In the last article, I had quoted two passages from the Holy Quran and also provided two sayings of Prophet Muhammad. There are plenty of such sayings from both sources and I can keep quoting.
While going through the commandments, it is so wonderful to learn how strongly Allah and His Prophet advocate the cause of the poor and downtrodden and stand firmly behind them.
On the institution of Zakah (or Zakat), a highly learned scholar of our times, who recently passed way, had once estimated that if Muslims take out Zakah sincerely and accurately every lunar year, the poverty shall be completely eliminated not only from the Islamic world but also from the non-Islamic third-world countries within the short period of 20 years. Such is the power of taking out only US$2.5 from every US$100 you held for a lunar year.
Prior to the advent of Islam, wealthy people in Mecca and the Arab lands used to disregard the poor, look down on them and treat them shabbily. Money was power and might was right. In accordance with Quranic teachings, Prophet Muhammad introduced the rights of the poor, needy, less privileged and widows in the shape of Zakah in a manner that in a short span of time, you would not find a poor person to whom you could pay Zakah money to.
You see, there is a poverty threshold in Islam. Either you are above it or below. So, if you find yourself above that verge, you must take out Zakah at the anniversary of having acquired that extent of wealth. However, if you are not, you are below the line and hence are entitled to receive Zakah in cash or kind. But, it will be purely your discretion not to take it and try to wriggle out of the situation with your own effort.
For example, on the Islamic date of 16 Rajab 1443 Hijri (Gregorian date 17th February 2022), you acquired wealth equivalent to US$5,964. If you held that amount up to today’s Islamic date which is 16 Rajab 1444, you are above the threshold and hence are obligated to pay Zakah at 2.5% of the value of such possession.
If you held US$5,964 in cash or in a bank account, you are liable to take out US$149.1 (or 1/40th of the amount) and pay to the poor. However, if you actually held three ounces of pure gold for the entire lunar year, you will apply today’s pure gold rate, ie US$1,874 per ounce which gives you the value of US$5,622 and by applying 2.5% over it, you get the Zakah amount at US$140.55 which must immediately be paid out to purify your wealth.
The divine decree was resolutely applied during the time of Prophet Mohammed and his caliphs and in less than two decades, the world saw for the first time in human history that poverty was completely eliminated in the Arabic peninsula where Muslims ruled, in the sense that those who used to receive Zakah a few years ago became the payer of Zakah.
So, what did the people do when they did not find the receiver of Zakah? Did they pocket the money? No, they were required to deposit it in the sovereign treasury and the government spent it on public welfare schemes.
Returning to current age, my question is why can’t the same solution be repeated today? The world population back then must have been about 200 million (Wikipedia), including the area under Islamic rule where the Zakah principle was firmly applied, whereas now we have 7.6 billion people on Earth with 26% Muslims.
Nevertheless, at the same time, I believe the wealth with Muslims has also multiplied manifold, especially during the last 70–100 years. Again, we come back to the belief that the Islamic principles are equally applicable and viable for all ages until the day of reckoning. On the same basis, the late scholar had claimed that if the Zakah institution is correctly and firmly applied, it has the power to eliminate poverty from the surface of the earth.
In view of the foregoing, aligning SDG No 1 related to poverty alleviation with the golden Islamic principle of Zakah shall have the great potential for the Muslim world to be the first to realize this important United Nations Development Programme goal.
In the next article, I will discuss the approach given the technology age we live in.
The purpose of this educative series and the article is not to hurt any religious or commercial sentiments either consciously or even unwittingly.
Next week: Discussion on all UNDP SDGs shall continue.