|The Letter and Spirit of Zakat, by Shakeel Ahmad|
se to kahin behtar tha;
He grants Hikmah (Wisdom) to whom He pleases, and he, to whom Hikmah (Wisdom) is granted, is indeed granted abundant good. But none remember (will receive admonition) except men of understanding. (Quran, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #269)
"Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth, in the disparity of the night and the day, in the ships that course in the sea with that which benefits people, in the water that Allah sends down from the sky, reviving with it the earth after it was barren, in His spreading in it all kinds of living things, in the changing of the winds and of the subjected clouds between the earth, indeed are Signs for people who have understanding." [2:164]. "For you, Allah subjected the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, and the stars are in subjection to His command. Surely in this are signs for people who understand." [16:12].
Shall we then confine ourselves to the words alone or shall we also delve into the hikmah (wisdom/ larger objective) behind those words (and allow ijtehad to guide Muslims through changing times)? Are we ready to think out-of-the-box and act wisely, making use of the excellent tools (like the brain) that Almighty has equipped us with? How long shall we continue to waste such precious gifts from Allah that were given with a purpose - to be exploited by this preferred race (Quran >> 2:47, 2:122, 45:16)? What use is knowledge that is not exploited to benefit ourselves?
And certainly We have created for hell many of the jinn and the men; they have hearts with which they do not understand, and they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear; they are as cattle, nay, they are in worse errors; these are the heedless ones. [7:179]
No sane person would contest the fact that zakat money is commanded by Allah to be used for Jihad-fee-sabilillah (striving in the way Allah). If we consider Jihad as "fighting for the cause of Allah", that is to spread (or establish) Islam and removing the obstacles in the way of doing so. As each one of us know that today it is not the mere obstacles that hamper any such effort but there is a strategic plan to nip any such thoughts in the bud itself and proactively engage Muslims in acts that do not leave them with any time or energy to even think in this direction. When it comes to a fight, the enemies of Islam have proved beyond any doubt that they have far superior technological prowess. In order to win any war, Muslims will need to be better equipped. If Jihad means "fighting for the cause of Allah", preparing for such a fight and equipping ourselves for such a fight also means "fighting for the cause of Allah".
And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allah does know. And whatever you shall spend in the Cause of Allah shall be repaid unto you, and you shall not be treated unjustly. [Surah # 8, Al-Anfaal: 60]
This means that we will need to match the enemies in all aspects, i.e., (1) in our faith (may come through Jihad an-Nafs and Jihad as-Shaytan), (2) education and knowledge, (3) application of knowledge (technology) and (4) economy, otherwise how can we "make ready" what is needed for Qital (the final form of Jihad: encountering with the enemy upfront). All expenses in building these capabilities would be "fighting for the cause of Allah", as expenses incurred on preparations. First two are primary areas, of course, and the last two are derivatives of the first two. As of today, we may be superior to our enemies in just one aspect, the first one. In all the other three areas, we are nowhere close to our enemies and any talk of winning a fight against them must be wishful thinking, and no more.
Therefore, when Yusuf Al Qaradawi extends the meaning of Jihad-fee-sabilillah to include other forms of Jihad like the intellectual and educational forms which serve "to preserve Islamic identity", he cannot be disputed. But, "preserving Islamic identity" is not proactive whereas Jihad has to be proactive. And Jihad-fee-sabilillah in such an extension will then mean "striving towards educational and socio-economic empowerment of Muslims", the vision of Bihar Anjuman (www.biharanjuman.org). Thus spending zakat money on any project or endeavour that helps fulfill this vision is simply spending on Jihad-fee-sabilillah, or at least on preparing for Jihad-fee-sabilillah, as envisioned by Syed Abul A'ala Maududi (Tafseer-ul-Quran).
Agreed that priority should go to fuqara and masakeen while distributing zakat money, but if we try to change their situation by making them self-reliant, I don't see why it would be wrong? Agreed that our payment should involve making them own the money (or the tools bought out of it to empower them) and also that this money cannot exceed the nisab, but what's wrong in planning the best use of this money (and providing expertise) with an intention to bring about a worthwhile change in their economic condition (in the long run)?
We may not agree with those who believe that zakat money can be used even for construction of masjids (4), but I do not see any reason why we should not be advocating the use of this money for all the eight areas advocated by Allah, that has been strategically weaved into Bihar Anjuman (www.biharanjuman.org)'s projects which strive to empower the poor educationally and economically. I do not discourage Muslims to take care of their poor relatives and neighbours, but in order to achieve a much greater objective of empowering the Muslim masses, they must allocate at least half of their zakat money to projects directed towards this end, so that long term benefits can accrue to the society.
Let's allow our hearts to feel the urgency of pushing ourselves into action. Let's allow our eyes to see a bright future aligned with our vision. Let's allow our minds to be used to translate these feelings into plans. Let's allow our hands and feet to implement these plans into result-oriented actions. Let's all our senses help us monitor, follow up and improve upon continuously. It is high time we broke out of the slumber that has plunged us into stagnancy and allow our senses to be exploited to the full so that we can revert to the dynamism of the golden Islamic era. Let's compete with each other in a race to do good deeds, as commanded by Allah (5:48, 23:61)
equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are
disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and
fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has
preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their
lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, Allah has promised good
(Paradise), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those
who sit (at home) by a huge reward;
.............. Part-1: The Letter of Zakat (Zakah)
References and Notes:
1. http://qaradawi.net/arabic/meetings/al-muntada/program-17-1-98.htm. as in http://www.islamonline.net/English/Ramadan/Fiqhi_Issues/Rulings_of_Zakat-ul-Fitr/02.shtml Qardawi quoted some hadiths to explain the broader meaning of Jihad such as the hadith which reads: “Never a Prophet had been sent before me by Allah towards his nation who had not among his people (his) disciples and companions who followed his ways and obeyed his command. Then there came after them their successors who said whatever they did not practice, and practiced whatever they were not commanded to do. He who strove against them with his hand was a believer: he who strove against them with his tongue was a believer, and he who strove against them with his heart was a believer and beyond that there is no faith even to the extent of a mustard seed.” (Reported by Muslim) Then he also said that these forms are also included in Jihad by analogy for both of them are intended to support Islam and defend it against its enemies [Qaradâwî, Yûsuf al-, Fatâwâ Mu‘âsirah, p. 287]
4. Some contemporary Muslim scholars hold the view that this category includes all acts that are in interest of the society such as building mosques, schools, hospitals etc., among them are Sheikh ‘Abd al-Halim Mahmud [Mahmûd, op.cit, p.344-46] and Sheikh Hasanayn Muhammad Makhluf [Fatâwâ Shar‘iyyah wa Buhûth Islamiyyah, 2nd ed., Matba‘at Mustafa al-Bâbî al-Halabî, Egypt, 1385/1965, p. 296]