Thursday, July 9, 2015

My comments posted on TOI, Hyderabad edition webpage over their correspondent Syed Mohammed's article: Does Zakat Creates a 'Receipant Class?'

My comments posted on TOI, Hyderabad edition webpage over their correspondent Syed Mohammed's article: Does Zakat Creates a 'Receipant Class?' :

Ghulam Muhammed annumallyaMumbai4 mins ago

UK is a welfare state and it is not a Muslim country. Still they have lakhs of people on welfare who legally can live off all their lives on dole and they do. UK government and media do make noises about throwing out this non-productive welfare system. But no political will is shown by the democratic parties to move in this direction. It is therefore surprising that Muslims whose religion has so much stress on welfare and who have big majorities who are below poverty lines, should harbor such mean-minded non-practitioners to howl about reform in Zakat distribution. In fact, it is the huge amounts involved that has attracted the attention of freeloaders to try and siphon Zakat funds through dubious means and services. A new class is emerging, some from the government bureaucracy and other from fringe political affiliations to make inroads into the prevailing Zakat distribution system. Individual donors are not fools to fall for such new fitna and will protect their own deen by strictly following the spirit and letter of Sharia in toto.

The Times of India

Does Zakat Create a ‘Recipient Class’?

,TNN | Jul 9, 2015, 01.32 AM IST
Ramzan is a month in which 'giving' and 'helping' is encouraged. This giving manifests itself in Zakat, mandatory charity, often described as 'purification of wealth.' It is a pillar of Islam - the fourth of the five tenets. The concept is the transfer of money from those who are men of means to the weaker section of the Muslim community. Zakat is calculated as two and a half per cent of one's annual savings. 
It is applicable on gold and also on property acquired for the purpose of investment. Lakhs of Muslims busy themselves in evaluation and calculation. For, as tradition goes, they wish to make this charity - both in cash and its equivalent in kind - before the end of the holy month. 
But while crores are donated in charity, a more organised and streamlined effort is required. Alternatives to the traditional recipients need to be identified and instead of focusing on immediate gratification, long term measures are required so as to ensure sustainable economic independence for recipients. This will be a step towards empowerment. 
A look at the Zakat trends shows that the donor has a wide choice of recipients. The traditional ones include madrassas, orphanages and poor individuals, who are known as the mustahiqeen or those who deserve assistance, and for funding marriages. It is largely to these groups that Zakat funds find their way. The general feeling is that as soon as the donation is made, the charity is done. As a result, on many occasions, the utilisation of funds is not monitored. 
There is no denying that there are many from weaker sections who need immediate relief. A few hundreds or thousands, a bag of rice or a set of new clothes will provide them this relief. These are doles which the elderly or the ailing, who are unable to work, should not be deprived of. 
But to bring about a tangible change, Zakat needs to be channelised in such a way that it not only funds the education of recipients but also enables these Muslims to be self-reliant. This is the second category. One that is currently unable to work on account of the economic conditions, but, after assistance, may do so. Those in the know say it is this group which is far greater in number that those on the doles. Therefore, a concerted effort to channelize funds to this group is likely to do more in terms of poverty alleviation. 
The first challenge is to invite the attention of the Zakat donor to the second category of potential recipient and then urge him or her to fund their education. The younger generation appears to be more amenable to such ideas. 
Further, there have been suggestions that the Zakat funds be "rotated" to provide interest free loans to small businessmen such as hawkers. Once repaid, the funds would be given to other such people. But, this idea has met with considerable resistance from scholars of Islam and has led to disagreement between groups on the basis of interpretation of scriptures. While the Islamic clergy maintains loans cannot be given from Zakat funds as "ownership" of funds is transferred to the recipient, the others claim that creating opportunities is the spirit of Zakat and that giving without measures towards self-reliance creates an unproductive "recipient class". It is here that the second challenge lies: in finding a common ground between these two groups. 
Finally, the trend of centralised, transparent system of Zakat distribution is yet to catch up in the country. Apart from a handful of groups, including the notable Hyderabad Zakat and Charitable Trust, there appears to be none with a substantial presence in the state. By setting up an institution which clearly shows their books, visible changes are likely to be seen. 

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