The Islamic vision to Homeless and Poor people and the solution

إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَاِبْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِنَ اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ ﴿9:60﴾ 

(9:60) As a matter of fact, Zakat collections are only for the needy *61 and the indigent, *62 and for those who are employed to collect them *63 and for those whose hearts are to be won over *64 and for the ransoming of slaves *65and for helping the debtors *66 and for the way of Allah *67 and for the hospitality of the wayfarers. *68 This is an obligatory duty from Allah: and Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

*61 According to the Arabic usage (fuqara: the needy) are all those people who depend on others for the necessities of life. The Arabic word fuqara’. is a general word for all those who are needy because of some physical defects, or old age, or temporarily, and can become self-supporting if they are helped. e.g. orphans, widows, the unemployed, etc. , etc.

*62 According to the Arabic usage( masakin) are those indigent people who are in greater distress than the needy people usually are. The Holy Prophet especially enjoined the Muslims to help such people as are unable to find the necessary means to satisfy their wants and are in very straitened circumstances, but are so self-respecting that they would not beg for anything nor would others judge from their outward appearance that they were deserving people. According to a Tradition “Miskin is one who cannot make both ends meet, though his appearance does not show that he needs help nor does he beg for help.” In short, he is a self-respecting man who has become needy.

*63 “….who arc employed to collect them….” are those who collect Zakat dues, supervise the collections and keep accounts, and help in their distribution, irrespective of the fact whether or not they are needy or indigent; their remunerations shall be paid out of the Zakat Funds. In this connection it should be noted well that the Holy Prophet had declared the Zakat Funds to be unlawful for himself and for the members of his own family (Bani Hashim). Accordingly, he never received any remuneration for collecting or distributing Zakat Funds. As regards the other members of Bani Hashim, they were allowed to do this service without receiving any remuneration, but otherwise it is unlawful for them. On the contrary, the payment of the Zakat dues was obligatory on Bani Hashim if their possessions warranted this under the prescribed limits, but under no circumstances whatsoever were they allowed to accept anything out of zakat collected from others.

There is, however, a difference of opinion as to whether they should accept anything out of the collections made from their own family or not. Imam Abu Yusuf opines that they are allowed to accept these when they are needy or poor or wayfarers, but the majority of the Jurists regard this also unlawful.

*64 A portion of Zakat Funds may also be given to win over to Islam those who might be engaged in anti-lslamic activities or to those in the camp of the unbelievers who might be brought to help the Muslims or to those newly converted Muslims, who might be inclined to revert to kufr if no monetary help was extended to them. It is permissible to award pensions to them or give them lump sums of money to make them helpers of Islam or submissive to it or at least to render them into harmless enemies. A portion of the spoils or other incomes may be spent on them and, if need be, also a portion of Zakat Funds. In such cases, the condition of being needy or indigent or on a journey etc., is also waived; nay, they might be even rich people or chiefs who are otherwise not eligible for anything from Zakat Funds.

All are agreed that during the time of the Holy Prophet pensions and gifts were given under the head of ‘winning over people’, but there is a difference of opinion whether this head of expenditure was abolished or not after his death. Imam Abu Hanifah and his followers are of the opinion that it was abolished during the Caliphate of Hadrat `Umar, and `now it is not lawful to spend anything under this head’. Imam Shafi`i is of the opinion that something tray be given to j sinful Muslims under this head from Zakat Funds but not to unbelievers, while other Jurists arc of the opinion that expenses under this head are lawful even now, if a need arises for them.

The Hanafis base their opinion on an incident that happened after the death of the Holy Prophet. `Uyainah bin Hisan and Aqra`a bin Habis came to Hadrat Abu Bakr and asked him to allot to them a certain piece of land. So he gave them a written order for this. They took it to some other highly placed Companions for further confirmation and some of them endorsed this order. But when they took it to Hadrat `Umar, he tore the paper into pieces before their very eyes, saying, “It is true that the Holy Prophet used to give something to win over your hearts because Islam was weak at that time, but now Allah has made Islam so strong that it does not stand in need of people like you. ” At this they went to Hadrat Abu Bakr and complained to him about it and taunted him, saying, “Are you the Caliph or `Umar?” But he took no notice of this nor did any of the Companions differ with Hadrat `Umar’s opinion. The Hanafis conclude from this incident that when the number and power of Muslims increased by the grace of Allah and they no longer stood in need of any support from such people; the reason for which expenses under this head were permitted in the first instance remained no longer there. Therefore the Companions unanimously abolished expenditure under this head.

Imam Shafi’i says that there is nothing to prove that the Holy Prophet ever spent anything out of Zakat Funds under this head. All the incidents mentioned in the traditions show that whatever he spent for the purpose of winning over hearts to Islam, was spent out of the spoils of war and not out of Zakat funds.

In my opinion there is nothing to show that the expenses for winning over hearts have been made unlawful for ever up to the Last Day. There is no doubt that the action taken by Hadrat `Umar was absolutely right, for if and when the Islamic State does not consider it necessary to spend anything under this head, Islam does not make it obligatory to spend something for `winning hearts’. On the other hand, if need for this arises at any time, it is authorized to incur expenses under this head for Allah has kept a provision for this. Hadrat `Umar and the other Companions agreed only on this that there was no need to give anything for this purpose at that time because the circumstances did not warrant it. But there is no reason to conclude from this that the Companions disallowed for ever the expenses that were permitted by the Qur’an under certain circumstances for the good of Islam.

As regards the opinion of Imam Shafi`i, it appears to be correct in so far as it is not lawful to spend anything under this head out of Zakat Funds, if these expenses can be met out of other funds. But if it is necessitated that something should be spent under this head out of Zakat Funds, there is no reason why a differentiation should be made in this regard between sinful Muslims and unbelievers. For the Qur’an has not allocated the share because of the faith of the prospective recipients but because Islam required to win their hearts for its own good and because this could not be achieved except by giving them a portion of wealth. Therefore the Qur’an allows the Amir of the Believers to spend a part of the Zakat Funds to achieve this end, if, when and where the required conditions exist. The fact that the Holy Prophet did not spend anything from the Zakat Funds on unbelievers for this purpose does not mean that it is unlawful to do so, for he did not spend from this fund because there was enough money in other funds for this purpose. Had it been unlawful to spend anything from Zakat Funds on unbelievers, he would have explicitly forbidden it.

*65 A portion of Zakat Funds may be spent for the ransoming of slaves in two ways. First, help may be given to a slave for the payment of the ransom money, if he enters into an agreement with his master that he will set him fret, if the slave pays him a certain amount of money. The second way is that the Islamic government may itself pay the price of Iris freedom and set him at liberty. There is a consensus of opinion about the first way, but there is difference of opinion about the second way. Hadrat ‘Ali, Said bin Jubair, Laith _Thauri, Ibrahim Nakh`i, Sha’abi; and Muhammad bin Sirin, Hanafis and Shafi” is consider this as unlawful while Ibn, ‘Abbas, Hasan Basri, Malik, Ahmad and Abu Thaur consider this as lawful expenditure from this Fund.

*66 Help may be given out of Zakat Funds to such debtors as would be reduced to a state of poverty, if they paid off all their debts out of their own possessions, irrespective of the fact whether they are earning any money or not, whether they are indigent in the general sense or well off. According to some Jurists, the only exceptions to this are those debtors who are spendthrifts or involve themselves in debts by spending money on wicked deeds. Help may be given to them only if and when they repeat.

*67 “The Way of Allah” is a general term which unplies all those good works which please Allah. That is why some Jurists are of the opinion that Zakat Funds may be spent on every kind of good work. But the fact is, and the majority of the earliest Muslim scholars have opined, that here the ‘Way of Allah’ stands for Jihad in the Way of Allah, that is, the struggle to eradicate the systems based on kufr and to establish the Islamic system in their stead. Therefore the Zakat Fund may be utilised to meet the expenses of the journeys the people make, or for procuring means of conveyance, equipment, weapons and other articles needed for Jihad, irrespective of the fact whether they are so well off or not as to need any help fur personal requirements. Likewise help of a temporary or permanent nature may also be given to those people who devote the whole of their time and energies, temporarily or permanently, for this work

It should also be noted that there has arisen a misunderstanding regarding the “Way of AIIah,” for the early scholars usually use for Jihad the Arabic word as (ghazvah) which is synonymous with “fight”. They, therefore, are of the opinion that Zakat Fund may only be used for the purpose of fighting. But Jihad in the Way of Allah is a much more comprehensive term than mere fighting in the Way of Allah. Jihad applies to all those efforts that are made to degrade the word of kufr and to exalt the Word of Allah and to establish the Islamic System of life, whether by propagating the Message of Allah in the initial stage or by fighting in the final stage of the struggle.

*68 Help from Zakat Fund may be given to a wayfarer on a journey even though he might be quite well off at home.

Some of the Jurists are of the opinion that according to this verse only that wayfarer who does not undertake a journey for a sinful purpose may be helped out of Zakat Funds. But no such condition has been laid down in the Qur’an or the Hadith to this effect. Besides this, we learn from the fundamental principles of Islam that the sins of a needy person would in no way prevent us from helping him As a matter of fact such a help may prove very useful in reforming sinful and depraved persons. For if they get a support in the tithe of need, it may reasonably be expected that they would turn towards purifying their souls.

وَالَّذِينَ فِي أَمْوَالِهِمْ حَقٌّ مَعْلُومٌ ﴿70:24﴾ 

(70:24) and those in whose wealth there is a known right

لِلسَّائِلِ وَالْمَحْرُومِ ﴿70:25﴾ 

(70:25) for those that ask and those that are dispossessed, *16

*16 In Surah Adh-Dhariyat: 19, it has been said: “In their wealth there is a right of the beggar and the needy”, and here: “In their wealth there is a due share of the beggar and the needy. ” Some people have understood this to mean that the “due share” implies the obligatory zakat, for in the zakat both the exemption limit and the rate have been fixed. But this commentary cannot be accepted on the ground that the Surah AI-Ma`arij is unanimously a Makkan Revelation, and the zakat with its specific exemption limit and rate was enjoined at Madinah. Therefore, the correct meaning of the “due share° is that they have of their own accord set aside a share in their possessions of the beggar and needy, which they discharge regularly and honestly. This same meaning of this verse has been given by Hadrat ‘Abdullah bin `Abbas, Hadrat `Abdullah bin `Umar, Mujahid, Sha`bi and Ibrahim Nakha`i. Here, sail dces not imply a beggar but a needy person, who asks someone for help, and mahrum implies a person who is jobless, or the one who tries to earn a living but does not earn enough to meet his needs, or the one who has become disabled because of an accident or calamity, and is unable to make a living. About such people when it becomes known that they are destitute, a God – worshipper dces not wait that they should ask for help, but helps them of his own accord as soon as he comes to know that they are needy and stand in need of help. (For further explanation, see E.N. 17 of Surah Adh-Dhariyat).

فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ وَاسْمَعُوا وَأَطِيعُوا وَأَنْفِقُوا خَيْرًا لِأَنْفُسِكُمْ وَمَنْ يُوقَ شُحَّ نَفْسِهِ فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ ﴿64:16﴾ 

(64:16) So hold Allah in awe as much as you can, *31 and listen and obey, and be charitable. This is for your own good. And whoever remains safe from his own greediness, it is such that will prosper. *32

*31 At another place in the Qur’an it has been said: “Fear Allah as He should actually be feared.” (Al-‘Imran: 102). At still another place: °Allah dces not burden any one with a responsibility heavier than he can bear.” (AI-Baqarah: 286) And here: “Fear Allah as far as you can.” When these three verses are read together it appears that the first verse sets an ideal which every believer should try to attain. The second verse lays down the principle that no one has been required to exert himself. beyond his power and ability, for in Allah’s Religion one has been made responsible only for what is within one’s power and ability. This verse enjoins every believer to try to attain piety and consciousness of God as far as he can. He should carry out His Commands and avoid His disobedience as best as he possibly can. For if he shows laxity in this regard, he will not be able to escape punishment. However, one will not be held accountable for what was beyond one’s power (and Allah alone can decide best what was really beyond a person’s power and ability).

*32 For explanation, see E.N. 19 of Al-Hashr.

قُلْ إِنَّ رَبِّي يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَقْدِرُ لَهُ وَمَا أَنْفَقْتُمْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ ﴿34:39﴾ 

(34:39) Say, (O Prophet): “Verily, my Lord grants provision abundantly to whomsoever He pleases and straitens it for whomsoever He pleases. *59 Whatever you spend, He will replace it. He is the Best of all Providers.” *60

*59 The repetition of this theme is meant to impress this: The abundance or restriction of the provisions is connected with Allah’s will, not with His pleasure and approval. Under the will of Allah every good or evil person is receiving his provision. Both those who believe in Him and those who do not believe are getting their provisions. Neither is abundance of the provisions a proof that one is Allah’s favourite servant nor is its restriction a sign that one is under His wrath. Under His will a wicked and dishonest person prospers, although wickedness and dishonesty are disliked by Allah. On the contrary, under the same Divine will a truthful and honest man suffers losses and undergoes hardships although these qualities arc liked by Allah. Hence, the person who regards the material gains and benefits as the criterion for the good and evil is grossly mistaken. The real criterion is Allah’s pleasure and approval which is attained through the moral qualities liked and approved by Him. With these qualities if a person gets -the worldly blessings as well it will certainly be Allah’s bounty for which he should be grateful to Him. But if from the moral point of view a person is Allah’s rebel and is disobedient to Him and in spite of that is being favoured with worldly blessings, it would mean that he is preparing himself for a strict accountability and a most severe punishment.

*60 Sustainer, Creator, Inventor, Donor and many other such attributes are in actual fact the attributes of Allah, but are metaphorically applied to men also. For example, about a person we may say, °He provided a job for so-and-so, or he made or invented such and such a thing, or he made a gift to so-and-so. ” Accordingly, Allah has used the word Khair ar Raziqin (the Best of Providers) for Himself. It means to impress the fact that Allah is the best of Providers among aII those about whom you think that they are in any way connected with arranging the provisions.

 وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآَتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَقْرِضُوا اللَّهَ قَرْضًا حَسَنًا وَمَا تُقَدِّمُوا لِأَنْفُسِكُمْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ تَجِدُوهُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ هُوَ خَيْرًا وَأَعْظَمَ أَجْرًا وَاسْتَغْفِرُوا اللَّهَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ﴿73:20﴾ 

(73:20) and establish Prayer, and pay Zakah, *24 and give Allah a goodly loan. *25Whatever good you send forth for yourselves, you shall find it with Allah. That is better and its reward is greater. *26 And ask for Allah’s forgiveness; surely He is Most Forgiving, Most Compassionate.

*24 Commentators are agreed that this implies observance of the obligatory Prayer five times a day and giving away of the obligatory zakat.

*25 Ibn Zaid says this implies spending one’s wealth in the cause of Allah besides the zakat, whether it is in the cause of fighting in the way of Allah, or for helping the needy, or for public utilities, or other good works. The meaning of giving to Allah a good loan has been explained at several places above. See E.N 267 of AI-Baqarah, E.N. 33 of Al-Ma’idah, E.N. 16 of Al-Hadid).

*26 It means: “Whatever you have sent forward for the good of your Hereafter is more beneficial for you than that you withheld in the world and did not spend in any good cause for the pleasure of Allah. According to a Hadith reported by Hadrat ‘Abdullah bin Mas`ud the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) once asked: “Which of you has a greater love for his own wealth than for the wealth of his heir? The people said: There is none among us, O Messenger of Allah, who would not have greater love for his own wealth than for the wealth of his heir. He said: Consider well what you are saying. The people submitted: This indeed is our considered opinion, O Messenger of Allah. Thereupon the Holy Prophet said: Your own property is only that which you have sent forward (for the good f your Hereafter), and whatever you held back indeed belongs to the heir.” (Bukhari. Nasa’i, Musnad Abu Ya`la).

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا أَنْفِقُوا مِنْ طَيِّبَاتِ مَا كَسَبْتُمْ وَمِمَّا أَخْرَجْنَا لَكُمْ مِنَ الْأَرْضِ وَلَا تَيَمَّمُوا الْخَبِيثَ مِنْهُ تُنْفِقُونَ وَلَسْتُمْ بِآَخِذِيهِ إِلَّا أَنْ تُغْمِضُوا فِيهِ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ ﴿2:267﴾ 

(2:267) O Believers, expend in Allah’s Way the best portion of the wealth you have earned and of that We have produced for you from the earth, and do not pick out for charity those worthless things which you yourselves would only accept in disdain by connivance, if they were offered to you. Understand it well that Allah does not stand in need of anything whatsoever and has all the praise-worthy attributes. *308

*308. It is obvious that He Who is invested with the best attributes cannot be appreciative of those possessed of low and evil qualities. God is, for instance, Generous and Beneficent, and constantly showers His favours and bounties on His creatures. How is it possible for Him, then, to love those who are mean, niggardly and vicious?

إِنْ تُبْدُوا الصَّدَقَاتِ فَنِعِمَّا هِيَ وَإِنْ تُخْفُوهَا وَتُؤْتُوهَا الْفُقَرَاءَ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَيُكَفِّرُ عَنْكُمْ مِنْ سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ ﴿2:271﴾ 

(2:271) If you practise charity publicly, it is good; but if you give charity secretly to the needy, it is much better for you, *311 for this will expiate many of your sins. *312 Anyhow, Allah is well aware of whatever you do.

*311. If charity is of an obligatory nature it is preferable to dispense it openly. Non-obligatory charity should preferably be dispensed secretly. This principle applies to all acts. As a rule, it is more meritorious to perform obligatory acts openly and non-obligatory acts of goodness, secretly .

*312. The performance of good deeds in secret leads to the continual improvement of one’s life and character. One’s good qualities develop fully and one’s bad qualities gradually wither away. This makes a man so acceptable to God that He pardons the sins that he might have committed.

هَاأَنْتُمْ هَؤُلَاءِ تُدْعَوْنَ لِتُنْفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَمِنْكُمْ مَنْ يَبْخَلُ وَمَنْ يَبْخَلْ فَإِنَّمَا يَبْخَلُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ وَاللَّهُ الْغَنِيُّ وَأَنْتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ وَإِنْ تَتَوَلَّوْا يَسْتَبْدِلْ قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَكُونُوا أَمْثَالَكُمْ ﴿47:38﴾ 

(47:38) Behold, you are those who are called upon to spend in Allah’s Way, but some of you are niggardly. Whoever is niggardly is in fact niggardly to himself. For Allah is All-Sufficient, whereas it is you who are in need of Him. If you turn away, He will replace you by a people other than you, and they will not be like you.

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