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Dr. Rahmatullah Abdul Ahad dwells upon how Zakat can be a source of social upliftment and economic empowerment.

Poverty, which indicates the absence of material means, is rampant in all the states of India irrespective of caste and clan wise composition of the society. The consequence is sufferings from bare minimum to sustain life and living, not to talk about standard of living. Difference in ability, skill and opportunities for economic pursuits are some basic reasons that cause in economic classification of human society into rich and poor, haves and have-nots. These reasons when coupled with poor mind and biased framework of mindset and created artificial roadblocks worsen the socio-economic life of the people. Still more distressing is the fact that few sections and communities in these places are greater sufferers in comparison to others.

Muslims in India are a case in question. A large chunk of Muslims in India grossly suffers from the slumber of poverty. According to 55th round of NSS report, nearly 35% of urban Muslims and 31% of rural Muslims live below poverty line. It is in comparison to 10.1% Hindus in urban and 11.7% in rural areas. It may be noted that at all India level, 26.5% of rural and 24% of urban population in India is living below the poverty line. According to yet another study, the percentage of Muslim population below poverty line is 43% as against an all India average of 39. Similarly, from the point of view of land ownership – the major source of income in the rural areas, Muslims are found more deprived than others. For instance, while, one-fifth of the Hindus (20%) own five acres or more of land, only one-tenth of Muslims (10%), belong to this category. These facts and figures suggest that every third Muslim in the country is living below poverty line and deprived of basic amenities of life.

This perturbs the mind and disturbs comfort levels of all sane sections of our society who believe in balanced growth of one and all and equitable distribution of income and wealth among all cross sections of the Indian society. More so in case of conscious community leaders drawn from social, economic and religious fields, who not only believe that poverty anywhere is a danger to the prosperity everywhere. Hence a plan and programme based on Zakat to uplift the sufferers. Leaving aside other tools and techniques, a section of the community believes that Zakat holds immense potential of poverty removal and thereby accelerating economic growth, uplifting individual social prestige and economic empowerment. Hence they advocate for a meaningful discussion and creation of mechanism / system of paying and receiving Zakat, priority use of Zakat fund and a host of other issues which emerge in the light of Qur’ānic prescription and existing ground realities. Undoubtedly such exercises based measures can place every member of the community at a prestigious position, removing the so-called tag of poverty. But Zakat in Islam connotes more than charity fund. Therefore, formulating any such plan with respect to this fund and its use is necessary. It is imperative to carefully visit the teachings of the Holy Qur’ān and the instructions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him).



The literal meaning of Zakat is an increase.  As Zakat is in relation to wealth, it may mean increase in the bank balance of the payer in the life hereafter. It may also mean increase in wealth of the payer, receiver and society in general by way of increase in generation of income through propensity to consume and invest.

Zakat is an Islamic institution. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. No society or social structure of Muslims can be visualised without the practice of Salat (prayer) and Zakat (Sadaqat). Allah Almighty has ordained the believers and the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) to pay Zakat as a specified portion from their accumulated earnings/wealth over a period of one year. The regular readers of the Holy Book know that there are more than three hundred ayahs, which directly or indirectly deal with Zakat. Here one important fact to be noted is that Zakat is not a donation but due of Allah Almighty vis-à-vis the poor. Remember the Qur’ānic verdict that in their wealth and possessions there is a right for the asking needy and the deprived. In compliance to this ordinance, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) appointed collectors (Ammal) for collection of Zakat from Muslim societies. The importance of Zakat in the Islamic system can further be assessed from the fact that the first Caliph of Islam Abu Bakr Siddiq, on an important occasion refused to distinguish between Salat and Zakat. Moreover, he declared his verdict of war against those Muslims who refused to pay Zakat to Baitulmal.

The purpose of imposing Zakat on the assets of Muslims may be many. Historically it seems to be a common phenomenon between the followers of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) and the followers of all other earlier Prophets. However, the study of the Holy Qur’ān and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) reveals the following three major objectives of the Zakat:


One reason for making Zakat obligatory seems to be the question of authority and ownership. According to the Islamic teachings, everything, which is found below, on and above earth, belongs to Allah Almighty. Remember what the Holy Book says: To Him belongs whatever is in the Heaven and whatever is on earth. It implies that whatever man possesses, possesses it as trustee and not as owner. Therefore whatever is paid to Allah, though collected by a Muslim Government or other representatives of Muslim society is share of the owner and not a charity or donation by the payer. The Holy Qur’ān says, “Allah does accept repentance from his votaries and receives Sadqat.



These are the twin purposes of Zakat   from the point of view of its payer. Allah Almighty ordains the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him): Take alms from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify. It may be noted that Zakat is a ritual and therefore its payment gives the feeling of pleasure of obeying / worshipping Allah. By this way the man achieves purification of the self (Tazkiy-e-Nafs). It may further be noted that payment of Zakat checks the tendency of niggardliness and avarice and exalts the soul of the individual. Similarly, it purifies wealth by segregating the total wealth into trustee’s and owner’s share. Once the owner’s share is paid, the remaining amount becomes pure for the use of the trustees – men possessing it.


Islam enjoins on believers a duty of individualistic and collective nature. Moreover, duties of the individualistic nature also carry social dimensions. This is due to the fact that Islam considers individual as an integral part of the total society. Therefore he has much rights and duties towards it as it has towards him. Sadaqat are only for Fuqra (poor), Al Masakin (the Poor) and those employed to collect fund and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined towards Islam and to free the captives and for those in debt and for Allah’s cause and for the wayfarer. These eight heads of use of Zakat as prescribed by the Holy Qur’ān indicates nothing but social security/insurance to the indigents of the society where Zakat is practised.

Visualize the prosperity and solidarity of a society where nobody is willing to withhold liquid money lest it would be eaten away by Zakat. Further, if all surpluses were spent on consumption and investment, the generation of income and employment will lead to nothing but economic strength where per capita income will rise, reducing proportion of population below poverty line on the one hand and maximising standard of living on the other.


Under the influence of teachings of allegiance to various schools of thought, Muslims of India pay and distribute Zakat and Sadaqat at individual levels. It may be noted that allocation of Zakat fund by individual payers does not have any standard norm or practice. In addition to many factors, the depth of Islamic knowledge, social consciousness, relation with the needy and also whims and fancies of the payers play important role in allocating funds under different heads.

In absence of any authentic full-fledged survey report on distribution /use of Zakat fund in India, nothing can be said with certainty about the pattern and trend of zakat distribution as well as its use. However, a pilot study of 100 Zakat payers of Mumbai and five organisations operating mainly for Zakat collection and distribution from south, north, central and western India has been made. This study certainly provides a window and trend if not full view of the distribution pattern of Zakat in India.



One hundred individuals selected from the top of the list of Zakat donor of AICMEU Ltd. Trust Mumbai were approached for their views with respect to the following three questions.

  1. a) State the heads where you spend your Zakat amount,
  2. b) What is the basis of your allocation of Zakat fund, and
  3. c) Do you think that Zakat funds can help remove poverty among Muslims.

In reply to question number three all the respondents answered in affirmative. Similarly, in response to question number two, a majority of the respondents stated that they prefer their relatives and thereafter they give any remaining amount of Zakat to anybody who approaches. Responses to the question number one have been diverse and hence they are tabulated as below:

Head / priorities of use

% response

1.       Relatives / neighbours


2.       Faqeer / Miskeen


3.       Madrasa / Yateemkhana


4.       Religious organisations


5.    Social Service organisations


6.       Miscellaneous


The above table not only indicates simple preference but priority and mindset of the community. In spite of pressures, the middle class Zakat payers have not come out of ghetto and traditionalism in their thinking and practices. They have to realise the advantages of organised priority based use of their zakat fund.

An evaluation of statements of accounts of the above organisations leads us to conclude the following:

  1. Everywhere zakat fund is not used in all eight heads as outlined by the Holy Qur’ān.
  2. Few heads like Riqab / Gharmeen seems to have disappeared from the list of items of use.
  3. Major portion of zakat is spent under the head of Fisabilillah which may or may not necessarily be a source of removal of social or economic sickness of the community.
  4. Nowhere large-scale planned use of zakat fund with specific purpose of amelioration of poverty is observed
  5. A substantial part of zakat is used for financing educational projects of the community. While it may not be alleged to be misuse of Zakat, in view of the letter and spirit of Ayat-e-Sadaqat, it is certainly a non-priority use from the point of Zakat Fund.
  6. The trend of use of Zakat fund during the last five years on projects / items which directly affects the economic well-being of the community is observed.
  7. The beginning of use of Zakat Fund as micro credit / finance augurs well. It may be noted that Zakat Fund should be used at a large scale for financing home and cottage type of industries.


According to Census of India 2011 the total Muslim population is 14.20% of Indian population. Assuming the size of family as 5 members, it amounts to say that there are more than 27637648 Muslim families in India.

The scan of literature on Zakat in India reports no specific information about how much money is paid /disbursed as Zakat by Muslims in India. Further in the absence of any survey on the all India basis it would be difficult to arrive at any consensus figure. To some it is Rs 10,000 Crores and to others it is Rs 40,000 Crores. However inferences can be made on the basis of vital statistical information available for general population including Muslims in the country.  Based on the general profile of Indian population, therefore an attempt is made to find out Zakat being paid and used in India on the following lines


According to Statistical Outline of India 2004-05, of the total Domestic savings in India in 2002-03 (Rs. 597697 Crores), approx. 94 per cent (Rs. 559258 Crores) is saved by households. Assuming share in savings proportionate to their population will mean that savings of Muslims accounts to Rs. 75052 Crores. It implies that @ 2.5% payable Zakat amount becomes approx. Rs. 1876 Crores. This small figure is obviously on consideration of only cash amount saved. Assets liable for Zakat, which are larger in number and vast in value for example gold ornaments, working business capital, agriculture produce, animal husbandry, etc. are unavailable, hence unconsidered. It has been observed that people with average savings qualifying for payment of Zakat pay Rs 50,000/- during Ramadan.

(to be concluded)

Posted Date : 23 May 2018

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