religous Studies.

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