Individual and Social Responsibility

It was the greed and selfishness of the merchants in Makkah which prompted Muhammad to emphasise Muslim concern for the poor. He implemented these teachings when he moved to al-Madinah.

All wealth and riches come from Allah and are for the benefit of all humanity. Zakah (purification of wealth by payment of welfare due) one of the Five Pillars, is central to this view.

And be steadfast in prayer and regular in charity: and whatever good ye send forth for your souls before you, ye shall find it with Allah: for Allah sees well all that ye do (Surah 2:110)

Zakah is a central aspect of the ummah (the worldwide brotherhood of Muslims) and is also an act of ‘ibadah, duty and worship.

Zakah is 2.5% of the income and savings of all Muslims after they have taken care family concerns. It is not charity but an obligation on all Muslims. However, the rich pay more than others and the very poor people pay nothing at all.

The calculations for zakah are complex:

  • Money and savings 2%
  • Produce from naturally 10% irrigated land
  • Produce from artificially 5% irrigated land
  • Cattle one per 30 animals
  • Goats and sheep one per 40 animals
  • Five camels: one sheep or goat
  • Precious metals: 7%
  • Mining produce 20%
  • Rent 2%

In Islamic countries zakah is a form of social security.

Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to the Truth); for those in bondage (slavery) and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer (traveller). (Surah 9:60)

Extra zakah is given at Id-ul-Fitr and Id-ul-Adha. Additional voluntary charity called sadaqah can also be given when someone is in need.

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness – to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practise regular charity, to fulfil their contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity (trouble), and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the God-fearing. (Surah 2:177)

Charity must always be given privately:

There is a man who gives charity and he conceals it so much that his left hand does not know what his right hand spends (Hadith).

The only exception to this rule of privacy is when the giver needs to provide an example which will encourage other people to give.

Every day, each person has two angels near him who have descended from heaven. One says, ‘O Allah!, compensate the person who gives to charity,’ the other says, ‘O Allah! Inflict a loss on the person who withholds his money.’ Zakah helps the poor but it can also been seen as helping them to help the rich. When people accept zakah they are worshipping Allah and accepting the wisdom of the will of Allah.

It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful (Surah 6:165).

God tells people in the Qur’an (Surah 2:30) that He made the human being His vicegerent (khalifah). As the representative of God on earth, this brings in the question of responsibility and consequently accountability followed by reward or punishment in the Hereafter. Hence, this makes every person aware of their individual as well as collective role regarding these issues.

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