It has become customary for us to say at this point that the Islamic State no longer controls territory as it did at the height of its power in 2014-2016 in Iraq, Syria, Libya and West Africa, and that the primary image of the group at this point is as a globalised jihadist insurgency whose reach has extended from central and southern Africa all the way to east Asia. However, this picture does not mean that the authority of conventional states against the Islamic State insurgencies is uniform throughout the areas where these insurgencies operate. Where the Islamic State affiliates feel that they have sufficient leeway, they do in fact try to impose various aspects of governance on local populations in keeping with the group's ideological conception of itself as the caliphate (i.e. a state project) and the prior realisations of this project on the ground.
In parts of West Africa, there have been credible signs of the Islamic State's imposition of some aspects of governance that recall the earlier days of territorial control and administration: among them the imposition of zakat that is levied on the wealthy to distribute to the poor and for other purposes. I was first asked about this in late November 2020 by the analyst Vincent Foucher, who inquired as to the authenticity of a purported Islamic State zakat receipt issued by the group's West Africa province (see image below). My opinion at the time was that while it differed somewhat from other zakat receipts I have seen, nothing about the receipt could allow us to say for certain that it was forged. Further, why forge something like a zakat receipt? I am of the overall opinion that the receipt that Foucher showed me is authentic.
But if the imposition of zakat by the West Africa province was previously known only through internal documents and anecdotal reports, it is now being advertised in the group's official media, first in an official photo series that was released recently and now in an article in the official al-Naba' newsletter which I translate below. For the technical terminology of zakat consult the Islamic State guide to zakat linked to in the paragraph above. Note also that the currency of nairas mentioned below is the currency of Nigeria.
Thursday 15 Shawwal 1442 AH
Amir of the Diwan al-Zakat in West Africa to al-Naba': 'Most of the payers of zakat in the wilaya have hearts opened to this act of worship and receive the collectors with honouring.'
Report observes the latest activities of Diwan al-Zakat during the past two months.
Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiya
Far removed from the regime of the disbelieving capitalist economy amid which a minority of the wealthy rich compete in hoarding their wealth and accumulating it in the banks, not caring for those besides them from those who suffer poverty, and far removed from the tyrannical taxes and tolls that the Tawagheet impose on the people in the land of disbelief, the Muslims deal with their wealth and earn their provisions in the protection of the Islamic State, at safety and not fearing that anyone should deprive them of anything of their wealth, nor that anyone should impose on them a man-made law in which there is tax except what their Lord (Almighty and Exalted is He) has imposed on them from zakat that the imam takes from the wealth of their wealth and renders unto their poor.
The Islamic State has established the pillar of zakat
And that is the mission entrusted to the Diwan al-Zakat that the Islamic State establishes in every region of the earth in which God Almighty has enabled it, reviving this great ritual and establishing this pillar of the religion. And it is what has been realised by the grace of God in Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiya, as the Diwan al-Zakat regular gathers charities from their owners and divides them among those entitled to them from the poor and others besides them in the regions of its control, despite the fierce ongoing battles against the armies of disbelief in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon and their apostate militias.
And in this domain, the amir of the Diwan al-Zakat in Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiya (may God protect him) has provided us with details supported by numbers and surveys regarding the latest activities of the Diwan in collecting the zakats and disbursing them on those entitled to them during the past two months of Sha'aban and Ramadan.
According to what the amir of zakat said to al-Naba', the Diwan has since its establishment organised work by means of forming four contingents of collectors, whose assignments is to collect zakat from the owners of money and livestock whose wealth has reached the nisab and on which the year has passed, and likewise the crops on harvesting, as they are previously investigated and observed, and in every month each of the four groups heads to a specific side.
With wisdom and good counsel
And the amir of zakat clarified that the collectors begin by calling on the rich to the law of God and teaching them the jurisprudence of zakat and the obligation of bringing it out and the punishment of those who prevent it in this world and the Hereafter, with wisdom and good counsel. And he added saying: that most of the payers of zakat in the wilaya have open hearts to this great act of worship and they receive the collectors with honouring, indeed among them are those who bear the cost of travel to notify the centre of the Diwan al-Zakat that the year has passed upon their wealth and offer it for the zakat to be taken upon it, as they are nomadic shepherds whose places are sometimes not come upon by the collectors. And on the other hand there are those who are sad about that and the zakat is only taken from them in spite of them.
And amir of zakat offered his advice through al-Naba' to these people and their likes by saying: we in the Islamic State, whenever we ask the owners of wealth to pay their zakats, that is not out of desire for what God has placed in their hands nor to exercise custom duties on their wealth, but rather out of obedience to God (Almighty and Exalted is He) who has commanded us to do that, and following the example of His Messenger (SAWS) and his noble companions (may God be pleased with them), and purifying and growing their wealth, on account of the Almighty's words: 'Take from their wealth a charity by which you may purify and cleansed them, and pray for them'- (al-Tawba 103).
Mechanism of distributing zakat to those entitled to it
And in his discussion with al-Naba', the amir of the Diwan revealed that the extent of what has been collected during the months of Sha'aban and Ramadan in the al-Buhaira area from the three types of wealth (namely, livestock, crops and money) has amounted in value to 51,865,000 nairas or what equals $156,985, among them 80% from livestock and 20% from crops and money. And that is because the harvesting of crops is very meagre in the time of drought every year.
And concerning the mechanism of distributing zakat, he made clear to al-Naba' that the disbursement of the wealth of zakat is done through the 'Commission of Masarif of Zakat' which undertakes its role in recording and defining the names of those who deserve zakat from the Muslims, then the wealth is distributed to them. And he affirmed that the commission priorities recording in that for the poor, and that it does not neglect those besides them from those entitled to charities.
The efforts of the Diwan al-Zakat: disbursement and organisation of zakat
And concerning the efforts of the Diwa al-Zakat in the month of Ramadan, the amir of the Diwan said in his conversation with al-Naba' that what has been distributed on the deserving of zakat from the Muslims during the past month of Ramadan has amounted to 3,420,000 nairas (i.e. around $8800) for the poor, and 825 packets of food, in addition to 353 bundles of clothes for the orphans and children of the Muslims. We ask God to enrich them by the Exalted's grace.
It is to be noted that the media office for Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiya showed in a photo report during Ramadan an aspect of the activity of the Diwan al-Zakat in collection and distribution upon the Muslims, and praise be to God.
And when the al-Naba' correspondent in Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiya asked some of the people how have the affairs of zakat been in the area before the rise of the Islamic State in them, they responded that the matter was not controlled, in that many of the payers of zakat were not giving it to those entitled to it, and some of them did not know its extents, and some of them were miserly and refused to bring it out. Also they expressed their contentment with the efforts of the men of the Diwan al-Zakat and they prayed to God Almighty for Him to grant them success and help in undertaking this trust.
Glad tidings and advice for the Muslims
And in this context, the amir of the Diwan al-Zakat (may God grant him success) gave glad tidings that the Diwan would undertake in the next stage the establishment of offices for the masarif of zakat in the rest of the regions of the wilaya by the permission of God Almighty, and that with the aim of developing the activities of the Diwan and expanding its services for the poor of the Muslims, and so that these offices should be near to all the poor families and households. May God cover them in the two abodes.
And in concluding his discussion with al-Naba', the amir of the Diwan al-Zakat (may God protect him) advised his brothers giving zakat and charities to pay them voluntarily, and to be sincerely devoted to God Almighty in bringing them out, so they should not lose their reward, for they should be a gain and not a loss for them by the permission of God Almighty. And for every man is what he has intended, and praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds.