“You shall know that one fifth of what you gain shall go to God and the messenger, the relatives, the orphans, the poor, and the homeless; this is if you believe in God and in what We revealed to Our servant on the day of decision, the day the two armies clashed. God is capable of all things.”
One of the recently circulated claims has been the claim that since God says in 8:41 that one fifth of what you gain “ghanimtum” should be dedicated to the recipients specified in 8:41, then this speaks of the Zakat and that we must pay one fifth of all our income (20%) towards Zakat.
To analyse this claim, we need to examine the word “ghanimtum” and how it is used in 8:41 and in other Quranic verses.
The literal meaning of this word is: what you have gained.
The question is whether this word in 8:41 refers to everything a person gains such as income, capital gains, gifts, inheritance etc, or is it used in 8:41 in a specific meaning?
1- The first observation is that the verses which come immediately before 8:41 speak specifically about fighting the disbelievers in war.
2- Further confirmation is given in 8:41 itself with the words “the day the two armies clashed”. Those who try to manipulate Quranic words in order to enforce their own interpretations, have a habit of quoting some words in isolation and not the whole verse! By reading all the words in 8:41 we have confirmation that the words 'what you gained' are clearly related to what is gained at war, which are the spoils of war.
3- The verb “ghanimtum” is used only twice in all the Quran. The first is in 8:41 and the second is in 8:69. In 8:69 the believers are told to rejoice in what they gain from war. Once again if we look at the verses just before 8:69 we see they are speaking about war. In 8:67 God is telling the prophet that he may not have prisoners of war except under certain conditions, and in 8:68 God tells the prophet that he would be punished if he breaks these rules, this continues in 8:69 and we find the word “ghanimtum” which obviously is sill connected to war time.
4- The sura, in which the word “ghanimtum” is used twice, is called Al-Anfal. This word means the spoils of war, which again confirms the topic to be related to war time.
5- When God speaks about zakat or sadaqaat, God always uses the words “aatu al-zakat”, which means “give the zakat” and “eetaa al-zakat” which means the giving of the zakat. The words “ghanimtum” is never used in the Quran in any verse where the word zakat or sadaqaat is used.
6- The word “ghanimtum” is a verb and the noun is “maghanim”. This word has also been used in the Quran to refer to the spoils of war such as in 48:19 and 48:20. These verses follow from 48:18 which speak of an imminent victory (in battle).
7- God never contradicts Himself! In 17:26 we read the word “haqahu” which means (its due right, i.e. a compulsory payment), this confirms that God is speaking about Zakat. Then in verses 26-29 we are told not to be stingy nor too extravagant when we pay this payment. This confirms that God did not set a fixed rate for Zakat.
How can anyone be stingy or extravagant if everyone is paying a fixed 20%? The words ‘do not be stingy nor too extravagant’ confirm that the percentage is not fixed, but that it is flexible and that it has been left to each individual's means.
If God tells us in 17:26-29 that the rate of Zakat is not fixed but left to every individual, then tell us in 8:41 to pay a fixed 20% rate for Zakat, then God would be contradicting Himself!
We know that God never contradicts Himself, and this once again proves that 8:41 has nothing to do with the payment of Zakat.