(Special to ViewsHeadlines.com)
Zakat is not very wisely practiced 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 Haneefa, “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, then he should be given as much money required to buy equipments 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 Caliphs have said, “When you give to a poor, then give so much that it ends his need.”
A narrative from a Hadeeth states that once a very poor man came to Hazrat 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, Hazrat 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 a 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 favorable in my eyes.”
Abu Abeed, 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 himself had been reported in various Sahih Hadith 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 communal zakat system. The receivers of zakat are divided into 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 to 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 needy, destitute and helpless who do not have the basic amenities of life. They are in an urgent need to raise their living standards above this current level which is way below the level of humanity. Just like the efforts to make namaz 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 torch bearers of 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 fourth of the total population of 15-20 crore Muslims in India becomes 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 Malysia and South Africa can be followed to make the skilled and productive poor self reliant. And the living standards 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 raising 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 practice 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)
(H. Abdul Raqeeb is General Secretary Indian Center for Islamic Finance and a member of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind’s top decision making body, Central Advisory Council, Shura)
Translated by Nabila Habib for ViewsHeadlines