If rich Saudi citizens had paid their Zakat (alms) regularly, there would not be a single poor family in the Kingdom, according to a number of Muslim scholars.
They told Makkah daily on Wednesday that there would be no poverty with the payment of Zakat, which is one of the pillars of Islam.
They noted that the number of the poor was increasing worldwide because of the world financial crisis and because of the greediness of businessmen who are monopolizing goods and commodities.
They said many wealthy people were not willing to reveal the size of their wealth because they were investing their money in bourses and investment companies.
Quoting statistical reports, the scholars said if Zakat was collected regularly it would lead to a turnover of more than SR60 billion a year.
According to Islamic law, all Muslims should pay annually 2.5 percent of their savings exceeding the cash value of 85 grams of gold as Zakat.
Zakat is also levied on gold, livestock, agricultural crops and other income at rates defined by the Shariah.
"If our wealthy men paid their Zakat in full, we will not have a single poor man in our country. Rather there will be a surplus of cash," said Saad Al-Otaibi, a member of the Supreme Judicial Institute.
He called for using accurate mechanisms to collect Zakat and said it must not be left as an option for wealthy people.
Al-Otaibi said many rich Saudis do not only abstain from paying Zakat but they do not also participate in any charity projects.
"You will only read their names in the lists of the richest people in the country," he added.
Ahmed Al-Mourie, a professor of the origins of religion at Umm Al-Qura University, said he was surprised that rich people would not pay Zakat, which is obligatory in Islam. "Wealthy people are not paying Zakat because they are greedy and have no fear of Allah," he said.
Al-Mourie said Zakat is a God-given right to the poor, so they should not be deprived of this.
Ali Al-Hakami, member of the Saudi Supreme Council of Scholars, said Zakat should be distributed in the country in which it was collected and, therefore, should not be sent to the poor in other countries.
He, however, said it is only permissible in extreme circumstances to send Zakat money to a nearby country if there are no poor people in the country where it is collected.
Mohammed Al-Suhaili, member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), said the lack of rain in some Arab and Muslim countries was a punishment from God because they do not pay Zakat.
(Saudi Gazette / 17 April 2014)---
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