Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|A sense of growth generated by zakah|
|10/01/01 at 08:12:43|
|Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh|
[center]A sense of growth generated by zakah
By Dr Muhammad Kamal Al-Shareef[/center]
Sadaqah, or donation for charity, and particularly its obligatory part, zakah, purges the hearts of believers and, at the same time, brings growth, increase and blessings. All these are net economic gains that benefit the whole community, including both rich and poor.
The role of zakah and charity in a society's economic growth has diverse aspects, some of which are purely economic while others are psychological. I prefer to leave the economic aspects to experts in that field. I will only say very briefly that such charity increases the purchasing power of the whole community. Zakah is given to its beneficiaries at the place where it is collected, except in some special circumstances.
Thus, when it is given to the poor in the community where the rich have paid it out, it re-circulates to increase business activity within the same society. Thus, the rich in that society get some returns for what they pay in zakah, as they are normally the business people and the ones who own and run different industries.
Coupled with the prohibition of usury, zakah brings into the community some economic interactions that are greatly different from those known in the Western type of free-market economy. It has to be pointed out, however, that Islamic economy is free to a large extent.
Zakah, and sadaqah generally, have a psychological effect that brings growth, increase and blessings into the economy of the whole community. To understand this properly we need to recall the purpose for which the Creator has given some people plenty while giving others stinted means.
An important result of such diversity of means is to allow the motivation for people to accept different types of work, some of which may be very hard while others are not so hard. Thus, they would do the work available to them, according to their needs and opportunities. All such opportunities are part of God's grace which is given to different people in different measures.
When a person is in need of money, his motivation to work is high. It is natural that human beings prefer a life of ease, laziness, pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment. Had it not been for people's need, the only ones who would bother to work are those who have psychological motives to do so. The more money a person has, the less inclined he is to undertake a hard job or one which is not handsomely paid.
God makes clear the wisdom behind the divergence in what people are given. He says, "It is We who distribute their means of livelihood among them in the life of this world, and raise some of them by degrees above others, to the end that they might avail themselves of one another's help. Indeed, your Lord's grace is better than all (the worldly wealth) that they may amass." (43: 32) Then through sadaqah and zakah social security is established and maintained in Islamic society, ensuring that a poor person who is unable to work, or does not receive sufficient income, has enough to meet his needs.
In the twentieth century, other methods of social security have been established in industrial, particularly western, countries. But these methods do not rely on sadaqah, but on taxes that are imposed on all people. Employers are required to pay to the government's social security department contributions that may come close to the employee's salary. This means that an employee who receives a salary equal to 7,000 riyals may cost the employer almost double that amount. It is from such contributions that the government pays out unemployment benefits to those who lose their jobs while they look for new employment.
This situation gives an employee a measure of security, while giving the employer the right to fire people at will. It also gives society a sense of security, because an unemployed person is not driven to crime in order to secure his essential needs. But this method of social security has its negative aspects, the most important of which is that an unemployed person may prefer to stay unemployed until he is offered a job which pays much more than the social security benefit he receives.
Thus, if his social security benefit is around 5,000 riyals and a work opportunity is offered to him at a salary of 7,000, he would feel that his work is only worth 2,000riyals. Thus, he may well refuse the offer, waiting for something that pays him more. Indeed, some people would prefer to stay unemployed since the benefit they receive gives them a living without having to work.
All this leads to higher wages, and consequently, higher prices for goods and services. A major contributing factor is that unemployed people find it too easy to stay dependent on social security benefits, since these are paid by the government. People tend to look at what they get from governments in the same way as children look at what they get from parents. By contrast, zakah and sadaqah provide a source of security for the poor, while protecting society against crime motivated by need, grudge and envy.
Although in Islam the government is responsible for the collection and distribution of zakah, a believer's conscience always urges him not to depend on it as a means of living, even though it gives him an amount that caters for all his needs. Indeed a believer who needs 5,000 riyals for his family's living will accept work even at a salary of 3,000 in order to reduce the amount he receives from zakah funds. What will his reaction be if he is offered a job that gives him a salary of 5,000 riyals? Would he hesitate to grab it straightaway? He knows that neither a person of sufficient means nor one who is physically fit to work may be included among the beneficiaries of zakah and sadaqah, as the Prophet says. A person who is able to work may benefit by zakah only until he finds work.
Moreover, the Prophet has emphasized to all believers that seeking help should be viewed as unbecoming. He says: "A person will continue to ask people for help until he finds himself on the Day of Judgment without the slightest bit of flesh in his face." (Related by Muslim). This the Prophet says after having stated that whenever a person begs for help, each request causes a small dint in his face. The Prophet also says: "A person who begs in order to increase what he has, is only begging for brands of fire: he may take much or little as he pleases." (Related by Muslim). This Hadith makes it clear that it is forbidden for anyone who is not poor or needy to take anything from zakah funds.
This point will be further elaborated tomorrow, God willing.
[i]"Islam in Perspective" - Arab News - 04 June 2001[/i]
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
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