Yes, that’s right. If our world population took just £2.50 for every £100 they have saved each year and put it in a pot, we could eventually eradicate world poverty. This is not a new concept, it has been around for a long time and Allah calls it zakat- the third pillar of Islam.
The importance of zakat derives not only from its position in Islam as the pillar coming immediately after salah (prayer), but also from its root word meaning ‘purify’ and ‘growth’. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stated: “Whoever pays the zakat on his wealth will have its evil removed from him” (Ibn Khuzaimah and at-Tabaraani).
This hadith is demonstrative of the blessings which zakat holds. It can be interpreted to mean that this form of charity is a way of cleansing your wealth, so that God puts more blessing in what you have left. When we give charity we are trying to help the poor and the needy, but we often miss that it is also a way of purifying ourselves. This is the true beauty of zakat.
What many of us don’t realise is that poverty can exist even amongst the wealthiest individuals. A weakness in spirituality and inner peace reflects a spiritual poverty. Not knowing who we are, what our purpose is, and what is yet to come, may leave us all unsettled. But there is a great gift of salvation. Islam’s position is that for every action there is a reaction, and that we are accountable for both our good and our bad deeds on the Day of Judgement.
More than 80% of the world’s population live in countries where income differentials are widening. Such a difference in standards of living affects social cohesion and can lead to many social problems such as crime and discrimination.
Many of us would have seen the horrendous images streaming from the Horn of Africa in the last three weeks. Imagine if zakat had been paid from every single person with the means to do so; such famine would be unheard of today and the child that is dying every four seconds could have been alive right now, thinking about a prosperous future. What we need to remember is that although there has been widespread disappointment about the slow reaction of international communities to respond to the food crisis in Somalia, as voiced by organisations such as Oxfam, we still have the opportunity to make a difference. In the holy month of Ramadan on the Islamic calendar, deeds are believed to be worth 70 times more than any other month. So let us utilise this time to think of all those in need across the globe – those who are facing hardships and those searching for better futures.
According to the 2011 Forbes Billionaires List, the world’s 1210 billionaires have a combined net worth of $4.5trillion. If these billionaires alone paid 2.5% zakat, we would have $112.5 billion to distribute to the poor and needy throughout the world. Imagine the difference this could make to the levels of poverty across the globe. The distribution of wealth would be more equal and the inequality gap would begin to close.
For those of us who do not have the means to give financial support, we can offer our time, our prayers or even a kind gesture to a stranger, after all: “Even a smile to your brother is a form of sadaqa (charity)” (Sahih Muslim).
Time is precious; it is something which many of us take for granted. I, as most of us are, am a strong believer in helping others through whatever means possible. I couldn’t give money to those who needed help across the world, so instead I utilised my time and skills to help a charitable organisation I believed in. Having been blessed to be a part of the many projects serving humanity, I know that I have utilised my time in the best manner possible and whether I see it or not, someone somewhere is in a far better situation – because I gave my time. One thing that should always be remembered is that: “The deeds most loved by Allah are those done regularly, even if they are small” (Sahih Bukhari).
Muslim Aid has launched a campaign this Ramadan to combat the cycle of poverty by reaching more individuals and doing more for them. Through providing the means to “Feed More, Build More and Teach More”, thousands of men, women and children will gain nourishment, shelter and knowledge to improve their lives. Ultimately such help will empower individuals and families, enabling them to be self-sufficient. Together we must stand united not only to eradicate poverty, but to tackle the causes. The way forward is to reach more and do more.
Shabnam Makee graduated from Loughborough University in Criminology and Social Policy. She is currently working as an intern for Muslim Aid within the communications department.
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