By M. Zajam, TwoCircles.net,
Ramzan is considered holiest month of the Islamic calendar. Ramzan transforms even non-practicing to perform all the religious rituals, pray for guidance, refrain from everyday evils, self restraint and seek forgiveness for past sins. Ramzan is also a time when we focus on self-reformation, spiritual cleansing and enlightenment. People enthusiasm toward religious activity is unmatched during Ramzan. But same zeal is not visible while paying Zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam.
We do not miss any chance to hit out at the government for poor condition of Muslims in India. But when it comes to playing our part we fail miserably. As per Arjun Sengupta Committee 2008 report, 77% of Indian population is surviving on Rs 600 per month. Same report also mentions that 84.7% of Muslim population is in poor and vulnerable group.
In Western countries, charity and philanthropy is way of life for both governments and individuals. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the countries giving the highest amounts of charity money are USA- $28.67 billion, France- $12.43 billion, Germany- $11.98 billion, UK- $11.50 billion and Japan – $9.48 billion. The Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) July 2010 report also lists countries ranked by generosity as donation per citizen from data collected in 2008 are Luxembourg- $114/citizen, Norway – $96/citizen, Sweden- $66/citizen,Ireland- $66/citizen and Kuwait- $33/citizen. Same report also mentions that in terms of Humanitarian aid Saudi Arabia – 51.8 million tops the list, followed by United Arab Emirates- 35.3 million, Kuwait- 34.2 million, Russia- 32.5 million and India -14.6 million.
Recently, Buffett and Gates started a drive called “The Giving Pledge” to encourage high-profile philanthropic promises. Warren Buffet has pledged to donate 99 per cent of his wealth, while Bill and Melinda Gates have already donated half of theirs to charity, using it for improving the health of humanity. Indians are crowding the list of Forbes but when it comes to be generous they are no match for likes of Buffet. Recently, Karnataka’s minister for tourism and leading industrialist Gali Janardhan Reddy presented a diamond-studded gold crown, estimated to be worth Rs 450 million (Rs 45 crore), to the famous Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirupati.
Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in their report stated that India’s high net worth individuals (HNWIs), who are defined as those having investable assets of $1 million or more, are over 120,000 in number, or 0.01% of the population, their combined worth is close to one-third of India’s Gross National Income (GNI).
It would take an average urban Indian at least 2,238 years, based on the monthly per capita expenditure estimates in the 2007-8 National Sample Survey, to achieve a net worth equal to that of the average HNWI.
As per reports, In India only 10 percent of charitable giving comes from individuals and corporate sector, in sharp contrast to the United States, where 75 percent is from individuals and corporations. It is astonishing that Indian rich living so close to poverty are still very reluctant to loose their purse-string for charity. A survey in USA brought the interesting facts out that the poorest fifth of U.S. households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent.
Charity in Islam
Zakat, which was made mandatory in Makkah at the same time as Salat (prayers) requires, every year 2.5% of one’s wealth is given away to the poor and needy. The requirement of Zakat payment stops upon death of an individual. The act of giving Zakat means purifying one’s wealth to gain Allah’s blessing to make it grow in goodness and themselves from their greed and selfishness. In addition, Zakat purifies the person who receives it because it saves him from the humiliation of begging and prevents him from envying the rich.
Wealth is a blessing from their creator as long as it is acquired by halal means and the person fulfills all his responsibilities towards Allah and society. Islam sees poverty as a social anomaly that is to be removed and alleviated. To protect the self respect of poor Allah (S.W.T) has declared that Zakat is the “right” of poor in wealth of rich.
Islam has attached so much importance to Zakat that it is one of the five pillars of Islam. Anyone who does not believe on any of these five pillars of Islam cannot be categorized as Muslim. Quran has many surahs highlighting importance of Zakat and charity.
“ And perform Salat and give Zakat “ (Al Baqrah 43)
“So establish regular prayers; and give regular Charity; and obey the Messenger; That ye may receive mercy.” (An-Nur : 56)
”By no means shall you attain righteousness unless ye give (freely) of that which you love; and whatever you give, Allah knows it well.” ( Al Imran, 92).
In spite of Quran laying equal emphasis on Salat and Zakat, people tend to miss out on Zakat. Many give justification that since they are paying income taxes, they do not need to pay Zakat. Islam has given us a system of Zakat, where poor can be benefited directly. Zakat money most of times reaches to deserving poor and institutions. In comparison, Government with all its might and official machinery only manages to deliver 5-10 paise out of 100 paise to intended group.
In India many institutions are surviving solely on Zakat money. Madrasa and Orphanage do aggressive Zakat collection in the month of Ramzan. Their all annual budget just depends on Zakat. In this month, Allah promises to multiply every good deed with 70. Many poor look forward to Zakat in the month of Ramzan. They pin their hope and future planning for their medical need, wedding or education on Zakat money.
Very few who try to by-pass the Zakat with their weird logic should be beware. Hazrat Ali and Abu Hurayrah (radi Allahu anhu) reports that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “When Zakat is looked upon as a penalty (i.e., people will pay Zakat with a heavy heart, as though it is a penalty), then look for violent windstorms, earthquakes, men being swallowed by the earth, metamorphosis, stones being pelted from the skies, and calamities following one another in rapid succession, like beads of rosary falling one after the other when its string is cut.”
The Prophet (PBUH) also said, “The nation that withholds Zakat (i.e. does not pay it), Allah afflicts famine on them.”
Allah (SWT) promises to increase the wealth of every Zakat payee at the same time denouncing the wealth with interest. Zakat means grow (in goodness) or ‘increase’, ‘purifying’ or ‘making pure’.
“ Allah destroys wealth obtained from interest and will give increase for the deed of charity” (Al Baqrah: 276)
It is also stated in the Hadith that Zakat brings benefits such as gaining of the pleasure of Allah, increase in wealth, protection from losses, a cause thus established for Allah’s forgiveness and blessings are obtained, Safety from calamities, protection from the wrath of Allah and from a bad death, the Zakaat will provide a shelter on the Day of Judgment, security from seventy misfortunes, it will serve as a shield from the fires of Jahannam, it contributes to Barkat in wealth and it also saves from fear and grief.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Indeed, an ignorant man who is generous is dearer to God than a worshiper who is miserly.”
Zakat is obligatory on the Muslim who has reached puberty, who is sane, who is free, and who owns at least 52.5 tola silver or 7.5 tola gold or cash or business goods equal to it. The day, on which one will own the above mentioned amount, it is wajib on him to pay 2.5% as zakah after passing of one complete year.
“Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of God; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by God, and God is full of knowledge and wisdom.” (9:60).
Quran has clearly identified the criteria of the recipients of zakat in the verse above. They are as follow:
1. Poor (i.e., destitute, beggars).
2. Needy (those who have needs but embarrassed to beg from people).
3. People employed to administer the Zakat funds.
4. People who have converted to Islam and in financial difficulty.
5. Enslaved people seeking freedom (could also mean Muslims in prison).
6. People in debt (to help a person in debt to come out of it).
7. Muslims who are struggling in Allah’s cause.
8. Wayfarer (a traveler who is in need to complete his or her travel).
In the world where rich are getting richer and poor getting poorer. This disparity has lead to social tension among classes and rise in crime. Islam has provided us a system of Zakat, where this disparity can be reduced. This also helps removing ill feeling against rich from poor heart. It also helps in maintaining social peace. Let’s fulfill our religious-social obligation and play a part in upliftment of the community