An American Islam
Tax on the Rich Rooted in Judeo-Christian-Islamic Principles
President Obama aims to live by the Christian principle that a person who is blessed with much must give back to the community. That seems to be the underlying sentiment of his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in early February, where the President framed his tax policies within biblical principles: "But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus' teaching that 'for unto whom much is given, much shall be required.'"
Here, the president is quoting Luke 12:48: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." Indeed, Jesus Christ did stress the importance of helping the poor, saying once: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Mt. 25:40)."
The President then added, "It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who've been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others." Here, he is absolutely correct: In Islam, there definitely is the principle that "unto whom much is given, much shall be required."
That is, in fact, is the entire purpose of zakah, which is the "fourth pillar" of Islam. Zakah is a wealth tax; Muslims must annually give 2.5 percent on unused wealth accumulated over the course of the year to the poor and needy. The word zakah, in fact, means "purifying dues," because such a tax "purifies" the person from greed and miserliness. (Interestingly, some professors and directors of economic think tanks have recently called for a similar type of tax.)
Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based physician and writer. He is author of, most recently, Noble Brother: The Story of the Prophet Muhammad in Poetry (Faithful Word Press). You can follow Hesham Hassaballa on Facebook.