Celebrating the Prophet for the Needy

On this Meelad day let us imagine the Prophet (SAW) chooses to visit us  but finds on the way how we treat the poor and the needy, wayfarers and those in the way of God, indebted and victims of various accidents. He would feel cornered – like Jesus depicted in The Grand Inquisitor of Dostovesky’s The Brothers Karamazov and not able to speak or we can’t afford listening to him comment on our state of affairs. Let us focus on one aspect only – his economic teachings – to illustrate my point. 

We live in a world where half the food is wasted and one in ten only gets requisite food The Prophet (SAW) carved a system of collective insurance against want, desperation, debt trap and accidents or vicissitudes of fate. None would be forced to beg or sleep hungry. Anyone willing to work would be able to get access to interest free loan.

   

We are required to invest wealth and not save it or hoard it and ideally, like the Prophet, not to fall in zakat net. Why don’t we invest in, for instance, sheep farming that is blessed and has, practically, profit share over 30% on invested amount? Keeping money as fixed deposit or locked in insurance companies for years or in big houses is not wisdom as inflation eats away any gains on savings.

Muslims are enjoined to do infaq, donate as waqf and write a will for up to 1/3rd of property for anyone or any sector he feels needs attention. If we all wrote wills for only 1/10th of this 1/3rd today for sectors we belong to – say vets for farmers, teachers for students, doctors for patients, we will have enough pool of money to eliminate need for help someone suffering from debt or disease or accident and needing support on social media or street collections.

What can be more obscene sight that that of beggars outside mosques on Fridays? And we fail to note contradiction with the pulpit that represents the Prophet explaining teachings of the Prophet and this begging tolerated with impunity by Imams and their followers. If we revive waqf as an institution and chose to donate so many resources of land/houses to charities, we would soon have hostel accommodation for every student or wayfarer or attendant at hospitals. We could sponsor all community events from marriages to taziyat and marriages of the poor.

We have largely forgotten that in  our wealth there is a due besides the zakat. There is voluntary duty of giving away to others as much as one likes, and the obligatory duty of giving away 2.5 percent out of one’s savings every twelve months.

The Prophet asked for strengthening community spaces and as such our local bayutul Amwals would be banks lending benevolent loans to the needy, using zakat for productive enterprises. Not even 10% Muslims give zakat (or do infaq of what is in excess of their requirements) and not even one percent of those who give meticulously calculate it or can file zakat returns from last few years as evidence of their meticulous care in giving zakat. And not one percent of this one percent take care of tracking recipients and their handholding so that they come out of recipient status. One is advised to give zakat publicly (as distinguished from alms to be given secretly) and institutionally  and then try to see if such institutions do deliver.

Let us note what the Prophet said and give ourselves score on daily basis on how far we follow him. “Sadaqah is incumbent on every Muslim”  (Bukhari 24:31). “On every bone of the fingers charity is incumbent every day (Bukhari) 56:72 “May Allah’s mercy be on him who is lenient in his buying, selling, and in demanding back his money [or debts].” (Bukhari) “Beware whoever is the guardian of an orphan who has property, should trade with it, and should not leave it ( undeveloped) so that the zakat should consume it.” Investing in fixed deposits, insurance policies, gold, stock markets, for ordinary lay person, may have various issues besides uncertain or lesser returns. Wisdom is to invest in local industries and help people get access to easy credit and get share in agri-livestock enterprises and reduce our food bill considerably. We can get mutton at Rs 500/kg and Qurbani animals at Rs 290/kg or even less if we invest in such enterprises. Let us pledge on this Meelad to pre-book animals for Qurbani/functions as this helps a farmer to get interest free credit for expanding is /her enterprise  (by sparing first progeny for the investor  from the pregnant ewes he can get from pre-booked amount – the service currently offered by Crescent Credit Cooperative and Cred-Agro). Why can’t do even these small interventions that help us even save some money as well? The Prophet directed Muslims to rear sheep/goat  (ittakhazul ganam) and said there is barakah in them and that in the last days they shall constitute special treasure of Mu’min – help safeguard  his/her iman.  

It has been noted the prophetic teachings emphasize women business leadership (Khadijah was such an exemplary business woman leader) and bootstrapping,  – working with what you have or making more money than you spend and not making it a condition to raise huge funding for your idea – Abdur Rahman ibn Auf illustrated it with small cheese business and grew huge empire.

Let us note some toxic practices in Kashmir that contradict the Prophetic teachings. Late, expensive marriages, feast at the expense of bride’s parents – mahraz sal is unethical raid on bride’s house by shameless gluttonous people, guile meuth (we could well offer books or share certificates in local industries, say sheep farms or membership of such credit cooperatives as CCL to those who invite us for feasts as this would be a life-long facility and its dividends would continue even after one’s death and we have an option of interest free financial services and can invest and take qard i hasan from them.

Hazrat Jaffar al-Sadiq  said – and both Shiite and Sunni scholars have emphasized –  that Zakat should be given publicly, not secretly. He also said “When  a man does an act of charity in the morning for the sake of God, He will save him from all the calamities  which descend on him for the sky on that day.” “Don’t belittle the prayers of the destitute for [recovery] of your sick ones, for their prayers for you will be accepted while their prayers for themselves will not be accepted.” Let us begin donating daily some small  amount, say Rs 10 at least, on behalf of all our family members, to trusted charity that uses charities for liberation loans and ensure we can track impact of our donations.

Let us, this Meelad, ask one pointed question: Do we give zakat and if yes to whom or we don’t bother abut precise calculus of it and its impact? Let us review our response by next Meelad. Let us pay tribute to the Prophet by creating model villages/colonies where everyone pays zakat or none is is need of going to banks/outsiders for help and it is certified beggar free and its local baitul mal uses locally collected zakat from every sahib i nisab on local needs so that within a year none is in recipient category. No wonder we see beggars everywhere and genuine people struggling for even few thousand rupees assistance and moving from pillar to post for loans or help for medicine or enterprises. Imagine if zakat amount were multiplied, extended to clear debts and for productive instead of consumptive purposes and one could track its impact and see evidence in due course that the recipient has indeed been transformed into giver (muzakki) we would soon eliminate want and desperation. It is for these multiple objectives that a trust Zakat, Infaq and Sadaqah Trust (ZIST) has been registered by concerned professionals and professors from various universities. The mechanism is simple. ZIST gives ZIS to eligible recipients identified by a team and advised by shariah experts and, to begin with, use it to buy young, preferably pregnant ewes for them and within a year progeny develops to over 30 kg weight and is transferred, phase-wise to other eligible recipients. As such new farmers get uplifted every year from one year’s ZIS only. Next year as more ZIS is received such chains will be multiplied and within five years new unit from every village which amounts to creation of one job/village will become a reality and trickle down effects would be many – flight of capital on mutton reduced, quality meat made available, new supply chains introduced and parasitism of beggars done away with as every recipient will be linked with productive enterprise of farmer or other entrepreneurs in due course. 

All are invited to contribute part if not all of ZIS to it and monitor how it works to transform lives of the poor/needy/wayfarers etc. One can recommend beneficiaries as well and ZIST wil tie up him/her with a farming enterprize as silent partner and in due course he/she will become muzakki. Ask any trust you give zakat to give you details of use of your money and models for multiplying its impact and achieving desired transformation and then give. Let any organization you trust collect zakat but strengthen its hands to achieve intended objectives of ZIS.

Muslims have been directed to do infaq of everything that exceeds their requirement – 2.5% Zakat is the absolute minimum and does not exhaust what is expected/obligated on the Muslims. Everything that is in excess of requirements is to be spent in the way of God, as the Quran says. I hardly know a household in which something isn’t in excess, stored or piled up and wasting away – and infaq is not done as required. Many from our pious ancestors used to give 30% of income away and many didn’t save for the year but found someone to help before that and as such zakat wasn’t due from them.

Income tax is assessed on a base different from Zakat – “it is levied on current incomes and not savings, although it allows certain specific deductions, but it takes into account neither  the net savings of assessed nor the period for which he holds them intact”(Dr F R Faridi) and “Zakat isn’t an income tax, but a tax on  any sort of ‘capital’, once it is realizable” Those who  say they have no savings despite good income and thus hardly pay any zakat should note with Mahmud Abu Saud that “Taxes on consumption expenditure may sometimes become necessary to discourage deliberate evasion of zakat and willful obstruction in the fulfillment of its secondary function, namely, the promotion of productive investment of one’s savings.” The excuse of not paying zakat on the ground one pays income tax is not acceptable to generality of Ulama who note it is basically an ibadah.  Nor are long term loans to be deducted from zakatable amount – only installments due in one year can be deducted. If it were not so we would find hardly any crore pati zakat giver as he may have lacs of loan routinely. An average employee needs to pay around 50k zakat annually and with this amount none of the neighbours or relatives should suffer for want of food, medicine or scholarship. From ZIS we can carve a central store in city or towns and sponsor free food, medical care, education, clothing, footwear, housing, marriages etc. of the poor/needy. If zakat collection and distribution is well organized the poor and needy will daily have something special – chicken from a poultry farm, fish from fish farm, milk from dairy farm, mutton from sheep farm  and variety of fruits and vegetables in the locality. That would be a form of durood (sending salutations to the Prophet) as Muhammad means wujud that vivifies our being. (SAW)

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