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Non-commercial efforts and directives of Zakat in Quran

  • February 5, 2017

In the Islamic perspective, the rizq does not simply mean food or money. It encompasses everything that God gives to a man, and its unequal distribution is as per a complex Design that encompasses the human effort. (6:165) Moreover, the Quran also acknowledges the need of activities that are for God only (fi-sabil-lil-lah) and do not involve a commercial return.

To compensate partially this designed inequality of rizq, and to generate resources for such non-commercial activities, Quran prescribes zakat and encourages Sadaqa. Zakat is a regular and obligatory contribution, compulsory for all capable Muslims, while Sadqa has a much wider connotation. It is inclusive of Zakat and ‘voluntary’ donations, over and above the compulsory amount. As Zakat is levied officially in many Islamic countries, a portion of it will be sufficient to fund such efforts, provided Ulema take a fresh look at its provisions.

These provisions have been clearly outlined in the Quran. The original Arabic words of the particular verse [9:60] are important, as they have the depth of meanings to cover the entire spectrum of the needs.

As a matter of fact, Zakat collections are only for the needy and the indigent, and for those who are employed to collect them, and whose hearts are to be won over and for the ransoming of slaves and for helping the debtors and for the way of Allah, and for the hospitality of the wayfarers. [9:60]

The original Arabic words used in the verse, Fuqra (needy), Masakin (indigent), Ar-riqab (slaves) and ghurama (debtors) represent the disadvantaged class. The Fuqra are needy persons, who depend on others for the necessities of life due to some unfortunate situations, while Masakin are ones who earn less than their need but are not totally dependent on others. The Quran has enjoined to support these persons, as both are victims of circumstances. The Masakin are especially noteworthy as persons involved in non-commercial activities or ways of Allah ( fi-sabil-lillah), usually do not ask money for their needs.

Another category mentioned is Ar-riqab. Literally, it means those whose necks are fettered in such a way that they cannot move their faces. Scholars interpret this term to mean those who are in bondage. The word ‘bondage’ has a broad scope (Note 1320, page 519 – The Holy Quran, English Commentary, KSA), and could be taken literally and figuratively both. Captives of war, slaves, people trapped in ignorance, superstition and a prejudiced worldview of caste and races, are all such bondage that have created misery for millions, all through the history, and in many countries. The Quran enjoins us to spend a portion of this fund to secure their freedom from the particular bondage.

The debtor (garim or gurama) is another category mentioned. Men with regular earning are often forced to borrow for some unforeseen need. Since earning and expenditure in most such cases are evenly balanced, it often becomes difficult to return the borrowed amount. In countries like India, generations after generations often slaved for life without being able to return the borrowed amount. Quran has enjoined to spend a part of this fund to help such debtors gain the economic freedom. But, the problem of recognizing a genuine needy person from a charlatan is always there. Who is a real victim of circumstances, and who is cheating to avoid hard honest work? Who really comes under the Ar-riqab category, and whose debt is justified to receive help from this fund?

In this regard, the provision of Aamlin by Quran is interesting. Literally interpreted as workers, the Aamlin are those who collect zakat, supervise the collections, keep the accounts and help in their distribution. Their remuneration is paid out of the zakat fund irrespective of the fact whether they are needy or not. Their involvement not only increases the efficiency, but it also confirms the activity as part of an organized economic system.

Talif-ul-qulub: An important head mentioned in the verse is Talif-ul-qulub. Literally, the word means to attract hearts. Traditionally, it is associated with ‘pensions and gifts’ given by the Holy Prophet to enemies, to render them into harmless entities. The category attracted a controversy in the early period of Islam’s expansion. Hadhrat Umar Farooq had refused to pay one such individual during first Caliph’s reign, declaring that Islam no longer needed the support of such people of dubious loyalty. Imaam Abu Hanifa, believing that Hadhrat Umar had abolished this category, opined that it was not lawful now to spend anything under this head. Imaam Shafi, on the other hand, opined that there was nothing to prove that Holy Prophet had ever spent anything under the head of talif-ul-qulub. All the incidents mentioned in the traditions simply showed that whatever he had spent for this purpose was spent out of the spoils of war and not out of the Zakat funds. Thus Hadhrat Umar’s action did not nullify this category, and something could be given to sinful Muslims under this head from the Zakat but not to unbelievers. Other jurists are of the opinion that expenses under this head are lawful if a need exists for them.

Looking at the present scenario, where hatred towards a particular set of revelation and its followers, are encouraging a global tilt towards the right, resulting in devastation of countries, murders, rapes, forced starvation of children, demolition of homes, incarceration and migration of millions, it can be said with all sincerity that attracting hearts or talif-ul-qulub is the most urgently needed effort of our times, required on global scale. Modern interpreters (The meaning of the Quran by Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, Explanatory note no. 64, p-390, 391, 394 – vol 2, Board of Islamic Publications, Delhi) of Quran and jurists are also of the opinion that the need to win over hearts exists in our times like never before, and there is nothing to show that expense under this head has been made unlawful forever up to the Last Day. Dr. Yusuf Al Qardhawi (Fiqa Az-Zakat; Urdu translation by Shams Peerzada; Pub: Idara Dawatul Quran, Bombay), a most respected modern jurist has written exhaustively on this subject, and he feels that the head of Talif-ul-qulub should be utilized to support large organized attempts to attract hearts towards Quran.

Another term Fi-sabil-lillah or ‘The way of Allah’ is a general term, which implies all those good works that please Allah. That is why some jurists are of the opinion that Zakat funds may be spent on every kind of good work. But the majority of earliest Muslim scholars have opined that here the expression ‘way of Allah’ actually stands for Jihad in the way of Allah, and portion from Zakat may only be used for jehad or fighting. But Jehad in the way of Allah is a much more comprehensive term than mere fighting in the way of Allah. It is applied to all efforts where a Muslim struggles and strives in the cause of Allah by teaching, fighting or in duties assigned to them by the Islamic state.

The eighth term, Ibn-sabil, literally means ‘son of the path’ or a wayfarer. Scholars interpret this head as help for strangers stranded in the way. Some scholars feel that as Ibn-sabil and sabil-lillah have been clubbed together, it may mean help for those who are striving on the path of Allah or doing any good work. But as Quran promotes mixing and interaction of populations, and traveling for various reasons, the meaning probably covers all situations.

Conclusion: Project Infinite Peace is an intellectual effort, and its objective is to attract hearts on global scale. Since three heads, mentioned among the eight, pointed out by Quran for Zakat expenditure are applicable to the project, and collective zakat of Muslim countries runs into billions of dollars, the arrangement of finances for such an effort should not be a problem.

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