Poverty in the simplest terms can be defined as a lack of basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. In other words, it is the absence of the means, of course money, to fulfill those needs.
It is a matter of great concern that poverty is rampant in the Muslim world. What is the reason behind that and how to eradicate poverty? Muslim intelligentsia must think about this issue.
As a matter of fact, poverty among Muslims should have been nonexistent because Islam strongly advocates helping others and encourages philanthropy. There are five pillars of Islam. Of them, four deal with one’s relationship with Allah. The fifth, which unfortunately Muslims tend to forget, deals with ties between fellow Muslims. In numerical order, it is third in number. It is Zakat. Although, it is also between Allah and His servant but directly impacts others. As a matter of fact, Islam has created this institution to fight poverty. This is why Allah has put Zakat after Shahadah and prayer but before Fasting and Haj.
As all of us know the five pillars of Islam are:
l Shahadah: There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.
l Salah: The five daily prayers.
l Zakat: Social responsibility is considered part of one’s service to God; the obligatory act of Zakat enshrines this duty. Zakat prescribes payment of fixed proportions of a Muslim’s possessions for the welfare of the entire community and in particular for its neediest members. It is equal to 2.5 percent of an individual’s total net worth, excluding obligations and family expenses.
l Sawm: Fasting from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan.
l Haj: A once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Makkah if one can afford it.
After understanding the concept of Zakat a bit, the question arises as to why then there is poverty among Muslims. Despite being rich in all kinds of natural resources and with a fairly large number of billionaires, majority of Muslims are living in poverty. Zakat on one billion dollars is around $25 million and this amount can go a long way in helping many to manage for food, clothing and shelter. Zakat can eradicate poverty and when you eradicate poverty, you can eradicate corruption, social injustice, human trafficking, reduce crimes and and most important is that you save the dignity of a human being.
There are many countries in the Muslim world that are rich in resources but poverty is beyond imagination. Somalia and Yemen are examples of how poverty is destroying the social fabric. In the past, these two countries were the main food and livestock exporters of the region. We can also cite the examples of Iraq and Libya, which are two of the richest countries in natural resources and still people are suffering from poverty.
Poverty can be eradicated from the Muslim world if all Muslims start taking the institution of Zakat seriously, which is mandatory. It would be pertinent to mention here that Sadaqah is not obligatory but a form of charity that even the poor can give the poorer. Muslims around the world have simply forgotten the third pillar of Islam.
Zakat and Saqdah cannot only help eradicate poverty but can also bring people closer — not only Muslims but also even people from other faiths. Omar Bin Khattab, one of the rightly guided caliphs of Islam, helped an old Jew from the Bait Al-Mal. Omar Bin Al-Khattab once said: If poverty were a man, I would have killed him. It is a shame to see many cities across the Muslim World full of beggars. And I am not talking about the organized phony beggars. I am talking about those who are left with no other choice. The Muslim world is full of resources and has many rich people but it is very important to be part of society and pay our dues. It is our responsibility to fight poverty and Zakat is the Islamic solution to this problem.
(Arab News / 26 Feb 2014)---
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