By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
02 October 2017
(Joint Author) Essential Message of Islam,
Amana Publications, USA, 2009
the end of the Prophetic mission, more and more Arab tribes came into the fold
of Islam as the truth of the Qur’anic revelation became increasingly clear.
Accordingly, the flow of voluntary donations (Sadaqah) into the Prophet’s funds
grew substantially leading to a rivalry in the community to get a share from it:
“Among them is one who finds fault with you (O Muhammad) concerning (the distribution of) charity (Sadaqah). If
they are given from it,
they are pleased; but if they are not given anything,
they are angered (9:58).If only they were content with what God and His Messenger
give them and would say, "God is sufficient for us! God will give us more
out of His grace and bounty, and so will His Messenger. Surely we are
supplicants before God”
there was a need to structure the distribution of charity (Sadaqah, plural Sadaqat).
Accordingly, the Qur’an declares:
(Sadaqat) are for the Fuqara (poor among the Muslims) and the Masakin (poor
among non-Muslims) and the workers (who administer) them, and for those who have embraced faith, and for (freeing)
the slaves, for (assisting) the debtors, (for spending) in God's way, and for
the traveler (in distress) – an ordinance (Faridah)
(Remember,) God is All-Knowing and Wise” (9:60)
verse declares charity (Sadaqah) as an ordinance (Faridah) and lists a broad
category of recipients, conceivably to avoid the undeserving and the
influential to claim a share in it.
the Islamic Caliphate took roots, Caliph Umar institutionalized mandatory
charity under the title of Zakat, based on the following pronouncements of the
“(O Muhammad!). You
can now take charity (Sadaqah) out of their wealth
that you may cleanse and purify (Tuzakki) them; and pray on
their behalf. Surely, your prayers are a source of security for them; and God
is One Who hears and knows” (9:103).
“One who spends his
wealth to attain to a state of purity (Zaka) (92:18), without having to repay
anybody’s favour (92:19), but only to seek the Countenance of His Lord, Most
High (92:20) - soon he will be pleased” (92:21).
According to this state-sponsored
institution, any Muslim man or woman possessing wealth or asset in excess of a
threshold level - 12 English Guinea or equivalent , was required to pay the
mandatory charity as Zakat to the Islamic state for distribution among the
rate or amount of the Zakat was calculated at two and a
half percent yearly basis for cash, cattle-head, gold and all trade worthy
liquid assets but higher levels were fixed for other contemporaneous assets,
depending upon the relative ease in acquiring them. Thus, it was set at 5% on
land irrigated by well, 10% on a land irrigated by rain water or by natural
water channels Diamond and precious metals are excluded from the traditional
list of Zakat-chargeable assets, ironically encouraging the rich to convert
their wealth into such Zakat non-chargeable assets. With time, this traditional
model has been rationalized at two and half percent for net liquid assets
beyond the specified threshold value. And with the secularization of Islamic
states, disbursement of Zakat has devolved upon individuals, who calculate it
using their own judgment.
the growth of commerce and industry in recent times, the traditional
institution of Zakat suffers the following weaknesses:
enables exclusion of many capital items of modern highly complex business world
from Zakat chargeable category.
exclusion of all kinds of non-commercial personal belongings (apart from gold
and jewelry) - such as mansions, cars, furniture fixture, helicopters and jets
for example and all kinds of stocks, bonds, financial instruments, long term
assets as Zakat non-chargeable.
the rich to spend most lavishly on themselves and their friends and families
without having to give any Zakat on their personal extravagances
any mandatory minimum wage or social benefits or share in profits in many
Muslim countries encourage employers to underpay their labor without any
compunction or compassion as they redeem themselves of any guilt of financial
exploitation by paying Zakat that they can manipulate to their advantage.
enables the rich to acquire money by questionable or unlawful means and
‘purify’ themselves by giving Zakat.
sum, the populist model of Zakat in this era is liable to gross manipulation or
rationalistic interpretation by the rich, who can become richer and richer
without sharing their wealth with the poor in any substantive way. This has
created virtually an Islamic Capitalism that frustrates the Qur’anic message on
social justice, and widens wealth gap and income disparity between the rich and
the poor in practically all Muslim countries. Hence, there is an urgent need to
redefine the base and arithmetic of Zakat to bring it in line with the economic
order of this era.
scholars of Islam suggest reordering of the economic system based on the
paradigms of early Islam, but this is a pie in the sky. Human civilization does
not march backwards and it is not possible to recreate the economic order of
Caliph Umar’s era and have ATMs dispensing dates and cattle-heads instead of
currency notes. No wonder, the Qur’an declares:
“Indeed the worst kind of all living creatures
in God’s sight are the deaf and dumb, who do not use reason” (8:22).
Part Eleven of the Series:
on Qur'anic Message - Part-11: Zakah in Qur’anic Epistemology Denotes Care and
Concern for Humanity, Including Charity – It Is the Bedrock of Islamic Humanism
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of
Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth
study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has
co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar
al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was
endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by
Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
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