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Towards better handling of zakat

"I pay Zakat in the name of God. If anyone does anything wrong in its collection or distribution, he will be punished by Allah," said Mohammad Nisar, a resident of Zakir Nagar, South Delhi.

Nisar was responding to the MG in an interview conducted in Muslim localities of South Delhi. The interview was conducted to know the cause of mismanagement in collection and distribution of Zakat and the thinking of people on this religious obligation.

Not only Nisar, most of the people interviewed responded the same way. Javed Alam Khan, who resides in Batla House said, "I know most of the people who collect zakat distribute it for purposes not ordained by Islam, but I have no option except believing them."

Secure and happy at last: Gujarat’s orphans at Happy Home

Zakat is a means to help the needy, but till now its purpose has not been served fully, said Dr. Zafar Mehmood, president of Delhi-based Zakat Foundation of India (ZFI), an organisation engaged in collection and distribution of zakat. This organisation, among other works, runs a children’s home called Happy Home in Delhi for orphans and poor children.

Dr. Mahmood, who is Income Tax Commissioner of Delhi and has also served the Punjab Waqf Board said, "The real problem lies in our mindset. Most of the people who pay zakat do not bother to inquire about its actual utilisation, which allows frauds to swallow the collected amount." 

He was of the view that if people were made aware of their Zakat obligation and the duty to search for deserving beneficiaries, then there were all the probabilities of minimising mismanagement and corruption in its collection and distribution. "We are working on these two things and the result is encouraging", said a beaming Dr. Mahmood. 

Dr. Waqar Anwar, accounts consultant in Jamaat-e-Islami Hind said, "We have baitul maal (treasury) at district and state level where our members deposit their own Zakat as well as that collected from others. Fifty percent of the collected amount is spent on the poor and needy of the area, while 30 percent of the remaining is given to the markaz (centre) in Delhi and the rest is handed over to the halqa (zone) office."

Dr. Waqar added, "We distribute the amount only after thorough surveys and investigation carried out by our members".

Zakat is a religious obligation for certain categories of Muslims. It is given out generally in the month of Ramadan. Some of the Zakat payers distribute their amount themselves among the needy, poor widows and destitutes. A few of them also give it to madrasahs and orphanages for educating and bringing up poor Muslim children.

But the greed for wealth and lack of fear of God have encouraged some people to misuse Zakat for their own purposes. Nowadays, many fictitious organisations mushrooming in different parts of India can be found collecting Zakat. People associated with such organisations are becoming rich, while the poor, for whose betterment God has ordered Muslim to pay Zakat, remain hungry, homeless and sick.

Many madrasahs have been preferring to send out people on hefty commissions, sometimes even more than 60 percent of the collected amount, to collect Zakat. A few decades ago, madrasahs sent their safeers (salaried representatives) to collect it.

Another interesting conclusion of the interviews was that a large group of the people who paid Zakat preferred to distribute it themselves among the needy. People were found interested in knowing authentic views on Zakat, but complained that they actually did not know about the organisations which had been honestly using Zakat. 

Dr. Mahmood said, "Through pamphlets, telephones, personal contacts and e-mails we are trying to inform people about our organisation. We have also organised programmes for this purpose."

ZFI prefers donation through bank drafts and cheques deposited by the donors in the account of ZFI. He said that there were two accounts for this purpose — one (account no. 3432) was with Jamia Cooperative Bank Ltd. Batla House, New Delhi, while another (account no. 6291) was in Janata Cooperative Bank Ltd. Pataudi House, Darya Ganj, New Delhi.

Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. Other four are tawheed (oneness of God) and risalat (prophethood), salat (five times daily prayers ), sawm (fasting in the month of Ramadan) and Haj (pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime).

Chapter 2 (Surah Baqrah) and 9 (Surah Tauba) of the Quran elaborate the term Zakat, which say Zakat not only purifies property, but also the donor’s heart from selfishness and greed. 

Muslims possessing either 87 grams of gold (7.5 tola) or 612 grams of silver (52.5 tola) or wealth of equal or greater value, have an obligation to pay zakat. They are to pay 2.5 percent of it if it has remained with them for not less than one year after fulfilling their basic needs, if they are not indebted.

Verse (ayat) 60 of Surah Tauba mentions eight heads upon which Zakat can be spent. These are beggars (fuqra), the needy and indigent (miskeen), those who collect Zakat (aamileen-e-zakat), those whose hearts are to be won over (muallifatul quloob), to free slaves (firriqab), for helping the indebted (algarimeen), in the way of Allah (fisabeelillah) and for hospitality to travellers (ibnessabeel). In short, those who do not qualify to pay Zakat are entitled to receive it.

The main objective of Zakat is to provide social security to poor Muslims. The Quran mentions dreadful punishment by Allah for those who despite possessing wealth do not pay Zakat. 

Verses 34 and 35 of chapter 9 say "……Give them the good news of a painful torment, who hoard up gold and silver and do not expend these in the way of Allah. The Day shall surely come when the same gold and silver shall be heated in the fire of hell, and therewith their foreheads, their bodies and their backs shall be branded, (saying) "Here is that treasure you had hoarded up for yourselves: now taste the evil of your hoarded treasure".

Thus, the need of the hour is to make people aware of their religious obligation to pay Zakat and also the duty to search for deserving beneficiaries. If Zakat payers took care of how the money is used by recipients, its misuse could be minimised.

Dr. Mahmood, optimistically said, "A day would come when my dream of seeing a Zakat Board, like the Waqf Board and Haj Committee would be realised, and then the purpose of Zakat would be served in a better way." As an afterthought, he added, "But that would be possible perhaps after my demise."

¯ Jeelani Khan

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