n the era of greed and corruption, its custodians misuse even the religious funds, practices and beliefs. As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, Zakat is a religious obligation for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth. It is a mandatory charitable contribution, often considered to be a tax. The payment and disputes on Zakat have played a major role in the history of Islam, notably during the Ridda wars. Zakat is the compulsory giving of a set proportion of one’s wealth to charity. It is regarded as a type of worship and of self-purification. Though Zakat is the third Pillar of Islam, some have gone to every extent of misusing the funds for various reasons by not only betraying the faith they follow but also disobey the rules of Islam. Zakat does not refer to charitable gifts given out of kindness or generosity, but to the systematic giving of 2.5 per cent of one’s wealth each year to benefit the poor. Helping a person acknowledge that everything comes from God on loan and that we do not really own anything ourselves, and since we cannot take anything with us when we die, we need not cling to it. Acknowledging that whether we are rich or poor is God’s choice and we should help those he has chosen to make poor. Maybe this is one way of learning self-discipline, freeing oneself from the love of possessions and greed. The 2.5 per cent rate only applies to cash, gold and silver, and commercial items. There are other rates for farm and mining produce, and for animals.
Well! For Muslims around the world, the month of Ramadan is a time of deep reflection, sacrifice, and joyous family gatherings. There are some striking commonalities between the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and Zakat. In the Islamic faith, five foundational goals – known as Maqasid al-Sharia – include the protection of faith, life, progeny, intellect and wealth. Much of the SDGs – goals to alleviate poverty and hunger, improve health, education and access to water and sanitation, reduce inequality and protect the environment – are reflected in these Islamic values. Every year affluent Muslims from across the world fulfill their duty of paying Zakat. Several Million Dollars are collected and send to various regions, but even then why there is no improvement in the lives of orphans, widows, suffering, needy, deprived, miserable and poor Muslims? Why are they not getting any relief? Only one reason, the majority of the organisations and most of clerics (Maulvis/Muftis) that are collecting Zakat-Fund are not dividing it into beneficiaries. Instead of hoarding funds for Masjids (Mosques) and Madarsas, they should first take care of needy poor and suffering. Zakat, Fitrah, Sadqah and Alms should only be distributed to orphans, widows, suffering, needy, deprived, miserable and poor Muslims. In India, Muslims are still under-privileged and jobless and that is the main reason they are getting attracted to crime? There are hundreds of incidents such as these done in the disguise of Islam. There should be transparency and mechanism to monitor and evaluate the Zakat funds of mosques and ensure it’s not a mere ritual but a dynamic act of worship in a complete way of life (deen) setting an example for other communities.
To control the corruption, elders of the Muslim community have proposed direct Zakat for the needy and those who are in need of higher education. The Young Reformers Forum, along with Reformers Front of India, has started the “Direct Zakat Movement”. They are holding sessions in masjids and community halls in the small colonies of Hyderabad. Senior family members are being counseled to directly help people rather than donating money to educational and charitable institutions. These institutions are spending that amount of the glorification and infrastructure of the organisation but now to needy students. In Mumbai too, the community is on high alert, they have set up a monitoring team who will make the institutions accountable for each spending of Zakat money. They are trying to tell people to identify those who are in need and help them directly. They can pay their school or college fees or buy books, clothes or other teaching material and hand those over to them. The direct connect is important as it gives surety that the money has been properly utilised. Otherwise, within a few months, an instance of misuse of money comes to the surface.
There has been no recent study to calculate the money that is collected as Zakat across the country. If you see the per capita income of Muslim families in the NSSO (National Sample Survey Office) data and do a calculation, the estimate of charity is too high. There is no transparency because most transactions are in cash. The problem was not only about transparency, but the way the charity is collected and distributed. The system is such that there is no organised way to calculate how much money is collected. In fact, there is a need for such a study; it is in the interest of Muslims. There is mismanagement and donors and the agencies that collect charity do not reveal the true figures because there is a lot of black money. There is also no agreement on how the donations are being spent. A large part of the charity goes to religious institutions. According to tradition, the first priority is the family; then the relatives. After these two categories, the donations go mostly to madrassas and mosques. However, these days, it’s happening otherwise. Earlier people gave Zakat unmindful of what it is used for. There is a change in the mindset now and people want to donate for education and healthcare. With this approach, one can bring change in the Muslim community.
(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])