Zakat Center India: ‘Using Zakat Funds To Bring Changes in Economic Life of Poor People’

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Syed Khalique Ahmed

NEW DELHI—Zakat is an integral part of the Islamic faith and worship. It is one of the five pillars of Islam. The basic aim of Zakat is “to increase human welfare and achieve socio-economic justice,” as elaborated by Muhammad Ashiq V (B S Abdur Rahman University) and Ubaid Mushtaq (Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur) in their joint research paper titled “The Convergence of Crowdfunding and Zakat System in India: An Integrated Approach for Human Welfare”. The paper appeared in the June 2020 edition of the Journal of Islamic Economics, Finance, and Banking, published by Universitas Ahmed Dahlan, Indonesia.

The authors have pointed out that there has been no collective arrangement in India for the collection and disbursal of Zakat that could bring visible changes in the life of beneficiaries. In the absence of any collaborative effort, there is no correct estimate of the amount of Zakat paid by Indian Muslims annually. However, as almost all the ‘madrasas’(religious seminaries) spread across the country and a large number of hospitals and community projects are run from Zakat collected individually by each of them, this indicates that the amount of Zakat donated by the Muslim community is enormous and runs into thousands of crores of rupees.

To achieve the socio-economic objective of Zakat, reduce poverty, and minimize the gap between haves and haves-not, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) recently launched Zakat Center India (ZCI). The objective behind the project is to collect Zakat and spend on poor through livelihood projects and opther schemes to reduce poverty among Indian Muslims. In a conversation with Ifham youtube channel’s editor Syed Tanveer Ahmed, ZCI secretary Abdul Jabbar Siddiqui explained in detail why was ZCI established and what are its objectives and how it plans to convert ‘receivers of Zakat’ into ‘givers of zakat’ in a period of about five to six years. Mr. Tanveer Ahmed is also Media secretary of the JIH.

The JIH Is one of the leading socio-religious organization of Indian Muslims.

JIH secretary and Ifham youtube cahnnel editor Mr Syed Tanveer Ahmed in conversation with Mr Abdul Jabbar Siddiqui of Zakat Centre India.

Quoting poverty figures from government documents, Mr. Siddiqui said that about 33 percent of Indian Muslims were below the poverty line(BPL). Supposing the Muslim population in India is 25 crores, then more than eight crores of them are in the BPL category, a matter of great concern. This means the number of poor Muslims in India is more than the total population of Turkey. Poverty, according to Mr. Siddiqui, does not affect general health only; it also affects moral conduct and behaviour. The consequences of poverty are such that it also affects our “Imaan” (faith and trust in God). If not curbed, the economic deprivation can even lead one towards “kufr”, that is, infidelity and disobedience to God, which is a serious matter as far as Muslims are concerned.

The need for a public Zakat management system and utilizing the Zakat money for bringing economic changes in the life of the poor segment of the Muslim community was felt for a long. As a large population of Muslims in India donates Zakat annually, Mr. Siddiqui said that ZCI was launched to channel the Zakat funds to turn today’s ‘Mustahiq-e-Zakat’ (deserver of Zakat) into tomorrow’s ‘muzakki’(Zakat giver). 

Regarding the estimated Zakat donations, he says that Muslims in India donated roughly Rs. 20,000 crores to Rs. 70,000 crores of rupees every year, almost equal to or more than the total budgetary amount allocated for minority departments in all the states in the country. If such an amount is used for poverty alleviation, which is the primary aim of Zakat, Mr. Siddiqui claims that poverty will become a thing of the past, at least for the Muslim community.

He says that ZCI has the approval of the Ulema (Islamic experts) and is run under their supervision. According to him, an Indian Muslim living anywhere in India can become an active participant in this national endeavour by donating his/her Zakat, even the smallest amount, to ZCI by using the online method of payment after clicking on https://zakatcenterindia.org

As operations of ZCI are ‘shariah-compliant’ and tech-enabled and integrated with online payment gateway process, one can make payment by using any online payment method like a UPI system, debit-credit card system, bank NFCs, etc., in ZCI’s bank account. There is also a Zakat calculator on ZCI’s website, which people can use for calculating their Zakat. In addition, ZCI has also displayed its QR Code in public places, including mosques, hotels, and other sites, to enable people to pay Zakat to ZCI for poverty alleviation.

According to Mr. Siddiqui, about 56 percent of Indian Muslims are concentrated in the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Assam, most of them located in the rural areas. And these are the states having the largest number of poor Muslims. Though poverty was also there among Muslims in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana, it was lesser than among their North Indian counterparts. Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the only states where the poverty level among Muslims was less than the national poverty level. “The examples of Kerala and Tamil Nadu indicate that the Muslims can rise above the national poverty level if effective steps are taken about poverty alleviation,” says Mr. Siddiqui.

Mr. Siddiqui explains that ZCI has initially appointed ‘unit advisory councils’ in 300 towns and cities all over the country who have been empowered to collect Zakat and disburse them under livelihood schemes, education, and skill creation schemes, and widowhood and old pension schemes.

Under the livelihood scheme, ZCI would enable poor people to set up their own businesses. “We want to break the current system under which the same people give Zakat, and those taking Zakat for generations are the same. This indicates that the giving of Zakat has not brought changes in the economic and financial status of persons who have been receiving Zakat for decades. The receivers of Zakat continue to be poor. We want to change this scenario through livelihood programmes based on Zakat funds. “, says Mr. Siddiqui, adding, “We will keep tracking beneficiaries and monitor.”

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