In Islam, the idea of eradicating poverty has been at the core of the religion's teachings for centuries. One of the ways that poverty is addressed is through Zakat. Zakat means obligatory charity, and it is a way for Muslims all over the world to give back to their communities.
As we will see in this article, Zakat is not like other types of charity as it has the power to transform society. We will first discuss the details of Zakat and then look back through history at a time when Zakat almost eradicated poverty.
What is Zakat?
Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a form of obligatory charity that aims to alleviate poverty and provide a safety net for the most vulnerable members of society. It does this by redistributing wealth from the wealthiest in society to the poorest.
How Much is Zakat and Who Should Pay it?
Zakat-Al-Mal is a form of charity that every man and woman whose wealth reaches beyond a specific threshold (nisab) must give. Exactly 2.5% of the wealth of those who qualify is then given to those in need.
Zakat-Ul-Fitr is a form of obligatory charity incumbent upon everyone. The head of each household must pay it for every adult and child in the home. It is typically equivalent to the cost of one meal which depends on an individual's location. In North America, Zakat-Ul-Fitr is typically $12.00. This charity must be given before the Eid prayer at the end of Ramadan (the Islamic month dedicated to fasting) to those in need.
Who Can Zakat-Ul-Fitr and Zakat-Al-Mal Be Given To?
Both kinds of Zakat can be given to the following:
● The poor
● The needy
● The destitute
● Those who are working to collect and distribute Zakat
● New reverts to Islam in need of financial assistance
● Those in debt
● Those who are prisoners
● Those who are stranded on a journey and cannot return home
*It is highly recommended that you give your zakat to a reputable charity that is qualified and experienced in identifying those that are in need and then ethically and with transparency distributing the zakat. By giving Zakat
in this way, you can be sure that your contribution is being used in a way that meets Islamic guidelines.
Did You Know Zakat has the Potential to Decrease or Even Eliminate Poverty?
According to the Islamic Social Finance Report of 2014, paying Zakat by every individual in Muslim countries could lead to a substantial decrease, or even elimination, of absolute poverty in those countries.
One can theorize that the reason Zakat is not currently as effective as stated above is that it is not being utilized properly. This is another reason to ensure that your Zakat is given to a reputable organization.
A Case Study on Medina: When Zakat Almost Eradicated Poverty: The Legacy of Umar bin Abdul Aziz
One of the most notable examples of the impact of Zakat was during the reign of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, who is considered by many to be one of the greatest rulers in Islamic history. Umar bin Abdul Aziz was the eighth Umayyad caliph, and his reign lasted only two years, from 717 to 720 CE.
During this short period, he made significant changes to the Islamic economy, which had a lasting impact on the Islamic world.
What Did He Do?
When Umar bin Abdul Aziz inherited the responsibility of the Islamic economy of his time, he recognized the importance of the Zakat system in redistributing wealth and eradicating poverty. He immediately implemented reforms to ensure that Zakat was collected and distributed appropriately.
● He ordered his governors to make a census of their provinces and identify those who were eligible for Zakat.
● He also ensured that the Zakat collected from each province was distributed within that province rather than being sent to the central government, as had been the practice before his reign.
● He implemented a system that people trusted and gave to with confidence.
● His reforms led to the development of waqf (endowment) institutions, which were used to fund social services, education, and research.
● These institutions played a crucial role in the development of the Islamic economy, and their impact can still be seen today in many parts of the Islamic world.
The reforms installed by Umar bin Abdul Aziz meant that poverty was reduced drastically. It is said that during his time as a leader, it was difficult to find a person to give zakat to. His policies created a safety net for the most vulnerable members of society, and the Zakat system ensured that wealth was distributed equitably.
A Testament to the Power of Zakat
The legacy of Umar bin Abdul Aziz is a testament to the power of Zakat and its ability to eradicate poverty when implemented effectively.
His reign is a reminder that poverty eradication is not just a moral obligation, but it is also an economic imperative, as it benefits everyone in the end.
Umar bin Abdul Aziz recognized that a healthy economy required the equitable distribution of wealth, and he implemented policies that ensured that the Islamic economy was based on justice and fairness.
His actions serve as an inspiration for those seeking to eradicate poverty and build a just and equitable society.
Every person has the ability to make the same kind of lasting positive changes in their community. With the help of trusted organizations and working together, we can move mountains in our collective goal of alleviating poverty
NZF. "When Islam Eradicated Poverty: Umar b. Abdul Aziz & Zakat." NZF, 11 Dec. 2019, https://nzf.org.uk/news/when-islam-eradicated-poverty-umar-b-abdul-aziz-zakat/.
History of Islam. "Umar bin Abdul Aziz." History of Islam, https://historyofislam.com/contents/the-age-of-faith/omar-bin-abdul-aziz/?amp.
Islamic Research and Training Institute. Islamic Social Finance Report 2014. Zawya, 2014.