Political Piety: The Politicization of Zakat

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9 Citations (Scopus)


This article seeks to address the relationship between practices of piety within Islamist groups and to present an explicit critique of dominant political assemblages. Increased emphasis on pious activity by Islamist movements frequently has been interpreted as ‘the retreat of political Islamism’ (O. Roy (1994) The Failure of Political Islam, Volk, C. (trans.) (London: I.B Tauris), p. 78). The separation of pious activity from political action/intent relies upon a logic derived from the contemporary Westphalian nation-state framework that assumes a separation between religion and state, and a public-private divide. This logic necessitates that the restriction of religious activity to the private sphere constitutes its de-politicization. However, practices of informal zakat (religious alms) collection and re-distribution suggest the exact reverse of the logic read from the nation-state framework. Government attempts to dominate and regulate zakat have been met with widespread resistance. Far from signaling the de-politicization of Islamism, informal zakat, reclaimed from the state, explicitly critiques the nation-state at the level of corruption, failure, and illegitimacy and responds to contemporary political crisis in contradistinction to the logic of the nation-state framework.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-164
Number of pages16
JournalMiddle East Critique
Issue number2
Early online date1 May 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Islamism
  • Hamas
  • nation-state
  • piety
  • religion
  • secularism
  • taxation
  • zakat


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