Saturday, June 17, 2017

Zakat can make Indian Muslims self reliant



One-fourth of India’s beggars are Muslims and out of these Muslims, there are more women than men. This sad truth was made public in the report of a survey published on 30 July, 2016.

On December, 2014, Veernagar, Agra, came in the glare of media. Many poor Muslims, who were rag-pickers, rickshaw-pullers or manual labourers from Bengal and Assam were lured into converting to Hinduism by some communal organisations. The poor Muslims were converted on the strength of money. The conversion was named ‘ghar-wapsi’.

Don’t these incidents prompt the general Muslim population of India to do something about the community and find a solution? At least 14.5% of Indian population is Muslim. But they form the poorest of the poor.

The report by Sachar Committee in 2004-2005 (page 237 of Chapter 12), “Our analysis shows that while there is considerable variation in the conditions of Muslims across states, (and among the Muslims, those who identified themselves as OBCs and others), the Community exhibits deficits and deprivation in practically all dimensions of development.”

National Council for Applied Economic Research has also revealed many surprising finds after its surveys. It states that in urban areas three out of ten Muslims are below poverty line.

Nobel Laureate Dr Amartya Sen prepared a report on the poor conditions of Muslims in West Bengal. The report called Social Network for Assistance to People was prepared with the help of his Pratichi Institute and Guidance Guild. In the report, Dr Sen expressed urgency at the condition of the people surveyed. He pointed out that a large part of population in West Bengal is Muslim and they are deprived of the most basic amenities for development. They are in need of urgent attention.

According to the ‘Living Reality of Muslims in West Bengal’, data collected through primary research revealed that 47% of Muslims are manual labourers who earn their living through daily wages and form the lowest rung in the economic ladder. Thirty-five per cent of Muslims do not have easy access to any medical facility and have to walk at least 4 kilometres to reach a health centre. They are especially devoid of basic living amenities like clean drinking water, LPG and drainage facility in their locality. The writer of the report stated that they need urgent attention of affirmative action from authorities for improvement in standards of living.

It has been stated that one must ask Allah for protection from the worries of famine and poverty. And the well-off part of society should actively try to get rid of poverty in their part of society. It is because the worry of famine and poverty deviates the mind from faith and belief in the Almighty.

In a Hadīth, as recorded by Abu Dawood and Ahmad, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) has prayed to be saved from the worry of famine in the following duas:

O Allah I seek your refuge from kufr and famine.

O Allah I seek your refuge from famine and scarcity and humiliation.

Islam has not forsaken the poor and the helpless. Allah has named for them a fixed part of the wealth of the well-off people. This is a duty on the part of the rich, which is called Zakat. The sole purpose of zakat is to end the poverty and helplessness of the poor. The poorest have first right to get zakat. In some places the Blessed Prophet states that the sole purpose of Zakat is to spend it on those stricken with lack of food and on the helpless. When sending Maaz bin Jabal to Yemen, he had ordered the collection of Zakat from the rich in the society and distribution of the same among the poor of the society there.

According to Imam Abu Hanifa, the purpose of Zakat is nothing more than helping the poor and needy. It is noteworthy that as long as Islam took care of the needy and poor through the process of Zakat, there was no difference in the society between the rich and the poor. And neither did any group feel the need to raise its voice for its rights.

There is a famous Hadīth in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, that states that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said, “Islam stands on five pillars. The first is the testimony of faith in the unity of Allah and that Muhammad is His prophet. The second is maintenance of daily five prayers (Salat). The third is giving Zakat. The fourth is fasting in the month of Ramadhan and the fifth is Hajj when finances allow.”

The third pillar of Islam is Zakat through which Allah has given the responsibility of taking care of the poor and needy to the rich and well off section of the society. This is the way to ensure all sections of the society are taken care of.

Today, if we look at our society, we will see that Muslims are trying to strengthen their faith and in upholding the first pillar of Islam. Muslims are trying to maintain the daily five prayers and they are finding ways in society to make it more practicable in the practical life. Not just the five obligatory prayers, but even the optional nawafil are being practised. Not only are people fasting throughout the month of Ramadhan, but they are also observing the six fasts of Shawwal and fasts of Ashura. The will to perform Hajj has also increased and a record number of Muslims are now going for Hajj every year.

Unfortunately, the third pillar is still mostly ignored. The primary third pillar is not that the strong among the followers of Islam, which are making the foundation of Muslim society weak. No wonder the society is teetering on the edge of collapse and backwardness.

It is time to realise that Zakat is the right of the poor, the salvation of an Islamic society, the key to their development and without it Muslims do not even begin to follow the basic five tenets of Islam. This is the reason the Muslim society is weakening and Muslims are being lured in the name of ‘ghar wapsi’ or they are converting to Christianity or Qadiyaaniyat. Sadly, a major part of the Muslim society is not even aware of this basic principle that holds the key to most travails of the Muslim society.

It is very clear from the study of the Qur’ān and Hadīth that Muslims have been made the protectors of Salat and Zakat. It is our responsibility to maintain these two in our lives. It indicates a deeper relationship between Salat and Zakat. And a Muslim becomes practising only by maintaining these two things in his life.

Salat is the pillar of Islam. One who lets it crumble demolishes all the constructions of Deen in his personality and Zakat is the bridge that leads him to safety and deliverance. Whoever deviates from the bridge of zakat falls into the abyss of failure.

Abdullah bin Masood states, “You have been ordered to practise Salat and give Zakat. Who does not give Zakat, his Salat is not accepted.”

Some companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) used to say that Salat and Zakat have been made obligatory together. No difference has been made between the two. Then they recited the 11th verse of Surah Taubah,

“However, if they repent, establish Salah and pay Zakat, then they shall be your brethren in Deen (faith and way of life based on Divine guidance).” Then they added that the Salat of a Muslim is only accepted if he has been giving Zakat. The first Caliph Abu Bakr declared, “By Allah, anyone who differentiates between Salat and Zakat, I’ll declare a war on him!”

In the last few years a positive change is being observed and Muslims are becoming more aware about Zakat and trying to do more in the name of Zakat. People are becoming aware of how the system of Zakat was a community effort during the times of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) . People are also finding out and becoming aware of the system of Zakat collection and distribution during that era. And it is also being noticed that how, during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, the four rightly guided Caliphs had waged a war against those who were not giving Zakat, even though they had accepted and believed in the Kalimah, the Oneness of Allah and believed in the Prophet as His messenger.

The community system of Zakat was carried on even during the four rightly guided Caliphates and then during the Caliphate of Abbasids and Umayyads. The system of community Zakat was discontinued by the 7th century (Islamic calendar post Hijrah) when the Tartars attacked Islamic countries and it became very difficult to maintain the bait-ul-maal (community treasury) and practise community system of Zakat in the now invaded society.

Zakat is not very wisely practised by Muslims in India. The management system for Zakat is elementary. Even now the public opinion is that it is enough to hand a few kilos of flour or some length of cloth and a few hundred rupees is what should be given to beggars and relatives in need. And after a month or so the poor are again left begging and helpless. According to one wise person, in this situation Zakat becomes like the painkiller that gives relief to the helpless for a limited period of time, but it is not like the medicine that cures the illness for good.

Zakat should be used in the rehabilitation of the poor and helpless, not just to feed and clothe him for a short duration.

According to Imam Abu Hanifa, “The poor and helpless should be given as much Zakat as is sufficient to take him out of penury and need, and to help him establish his livelihood on his own.”

It means that the needy should be given whatever is required in taking care of their needs forever. It can be any kind of help in establishing a long-term and durable source of livelihood and helping him to rebuild his collapsing business.

Besides, Islamic scholars have argued in favour of the use of Zakat as a sure means of eradicating poverty and famine from a society. For example, if a poor person possesses a skill like an artisan, he should be given as much money required to buy equipment pertaining to his skill and expertise to make him self-reliant. Similarly, different scale of the amount of Zakat has been established for the needs of small time businessmen of different levels. They can be given Zakat according to the needs of their business to make them independent. This system was developed from the wise policies that second rightly guided caliph Umar bin Khattab brought into practice during his Caliphate.

The Rightly Guided Caliph has said, “When you give to a poor, then give so much that it ends his need.”

A narrative from a Hadīth states that once a very poor man came to Umar bin Khattab and asked for help. He was given three camels by the wise Caliph to get over his penury. At that time a camel was considered the most lucrative and useful animal.

Announcing his policy for the helpless, Caliph Umar said, “I will give to the deserving poor again and again, even if this way they collect a hundred camels from me.”

Such was the instruction of the most successful Caliph regarding Zakat.

Renowned Fiqh scholar and glorious follower of Islam Ataa states, “If a person takes care of just one deserving needy Muslim family and provides them enough to take care of their needs, then this action is the most favourable in my eyes.”

Abu Ubaid, who is considered a great figure in the field of Islamic financial policies, considers this statement by Ataa most important and worth emulating.

Some other scholars are of the opinion that a deserving needy and poor person should be given so much money that it is enough to take care of his and his immediate family’s all basic needs. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) himself had been reported in various Sahih Hadiths to have gathered provisions sufficient for one year for himself and his immediate family.

Another important purpose of Zakat is that deserving poor people are able to live a decent life, which is the right of humans and which satisfies the basic sense of humanity. A decent life requires the meeting of basic needs like food, clothing, housing, medical facilities and marriage.

These days, efforts are made in Malaysia and South Africa to establish a community-level Zakat system. The receivers of Zakat are divided in two groups. The two groups are named productive poor and non-productive poor. The non-productive poor are the aged, widow and handicapped and the terminally ill who have no way to earn and are poor. These are given continuous help. On this group is spent about 20 to 25% of the total Zakat collection.

The remaining 80 to 75% of Zakat collection is given to the productive poor. This group contains men and women who cannot start their own business because of lack of funds. They can become self-sufficient after receiving one financial boost that aids in starting up their business or livelihood. So this group soon becomes self-sufficient enough to give Zakat themselves after a very short time.

The system of Zakat is the first law towards providing an organised social security for all. The purpose of this system is that the basic needs of food, clothing, housing and marriage of all deserving, needy and poor in the society and their immediate family members are taken care of.

Today, the Muslim community in India is full of the needy, destitute and helpless who do not have the basic amenities of life. They are in an urgent need to raise their standard of living above this current level which is way below the level of humanity. Just like the efforts to make Salat, a common practice among Muslims, a movement is required to make Zakat a common practice. The initiators of this movement need to be scholars, thinkers, leaders and torchbearers of the Muslim society.

The movement needs a deliberate step towards making the youth aware of the purpose, importance and correct practice of Zakat in Islam. It is high time to study and propagate the policies and methods of the rightly guided caliphs (Khulafa-e-Rashideen) and their system of community Zakat.

Even if one-third of the total population of 15-20 crore Muslims in India is self-sufficient, then they can help build a community treasury worth thousands of crore of rupees. A deliberate and goal-oriented socio-economic survey of the Muslim community can be done and then, keeping in sight the examples of Malaysia and South Africa, the wealth of the community treasury can be distributed among the deserving poor of the society.

The division template of Malaysia and South Africa can be followed to make the skilled and productive poor self-reliant. And the standards of living of non-productive group can then be brought up with regular support.

Those who are already well to do and can spare something after fulfilling their and their immediate family’s needs, they need to step forward and contribute to the establishment and maintenance of the community treasury that will aid in uplifting the whole of Muslim society.

It is the promise of the Almighty that those who give to help their fellowmen will be richly rewarded, and the rewards will be beyond our imagination.

“That (Mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right, and practise regular charity, and those who believe in Our Signs”. (Surah Al A’raf 156)

“Alms are for the poor, and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to the Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.” (Surah Tauba 60)

[Translated by Nabila Habib for ViewsHeadlines. H. ABDUR RAQEEB is General Secretary Indian Centre for Islamic Finance and member of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind’s Central Advisory Council]

(Courtesy: Radiance Weekly)


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