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Islamic Concept Of Charity And Social Security Religion Essay


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This paper deals with the Islamic concept of charity and the formation of moral economy. Charity in Islam has different forms (zakat, sadqah and donation). It forms the social security system for the vulnerable class. It purifies the legally earned money and determines the close connection of the worship of the God. The crux of the charity is to form a moral economy which regulates the behaviour of Muslims in economic and social affairs. The moral economy is based on the fairness, sense of responsibility and purity in worship welfare and social security 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 of social welfare and the security (Scott 1987). It emphasizes on the moral values and the contribution to the neglected segment o f the society. However, Islamic concept of charity and social security has never been debated in the light of the moral economy.

This paper is intended to give a comparative view about the different notions of the Islamic charity (zakat, sadqah and donation). 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 and it is context specific. However, its aim and goals remain the same. The Quran 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" (Al-Quran: Al-Baqara 2:110).

Similarly, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "No wealth (of a servant of Allah) is decreased because of charity" (Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 2247).

Charity is the fifth pillar of Islam and its reward will be given in the after world. The charity is not reciprocity for this world, but the world after. 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) and donation.

2. Basic concepts of charity in Islam

Islamic charity has three basic concepts: zakat, sadaqah and donation.

2.1 Zakat (alms giving)

The zakat (زكØة‎) is extracted from the word zaka "to be pure" that denotes purification. The Quran highlights to the purification of wealth and states: "Of their wealth take alms to purify and sanctify them" (Al-Quran, Al-Tawbah 9:103). The zakat is 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 zakat. The Quran lists recipients of Zakat:

"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).

The zakat is given individually to the relatives, neighbors and vulnerable communities. It is also administered collectively: Muslim charity organization, some of the Muslim states regulates the departments which are responsible of the charity (for instance Ministry of Religious Affairs, Zakat and Ushr in Pakistan) and Muslim associations. Nevertheless, zakat is mandatory to every Muslim (who can pay), but it is willful to pay individually or collectively.

2.2 Sadaqah (charity)

The word sadaqah (صدقة‎) is derived from the Arabic root sadaqah which means "to be truthful" and hence sadaqah implies engaging in any virtuous and moral act in order to earn happiness of God. The sadaqah has certain principals which a Muslim must follow. One, sadaqah is given in the name of God. Second, the money or the donation should be from the legal sources. Islam 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. Therefore, they should spend and return the money to the needy, poor and spend on the ways of God.

The 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-Quran, Al-Baqarah 2:274). The Quran 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-Quran, Al-Munafiqun 63: 10-11).

Further, the 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-Quran, 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-Quran, Al Hadîd 57:18).

Sadaqah is important for a number of purposes. It reduces the sins and increases the virtue of a Muslim. It compensates for shortcoming in any negligence in the payment of zakat. 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. Sadaqah give a sense of protection not only the giver but also to the receiver of falling victim of disaster. God pleasure is received through the sadaqah. It is pleasure of the giver of the charity. The person feels happiness and fulfills his/ her obligation to the betterment of the humanity.

Model of Islamic Charity

Sadqah and donation: Volunteer charity

No specification of rate or time

Depends upon the capacity of an individual capacity

Zakat: Obligatory charity

Wealth: (income, earnings and savings) at the rate of 2.5% per anum

Agriculture product: Crops (around 10%).

Islamic Tresury (Fund): Bait-ul-Mal

Spending: Needy, poor (orphans, widows), employees to administer and collect zakat, for those whose hearts are to be won over, captive (prisoners), in debts and scholars, and for the wayfarers.

Social Security: Marginalized persons, communities

Fig 1.1

Fig 1.1 indicates that Islamic notion of charity is mainly based on the zakat, sadaqah and donation. These donations are collected at the Islamic funds. The fund is used to look after the marginalized community. This welfare is a form of social security. Everything related to the Islamic charity is based on the moral economy. The notion of moral economy is main crux of the charity.

2.3 Donation

Third term which is often used is the donation. The donation refers to give money, gift or compensate the person, organization who is in need. A donation is typical a charity and it serves the purpose of humanity. Different words are used for the donation: khairat (خیر Ø Øª) or attya (عطیہ). These words denote the charity collectively and individually. Islam appreciates the donation to the cause of the humanity. It is normally given at the time of disaster, emergency, people in need, to save a human being, construct an educational institution and to feed the hungry people.

3. Difference between zakat, sadaqah and donation

Zakat, sadaqah and donations are different kinds of charities in Islamic ideology. Zakat is the obligatory annual alms-giving which is determined on the basis of the value of one's own wealth. It is calculated 2.5% as per Islamic traditions in an year. The zakat is calculated at the beginning of the Islamic month Ramadan. According to the Islamic scholars, the zakat must be collected from the Muslims. This principal does not apply to the non- Muslims living in a Muslim state. It is mandatory and has strict verdict to pay the zakat, however, without any penalty for it. Zakat is responsibility of the only person who owns wealth. It is liable on the individual and the family.

However, the sadaqah is a charity that is given beside the zakat contribution over the surplus wealth. It is volunteer act and without any percentage. Sadaqah 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.

Similarly, some of the Islamic scholars believe that to form charity organization, construct educational institutions (mosque, school, college, universities) and construction of well (to clean water supply to the community) are the different forms of sadaqah. It can be given on the name of any relative (parents or children), if a person wishes to do so. Nevertheless, the sadaqah is volunteer act of the person and depend upon the capacity and surplus wealth of the person.

On the other hand, the donation is neither time specific nor it is mandatory or obligatory. It is volunteer activity of a person. It significantly differs from the zakat, but close to the sadaqah. Nevertheless, these three types of the charity contribute to the welfare of the humanity altogether.

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 of charity. According to Benthall the Islamic system of almsgiving (zakat) is more organized than other societies. For him, the zakat 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 cannot afford to marry. It is also for the disaster's victims and those in need of free medicine or dignified funerals of a person who need it (Benthall 1999:31). Therefore, the Islamic charity is a moral injection to work for the betterment of the humanity.

4.2 Zakat: Powerful instrument to poverty eradication

Zakat denotes growth, extension and purification and it is a donation on wealth and agriculture product. The zakat is collected as per nature of the wealth. It is collected to fulfill the tire needs of the marginalized segment of the society. The zakat is fundamental creed of Islam: It obligatory act of worship (Mohammad 1991). According to Mohammad (1996), the zakat is a system that has potential to eradicate poverty and inequalities (1991:1119). The zakat system is well organized system for the development of a country but it can be more organized for poverty eradication and for the maintenance of a society like Pakistan (Mohammad 1991).

Similarly, a survey was conducted in 1990/91 of the household Integrated Economic Survey in Pakistan and findings revealed that the zakat and usher were the significant to contribute the lives of the people (Shirazi 1996). 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 was spending to substance allowance for poor (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.

The development of the Islamic charity and its faire distribution could lead to alleviate and then eradicate poverty in the Muslim countries. However, the institution either do not exist or unable to deliver the services effectively. At some places, this institution was suppressed due to the fear of the dominance and power politics. Nevertheless, the Islamic charity has potential to contribute to the welfare of the humanity.

4.3 Charity: Road towards the social justice

According to Bremer (2004:1) the development of any society local resources are necessary. Islamic societies developed over a range of charity organizations to in order to address the needs of the needy and poor. These organizations are zakat boards, wakf (endowment) 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 institutions in the West (Bremer 2004:2). The strength of the civil society leads towards the development of the democratic institutions. According to her, foreign aid and a government is not enough for development in Muslim societies. Bremer outlines that 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). For her, this development contribution can be significantly increased with the assistance of Islamic charity in Muslim societies. Ultimately, this charity leads towards the establishment of the social justice system (Bremer 2004).

The whole notion of charity revolves around the notion of social justice in the Muslim world. The charity is the strong instrument to bring in the social justice. It helps the marginalized population within the society and tries to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich.

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, especially to the madrasas (religious schools).

"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. He reveals that the madrasas are contributing to provide the education to the poorest. He found that madrasas are registered in Pakistan and their financial assistance is observed by the Government of Pakistan since August 2006 (Blanchard 2007:5). Nonetheless, the charity could fill the gap of the education.

4.5 Charity: Belief and health seeking behaviour

A study highlights the importance of the sadaqah in health seeking behaviour in Pakistan (see Midway, Tabasco, Hani, and Khan 2010). This study revealed those patients who strongly belief and practice sadaqah (charity) feel better and believe that they can recover their health after giving charity to the poor. According to this research, almost 85% of the respondent thought and gave charity. The study reveals that the sadaqah is usually giving in the form of money (85.2%) clothes (49.2%) and sacrificing an animal (65.5%). Almost 92% of the respondents relate the belief and practice of sadaqah giving in the hope of recovery from illness. Nevertheless, charity gives internal strength to the patients and they believe that they can have better health recovery after giving the charity.

4.6 Islamic charity is universal or specific notion of welfare:

There are two views about the Islamic charity. One, it is localized notion of welfare and limited to the only Muslims and the Muslim societies. The Muslims are contributors as well as consumer of the charity. This perspective is under criticism among a large segment of the Muslim scholars (see Benthall 1999).

However, the second point of view is that Islamic charity is universal and every human being without border, creed and dogma can benefit from the charity. However, the charity contribution is applied only on Muslims. The Muslim contributes to the charity and gives equal importance to the whole human being in order to disburse the charity (Benthall 1999). However, they do not impose on the non- Muslims. Nevertheless, only Muslims are contributor of the Islamic charity. However, it is equally important to give the charity to the non-Muslims. There is no specification of creed or dogma in the Islamic charity (except zakat). The zakat is limited to the Muslim societies. The donation are without any religious affiliation or association.

5. Discussion

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 is a question which is often raised. In fact, there are two major reasons of the dependency of the Muslim societies on the foreign aid and remain in the vicious cycle of poverty and under development.

5.1 Collapse of the charity institution: Change in the charity institutions

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 (Bremer 2004). In the eyes of the colonial masters, the Muslim charity institutions were the symbol of Muslim legacy and they were a source of the rise of the Muslim power. Therefore, it was necessary to abolish such institution from the Muslims societies (Bremer 2004). Especially, the zakat institution was under strong scrutiny during the colonial era because it was believed that this institution supports the freedom struggle. The colonial powers developed the institution of welfare instead of the zakat institution.

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 and soon after become the source to collect the money by hook or by crook. People wanted to get benefited from the social welfare but not were ready to pay it 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 before the 19th century.

However, the Islamic charity institutions are believed as part of the worship of the God. Therefore, there were rare cases of the unfairness or corruption. They have strong check and balance to maintain the charity among the Muslim charity organizations. Nonetheless, the change in the charity institution brought mistrust and unfairness in the charity. Many of the Muslims societies became the prey of it and remain in the vicious cycle of poverty and under development.

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 recipient. According to Islam, giving hand is better than the receiving hand. However, current scenario does not reflect the basic ideology of the charity of Islam.

Despite of the fact that the zakat remain as an institution among the Muslim societies at individual level. However, it was not developed at the state level after the colonial era. It was perceived that state is in the hands of someone else (colonial masters or their local representatives) and there was not any institutionalized method of the zakat collection and its distribution. This mistrust or non-confidence led to collapse the real notion of the moral economy among the Muslims.

In Islamic morality, there are two sets of rights and obligation for a Muslim: the rights to worship God and the right to serve the humanity. In Islam, the right of God may be put aside by the God, if He wants to do so. However, the right to serve the humanity cannot be neglected until unless the fellow human beings do not forgive it. It is exclusive related with the people and their rights. They (people, especially poor and the needy) have to forgive their rights to the fellow Muslims. So the Islamic moral values exclusive emphasize on the welfare and social security of the humanity and the marginalized group of the society.

However, the collapse of the Islamic morality of charity is dominated phenomenon in the current era. It does contradict on the basic philosophy of the Islam that spends everything to the humanity which is surplus. 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 and changing the moral economy of the Muslim in the contemporary era.

7. Conclusion

Islamic concept of charity is much associated with the Muslim societies. It forms a moral economy and moral value systems (give charity and worship to the God). It also strengthens 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 society at large. However, criticism to retain the Muslim charity among Muslim is not exclusive from the discussion of the charity. Dominant point of view, however, 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 the God) and the service for the humanity (the rights of the poor and the needy). The charity is the right of the fellow human beings who are in need and it cannot be neglected as per Islamic moral economy. The Islamic charity is grounded in the concept of the moral economy.

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