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Status of Zakat in India today...
By Ahmad Rahmani 

Zakat is usually calculated and given out in the month of Ramadan before Eid. There are several ways of giving out Zakat: some people distribute it themselves among the needy, the poor widows, disabled, sick, and to help poor parents to marry off their daughters.. Some give it to charitable organizations like madrasahs, orphanages to utilize it to educate and provide fee for poor children. Also there are many fictitious organizations which come out to collect Zakat and use the collected funds for purposes other than ordained in Islam. Many madrasahs have deviated from the old tradition of sending out salaried representatives, ‘safeers’ to collect the zakat. These days it is common to higher people on commission basis which, reportedly may be as high as 60-80 percent. Some madrasahs even sell their receipt book for a certain amount and whatever excess the rep collects goes in his pocket. Thus it is clear that people are not paying zakat properly and it is not being utilized properly. The donors ought to keep tab on how their zakat is utilized but this is seldom done. We also discovered the shocking fact that barely 10-15 percent of Indian Muslims who should be paying zakat are actudally paying it.

We conducted extensive interviews with residents of Zakir Nagar, Okhla and Abul Fazal Enclave to find out the situation: what is the percentage of people paying zakat and do they make sure that it goes to the deserving persons. we found out that only a minority of the wealthy people who should pay zakat, sahib-e nisab, are giving Zakat and that even this minority is not bothered about who takes the zakat and what happens to the Zakat once it is collected. People are not bothered to check if it is used in the way of Allah or not. They just think that their duty is over after they have paid the Zakat.

Zakat is ordained as a mean to help the poor in the society so that they too can live with dignity in this world. It is also armed at bridging the rich/poor divide. It is the duty of the zakat payer to search for the real beneficiaries to whom it should be paid. There is a specific categories of people who are entitled to get zakat.

We also interviewed reputed organizations which collect zakat like AICMEU, Jamat-e Islami Hind and the Zakat Foundation of India which was formed in for the specific purpose of collecting zakat and distributing it among the poor who really need it.

Jama’at-e Islami Hind is a big Organisation. For the collection of Zakat it has opened a sister organisation, Baitul Maal at various district and state levels. Members and sypathisers of the Jama’at run these baitul maals on an honorary basis. They collect zakat, fitra, sacrificial animals’ hides as well as donations and take part in the distribution of the collected money.

A recent organisation set up specifically for this purpose is the Zakat Foundation of India (ZFI) which is trying to organize zakat in a modern and systematic way. Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, director of ZFI, told us that two years ago he discussed this idea of organizing the collection and distribution of zakat with some friends. They agreed with the idea and this is how the ZFI came into existence. 

Dr Zafar Mahmood informed us that we don’t go to people for Zakat collection. Instead, we have opened accounts of ZFI in two banks, one is the Janta Co-operative Bank at Pataudi House, Darya Ganj (account number # 6291) and the other is at the Jamia Co-operative Bank at Batla House, New Delhi (account # 3432).

All people associated with the ZFI do their job on an honorary basis and when ZFI organizes any public meetings or functions the expenses are divided between the workers of ZFI.

ZFI does not collect Zakat in cash, Instead it asks the donors to pay Zakat through cheque and requires them to themselves deposit the cheques in ZFI accounts.

But the ZFI record is not encouraging. Last year it collected the meagre amount of Rs 54,000 which was spent on widows, poor students, sewing machines for widows and the like.

Mr Zafar Mahmood startled us by saying that he thinks that only 10 to 15 percent of Muslims who should pay zakat actually do so. His contention is that the percentage of the amounts collected vis-a-vis the total amount of zakat which should be collected in the ZFI area of operation is ‘very very negligible.’ He says that mostly people are not fully aware of their zakat obligations. Moreso, people are almost unaware of the importance of the organisation of the collection and disbursement of zakat.

Dr Mahmood contends that one way to tackle this problem is that more and more people should get to know that such an organisation (ZFI) exits.

Maulana Muhammad Rafique Qasimi, secretary of the Jama’at-e Islami Hind (JIH), says that there is a baitul mal wherever there is a branch of the JIH. Then there are baitul maals on the level of states and finally there is a central baitul maal, Members and sympathizers collect the zakat on and distribute it among the needy after surveying and studying the conditions of the needy in the area. Most of the collected amounts are spent locally and small proportion is sent to the state and central baitul maals for disbursement through them. All this is done on a voluntary basis. No one is paid salaries or commission of any kind.

 

... A DREAM

The total number of Muslims in India is 150 million (200 million by some estimates). Let us say it is 15 percent of total population which is officially admitted. It is said that by 2030, on the basis of the present rate of growth of population and based on past experience, the Muslim population in India will be about 30 percent which means this number will start having a impact on Indian society. I will now confine myself to 150 million. Out of 150 million Muslims let us say there are 400,000 who can give Rs.2500 per annum. 

400,000 x Rs 2500 = Rs 1000 million

If funds required to run this organization will be Rs.50 million per annum + Rs.50 million for infrastructure, which is one time expense, it will be 100 million. Out of the 1000 million let us keep aside Rs.200 million. Rs.100 million for expenses and Rs.100 million as stand-by. This will leave 800 million to be used for the economic welfare of the community such as interest free loans pulling them out of debts, helping them for growth etc. 

This service must be totally free because the expenses for running the organization has already been taken care of in the Rs.50 million mentioned earlier. There is no need to charge service charges as they do in some Gulf countries.

Coming to the second year let us expect a five percent growth in numbers which means you will have 4,20,000 people contributing Rs.2500 per annum which will be Rs. 1050 million. Applying the same formula as the previous year we put aside Rs.210 million. Assuming expenses have gone up by 20 percent -50 million becomes 60 million, we will be left with a balance of Rs.150 million. This will be added to the previous year balance of Rs.100 million, i.e., you have in reserve Rs.250 million. Within two years we can come to this staggering figure.

This organization must have a suitable name and loans must be given only to members to avoid any problem with RBI. Offices must be opened first in major cities of India - Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Chennai, Nagpur, Hyderabad. The apex organisation must be at Delhi and the committee members for running this organization must be retired judges, IAS officers eminent educationists and eminent consultants -- all Muslims and it must have outstanding ulama for giving guidance on religious aspect. The whole thing can be computerized and the staff must be very well paid. So that there is no labour problem. All offices must be connected by computer. The local committee outside Delhi must also be managed by similar people as the apex body. One has to be very careful in choosing committee members otherwise good for nothing fellows with political clout will come in and it will be another scam. We can hand-pick Muslim consultants and computer people to help in organizing this.

If you really go about this in a very dedicated, disciplined way, in five years we will have about 700 to 8000 million at the disposal of this organization. Imagine the prosperity it will generate, the employment opportunity it will create and all this in turn will again lead to more inflow in the kitty of the organization. The Muslim community will have formidable clout.

If my suggestion gets through, no Muslim business man need go to the bank which means they will be saving millions of rupees which now they pay as interest. They can compete better, good financial discipline and growth will be positive not negative as is with bank money. This organization should also have separate bank account for Zakat and members be requested to pay some portion of their zakat into this account. This will also run into millions. As for myself, I have walked out of bank borrowings about 10 years ago , our foreign bills are also not discounted, we never felt the pinch, by the grace of Almighty Allah for running our business or paying our creditors. We have not defaulted by the Grace of Allah in respect of any commitments. It is encouraged by my personal example that I dreamt as above.

(Provided by MZ Chida, Chennai)
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