Booty الْغَنِيْمة

Booty الْغَنِيْمة

It is common knowledge that wars are fought for wealth, land resources, and people who can be taxed to enrich the State Treasury. Thus, wars will never end; reasons will not change, but only the reasons announced through the media will change.

Booty-collection is a matter of common sense whether a religion or an easy-chair philosopher allows it or not. Battles are fought in open fields, far away from towns. One side is defeated, flees, leaving behind arms, goods, tents, and civilians: men and women, plus soldiers lying in the field, half dead, half alive. What should the victorious army do? Abandon all? War-spoil collection is, in fact, a duty.

War spoils are known as ghanimah in Islam. The practice during paganism was that the leader of the tribe kept one-fourth of the choicest of the booty to himself. The Torah has the toughest rules for war and spoils:

“When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the LORD your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourselves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here. But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Per’izzites, the Hivites and the Jeb’usites, as the LORD your God has commanded’ (Deuteronomy. 22: 10-17).”

The Prophet , divided war spoils into five parts. Four-fifths went to those who had taken part in the battle, and the remaining one-fifth was divided into five parts. One-fifth thereof was again divided into five parts to be allocated for (i)Allah and His Messenger, (ii) for the Prophet's kin, (iii) the orphans, (iv) the needy, and (v) the wayfarer. Thus, one-fifth of one-fifth was the share of Allah and His Messenger (as in verse 41 of Surah al-Anfal). And, out of this one-fifth of the one-fifth, the Prophet marked a suitable share for the Grand Mosque at Makkah. He spent his own share on his wives and kinsfolk, keeping nothing for himself.

After him, the rules changed: one-fifth was for the State (spent on defense and public welfare), and four-fifths for the Mujahidin. This is how Abu Bakr and `Umar spent and, according to a grandson of `Ali, this is how `Ali strictly spent it during his caliphate. The four-fifths of the Mujahidin was divided in the ratio of a share for the horse, a share for the rider, and a share for the foot-soldier. A horse got a share because in those times, the Mujahidin were voluntary fighters. They received no pay, and paid with their lives to prove their sincerity to Allah and His religion. They brought their own weapons and their own beasts. Even food was their own responsibility. (Today’s armies are entirely mercenary).

Those who accompany a Muslim army as non-combatants, (for civil services), have no share in the spoils, if they are hired and paid for their services. Booty collection has to be by order of the commander, and distribution responsibility of the state. Anyone who deceives, to keep back something, is promised the Fire. The Prophet used to say, “Hand over even the thread and the needle, anything bigger than that or smaller than that, and deceive not. Anything obtained by deceit is abominal, and is Fire for its owner in this world and the next.”

The intention of booty nullifies Jihad. The Prophet was asked, “Someone fights in the way of Allah, but what if he intends booty!?” The Prophet answered, “He will get no rewards.” The Prophet also said, “He who fought but did not intend except to get a piece of rope, will have (as reward) what he intended for.”

There is no difference in opinion that “ghanimah” is that spoil of war which is obtained from the unbelievers by the believers overcoming their resistance; whereas “Fay” is those materials that are obtained by the Muslims peacefully, without any effort on their part. The rules of distribution, therefore, are different. See Fay.

The Prophet has predicted, “A time will come when zakah will be considered a penalty and trust as booty.”