BAIT UL MAAL – A means to social transformation

Months ago, organization namely ‘Who is Husseini’ made an effort under the banner of ‘Wall of Kindness’ to extend helping hand to the needy people. The effort was unique and received acclamation throughout the valley. The entire concept was based on the thought of hanging extra clothes to the wall so that those in need would come and take them without compromising their dignity.

This initiative was actually imitated from cold regions of Turkey and Iran where people donate excess clothes in this manner. For quite some time it worked well, but later on, walls were found empty. Indicating, though this concept is workable in other parts of the world, here in the valley it could not succeed. And the failure of this (commendable) effort proved there is a need for some other strategy that could cater to need of the needy people in all the time.

Interestingly, being Muslim when we go through the Islamic system of welfare, we find the idea of ‘Bait-ul-Maal’. According to the dominant view, Bait-ul-Maal was first established during the reign of Abu-Bakr (R.A), the first caliph of Islam.

And it took real and final shape during the caliphate of the second Caliph Hazrat Umar (RA). Although it is an ancient idea, yet this effective mechanism can function in every era and situation. Currently, many Muslim populated countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Kenya, etc. have government supported ‘Bait ul Maals’ in place for the welfare of deprived sections of their society.

Bait ul Maal’ covers the wider scope and refers to an institution that historically served as a royal treasury for the caliphs and sultans, managing personal finances and government expenditures.

Further, it administered distributions of zakat revenues for public works. However, currently, it is considered as a charitable institution and everywhere its role is restricted to providing assistance and charitable contributions to the public.

In the existing system, the objective of Bait-ul-Maal is the well-being of people, the economic uplifting of weaker sections of society to end economic disparity, and rehabilitation of sufferers.

Before commenting about the significance of Bait-ul-Maal, knowing about its mode of working is of prime importance. How ‘Bait-ul-Maal’ works? During Caliphate, different kinds of funds were being collected viz; Zakat, Jazya, etc. and these would make a treasury of Bait-ul-Maal. But, in the current scenario, it is the ‘charity’ involving ‘Zakah’, ‘Sadqaat’ etc that forms the backbone of ‘Bait ul Maal’.

It aims at putting obligatory alms and voluntary donation collected from rich people, into use, effectively, to ensure the well-being of society in general. By means of ‘Bait-ul-Maal’, we can provide general services for the advancement of economically and educationally backward citizens of society. Bait ul Maal can serve as an effective tool to eradicate poverty.

By providing monthly stipends, we can enable a poverty-stricken family to manage everyday needs covering from food, clothing, and shelter. Under this institution, we can provide interest-free micro-loans to empower poor and disadvantaged people to establish their own businesses to earn the livelihood.

We can assist poor students to acquire quality education either through established institutions or by helping them financially. We can establish small vocational institutes through Bait-ul-Maal to equip poor youngsters with skills and encourage them for entrepreneurship. Moreover, paupers, who fail to afford better health care, can be provided with medical facilities.

In our valley, the number of unmarried over-aged women is swelling and financial insufficiency is the main reason behind their problem. However, through ‘Bait-ul-Maal’ we can provide marriage assistance and can help in giving solace to their families. Extending financial help to poor for the marriage of girls can also help in curbing the menace of child marriage. 

Locally, Bait-ul-Maal can contribute to various developmental programs ranging from Health to education of people, poor in particular. We can take necessary initiatives on a community basis to ameliorate health care and education system, which constitute essential need of any society. In addition, by virtue of ‘Bait-ul-Mal,’ we can take in hand micro-level public works that can prove beneficial for masses. The beautiful aspect of this institution is that our people would not be compelled to wander from place to place for begging and neither their identity would be revealed publically.

Depending upon the sources, we can extend our orbit of influence beyond community level. We can extend the outreach of love, sympathy, and care to the maximum number of disadvantaged people and vulnerable groups. Direct and indirect emergency aids can be supplied to the indigents through this institution and to those affected by natural or manmade disasters. Rehabilitation of people is also possible through it.

To be precise, Bait-ul-Maal has great potential to play a role in economic development at the local level. Modern Islamic economists are of the view that this institution is appropriate for contemporary Islamic societies and consider it agency of minimizing unfairness between the ‘haves and the have nots’. It is the responsibility of Ummah to establish and bolster ‘Bait-ul-Mals’ in their respective communities, rather than adopting insubstantial approaches, so that we will be able to make charity recipients, charity payers. 

(Zeeshan Rasool Khan hails from Seer Hamdan Anantnag and writes on diverse issues. Younus Rashid is a writer and a student activist from Qazigund .