Saturday, August 14, 2010

Zakat: Economic Upliftment And Dignity To The Poor


The word Zakat means purification. It is also used to express a portion of property bestowed in alms, as a purification of the remainder to the owner. Under Islamic way of life, the wealth of man is a trial .It is distressing to see rich muslims clinging on to their wealth when their brethren are in need.


We should be happy that we have completed 63 years of our Independence. During these crucial years we flourished economically, developed socially and of course advanced educationally. Estimates are being made that during the few coming days India will be among leading economies of the world. One dream of our forefathers, nevertheless, could not come true. Poverty still rules in our country. We do have billionaires but on the other hand it is also a fact that scores of our farmers commit suicide on daily basis owing to burden of debt, depression emanating from failure of crops and panicked by their inability to feed their families owing to the rising prices of essential commodities.

Every government, despite its claim of being pro-aam aadmi, turns out to be favouring corporate world in its schemes. Poor remain poor, rather they became poorer. They protest daily against the anti-aam aadmi policies of the government but why should anyone pay any heed to them.


Every government, despite its claim of being pro-aam aadmi, turns out to be favouring corporate world in its schemes. Poor remain poor, rather they became poorer. They protest daily against the anti-aam aadmi policies of the government but why should anyone pay any heed to them.

The government talks about reducing poverty, but practically it does very little. Equal distribution of the wealth among all citizens is impossible but at least the basic necessities of life have to be provided.

The muslim of today is more knowledgeable of Islam than the muslim of say 50 years ago. There are more hajis every year, more people attending prayers in mosques, more grand mosques and yet when it comes to Zakat a muslim is yet to learn to give.

Muslims have achieved a lot after independence. They have grown in all spheres of life. The hopelessness and fear after partition has given way to honour, pride and dignity at present to many from the community. This has been largely due to the effort by their individual selves. The muslim does not expect any help from the government and this feeling of being entirely on his own brings out the best in him. This is one reason that the muslims have been able to compete with the best and have excelled in many spheres of society. But yet a muslim would say it is due to the grace of God.

The muslim of today is more knowledgeable of Islam than the muslim of say 50 years ago. There are more hajis every year, more people attending prayers in mosques, more grand mosques and yet when it comes to Zakat a muslim is yet to learn to give. Zakat given by him will actually help him in the long run. A muslim, unless he plans to change his religion or the religion of his children in the future, should realize that by giving zakat he is only strengthening his community, to which he belongs and has to interact with and eventually he and his family will benefit from the strong community he has helped build. The poor of the previous years have due to help of zakat become businessmen, government officers in high posts and doctors etc., who in turn are helping members of the their community.

Just before the Independence, when because of the Second World War, prices of commodities had touched the sky, black marketing was the trend, the value of rupee was declining and wealth had confined to some big corporates and businessmen, then finance minister of the Interim Government Liyaqat Ali Khan, had presented a budget which is known as “Budget of Poor”. The budget had directly attacked the pockets of the corporate world and big businessmen who had accumulated wealth by avoiding taxes.

Commonly it is seen that the counties where Zakat is practiced have a less margin of poverty compared to other countries. Even that little poverty can be reduced but sorrowfully all Muslims do not observe this institution as it should be done.


The budget was presented on February 28, 1947. Liyaqat Ali Khan, in the budget proposed the formation of a commission to investigate the wealth accumulated by avoiding tax. He also proposed that above the profit of one lakh at least 25% special income tax be taken. There were some other taxes which directly harmed the interest of rich people and some other schemes benefiting common man.

These proposals were strongly opposed by industrialists and corporate world. In the cabinet, Sardar Vallabbhai Patel created havoc and said that the budget instead of being pro-poor Indians was meant to harm the Hindu industrialists who were the financial supporters of Congress. The budget was given a communal aspect.

Consequently, those who had agreed upon the Interim Government that promised a United India were compelled to accept the two-nation theory.

Actually this budget was based on the theory that wealth is not to remain in some hands. Rather it should keep on changing hands. This is actually the concept of Zakat institution in Islam. It may be the right solution to the prevailing poverty all over the world. Commonly it is seen that the counties where Zakat is practiced have a less margin of poverty compared to other countries. Even that little poverty can be reduced but sorrowfully all Muslims do not observe this institution as it should be done.

In Islam, Zakat occupies a place next in importance only to Iman (belief) and Salaat (prayer). It is also called the third pillar of the religion. Under this obligation, a Muslim possessing nisab or more has to separate once in a year one-fortieth of his/her wealth for the poor, the needy and for other objectives prescribed by Qur’an and explained by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).


The association of this word to the religion Islam should not be taken in bad terms. This system of Zakat or other schemes formulated on this pattern will provide a solid solution to poverty.

Zakat—spending money for the cause of poor as an obligation—and Sadaqah— giving money voluntarily in charity—have been applauded by non-Muslims, too, as good characteristics of Islam. Muslims are emphasized to give more importance to considering their Last World instead of the world they have been staying in. Islamic scriptures have that this world should be taken as a means to prepare for the Eternal World. No one in the world is to stay forever, hence, adherents of Islam are taught to live a life of a stranger or a passerby in the world. Instead, of accumulating wealth, except for their needs, Muslims are time and again instructed to shape the Life After Death by giving the rest wealth to their other fellow human beings who cannot earn enough money to meet their expenses. Rich Muslims possessing a certain amount of wealth or more are duty bound to spend from their wealth as an obligation from Almighty the Sustainer to all. This obligation literally refers to Zakat.

Through the obligation of Zakat, Muslims have been trained to help poor and needy of the society. There is a wide gap between poor and rich. Zakat helps bridge this gap. It creates and then strengthens a good relation between the two sections of the society. Rich are bound to help needy ones, and the poor lot helps rich ones fulfil their obligation by accepting alms from them.

In Islam, Zakat occupies a place next in importance only to Iman (belief) and Salaat (prayer). It is also called the third pillar of the religion. Under this obligation, a Muslim possessing nisab or more has to separate once in a year one-fortieth of his/her wealth for the poor, the needy and for other objectives prescribed by Qur’an and explained by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

“Alms (Zakat/Sadaqah) are for the poor, and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds), for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Iman), for those in debt, in the way of Allah, and for the wayfarer.” Qur’an (9: 60). Since in madaris many poor and needy students are imparted free education, permission has been granted to pay Zakat to madaris too. While paying Zakat Muslims are instructed to be cautious as there are many inherited beggars who ask for Zakat while they do not deserve it because they are owners of nisab.

Muslims usually prefer the month of Ramazan for paying their Zakat because they believe that in the month rewards for righteous deeds become manifold in this holy month. Ramazan is held by Muslims in great reverence. In the month, Muslims believe more opportunities for carrying out right deeds are made available as a special bounty from God.

Zakat or financial policies on the pattern of Zakat may be a practical solution to poverty and starvation. No wonder if rich people of the world instead of spending on their luxuries give the surplus wealth after fulfilling necessary requirements of life, to starving fellow humans that elimination of poverty not only from Africa but throughout the world will become much lesser.


With the arrival of Ramazan, therefore, Muslims abstain from sinful acts and they try to do as much righteous deeds as possible. Muslims have the belief that the reward for any righteous deed becomes 70+ times more in Ramazan compared to the other normal days.

Through the obligation of Zakat, Muslims have been trained to help poor and needy of the society. There is a wide gap between poor and rich. Zakat helps bridge this gap. It creates and then strengthens a good relation between the two sections of the society. Rich are bound to help needy ones, and the poor lot helps rich ones fulfil their obligation by accepting alms from them.

It is so that the countries where Zakat system is practiced have less poverty ratio compared to other countries where it does not exist. Zakat or financial policies on the pattern of Zakat may be a practical solution to poverty and starvation. No wonder if rich people of the world instead of spending on their luxuries give the surplus wealth after fulfilling necessary requirements of life, to starving fellow humans that elimination of poverty not only from Africa but throughout the world will become much lesser.

In Islamic term nisab refers to 7.5 tola (nearly 81.64 gm) of gold, or 52.5 tola (nearly 612.35 gm) of silver, or value of either of them in cash or jewellery or commercial merchandise. Zakat becomes incumbent only when the person possesses at least the nisab for a complete year continuously.


Zakat also provides the moral and psychological satisfaction that the persons who pay get through their fine gesture. They feel that they are contributing to the building of the society they live in, and making its members happy and contented. By so doing they feel that they are freed from anxiety and confusion.

Islam enjoins on believers a duty of individualistic and collective nature. This is due to the fact that Islam considers individual as an integral part of the total society. Therefore, the individual Muslim happens to have rights and duties towards the society as it has towards him. Moreover duties of the individualistic nature also carry social dimensions. Zakat is a kind of social security/insurance from an individual to the indigents of the society.

Besides Zakat, other charities, called Sadaqah, practiced by Muslims help build a balanced society economically. The places of Muslims’ gathering are often a market place for poor beggars. Especially on Fridays, a long queue of beggars and needy persons, present almost at all mosques, expect something in monetary help from every Muslim offering Jum’a. On the occasion of Eid celebration rich Muslims are asked to help materially their poor brethren to enable them that they, too, enjoy on the day. Muslims’ Sadaqah money has enabled Muslim community to arrange many academic institutions.

According to the economic survey of India 2007-08, the Gross Domestic Savings for the year 2006-07 is: 34.8 % of GDP. Even if we take Muslims to be constituting 15% of the population then around 5.22% of GDP is contributed by Muslims annually as savings. In the year 2006-07, 5.22% of the GDP at current prices comes out to be Rs. 216.4 thousand crore (where GDP at current prices is Rs. 4146 thousand crore in the year 2006 -07). And now, if we calculate 2.5% of the annual savings of Muslims as Zakat, the resulting amount would be Rs. 5.41 thousand crore. If the annual Zakat collection estimate comes out to be an impressive figure of Rs. 5.41 thousand crore, but many people just neglect payment of Zakat. They simply do not pay it. There are some others who pay Zakat but do not bother to calculate the correct procedure is to assess the wealth and possessions and pay the 2 1/2% on it. If the Muslims honestly pay Zakat on whom Zakat is wajib (obligatory). It is the fact that Zakat will be enough to solve the problems of poor.

There has always been poor and rich in the society as the law of nature. A model society is the one where poor also lead a life of peace and easily manage their needs. This will not be possible until the concentration of wealth only to the rich is ended and wealth reaches into the hands of poor too. Zakat is one of the effective means in developing such a society. It keeps the wealth changing hands.

Farhat Ali

farhatjamali@gmail.com

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