In Pursuit of Better Investment of Zakah Revenues

Zakah revenues meets a wide gap in the needs of the poor, the indigent and the public interests of the state if they are invested in a proper way. If the rich people generously donate charities and do their best to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give medicine to the patient, support the needy and significantly contribute to fulfill the needs of their country of reform, weapons and equipment, life will be much better in this country with no needy or beggar in the community.

Imam ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Allah has apportioned the provisions of the poor in the wealth of the rich. So no poor man becomes hungry except as a result of the miserliness of a rich man and if you found a hungry poor man, know that there is an unjust rich man who did not pay the right of Allah in his wealth and did not fulfill his duty towards his society.”

In addition, if the endowments are invested in a proper way beside the Zakah and charities for the interests of the country, they would lead to a real renaissance in our country. We may have surplus for impoverished countries that we need to help, such as the Nile Basin countries with which we need to communicate and collaborate scientifically, culturally, charitably and humanely at the governmental and peoples’ levels with their strong civil institutions. These institutions are well placed to carry out large and huge projects in these countries and other African poor countries as a strategic dimension and as a part of our national security. There are numerous successful examples in this field for civil society institutions.

Zakah is a fundamental right in the wealth of the rich: I would first state some certain facts: First, Zakah is a fundamental right in the wealth of the rich and one of the main pillars of Islam such as prayer and fasting alike. Ibn ‘Abbas (may Alalh be pleased with him) said, “Three things have been revealed in the Qur‘ān associated with three others. They are not accepted separately: the first verse is, “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger.” If a Muslims obeys Allah’s commands and ignores the Messenger’s commands, his effort will not be accepted. The second verse is, “perform the prayer and give Zakah.” Those who perform the prayer and do not give Zakah will have prayer unaccepted. The third verse is, “give thanks to Me and to your parents. Unto Me is the final destination.” Whoever gives thanks to Allah but does not give thanks to his parents, his work will not be accepted.”

Allah, the Almighty, says about those who hoard their wealth and do not give Zakah: “And those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – give them tidings of a painful punishment. The Day when it will be heated in the fire of Hell and seared therewith will be their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs, [it will be said], This is what you hoarded for yourselves, so taste what you used to hoard” (the Qur‘ān, 9: 34-35).

Second, Islam invites Muslims to generously donate charities. Allah, the Almighty, says, “The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing” (the Qur‘ān, 2: 261).

Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) said, “The wealth of a man is never diminished by charity.” He also said, “The best charity is the one that you give while you are healthy, niggardly and afraid of poverty and wish to become wealthy. Do not delay it to the time of approaching death and then say, ‘Give so much to such and such, and so much to such and such.”

The Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) also said, “Every day two angels come down from Heaven and one of them says, ‘O Allah! Compensate every person who spends in Your Cause,’ and the other (angel) says, ‘O Allah! Destroy every miser.”

Allah, the Almighty, says, “Here you are – those invited to spend in the cause of Allah – but among you are those who withhold [out of greed]. And whoever withholds only withholds [benefit] from himself; and Allah is the Free of need, while you are the needy. And if you turn away, He will replace you with another people; then they will not be the likes of you” (the Qur‘ān, 47: 38).

Reasons Behind Defects and Means to Correction:

In this regard, the reasons behind the defect are either associated with zakah payer, zakah recipients or intermediaries between the two, a person, an organization or an institution. The reasons associated with the payers are either failure to pay or resorting to trickery or paying the Zakah without consideration of the organization to which they give the Zakah. The religious discourse should focus on the obligation of paying the Zakah and the major sin committed by those who withheld the right of Allah in their wealth in assertion that the rich do not escape blame by merely paying the Zakah in any way.

Rather, some jurists maintain that if a rich man mistakenly pays Zakah to a rich person thinking he is a poor, he still has to pay the Zakah. The rich people have to make sure that they pay the Zakah to the rightful recipients honestly and accurately in order to absolve themselves of all blame and contribute with their Zakah to the desired fruit for which Zakah has been ordained.

The reasons behind the shortcoming associated with the recipient revolve around the weak religious deterrent of some people, who make it lawful for themselves to obtain money from any means even if it entails loss of respect. We should remind those people of the Islamic approach and common sense, which discourage those who are able to work from begging or face-losing. Our Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) says, “Begging is allowed only for one who is in grinding poverty, one who is seriously in debt, or one who is responsible for compensation and finds it difficult to pay.” Our Prophet (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) also says, “Acts of begging are lacerations with which a man disfigures his face, so he who wishes may preserve his self-respect, and he who wishes may abandon it.” Imam Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

Carrying stones from mountains tops is better to me than accepting favors of men.

Some say some works are shameful, to me real shame lies in humiliation of begging. 

Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s Peace and Blessings be upon him) says, “One of the sayings of the early Prophets which the people have got is: If you don’t feel ashamed, do whatever you like.”

Islam strictly prohibits begging when no real need is there and prohibits humiliation of begging. Free men never expose themselves to situations that do not befit them. The upper hand, which gives, is better than the lower hand, which takes. The importance and value of work in Islam should also be stressed and that Islam encourages work. It should also be pointed out that one who strives to help the widows and the poor is like the one who fights in the way of Allah and that the best people are the ones who earn their living from their manual work and are not dependent upon others. The Pre-Islamic poet al-Shanfara al-Azdi said:

I eat the earth’s dust dry, lest any benefactor thinks me indebted to his favor.

Mahmud Sami al-Barudi said:

I was created as a dignified person receiving no favor from a child of a free woman that I remember for him when he gets angry.

As for the third defect, it is the mechanism of collecting and distributing the Zakah revenues. With our belief in and appreciation of the role of some civil societies in alleviating the suffering of the poor and the indigent whether by providing expenses or by establishing service and medical projects, these institutions need the following:

  • They must be under the complete control of the state apparatuses, which should follow and control them in the best way. There must be a clear transparency in announcing their budgets, expenses and remunerations while rationalizing their administrative expenses to the greatest possible degree.
  • There must be a clear map for the presence of these institutions, their geographical scope and activities in order not to have them all work in the same field or in limited fields while ignoring other fields that might be more important and vital for the society.
  • A public body, such as the Ministry of Social Solidarity, must be responsible for an electronic network to connect and coordinate the work of these institutions and link beneficiaries with donors and civil society institutions in their geographical or service scope in order to put an end to the phenomenon of the beneficiaries who have their names registered in the records of several charitable institutions while the Zakah revenues and charities do not reach those who really deserve them.
  • It is necessary to set clear goals and purposes to which all people might donate their charities or to allocate each institution for a particular purpose, such as feeding the hungry, providing medicine for the patient and paying the debts of those who are heavily indebted which is the goal of the campaign started by the Egyptian Ministry of Awqaf.