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The Islamic Concept Of Charity Religion Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Religion
Wordcount: 2815 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Charity in Islam has been a central focus of the society. It has different forms (zakat and sadqah) which differ from each other. The charity in Islam gives an impression of the purification and worship of God. It is also perceived as good deed and benevolence in the Islamic theology. Islamic charity gives a notion of the welfare of the humanity. The crux of the charity is to form a moral economy which regulates the behaviour of Muslims. The moral economy is based on the fairness, sense of responsibility and purity in worship and welfare of the people.

1. Introduction

The contemporary debate of the charity has been long in the literature (Melvin 2009, Ferrari and Khan 2010, Shirazi 1996, Scott 1987 and Waldron 1986). Specifically, the religious zeal and zest revolves around the notion of charity (Iwobi 2009). Islamic concept of charity is not exception for that debate (Scott 1987). It emphasizes on the moral values and the contribution to the neglected segment o f the society. However, Islamic concept of charity has never been debated in the light of the notion of moral economy.

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This paper is intended to give a comparative view about the different notions of the Islamic charity (zakat and sadqah). The concept of charity, in general, is not new because every religion of the world preached that charity. However, the focus of this paper is to highlight the forms of charity in Islam, their differences and their impact on the multiculturalism and the formation of the moral economy.

The definition of charity in Islamic tradition differs somewhat from its interpretation in different contexts. However, its aim and goals remain the same. The Qur’an states: “And be steadfast in your prayer and pay charity; whatever good you send forth for your future, you shall find it with Allah, for Allah is well aware of what you do” . Similarly, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “No wealth (of a servant of Allah) is decreased because of charity”.

Charity is the fifth pillar of Islam and its reward will be given in the after world. The Quran declare the five basic concept of the zakat. These concepts included: infaq (spending benevolently), Ihsan (kindness), zakah (purification), sadqah (charitable deed) and Khayrat (good deeds). However, Islam does not force anyone to give charity. It is obligatory in the form of zakat and voluntary in the shape of sadqah (charity).

2. Basic concepts of charity in Islam

Islamic charity has two basic concepts: zakat and sadaqah.

2.1 Zakat (alms giving)

The zakat extracted from the word zaka “to be pure” that denotes purification. Qur’an highlights to the purification of wealth and states: “Of their wealth take alms to purify and sanctify them”. Zakat is an obligation on a Muslim. It is moral duty of a Muslim to pay Zakat at the rate of 2.5% per year. A Muslim cannot deny the ZakatI. Qur’an lists recipients of Zakat which includes:

“Zakat is for the poor and the needy and those who are employed to administer and collect it, and for those whose hearts are to be won over, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage, and for those who are overburdened with debts and for every struggle in God’s cause, and for the wayfarers: this is a duty ordained by God, and God is the All-Knowing, the Wise.” (Al-Quran 9:60).

2.2 Sadaqah (Charity)

The word Sadaqah is derived from the Arabic root verb sadaqah which means “to be truthful” and hence Sadaqah implies engaging in any righteous act in order to earn the mardat (pleasure) of Allah. The sadaqah has certain principals which a Muslim must follow. One, Sadaqah is given on the name of God. Second, the money or the donation should be from the legal sources. Islamic discourages the illegitimate (stolen or unethically gained) money or resources. Third, surplus money (beyond the need of a person) is the money of God and Muslims are custodian of it. They should spend and return the money to the needy, poor and spend on the ways of God.

Quran outlines the charity: “Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”

(Al-Baqarah 2:274). It further highlights:

“And spend something (in charity) out of the substance which We have bestowed on you, before Death should come to any of you and he should say, “O my Lord! Why didst Thou not give me respite for a little while? I should then have given (largely) in charity, and I should have been one of the doers of good. But to no soul will Allah grant respite when the time appointed (for it) has come; and Allah is well acquainted with (all) that ye do.” (Al-Munafiqun 63: 10-11).

Further Quran states: “And they feed, for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan, and the captive. We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.” (Al Insân 76:8-9).

In another statement, the Quran states: “For those who give in Charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit), and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward.” (Al Hadîd 57:18).

Sadaqah is important for a number of purses. It reduces the sins and increases the virtue of a Muslim. It also compensate for shortcoming in any past payment of Zakah. For instance, if a person forgets to pay zakat in the past or was guilty to pay the zakat, the sadaqah reduces the burden of the past. Sadqah, give a sense of protection not only the giver but also to the receiver of falling victim of calamities. God pleasure is received through the sadqah. It gives pleasure to the giver of the charity to the others. A person feels his obligation to the betterment of the humanity.

3. Difference between Zakat and Sadaqah

Zakat and Sadaqah are two different kinds of charities in Islamic ideology. Zakat is the obligatory annual almsgiving which is determined on the basis of the value of one’s wealth. It is 2.5% as per Islamic traditions. Accroding to some of the Islamic jurists, zakat must be collected from the Muslims. It is mandatory and has strict zeal to pay the zakat.

Zakat is the responsibility of the person who owns wealth. It cannot be transferred to the second person. It is liable on the individual.

However, the sadaqah is charity that is given beside the Zakat contribution over the surplus wealth. It is volunteer act and without any percentage. Sadqah is not specified as only monetary terms (feeding the poor and the needy), but also given support to the orphans, widows in the form of advising or counseling. It also includes the volunteer activities for the befit of the community at larger: teaching to the poor, giving sense of good faith and advising them to excel on the right path, the path of God.

Some of the Islamic jusrits beleieved that to form charity organization, construct educational institutions (mosque, school, college, universities) and construction of well (to supply water to the common man) are the different forms of sadaqah. It can be given on the name of any relative (parents or children).

4. Comparative view of charity: Development of moral economy

Islamic notion of charity (in its different forms) generates a moral economy. This is the economy which is based on the good faith and welfare of the humanity. In line with Bollig (1998) and Thompson’s (1971, 1993) notion of “moral economy”. Islamic charity gives the following notion of charity.

4.1 Islamic charity: Moral injection

Benthall (1999) highlights the Quranic injection to charity. Accroding to Benthall the Islamic system of almsgiving (zakat) is more organized than other societies. For him, the ZakatI is closely associated with the prayers and the worship of God, therefore, the Muslim are morally obliged to pay the Zakat to the poor, to the needy as per Islamic conception. He argued that Zakat can be distributed in poor, needy, orphans, widows, divorcees, prisoners and their families, unemployed and homeless people, students, those who don’t afford to marry, disaster victims, and those in need of free medicine or dignified funerals (Benthall 1999:31).

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4.2 Zakat: Powerful instrument to poverty eradication

Zakat which literally means growth, extension and purification is a premium on all forms of accumulated productive wealth and on a variety of agriculture produce. It is calculated at various rate according to the nature of the asset or product, and is due to ‘the needy’ of the Muslim community. It is one of the basic tenets of Islam and besides being an obligatory act of worship, it is a system through which a Muslim society can eradicate poverty and inequalities (Mohammad 1991:1119). Islamic Zakat system in Pakistan is the source to eradicate poverty in the country (Ibid). Zakat system is well organized system for the development of country but it can be more organized for poverty eradication and for the maintenance of society (Mohammad 1991).

5.3 Charity: Road towards the social justice

According to Bremer (2004:1) the development of any society local resources are necessary. Historically, Islamic societies developed a range of charitable institutions to fulfill these mandates include zakat boards, auwkaf, and diverse local structures reflecting the richness of Islamic culture ‘from Dakar to Davao’ (Ibid).

For her, “A strong civil society is now widely recognized as an important pillar supporting democratic society (Bremer 2004:2). With the help and struggle of civil society it is possible that a democratic society can be established. Only the help of foreign donor and government is not enough for development. If government or foreign donors will help the society the civil society will lose their interest for the development. For her, in recent years USAID has funded the creation of an NGO service center that provides technical assistance and training to civil society organizations, and has granted financial support directly to NGOs ranging from business associations to community development groups (Bremer 2004:3). Government, foreign donor and for free services do not provide an adequate base for a vibrant civil society. This aid is for short term. This aid is not compatible with the long term independence (Bremer 2004).

4.4 Charity: Funding for free education

According to Blanchard (2007) religious school work as a charity organization in Muslim countries. They are source of providing education to the vulnerable groups.

“Madrasas offer a free education, room, and board to their students, and thus they appeal to impoverished families and individuals. On the whole these religious schools are supported by private donations from Muslim believers through a process of alms-giving known in Arabic as zakat. The practice of zakat—–one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith—–prescribed that a fixed proportion of one’s income be given to specified charitable causes, and traditionally a portion of zakat has endowed religious education” (2007:4).

Blanchard (2007) provides information that in Pakistan Madrasas are being observed by the government regarding their finance sources after 9/11 attack in the United States. All foreign students in madrasas were required to expel from madrasa if they did not obtain permission to remain in Pakistan from their home governments in 2005. Madrasas are registered in Pakistan and their financial assistance is observed by the government since August 2006. (Blanchard 2007:5).

Zakat and usher contributed to the income of the people of 2.7% in a household of Pakistan (Shirazi 1996). The survey was conducted in 1990/91 of the household Integrated Economic Survey and findings revealed that the Zakat and usher were the significant to contribute the lives of the people. According to the survey, 39000 zakat committees were working with 250 thousand volunteers (Shirazi 1996:166). The zakat contribution on 1981/1982 from 845.85 million Pakistani rupees to 4655.9 million in 1993/94 (Shirazi 1996:170). The money were spend to Substance allowance (708.622 million), rehabilitation (245.669 million) Pakistani rupees and 1738234 people benefited from the zakat contribution (Shirazi 1996:185). However, the latest figures on the issue are not available.

5. Why Muslim countries depend upon the foreign aid?

There is wide spread opportunity to get resources in order to feed the marginalized segment of the society, as per the notion of Islamic charity, then why the Muslim countries are dependent upon foreign aid? In fact, there are two major reasons of the dependency of the Muslim societies on the foreign aid.

5.1 Collapse of the charity institution: Change to moral values

Muslim countries depend upon the foreign aid because they were unable to maintain their institutions. Such institutions were collapsed during the colonization or soon after. In the eyes of the colonial masters, the Muslim charity institutions were the symbol of Muslim legacy and a risen of the rise of the Muslim powers, therefore, it was necessary to abolish them. They developed the institution of welfare instead the zakat institution (Bremer 2004).

However, this welfare institution developed by the colonial powers was perceived as not one’s own. It was considered as a symbol to get money, but without any legacy (Bremer 2004). It was just perceived as the symbol of the colony. People wanted to get benefited from the social welfare but not were ready to pay back. Therefore, it was not much institutionalized as the Zakat was spread during the Muslim era in the Middle East and in the Muslim countries.

5.2 Collapse of morality: Change to develop a new morality based on materialism

Islam appreciates the giving hands (charity giver) and discourages the charity recipients. According to Islam, giving hand is better than receiving hand. However, current scenario does not reflect the basic ideology of the charity of Islam.

Despite of the fact that zakat remain as an institution among the Muslim societies at individual level. However, it was not developed up to the level after the colonial era. It was perceived that state is in the hands of someone else and there was not any institutionalized method of the zakat collection and distribution. This collapsed the real notion of the moral economy among the Muslim societies.

In Islamic morality, there are two sets of rights and obligation of a Muslim: the rights to worship God and the right to serve the humanity. In Islamic theology, the right of God may be put aside by the God, if He wants. However, the right to serve humanity cannot be neglected until unless the fellow human beings do not forgive it. It is exclusive the people who have to forgive their rights to the fellow Muslims. So the Islamic moral values exclusive emphasize on this value.

However, the collapse of the Islamic morality is dominated. It does contradict on the basic philosophy of the Islam that spends everything to the humanity which is surplus for a person. However, the materialism and greed for wealth is dominant in the current culture of the Muslim societies. It is depicted in the life style and in the emerging value system. Consequently, it is affecting the basic notion of the Islamic charity.

7. Conclusion

Islamic concept of charity is much associated with the Muslim societies or Muslim association. It forms a moral economy and moral value system (give charity and worship to God) which strengthen the notion of close social networking of the Muslims. However, it does not neglect the humanity at large. It gives a due share to provide the help to the people of the world. The charity is given to the needy, poor, scholars, charity organizations and welfare of the world society at large. However, criticism to retain the Muslim charity among Muslim is not exclusive from the debate of the charity. Dominant point of view is in favour of the humanity rather than the welfare of the any specific community.

Islamic charity begins from the Individual level. It creates the space for the state. However, it does not exclusive involve the state to regulate the charity. The charity in Islam is equally important to the worship of God. Islam emphasize the worship of God (right to obey God) and the service for the humanity (the rights of the people). It is the right of the people.


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