Economic System of Islam- Charity & Distributive Justice

Summary of 8.15 “Zakah & Distributive Justice”
We continued our discussion of the basics of the economic system and consumption, production and distribution.’ On the question of distribution, Islam looks at the distribution of commodities and income.’ In our discussion of distribution of income or the achievement of social justice we mentioned that there are four basics:’ Zakah or Institutionalized Charity, additional taxes, voluntary charity and inheritance.’ Last time we dealt with Zakah’ or Institutionalized Charity and we indicated that this is an act of worship as well as institution which is enforceable by law.’ The implication of Zakah is not simply spiritual but has social, political as well as economic implications.’ We implicated how Zakah differs from taxes especially due to the fact that it has certain sources and a certain way by which it has to be expanded.’ In verse (9:60) with the 8 basic categories that Zakah used for: poor and need, unemployed, those who’s hearts need to be reconciled, to free those in bondage, to help those in debt for legitimate reasons, to spend on the way of God and to help the stranded wayfarer.’ This has a separate budget than the rest of the finances of the State.’ Third, Zakah is imposed on the net worth and is commonly 2.5% and it is not a favor that is given to the needy but their right according to a verse in the Quran in (51:19).’ Secondly, we talked briefly about taxes and we said that if the amount of institutionalized charity is not sufficient then the State can impose additional taxes to meat the needs of the country provided there is a genuine need for it and the distribution of the burden is fair and that there is a process of consultation before decisions are taken.

8.16”” Charity and Distributive Justice

Host:’ Could you explain voluntary charity and how it works?

Jamal Badawi:

The basic difference about about voluntary charity is not a difference in spirit from Zakah but the difference is that this is highly commendable (voluntary) and not mandatory like Zakah.’ The basic foundation of voluntary charity like Zakah is the feeling of compassion and sharing with others.’ In the Quran in (5:3) it calls on believers to cooperate in everything that is good and decent and of course there is nothing more righteous than helping those in need, giving food to the hungry, shelter to the needy and so on.’ In the Quran there is not only an emphasis on encouraging people to pay charity as we find in (2:261) which deals with charity in a beautiful way but we find in the Quran an warns against those who have apathy towards the needy.’ We find in the Quran in (74:44) about those who do not provide food for the poor.’ A threat is repeated against this in (69:34).’ There are many more examples in the Quran.

In the Prophetic Tradition there are quite a few examples.’ Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as narrated in Bukhari, Muslim Ahmad and Tirmithi he says a person who has no mercy on people would not receive the mercy of God.’ In another narrated in Al Tabrani and Al Bihaki he says by the name of God he or she who sleeps on a full stomach while his neighbor goes to sleep hungry.’ In another saying narrated in Al Hakim he says that if resident/s in a ward wake up in the morning and one of them is hungry then God and his messenger will disassociate themselves from them.’ In one beautiful saying of the Prophet found in Bukhari and Ahmad he says that if a person has food which is enough for two let him add a third to share with and if a person has food for three let him seek a fourth or fifth.’ This means that with God’s blessing what might appear to be a small amount of food could actually be enough for a larger number of people.’ It is important to help in general in any respect that one can afford to.’ In Muslim the Prophet said that if a person has extra food let him seek someone who has no food, if a person has an extra means of transportation let him share it with others.’ Abu Said Al Khudri, narrated this Hadith, said that the Prophet kept mentioning all types of properties that one should share with others until we started thinking that non of us would be entitled to anything extra.’ The Prophet gave them the impression that they should always share exceeded their needs.’ In addition to this general encouragement of charity there are special occasions where charity is particularly encouraged.

Host:’ Can you give some examples of this?

Jamal Badawi:

There are some occasions where Zakah is not only voluntary and is compulsory.’ For example after one finishes fasting the month of Ramdan there is a Zakah called Zakah al Fitr which is basically the equivalent to 5.5 lb. of basic grains on behalf of each person in the household that one is responsible for which also includes one’s self.’ It is similar to a pole tax.’ This kind of charity is required of all rich and poor provided that the person has more food than he needs for 24 hours which includes the poor.’ Some may say what is the point of a poor person who actually deserves to receive charity to pay it?’ And yes he may receive more than he pays but it is done because there is spiritual meaning for contributing something after fasting the month of Ramadan (an act of worship).’ It also has a sense of dignity that even if a person is a poor person and he is always on the receiving side at least once a year he contributes even if it is a little bit-even if he receives more than he gives- but he can be a part of the spirit of giving and brotherhood.’ On the other hand the poor can give to another person who is poor and thus it would be like exchanging gifts.’ In addition, to these compulsory charities there are voluntary occasions for charity.’ An example is at the time of harvest as the Quran indicates in (6:141) that when one collects the harvest one should render its dues on the day of harvest.’ During the lifetime of the Prophet (PBUH) they had a very nice practice that when the date ripened they got a whole bunch of it and hung it on the door of the Mosque so that any person who felt a need could just go eat whatever he needed.’ A second occasion is the occasion of marriage.’ In Islam as we know marriage is highly encouraged to protect morality and society.’ In the Quran in (24:32) there is a reference that encourages people to be helped in marriage.’ Many Muslim jurists have concluded based on the teachings of Islam that if a person is able to get married but might have financial difficulty initially he is entitled to some help from the public treasury.’ Actually this was practiced during the rein of Omar, the second Caliph after Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).’ A third example is the hospitality towards guests which has been specifically quoted in both Bukhari and Muslim where the Prophet says he or she who believes in Allah and the Hereafter should be hospitable to his guests.’ For one day and for one night one should have extra hospitality towards their guest and for three days a person a person is expected to be a good host but anything beyond that would be voluntary or additional charity.’ In the case of birth under Islamic rule for the first time in history the first organized and systematic system of family allowance came into effect.’ Fifth, is that at the time of distribution of the estate of the diseased as the Quran indicates in (4:8) if some people are present who are relatives who do not inherit, orphans or needy they should be given something from the estate.’ In general Islam encourages general help and support.’ A reference to this blanket type of attitude is found in (107) in the Quran which requires neighborly help in any things that might be needed by a neighbor.

Host:’ Can you address the family allowance system paid by the State under Islamic rule, when was it introduced and is it like the family allowance system in Canada now?

Jamal Badawi:

In the 1980 in Canada many people would think this is a highly developed, sophisticated 20th century invention which it is not.’ In Canada there is an amount of money that is paid to the head of the household and sometimes to the mother on behalf of each child that they have and after the age of 18 if the child is still studying the allowance increases.’ In as early as the 7th century during the Caliphate of Omar from the year 634 to 644 in the common era he instituted a system that for each child in the family an allowance of 100 dirham was given.’ Whenever the child grew up the amount of the allowance increased in realization of the increasing need of the child.’ Initially the system called for paying this allowance to the parent of the child after the child is weaned but a nice incident lead to the modification of this so that it was applicable from the time of birth.’ One time a group of people were traveling, they were camped out in a tent and the ruler, Omar, in accordance to his custom went around to find out if there were people in need and he heard a baby crying in a tent.’ So from the outside of the tent he came to the mother and told the mother to look after her child.’ He left and came back still heard the baby crying and again he told her to look after you baby.’ Then again he came back and said ‘you are really a bad mother; why don’t you look after your child?’ She said without knowing that it was Omar who was speaking to her ‘the commander of believers doesn’t pay the family allowance except after the child is weaned and I am trying to wean him but he wont wean because he still needs my milk.” Omar felt very unhappy and started thinking about how many children he killed and then he said don’t worry you wills still receive the allowance but don’t hasten child if he still needs your milk.’ Since that time he decided that the family allowance started from the moment of birth.’ What we consider to be an innovative and just system had already been in existence under true Islamic rule from as early as the 7th century.’ It was slightly better than the present system because of the gradual nature the allowance used to increased as the children grew.’ It was not just assistant living but it was adjusted with the needs.’ It did not give the same allowance for a baby as it did for a 17 year old.

Host:’ Are there provisions for charity under situations of emergency as well?

Jamal Badawi:

One of the interesting sayings of the Prophet narrated in both Bukhari and Muslim praised a group of people named Al Asharin, who were related to the tribe of a famous companion Abu Musa Al Ashari, because whenever they went on an expedition or traveled their food would run low so they would collect all the food they had, put it in one area and then distribute it equally among all of the travelers.’ There was a famine during the rein of Omar during the 7th century and he sent messages to rulers in different places asking them to send provisions and food if they could.’ Again all of the food and supplies were collected in a central place and he distributed it equally on the bases of need.’ In fact one of the interesting sayings of Omar that during this famine had it not ended very quickly I would have taken all of those who are hungry and distributed one hungry person per family.’ He then explained it: because people would not die if they have a 1/2 filled stomach.’ Of course the situation improved so there was no need for that.

In fact Muslim jurists go to the point of saying that if a person is about to starve out of hunger he has the right to fight those who are endangering him and preventing him from attaining sustenance for his life as is found Ibn Hazm.’ In fact during the rein of Omar, as is mentioned in Al Kharaj written by Abu Yusuf, some people who were traveling came to him and complained that when they were traveling they got thirsty and were about to die of thirst.’ We passed some people and we asked them for some water and they refused-and Omar asked if they fought them for it.’ This means that if one is in danger of loosing their life they should fight for especially during an emergency.’ Some jurists base this principle on a verse in the Quran in (49:9) that if two people fight that one should try to make peace between them.’ However if one is aggressive or oppressive of the other you join those who are oppressed over the oppressor.’ The jurists say what can be more oppressive than endangering the life of your brother.’ The notion of apathy: of one seeing someone who is about to drown and you look the other way, someone is attacked and you don’t even care to call the police, a child who is abandoned in the street and we say it is not our business!’ There is nothing like this in Islam and it is our duty as a Muslim to provide this emergent help.

Host:’ Are there other types of voluntary charity that we have not touched upon?

Jamal Badawi:

There are different charities that are either voluntary or’ In the series of the Family System in Islam we discussed the obligation on the part of the husband to support his wife, children and in some cases relatives.’ In the series on the Pillars of Islam we indicated that the infractions or mistakes in certain acts of worship like fasting, pilgrimage or for not fulfilling one’s oath can be corrected by helping the poor.’ One thing which is unique in Islam which is found in the Quran in (8:41) is that in the war booty the poor have a share.’ So not only those who fight get a share in the booty but the poor and needy are also entitled to a share.’ In the Quran (108) it mentions the charity of a lamb for Eid Al Adha where one slaughters a lamb while keeping 1/3 for themselves, distributing 1/3 to friends and giving 1/3 to the poor.’ This is not required but is a highly commendable act during the Pilgrimage.’ There is also a service of Waqf or Trust that Islam provides where a person can will that a certain amount of his money is invested and’ that a certain amount of the proceeds would go to a continuous act of charity for a certain purpose or other.

Host:’ Do all of these measures include non-Muslims?

Jamal Badawi:

All of them, except for one, include all Muslim and non-Muslims citizens of the State.’ The only exception is Zakah or Institutionalized Charity which as we indicated earlier is a special budget or a designated fund which comes from a specific source and goes to specific expenditures.’ The reason is that Zakah is a duty in Islam and is not a general tax that everybody pays.’ It is only imposed on Muslims and should only go to Muslims.’ This does not mean that non-Muslims are not entitled to social security.’ Under Islamic system there are additional sources of income.’ We should ask what non-Muslims pay?’ If Muslims are paying Zakah which is both an obligation as well as an act of worship we can not ask the non-Muslim to pay the same because it would be offensive to their religious sense.’ It is actually out of consideration that the non-Muslims pay something different which is more or less a tax which is called Jiziah.’ This source as well as other sources (from land, Kharaj, from booty) which are all used to care for those in need.’ An example of the spirit of Islam is that during the rein of Omar he found an old Jew begging people for help.’ Omar asked him what happened and the man said that he became an old man and that he can not work so he needs to beg to live.’ So Omar got very angry, took him to his home, gave him something to eat and then he ordered the person in charge of the public treasury and told him that they should not collect taxes from these people when they are young and able and neglect them when they are old.’ He also said that for this person and the like they should establish a regular pay so that they can live in security.’ Additionally all the voluntary and non-voluntary charities are applicable to Muslims and non-Muslims.

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