The dictionary defines loot as goods or objects pillaged at times of war, also called the “spoils of war”. Muhammad used to attack others and obtain loots. His share of the booty or loot was a 20% cut (called the “Khums” in Arabic). In this article, I discuss how Muhammad used to obtain this “holy” 20% share, and distribute the rest of the loot to his Muslim followers.
The Qur’an sanctifies obtaining wealth by attacking others
The Qur’an, the supposed “holy book” of Muslims, not a manual for gangsters, does have a Sura in it, called “Al Anfal”. “Al Anfal” literally translates as “Spoils of war”. The Sura came down as a “revelation” to Muhammad to give him divine guidance on how to distribute the plunder he obtained from the Quraish victorious Battle of Badr in 624 AD.
One thing that Muslims ignore is that Allah, Muhammad’s godly entity, blesses their attacking of others, killing, enslaving and raping them, and taking their properties. In this Allah is also very worried about the delicate matter of how to distribute such undeserved wealth snatched from other by force. Muslims never question the ethics of whether Muhammad had any right to capture other people’s properties. In fact, detailed facts of Badr event as recorded in original Sirats show that Muhammad and his Jihad band were the aggressors. They attacked the Quraish unprovoked. Page 116 of Ibn Hisham’s biography (Mohammad Mahdi Al Sharif translation, 2nd edition) informs us that Muhammad heard of a Quraish caravan laden with a huge amount of money and merchandise under the care of Abu Sufyan was coming from Syria. Hearing the news, Muhammad told his companions: “It is a caravan of Quraish in which, there is their money and trade; go out for it, may Allah endow you with its contents”.
This quote shows who initiated the confrontation and thus were the aggressors. Badr ended with the Quraish suffering heavy casualties and losing many of their fine leaders. Muhammad and his party captured a lot of properties that the Quraish left behind while fleeing. Allah, with his divine grace, had to interfere and tell Muhammad how to distribute the loots. With such a divine command, Muhammad insured himself of getting the lion’s share on any future Muslim attack against other tribes:
And know that anything you obtain of war booty – then indeed, for Allah is one fifth of it and for the Messenger and for [his] near relatives and the orphans, the needy, and the [stranded] traveler, if you have believed in Allah and in that which We sent down to Our Servant on the day of criterion – the day when the two armies met. And Allah, over all things, is competent. (anfal, verse 41)
Please note that Allah is the co-owner of the 20% cut of the loot that Muhammad got. The question is: Does Allah, the creators and owner of the seen and unseen world, need a share of the loot Muhammad plundered from others. Certainly not, Muhammad does! Just to make capturing the big part of 20% of the booty by himself acceptable to his raiding gang, Muhammad said his share of the loot was also for Allah, and for his close relatives, etc. That is no more than a cover devised by Muhammad as he wanted the lion’s share of loot for himself, but needed a holy justification for his robbing of others and obtaining a 20% cut for himself.
Simply put, in our modern day understanding, Muhammad was a leader of a gang of criminals who stole by force other people’s belongings. The condition was that Muhammad as the gang’s leader had to get the lion’s share of 20% of the booty, while the rest of the members of his gang get the much smaller share.
Hadiths specify many things about Muhammad’s spoils of war. For instance, a camel was equal to ten sheep. However, there are hadiths that show that spoils of war matters are to be taken seriously. In the following Hadith, we see Muhammad refusing to pray in a man’s funeral because of his dishonesty regarding the spoils of war:
Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn Said from Muhammad ibn Yahya ibn Habban from Ibn Abi Amra that Zayd ibn Khalid al-Juhani said, "A man died on the day of Hunayn, and they mentioned him to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace." Zayd claimed that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "You pray over your companion." (i.e. he would not pray himself). The people's faces dropped at that. Zayd claimed that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Your companion stole from the spoils taken in the way of Allah." Zayd said, "So we opened up his baggage and found some Jews' beads worth about two dirhams." (Malik’s Muwatta’: Book #21, Hadith #21.13.23)
Stealing from the spoils of war by the Muslim warriors has harsh consequences in the afterlife:
Yahya related to me from Malik from Thawr ibn Zayd ad-Dili from Abu'l-Ghayth Salim, the mawla of ibn Muti that Abu Hurayra said, "We went out with the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in the yearof Khaybar. We did not capture any gold or silver except for personal effects, clothes, and baggage. Rifaa ibn Zayd presented a black slave boy to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, whose name was Midam. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, made for Wadi'l-Qura, and when he arrived there, Midam was unsaddling the camel of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, when a stray arrow struck and killed him. The people said, 'Good luck to him! The Garden!' The Messenger of Allah said, 'No! By He in whose hand my self is! The cloak which he took from the spoils on the Day of Khaybar before they were distributed will blaze with fire on him.' When the people heard that, a man brought a sandal-strap or two sandal-straps to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, 'A sandal-strap or two sandal-straps of fire!'" (Malik’s Muwatta’: Book #21, Hadith #21.13.25)
There are many hadith narrations designed to discourage Muhammad Jihadis from stealing from the loot, and submit everything they captured before Muhammad for counting. Muhammad wanted to ensure that he was not short-changed. He wanted that he get his 20% share of everything fallen to the hands of his gang in full, not any bit less.
At the beginning of Islam, Muhammad established a divine system of robbery, called Islam. And he ensured that he gets the lion’s share of the loot obtained from his divinely sanctioned robbery of the non-Muslims by revealing divine verses to the effect. Muhammad revealed verses sanctioning that a 20% cut of the loot obtained from his raids be put aside as the share for him and for his Allah. Certainly Allah never came down to claim his cut of that 20% acquired by Muhammad, and rumor has it that, Allah used to donate his share to Muhammad in full!
It is through the spoils of war that Muhammad accumulated fortunes. And by distributing the remained of the booty among his followers did Muhammad managed to keep his bandits happy. Early Muslims, thus, lived off of plunder obtained by attacking non-Muslims and taking over their properties.
It is this characteristic of Islam that was the basic seed Imperialist Islamic Expansionism. After conquering all of Arabia, Muslims expanded “their business” into Asia, North Africa, Europe, and as far as they could.