A related question is this thread, where the subject in question were banks, and how they operated and profited under Islamic rule.

In Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), charging interest on loans is considered usury and is illegal. How did Islamic states fund their armies to wage war? Was it all plunder as you conquer or did the states take foreign loans and adhere to the interest?

I am looking for a broad range of how different Islamic empires operated their war finances, and maybe how it evolved over time. Basically everything from the inception of Islam to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

  • 3
    Should this one be focused on the time period the other question was focused on? Something like "the Islamic Golden Age", or "The early Caliphates?"
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 16:03
  • Well anything before the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to beginning of Islam. I don't want to limit my scope because I want to see a broad range of how different Islamic empires operated. Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 16:31
  • 4
    Hmmm. The phrasing of the question kind of seems like it assumes they were all the same. If you're expecting instead to get answers about how it evolved, it might be good to clarifiy that. Our users tend to downvote posts that imply homogeneity over a huge swath of time.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 16:43
  • I have edited in a paragraph showing what I am looking for a bit more clearly, but if I have to, I'll make it more focused to a specific period. Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 17:26
  • Some of the early Islamic conquests were rich regions - even after the fall of the Western Empire. North Africa, Levant, Syria. The initial plunder and the tax potential, including jizya on the many subjugated infidels, were large for the time. It is not surprising that they could finance their wars. The potential for more plunder and large scale slave taking also means wars partly finance themselves. Don't think on S or E Mediterranean as relatively poorer regions compared to N or W Mediterranean as they are now.
    – Luiz
    Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 23:18

1 Answer 1


In the early Islamic empires, the state charged an alms tax on Muslim subjects (zakat). It was mainly intended for charity but war "in the path of God" (jihad) was also a permitted use for it. This tax covered practically all types of wealth, including not just gold and silver but also livestock, land rent, merchandise and agricultural produce.

There was also a poll tax charged on non-Muslim subjects (of which there are many), paid in gold or silver.

Finally, during the early conquests in places like Mesopotamia and Egypt, vast tracts of agricutural land was expropriated from the previous ruling class and claimed by the empire as an endowment for the Muslim community. The state charged a land tax on these called kharaj, which continued to be charged even though in practice the land was given over to a new Muslim land-owning class.

Of course, as with all other empires, plunder was both the object of conquest and helped finance further conquest. There were detailed rules under Islamic rule for how land and property could be taken in war and how it would be distributed between the state and the generals and soldiery.

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