Islamic State Propaganda Puts Increasing Emphasis on Zakah

Mar 3, 2016

In the past few days, the Islamic State’s messaging has been emphasizing the importance of the collection of a religious tax – the Zakah, an obligatory form of almsgiving in Islam. The media branch of the Homs Province (Syria) issued a video on March 1, 2016, stressing the need to adhere to the Islamic State’s instructions regarding the collection of Zakah, following a similar video issued by the Tarablus Province (Libya) just a few days earlier.

Although such videos have been sporadically issued in the past, they are especially interesting against the backdrop of growing financial hardship the group has been facing of late. Airstrikes targeting oil facilities and convoys, and cash stockpiles belonging to the group, have significantly reduced IS’ ability to generate revenues. IS has also been losing territory in both Iraq and Syria, which reduces the number of residents living under its rule and the revenue generated through taxation. The situation has become so grave that the group was reportedly forced to cut fighters' salaries in half in December 2015.

Both videos remind the audience of a Quranic verse that promises "agonizing misery" to those who refrain from giving the Zakah. Additionally, both videos explain that the alms are collected to help the poor, likely in a bid to preclude any resentment caused by the levying of the tax.