By M Naushad Ansari,
The Sachar Committee report and, later, the Ranganathan Mishra Commission report are much in discussion. Demand to implement recommendations of these Commissions is picking up in every corner of the country. It is quite justified and logical. However, at the same time, the community has yet to ponder over the resources available and the strategy for the development of ummah.
As per Ranganathan Mishra Commission’s finding, 24.73 per cent of Hindus live below poverty line (BPL); whereas 32.07 per cent of Muslims are under BPL. (Source NSSO 55th Round, July 1999-June 2000). Further, as per The National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) report, 84% of the Muslim population of India lives on a daily income of less than Rs. 20. In other words, about 126 million of our brothers and sisters don’t even earn twenty rupees a day!
Also, a survey by the National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) further brought to light that three out of every ten Muslims lived on less than Rs. 550 a month. ‘The Adivasis are the most vulnerable group with nearly 50% below the poverty line, followed by the Dalits and Muslims with poverty rates of 32% and 31%,’ reveals the Indian Human Development survey conducted by the NCAER and University of Maryland of the US.
On the Muslims’ educational condition, the Ranganathan Mishra Commission portrays the following statistics:-
National Avg Muslims
UptoPrimary 55.57 65.31
Middle 16.09 15.14
Secondary 14.13 10.96
Senior Secondary 6.74 4.53
Graduation 6.72 3.6
It can be seen that though at the entry level Muslims have higher rate of admissions, i.e. 65.31 per cent, against the national average of 55.57 percent, but high drop out at subsequent levels brings down the rate of those among Muslims completing graduation to 3.6 per cent. The national average of those completing graduation is 6.72. One of the main reasons for this high drop out is found to be poverty.
Economic System in Islam
The Holy Qur’an imposes upon its followers to strive continuously to establish the Nizam-e-Rububiyath, the system of sustenance, which guarantees peace, growth and development of the entire mankind. Muslims are to recognize that wealth, earnings, and material goods are the property of Allah, and that we are merely His trustees. According to the economic concept of the Holy Qur’an, wealth cannot be accumulated, stored and kept idle. Such accumulation is considered the most undesirable. (Holy Qur’an, 59:7). Islam teaches that everyone should take for his or her earning only that much required to fulfill his or her needs, and the remaining part will be left to meet the requirement of other needy persons (Holy Qur’an, 2:219).
Such persons whose basic requirements are not fulfilled have a rightful share in the surplus of other members of the society. (Holy Qur’an, 51:19, 70:24). The Holy Qur’an warns the hoarders: “And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah: announce unto them the most grievous penalty on the day when heat will be produced out of that (wealth) in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks and their backs”. (9:34-35)
It is reported that Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Until four questions have been asked, no one will be allowed to move on the Day of Resurrection. Two of these are: How did you earn and how did you spend?”
A roadside vendor in Mumbai.
Helping the Poor
The Holy Qur’an, in an unequivocal words, declares: “Provision must be made to help the kindred, orphans, way farers, widows, who are in bondage or in debt, those who are expelled from their homes and deprived of their property, and, in general, needy” (Holy Qur’an, 59:7-8)
For the welfare of the poor, Zakat is prescribed as a means to make sure that everyone’s needs are met. In the Muslim society the rich need to channelise their money to the poor by means of Zakat and Sadaqath. There is definite guarantee that those who pay poor-due i.e. Zakat are bound to prosper. It is stated in the Holy Qur’an that “Those who establish regular prayer and pay regular poor-due, they are the one who will prosper.” (Holy Qur’an, 31:4-5).
The Prophet (peace be upon him) once said; “One who strives for the widows and the poor is like the one who strives in the way of Allah. I shall regard him as one who stands up for prayer without rest and as one who fasts without break.”
At this time when Muslim community is wallowing in the muck of extreme poverty, it seems, merely by paying a minimum rate of Zakat, the rich Muslims cannot absolve themselves of their duties towards the society.
Haj and Umrah
One time Haj is incumbent on every affluent Muslim who can afford it. Additional Haj (more than one and Umrah are ‘nafl ibadah’. Muslims perform Umrah and additional haj for gaining sawaab. But, indeed, in certain circumstances, other society related duties become dearer to Allah than Umrah and additional Haj. Islamic scholars must ponder over whether these optional ways of earning sawaab are, in the present condition in India, really significant? Will performing nafil ibaadah absolve us from our duty of making sure that our neighouring people don’t sleep without a proper food? Won’t we be gaining more sawaab by helping a needy person in our neighbourhood?
A renowned social activist and an executive member of Harmony India from Chennai, Mr. Faizur Rahman, views that ‘about 1,50,000 Muslims travel to Makkah for Umrah every year. And the average cost of the entire trip is around Rs. 140,000/- per person. Therefore, the annual amount spent by Indian Muslims on Umrah alone works out to a whopping Rs. 2100 crores! In comparison, the amount allocated in the last budget by the Government of India to the Ministry of Minority Affairs was Rs. 1000 crores. In the recent budget this allocation has been increased to 1740 crores, and as the Muslim community is not the only minority in India it may get about 1400 crores that is, 80% of 1740 crores. In other words, we are spending about 700 crores more than the amount our country can afford to spend on us and that too on a non-obligatory ritual. And we have not taken into account multiple Haj. Even if 50% of this money is diverted for community causes it would make a tremendous difference. (Two Circles.net, July 14, 2009)
Muslims also spend a lot of money on marriages. This could be, in fact, a lot more than what we spend on the Umrah. This is nothing but extravagance, which are strongly discouraged in Islam. “[The Servants of Allah are] Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not stingy, but hold a just balance between those extremes” says the Holy Qur’an(25:67). It further adds: “O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer. Eat and drink, but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters” (7:31).
Sachar Committee report points out that there are about 5 lakh registered Wakfs with 6 lakh acre land and Rs 6,000 crore book value. This book value is decades old. Still, the gross income from all these properties is only 163 crores i.e. 2.7%, which is grossly inadequate.
The Wakf properties dedicated in the name of Allah, have to be utilized ultimately for the welfare of the community. Merely creation of waqf is not an end in itself but it is also imperative that the objectives of the waqf are fulfilled and the community derives the fruit, in a broader way. The objective of the waqf is attained only when the property is put to use and the assets gainfully employed so that the waqf will be in a position to undertake and maintain its pious, religious and charitable activities. Needless to mention that the wakf properties, if maintained property, would be sufficiently instrumental in alleviating poverty from Muslim Society. The unfortunate fact is that the wakf properties are not being exploited by the Government agencies alone but by the Muslims as well.
Let us not forget that the people do not perish for lack of wealth but for lack of vision. Today, vision has become a rare commodity among Muslims. We have made the Islamic principles limited to rituals alone, completely forgetting their essence and spirit.
It is high time that the Muslim leaders, intellectuals, scholars and elite group looked beyond, to be successful in a real sense. Islam has the depth to show the way. Islam stands not only for a glorious hereafter but for equally herein. It stands for the uplift of the poor, the preservation of the weak and the prevalence of the spirit of the brotherhood of mankind. The prosperity can only be attained by setting right the way of life.
Looking to the government agencies for the welfare of the community is alright. But equally important is to make the most of the resources available at our end.