By H. Abdul Raqeeb
One fourth of India’s beggars are Muslims and out of these Muslims, there are more women than men. This sad truth became public on July 30, 2016 as the report of survey was published in media.
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 organizations. 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 their 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 states from 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 Amartya 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. 35% of Muslims do not have easy access to any medical facility and have to walk at least 4 kilometers to reach a health center. 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 living standards.
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 Hadith, as recorded by Abu Dawood, Ahmad, Prophet Muhammad saw 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 Prophet saw states that the sole purpose of zakat is to spend it on those stricken with lack of food and on 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 Haneefa, 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 Hadith in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, that states that Prophet Muhammad saw said, “Islam stands on five pillars. The first is the testimony of faith in the unity of Allah and that Muhammad saw 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 Ramadan 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 practiced. Not only are people fasting throughout the month of Ramadan, but they are also observing the six fasts of Shawaal and fasts of ashura. The will to perform Hajj has also increased and 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 strong among the followers of Islam, which is 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 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 Muslim society.
It is very clear from the study of Quran and Hadith that Muslims have been made the protectors of namaz (Salah) and zakat. It is our responsibility to maintain these two in our lives. It indicates a deeper relationship between namaz (Salah) and zakat. And a Muslim becomes practicing only by maintaining these two things in his life.
Namaz (Salah) is the pillar of Islam. Who lets it crumble, he 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, he falls into the abyss of failure.
Abdullah bin Masood states, “You have been ordered to practice namaz (Salah) and give zakat. Who does not give zakat, his namaz (Salah) is not accepted.”
Some companions of the Prophet (PBUH) used to say that namaz (Salah) 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 Zakah, then they shall be your brethren in Deen (faith and way of life based on Divine guidance).” Then they added that the namaz of a Muslim is only accepted if he has been giving zakat. The first Caliph Hazrat Abu Bakr declared, “By Allah, anyone who differentiates between namaz and zakat then I’ll declare 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 saw. 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 war against those who were not giving zakat, even though they had accepted and believe in the kalma, the unity of Allah and believed in the Prophet as His messenger.
The community system of zakat was carried on even during the four rightly guided Caliphate and then during the Caliphate of Abbasis and Umayyads. The system of community zakat was discontinued by the 7th century (Islamic calendar post Hijrat) when the Tartars attacked Islamic countries and it became very difficult to maintain the bait-ul-maal (community treasury) and practice community system of zakat in the now invaded society.
(H. Abdul Raqeeb is General Secretary Indian Center for Islamic Finance )