The regulations pertaining to Islamic charity taxation illuminate underappreciated dimensions of how Muslims defined identity boundaries in late antiquity. To demarcate the contours of a historical process of Muslim identity construction, I analyze Islamic jurisprudential debates about who is and who is not obligated to pay the charity tax. Most late antique and medieval jurists made the charity tax incumbent on minors or others lacking full legal capacity, even though these groups were exempt from “for-thedivine” practices. I suggest Muslim citizenship as a framework for understanding late antique Muslim identity. Because charity tax liability had socio-political and economic implications, it functioned simultaneously as a gate into and out of a Muslim community. This article contributes to the discourse on Islamic beginnings by exploring the intricacies of Muslim self-conceptions in late antiquity.
M.M. Bravmann“The surplus of property: an early Arab social concept,”Der Islam38 (1962). See also Michael Bonner “Poverty and economics in the Qur’an” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 35 no. 3 (2005): 403. Limited material resources and semi-sedentary lifestyles in ancient Arabia probably made the accumulation of wealth extremely difficult. In the absence of concrete evidence I want to resist assuming a stereotype of Arabian society as relatively more egalitarian than other societies.