Ramadan - Ten days of Mercy and the Imperative of Zakat

Duration: 41 min 43 sec

Date: 27-Jul-2012
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Khutba Notes on 'Mercy and the Imperative of Zakat'

Delivered on: 27-July-2012

Ramadan comes and like the days of our lives it passes through stages. Those stages are poetically mirrored by the waxing and waning of the moon, through the course of thirty days the month presents us different opportunities to avail of the Mercy of Allah.

It is related the Prophet (may the Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said concerning Ramadan,

"It's beginning is Mercy, it's middle is forgiveness and its ending is liberation from the Hellfire."    

[Ibn Khuzaymah, al-Sahih, vol.3, no.191]

This Khutba comes within the first ten days of Mercy. What does it mean to avail of Mercy?

A moment's reflection will reveal that most of us do not adequately appreciate the magnitude of Allah's Mercy. He says

عَذَابِي أُصِيبُ بِهِ مَنْ أَشَاء وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ

"I afflict whomsover I please with My punishment. As for My Mercy, it encompasses everything."                   

[Qu'ran : 7:156]

As Allah says, His Mercy eccompasses everything – it extends to everything and all. Everything that exists came out of nothing and so its existence itself is a Mercy, and life itself for every creature living on this planet, including human beings, can only exist if numerous conditions are met every moment, such as the existence of oxygen for them to breathe in, water and food for them to sustain their ability to carry out the countless processes. Moreover billions of processes take place in the human body every second. For the continuance of life, every single cell performs its own tasks upon Allah's will. Even one single person's survival, meeting all his physical needs, is bound to an infinite number of details and combinations. Our Lord with His endless mercy has predetermined and supplied whatever is necessary without reckoning.

How many are those who reject Allah – and yet everyone, believers and otherwise benefit from the air, water, and all blessings that Allah has bestowed, in His endless mercy, upon humanity: property and possessions, homes and children, sustenance, health, strength, and beauty.

However the reality of Mercy, requires that one perceive it – for when one is oblivious of it – one could be partaking of it and yet be heedless –in which case for many who enjoy blessings throughout this short and temporary earthly life, the Hereafter will be a rude awakening. The real Mercy, the one that stays and abides within an eternal dimension – is thus conjoined with belief, an understanding of the One sending down the Mercy – the All Merciful.

As the Qu'ranic verse continues:

فَسَأَكْتُبُهَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ وَالَّذِينَ هُم بِآيَاتِنَا يُؤْمِنُونَ

"That (Mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right (having reverential awe of Allah), and practise regular charity, and those who believe in Our signs."   [Qu'ran: 7:156]

The reality of True Mercy that provides its recipients meanings of its wisdom does extend and descend upon all, but when it finds a heart distant from receptivity to receiving it – it returns back from whence it came. An analogy would be an abundance of fish in water, the fish are there – but if the fishermen doesn’t lower the net – how can he hope to catch any? The Mercy has been provided, but there is still the divinely endowed success (tawfeeq) required to utilize the Mercy for its intended benefit. So it is with a heart turned away from Allah – facing and inclined to the glitter and glamour of that which has no value; it is not that Mercy does not descend upon such a heart – it is that it is not open to receiving it.

Perhaps the greatest manifestation of Allah's Mercy, is His sending of the Messenger of Allah (may the Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

We sent you not, but as a Mercy for All the Worlds.  [Qu'ran : 21:107]

The 'Worlds' here likewise encompass anything and everything, the various dimensions of creation that exist – the Prophet was a manifestation of the Universal Mercy sent to all. He himself said that, "Rather I am a blessed, guiding Mercy." This Mercy of the Prophet is evidenced from his life as he jested with children, showed softness and humour toward adults, calling his companions by friendly nicknames. His way was that of visiting the sick, inquiring after the welfare of neighbours, friends, followers, and even those who disbelieved in him. He was a warm egalitarian who shared everything with those around him, including their poverty. His way was that of forgiveness, rarely chastising those who disobeyed him. There was nothing mindless or fanatic about his piety. He was never intransigent or bent on war. Men who had been numbered among his most relentless and unforgiving enemies ultimately came not only to accept and follow him, but to devote everything they had to him and his mission.

Thus it is that in imitation of the Prophet, Muslims are expected to be merciful, to bring good, and to seek the benefit of others—all others (not just some exclusive group of people) —not to wish them harm or rejoice in the evil that befalls them. Indeed, the doctrine of the Prophet and of Islam is that of universal, all-embracing mercy.

There are some who pride themselves on strictness of adherence to Prophet's outward, however praiseworthy this is; it is nullified if not accompanied by the inward. The essence of the Prophet's way or Sunnah was that of Mercy – are we really emulating him – if we do not find our attitude that of Mercy to our fellow man and creation at large ? Until we find this Rahma or Mercy oveflowing in our hearts, until we find our motivation to interact with creation to be that of sincere Mercy for them – then our adherence to the Sunnah is wanting.

The thing then is to ensure our hearts are full of Mercy – this is also the way we prepapre ourselves for further availing Allah's Mercy when He sends down His Mercy on us, in other words the way we best prepare ourselves for receiving Allah's Mercy – is by reflecting that in our own lives.

The reflexive principle of Mercy in Islam

It is a principle in Islam that Allah recompenses His servants as reflective of the deeds which the servants undertake for His sake. (al-Jazaa' min Jins al-'Amal)

What this means is that if you want Allah to be with you in a certain way – then you be the change you want to see in your life. If you want Rahma or Mercy in your life, then start by being a Mercy to others around you.

For example, Allah mentions in the Qu'ran:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن تَنصُرُوا اللَّهَ يَنصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ

O ye who believe! If ye will aid (the cause of) Allah, He will aid you, and plant your feet firmly

[Qu'ran 47:7]

Similarly Allah says,

هَلْ جَزَاء الْإِحْسَانِ إِلَّا الْإِحْسَانُ

Is there any Reward for Good - other than Good?   [Qu'ran 55:60]

This principle also applies in the reverse:

وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنسَاهُمْ أَنفُسَهُمْ أُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ    

And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. Such are the defiantly disobedient. [Qu'ran 59:19]

Thus it is that Mercy will be shown to the merciful, and it will be withdrawn from the merciless.    This complementary nature of Mercy exists in the positive such as, when the Prophet said:

“People who show mercy to others will be shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth, and he who is in heaven will be merciful to you."    [Sahih Tirmidhi]


As mentioned the complementary side also exists in the reverse such as, when the Prophet said:

“Whoever shows no mercy will be shown no mercy.”  [Sahih Bukhari and Muslim]

The Prophet warned that: “Being merciful is only stripped away from the damned" [Tirmidhi], thus implying that Mercy is the way of the Fitrah – it is the natural state that sound healthy hearts and should incline to. To not have that, is an indication of a disorder or disease and should be remedied, a heart that is full or Mercy is in-fact a sign of the faith and guidance and one that is deprived is to be feared for as it may be a sign for an evil end.

Thus it is, that Mercy is linked to faith – if our faith is sound, we reflect the attributes of the All Merciful on earth and if not, then our faith is correspondingly deficient – Mercy and faith cannot cohabit hearts where hatred and spite for others reigns.

The Nature of Mercy or Rahma and Faith

In regards to Mercy, it is interesting to note that when we consider who best embodies it in this life – one does not need to think too far – we all have mothers. The root word for Mercy in Arabic is Rahm, this is also the word for the Female Womb, indicating that the way of Mercy is almost an inherently feminine trait – something that comes intrinsically to women that does not come in the same way to men. It is the hallmark and manifestation of a women's spirituality – the way in which a mother gives up her days and nights in caring for her children – is something very few men can do – it because of this distinction that women have a correspondingly greater claim over human loving kindness in reciprocity.

Allah specifically mentions the role of the mother in this regards in the Qu'ran:

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ إِحْسَانًا حَمَلَتْهُ أُمُّهُ كُرْهًا وَوَضَعَتْهُ كُرْهًا

“And We have enjoined upon man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship, and she brings him forth with hardship.” [Qu'ran 46:15]

This is also expressed in the famous hadeeth:

A man came to Allah’s Messenger and said: O Messenger of Allah! Who from amongst people is most deserving of my loving kindness (birr) ? He replied: “Your mother.” The man asked: Then who? So he replied: “Your mother”. The man then asked: Then who? So the Prophet replied again: “Your mother.” The man then asked: then who? So he replied: “Then your father.” [Sahih Bukhari and Muslim]

The intrinsic spirituality innate to most women of Rahma, is one that has to be cultivated by men as well – in this regards the Prophet was the perfect model and balance of spirituality - to be emulated by both men and women.

The Prophet Muhammad was undoubtedly a strong leader; one who could lead his followers in battle, and who was just when the situation called for it. And yet the Prophet, who embodied all those traits that would make him the epitome of masculinity, also perfected within his being traits that may be seen as more appropriately “feminine.” For instance, he was “as bashful as a virgin girl.” Amongst his description is that he “could be led by the finger through the streets by any child of Medina.” He would also weep easily when reminded of the favour or wrath of God, or even when reminded of his dear wife Khadija (May Allah be pleased with her).

In marked contrast to the female unisex movement of modern feminism, wherein attributes of femininity instead of being celebrated as an asset are sought to be cast aside in a quest of 'equality', Islam celebrates the feminine. In today's world – a woman must shed all “girlishness” and acquire aggressive and assertive tactics to “come out on top”, in short – she must become more like a man. This is not the way of Islam – which celebrates the ideal leadership model of the Prophet as being a perfact balance of what is the embodiment of both men and women. The Prophetic model of leadership far from being some distorted, disembodied mach type, is one of Mercy, of concern, of empathy, as the Qu'ran says;

لَقَدْ جَاءكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ

There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful. [Qu'ran 9:128]

The Prophet not only was a Mercy himself, but celebrated this amongst his companions, numerous narrations attest to this such as that supplied in a famous hadith, preserved for us by al-Bukhari, which describes how during the Muslim conquest of Mecca a woman was running about in the hot sun, searching for her child. She found him, and clutched him to    her breast, saying, ‘My son, my son!’ The Prophet’s Companions saw this, and wept. The Prophet was delighted to see their rahma, and said,

Do you wonder at this woman’s rahma for her child? By Him in Whose hand is my soul, on the Day of Judgement, God shall show more rahma towards His believing servant than this woman has shown to her son.’

[Bukhari, Adab, 18]

Alluding to the special manifestation of Mercy that a mother has for a child, the Prophet in hadeeth above draws attention to the Mercy that Allah will have for those who believe on the last day, for he says:

On the day that He created the heavens and the earth, God created a hundred rahmas, each of which is as great as the space which lies between heaven and earth. And He sent one rahma down to earth, by which a mother has rahma for her child.’    [Muslim, Tawba, 21]

Mercy as the characteristic of Islam

The explicit link between the Arabic words Islam, literally “entering

into peace,” and salam, “peace” or “perfect peace”, have been frequently highlighted of late – with many referring to Islam as the religion of Peace. While this may be true as far as the meaning of the word 'Islam' applies, from a theological perspective it would be just as apt to refer to Islam as the religion of Mercy. In Islam, the All-Merciful (ar-Rahman) and the Mercy-Giving (ar-Raheem) may be said to be the greatest names of God after Allah. Likewise the Prophet of Islam is designated as the "the prophet of mercy,” with the Qu'ran stressing that Allah's hallmark in creation constituting His primary relation to the world from its inception through eternity, in this world and the next – is that of Mercy. The Prophetic tradition of Mercy enjoins on Muslims to be merciful to themselves, to others, and the whole of creation, as mentioned before, the hadeeth, “People who show mercy to others will be shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth, and he who is in heaven will be merciful to you." – is called “the Tradition of Primacy” and, for generations of Classical Muslim teachers, constituted the first text that many of them handed down to their students and required them to commit to memory with a full chain of transmitters going back to the Prophet himself.

Thus, it is that Muslims are meant to be characterized by Mercy – a Mercy that is not selective in its nature, not limited to an immediate select group – but a Mercy that is universal and all embracing – this is the Mercy of heart that one should rejoice in.

قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللّهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُواْ هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ              

Say: "In the bounty of Allah. And in His Mercy - in that let them rejoice": that is better than the (wealth) they hoard.  [Qu'ran 9:128]

But how does one attain such Mercy?

As the verse above says, the Mercy of Allah is better than what we hoard. Infact, one of the most effective ways of availing the Mercy of Allah – is to give out from what we hoard. It is from the doing of good about which Allah says:

إِنَّ رَحْمَتَ اللّهِ قَرِيبٌ مِّنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good.    [Qu'ran 7:56]

And in the month of Ramadan and otherwise, the giving of Charity is amongst the best ways of doing good.

يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلْ مَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ فَلِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَاتَفْعَلُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ

They ask thee what they should spend (In charity). Say: Whatever you spend that is good, is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers. And whatever you do that of good, - indeed, Allah is Knowing of it."[Qu'ran 2:215]

In-fact putting our hands in our pockets and spending for the sake of Allah, is a yardstick by which we can judge our doing of good. One cannot hope to attain good – until they spend from that which they love.

لَن تَنَالُواْ الْبِرَّ حَتَّى تُنفِقُواْ مِمَّا تُحِبُّونَ وَمَا تُنفِقُواْ مِن شَيْءٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ

Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love. And whatever you spend - indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.     [Qu'ran 3:92]

When we give in Charity, in reality we are giving ourselves, this is in keeping with all we mentioned concerning the principle of reflexivity

مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ يُنفِقُونَ أَمْوَالَهُمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ كَمَثَلِ حَبَّةٍ أَنبَتَتْ سَبْعَ سَنَابِلَ فِي كُلِّ سُنبُلَةٍ مِّئَةُ حَبَّةٍ وَاللّهُ يُضَاعِفُ لِمَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.   [Qu'ran 2:261]

That which we give – comes back to us multiplied in a myriad of ways. This is tried and tested – give it a go yourself and see. However, bear in mind that the giving which brings about a return is a giving for the sake of Allah – not a giving which actually injures the other person or that seeks publicity – for such a giving is not for the sake of Allah. As Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تُبْطِلُواْ صَدَقَاتِكُم بِالْمَنِّ وَالأذَى كَالَّذِي يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ رِئَاء النَّاسِ وَلاَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللّهِ

O ye who believe, do not invalidate your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury- like those who spend their wealth [only] to be seen of men, but believe neither in Allah nor in the Last Day. [Qu'ran 2:264]

This is why many of the Saliheen would emphasize an adab of giving, some such as Imam Shafi' would always ensure his hand was the lower hand when giving and that he would give from a position of humility – letting the one taking be in the position of 'giving' in effect. For when given in this spirit, the Charity has an associate Baraka or blessing – and it is this blessing that brings about a return or true growth, the opposite to something like Riba, which though outwardly may imply a growth – is actualy stripped of blessings and is destructive for both the one giving and the one taking.

يَمْحَقُ اللّهُ الْرِّبَا وَيُرْبِي الصَّدَقَاتِ وَاللّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ أَثِيمٍ

Allah will deprive usury of all blessing, but will give increase for deeds of charity: For He loves not those who are ungrateful and wicked. [Qu'ran 2:276]

The increase that comes through giving charity – is one to be sought at all times but especially Ramadan – this is why the month is an important time to give charity. Such charity could include giving people food to break their fasts:

مَنْ فَطَّرَ صَائِماً كَانَ لَهُ مِثْلُ أَجْرِهِ غَيْرَ أَنَّهُ لاَ يَنْقُصُ مِنْ أَجْرِ الصَّائِمِ شَيْئاً

Whomsoever feeds a fasting person, for him is the like of reward [of the fasting person], without it diminishing the reward from the fasting person whatsoever.  [Tirmidhi]

Ramadan is a season of generosity or charity, muslims should take advantages of any opportunities that come their way and seek them avidly. The most generous of all mankind, the Prophet Muhammad was said to be extra generous in this month, such that he was described as Rihul Mursala – 'a moisture laden wind' – giving at each and every opportunity. This is why many Muslims choose to pay their Zakat in Ramadan, for as discussed previously, what is given – when given in the right spirit is compensated manifold. As Allah says:

وَمَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّن شَيْءٍ فَهُوَ يُخْلِفُهُ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ                      

Whatsoever thing you spend [in His cause] - He will compensate it; and He is the best of providers."  [Qu'ran 34:39]

The word used for spending in Allah's cause, Infaq, along with its synonyms and derivatives is mentioned in the Qur’an numerous times. From these various articulations of Infaq have been derived the various institutions and manifestations of social welfare in Islam, chief of which would be:

The institution of Zakat

The institution of Waqf

Let us now briefly focus on both of these institutions.

The nature of Zakat or obligatory Charity

Amongst the most important forms of Charity is Zakat, though regarded as charity – it really is a religious obligation on all Muslims who own a sufficient amount of wealth to dispense it – to those who don't. The categories of Zakat recipients are mentioned in the Qu'ran primarily in the verse below:

إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاء وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَالْغَارِمِينَ وَفِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللّهِ وَاللّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ

Alms are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakat] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveller - an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.[Qu'ran 9:60]

Based on the above verse and other core texts, Muslim Scholars have derived eight categories of Zakat recipients:

1-Those living in absolute poverty (Al-Fuqarā')

2- Those who were restrained because they cannot meet their basic needs (Al-Masākīn)

3-The zakat collectors themselves (Al-Āmilīna 'Alaihā)

4- Non-Muslims who are sympathetic to Islam or wish to convert to Islam.(Al-Mu'allafatu Qulūbuhum)

5- People whom one is attempting to free from slavery or bondage. Also includes paying ransom or blood money (Diyya). (Fir-Riqāb)

6- Those who have incurred overwhelming debts while attempting to satisfy their basic needs (Al-Ghārimīn)

7- Those working in God's way (Fī Sabīlillāh)

8- Stranded Travellers (Ibnus-Sabīl)

The importance of Zakat

وَأَقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتُوا الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ

So establish regular prayer and give Zakat; and obey the Messenger – that you may receive mercy.  


The giving of Zakat in keeping with the theme of this Khutba is amongst the surest of ways of allowing us to receive mercy. In-fact, the giving of Zakat has been joined with the establishment of prayer so many times in the Qu'ran, that many leading many Scholars have gone so far as to say that the two are interdependent – that one's Salat is not accepted unless one's Zakat has been properly discharged and vice versa.

Either way, the nature of Salat and Zakat are in keeping with the twofold nature of responsibility mankind has been entrusted with in Islam. That of being Ubaad (Worshipful servants) and that of being Khulafaa fil ardh (Stewards on earth). Salaat is the affirmation of the bond (Silat) between each Muslim and his Lord and though it has an essential social and political dimension it is by and large a private act whose domain of responsibility extends to the individual alone. Zakat in contrast but of relation, is the affirmation of the bond between each Muslim and the Ummah and larger community of brotherhood to which he is a part and though it has an essential spiritual dimension has a domain of responsibility that extends to the collective community to look after its members. It was a combination of Salat and Zakat – that generated a dynamic energy which permeated the first few generations of Muslims and turned them into an unstoppable force that established Allah's deen across most of the known world within a single lifetime. Zakat as a model of mutual assistance and community solidarity was so remarkably effective that within a short span of time, within the reign of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz (considered the sixth rightly guided Caliph) , may Allah be pleased with him, much of poverty was alleviated across the Ummah – such that upon his sending a Zakat collection Officer to the far distant lands of North Africa, he was notified that no-one in the region was in need for Zakat. Zakat as a means of poverty alleviation has proved its effectiveness throughout the pages of History, yet for its function to perform, it has to be carried out within the proper way – and in that light we will touch upon a few of its particulars.

1Centralized collection - Zakat is collected and administered centrally by the State. The giving of Zakat is not a discretionary affair, rather, traditionally Zakat was taken by the State, akin to a Tax. As the Qu'ran says:

خُذْ مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُطَهِّرُهُمْ وَتُزَكِّيهِم بِهَا                                

Take, [O, Muhammad], from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them increase.

[Qu'ran 9:103]

The important point about this verse is the use of the imperative tense in the verb "take". Allah orders His Messenger to take zakat from the people not to order the people to give it, as He does in other places in the Qu'ran, where in a general sense, people are encouraged to give from what they have, but in this specific instance where Zakat is intended (as understood by Scholars of Islam) He orders it to be taken. The taking in this sense of the verse, primarily refers to the Prophet and by extension to the leader of the Muslims who fulfills the same political function[1].

Thus it is that traditionally in the Muslim world, the collection of Zakat was seen as a state responsibility[2]. Hence Zakat was not merely a charity left to individuals to implement, nor was its fulfilment dependent on the benevolence of the wealthy. Rather it was a social welfare institution whose collection and distribution was supervised by the state, and an organized tax administered by an autonomous public organization. The

The State's role in the collection and distribution of Zakat is also evidenced by the fact that the zakat collectors themselves (Al-Āmilīna 'Alaihā) are one of the categories to whom Zakat is distributed. Traditionally such collectors would be formally apointed by the State, usually indicating the use of a specialized organization whose workers derive their incomes from an apportioned budget of Zakat income.

2Decentralized distribution - As is evident from the above discussion, Islam places a great deal of emphasis on the organization of society and while it advocates a form of political interventionism through the State collection of Zakat – the modus operandi under which this operrates is that of Mutual support and help of a localized community for itself. In this sense, Zakat is not a Tax in the sense of how the modern world has come to understand taxes, rather it is a spiritual practise and as such should have an accompanying spiritual state of helping one another.

By this is meant that the one paying Zakat realizes that Zakat as the name itself implies is a way of his purifying himself and that his Zakat is a vital pillar by which societal righteousness and piety can be established, as the Qu'ran says:

وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى البِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَى

And mutually help one another in righteousness and piety. [Qu'ran 5:2]

This is why the realms of responsibility of Zakat would arise from the immediate surroundings and extend outward. Just like the Mercy a person should demonstrate, Zakat extends outwards from the individual, as concentric rings of support taking in wider family, neighbours, community, nation and the world. It was because of this that when the onus came upon distribution, the local was to be given priority over the distant.

Thus, a key principle of Zakat practised properly, was that alongside its state orientated collection was the imperative to distribute in the localized region in which it is collected – once again serving as a distinguishing point to a normal state mandated Tax (centralized collection and distribution). There point cannot be emphasized enough, there is practical concensus of Muslim Scholars that zakat should firstly be distributed to deservants in the same geographical area from which it was collected.[3]

This principle is based on the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him), for when he sent zakat officers to any area or region, he instructed them to distribute to the poor in the same region. The instructions he gave Mu'adh (its authenticity is agreed upon) was "Zakat is to be distributed to the poor amongst them . . ." Mu'adh implemented the instructions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to the letter, by dividing Yemen into regions such that Zakat was collected and distributed within each region autonomously. He also wrote letters to the effect that Zakat be distributed within the same clan from which it was collected[4].

Other narrations abound of the Prophet that point to the importance of local distribution, moreover, this was the direct practise of the companions and Khulafaa that suceeded the Prophet. Abu 'Ubaid reports that 'Umar wrote in his will "I ask my successor . . . to take from the peripheries of their wealth and distribute it amongst their poor.[5]" Umar was only passing instruction to what was his own practice, Sa'id bin al Musayyib says "'Umar sent Mu'adh as zakat officer to bani Kilab or bani Sa'd. Mu'adh went there, collected zakat, and distributed all of it [there], leaving nothing. He came back in the same own clothes that he went in."[6] 'Umar was once asked what to do with the zakat collected from bedouin Arabs. He answered, "By Allah, I shall render the sadaqah to themselves, until each of them becomes the owner of a hundred camels, male or female."[7]

Transportation of Zakat from the locality in which it was collected would only tend to occur when the region no longer contained poor people or worthy Zakat recipients – this too is confirmed by looking at the example of the righteous Khulafaa or successors of the Prophet. Abu 'Ubaid reports that Mu'adh stayed in Yemen until the Prophet died and during the era of Abu Bakr, then went to 'Umar, who confirmed his position. One year Mu'adh sent 'Umar one third of the zakat collected in that year.'Umar was annoyed and told him, "I did not send you as a collector or as a taker of jizyah [implying that the expropriation of Zakat money away from its local community was akin to taking a war bounty from those people], (rather) I assigned you to take from the rich and render to the poor." Mu'adh answered, "I have not sent you anything that I can find anyone to take from me here. [Implying there were no more Zakat recipients after what he had distributed]" The following year, Mu'adh sent 'Umar one half of the collected zakat. They exchanged statements similar to the previous year. In the third year, Mu'adh sent 'Umar all the collected zakat. 'Umar questioned him the same way he did the previous years, whereupon Mu'adh said, "I could not find anyone who would take any of it. [Implying that within three years – there was no-one poor enough to qualify for Zakat – an amazing feat and proof of the power of Zakat to reduce poverty].[8] "

From all of the above, it is clear that removal or transportation of Zakat from its locality only happened within the remit of either the people not being in need of it or on the basis of clear exceptions. Imam Malik is reported to have said, "Transporting Zakat is not permissible, except when done through the government's ijtihad, in view of pressing need.[9]" This is clearly in the spirit of recognizing that some needs have greater priority over others – for example, if an area is chronically malnourished (as in the case of many parts of Yemen and much of the 'third world' today) or has suffered a catastrophe that requires immediate relief – then providing support has priority over other forms of Zakat that may have longer term dimensions (such as giving money to those whose hearts are inclined to Islam).

The Spirit of Zakat

These two key aspects of Zakat, centralized collection with a de-centralized distribution cannot be underestimated. Together, they allow for the enactment of a proper methodology of concern that the Muslim nation should collectively exhibit for itself. A mutual concern that is borne from a togetherness of spirit, as the Prophet said:

"The believers, in their love, mutual kindness, and close ties, are like one body; when any part complains, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever."  [Muslim]

Or, as the Qu'ran says:

وَإِنَّ هَذِهِ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَأَنَا رَبُّكُمْ فَاتَّقُونِ

"And verily this Ummah of yours is a single nation and I am your Lord and Cherisher: Therefore Fear Me (and no other)." [Qu'ran 23:52]

If this concern does not start at the level of the immediate surroundings and the local, how can it hope to encompass what is beyond? Thus it is that the enactment of this verse and hadeeth is best represented through Zakat, when everyone begins to take responsibility for their community, then this sense of responsibility extends from each community to its nearest – until the entire globe is enveloped in this mutual concern. This spirit is what led to the astounding success of Zakat as it was practised, unhindered by a dominant financial paradigm founded on Riba that does exact opposite – breaks our bonds of mutual concern and solidarity we have for one another.

The Historical success of Zakat is unprecedented and unfortunately oft-neglected in western academic circles. It is no exaggeration to say that Zakat was the first manifestation of a universal welfare state administered system of social security, in the entire history of the world[10] – it was unique and represented the Islamic community ethos in that there was mutual insurance fostering solidarity and mutual cooperation amongst members of the society itself. The role of Government in this regards was an administrative one – a facilitator for what lies in the communities' own best interests. It was a system that had within it the inherent flexibility to cater to both regular relief as well as emergency needs.

Why doesn’t Zakat work as effectively today in eradicating poverty?

When one looks at the key ingredients amongst other things of what allowed Zakat to be so remarkably effective[11] in such a short time following the demise of the Prophet, we come across three factors (at least):

[a] Effective Governance – allowing for a centralized collection, encompassing transparency.

[b] Effective Social Infrastructure – allowing for a responsible, localized distribution. In the past much of this was done through another institution called Waqf (to be discussed later).

[c] Spiritual dynamic – allowing for Zakat to be seen as a positive expenditure in an accompanying sense of community solidarity and mutual concern.

If we look at these three things, we'll have our answer. Today, Zakat is mostly collected in a haphazard way, it is distributed likewise and we as an Ummah have by and large, lost our sense of community and brotherhood.

Those who in their ignorance may make claims that Zakat is not removing poverty and that much of the Muslim world is in the grip of poverty despite the injunction of Zakat, would do well to reflect that Zakat is not being administrated as it used to, within an infrastructure that allows it to perform its societal function – the results will come and that is the challenge that faces the Ummah at large.

There are systemic reasons for Zakat's not being administered within a framework that abets it – especially if one considers a global financial system founded on Riba – that has an artificially induced scarcity, systemic competition and has impersonalized our relationships and responsibilities towards each through commercial Banks operating on interest. The dynamic or paradigm or Zakat does not go hand in hand with that of Riba – in-fact they're the exact opposite, as Allah says:

يَمْحَقُ اللّهُ الْرِّبَا وَيُرْبِي الصَّدَقَاتِ وَاللّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ أَثِيمٍ              

Allah will deprive interest of all its blessing and gives increase for charity. For He loves not those who are ungrateful and evil.  [Qu'ran: 2:276]

It is co-incidence that Allah follows the verse of increase by mentioning that He loves not those who are ungrateful. The paradigm of Zakat successfully works when a community lives in the 'Spirit of the Gift' from Allah, lives in the spirit of gratitude. A community, where even it's elite is drowning in debt pressure is not likely to have much gratitude – and thus is not likely to bring about the enactment of the spirit of Zakat.

So what can we do to change the situation?

The reformation of the Ummah at large starts with the individual, progressing through community. We need to strive to bring about a community dynamic that allows for the self-support mechanism of mutual support that Zakat encourages. Before we can do this, we need to have an awareness of the social institutions and fabric that aid such a reformation as well as those that inhibit it. A key counterpart to the paradigm of Zakat – was the institution of Waqf (plural. Awqaf), also known as habs (in North Africa).


The word waqf and its plural form awqaf are derived from the Arabic root verb waqafa, which means literally means causing a thing to stop and stand still. In practise Waqf are charitable endowments that find their expression well before pre-Islamic Arabia, being practiced throughout Byzantine, Mesopotamian and also Sasanid lands[12]. It was during Islam however, that the practise of charitable endowments was systematized to such a degree that entire nation state economies could be supported through them. The phenomenal success, refinement and application of the concept of charitable endowments as awqaf can be attributed to the previously mentioned spirit of community and mutual support that characterized the early Muslims. Such a spirit can be traceable to the Qu'ran through verses as the following:

يَسْأَلُونَكَ مَاذَا يُنفِقُونَ قُلْ مَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّنْ خَيْرٍ فَلِلْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ وَالْيَتَامَى وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَابْنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا تَفْعَلُواْ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ

They ask you what they should spend ( In Infaq or charity). Say: Whatever you spend that is good, is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers. And whatever you do that is good, - (Allah) knows it well.   [Qu'ran 2:215]

Verses assuring the reward of Infaq or charity as opposed to the opposite, such as:

وَمَا أَنفَقْتُم مِّن نَّفَقَةٍ أَوْ نَذَرْتُم مِّن نَّذْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ يَعْلَمُهُ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ

And whatever you spend in charity or devotion, be sure Allah knows it all. But the wrong-doers have no helpers.   [Qu'ran 2:270]

And Hadeeth such as the following:


Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) as saying: when a man dies, all his acts come to an end, but three; recurring charity (sadaqa jariya) or knowledge (by which people benefit), or a pious offspring, who prays for him”. [Sahih Muslim]

The above hadeeth pertaining to concept of continuously recurring charity alongside the general importance of charity or giving from oneself – is what played the primary role in the institution of Waqf reach a phenomenal level.

Through a Waqf, Muslims could achieve all three things mentioned in this hadeeth. Through it they had an institution which could ensure ongoing, recurring charity for many years, even centuries, after the death of the founder. It could finance scholars whose lasting works would benefit mankind for a long period and the reward that would accrue to them would be shared by the waqf’s founder who had provided for their sustenance in the first place. Finally the management of the waqf could be entrusted to the offspring of the founder so that while, on the one hand, careful and loyal management is assured, on the other, the offspring would pray for the deceased for, thanks to his waqf, they would not be destitute.

How did the Waqf work?

Basically the founder who has accumulated private wealth decides to endow his personal property for a specific, often pious, purpose. That way something is removed from the 'market' and established for the benefit of the commons – the opposite of the 'privatization' process, wherein more and more things are stripped away from common benefit to be commodified and sold. In the case of awqaf, the amount of the original capital, the corpus, the purpose for which it is endowed and all the other conditions of management were clearly registered in a deed of endowment submitted to the authorities.

In essence what a Muslim did when he endowed his wealth was recognize that ultimately all wealth we have is given as a trust and every Muslim is obligated to spend his wealth in the way that best befits the trust – by endowing their wealth prior or upon death – they were fulfilling an aspect of this trust in ensuring an appropriate societal use of their wealth.

As more and more Muslims would endow their wealth, Waqf management became crucial and in general strict stipulations were laid down in Islamic jurisprudence on how revenue of Waqf could be spent. This revenue was allocated completely for a pious purpose (waqf khayri), or to a group of beneficiaries. The management of the waqf was entrusted to trustees, mutawallis, whose functions were fulfilled by the founder himself during his lifetime. Thus, there are four major components of any waqf: the three groups of individuals; the founder, the beneficiaries, the

trustees and the endowed capital itself, or the corpus. In time four major types of Waqf evolved:

Types of Waqf

Historically Waqf came to be created for various objectives, chief amongst which were:

(a) Philanthropic or public (khayri or aam)

(b) Family or private[13] (ahli or khass)

(c) Mixed (mushtarak)

(d) Religious and charitable/social

The application of Waqf

Historically the Waqf system provided services that the contemporary welfare states offer nowadays, with specific reference to social welfare services, including but not limited to the five major areas, such as food, housing, health, education, and religion – all of these were decentralized and provided at practically zero cost to the government. Once again, this like the Zakat counterpart was in keeping with the Qu'ranic emphasis on community solidarity and mutual support. Infact, the Awqaf themselves provided a viable channel of distribution for Zakat and other forms of Sadaqat (or general charity).

It is instructive that in marked contrast when these services were centralized and assumed by the state, they generally became less efficiently managed and various challenges were faced for the State, such as: “budget deficit, high interest rates, etc.”

At the dissolution of Ottoman empire, three-fourths of its land and buildings in some Turkish towns were awqaf. In various Muslim countries awqaf reached one-third or more of cultivable land. It is historically recorded, at the beginning of 20th century in Palestine, that 233 waqf deeds were recorded (owning 890 properties) compared to 92 private ownership deeds (with 108 properties), clearly showing the focus of the Muslim economy at the time. All of this began to change with the dawn of colonialism[14] ; while awqaf were not entirely inefficient and had their fare share of abuse[15], the awqaf were either taken over by the newly socialized states or eradicated by the commercially orientated financial interests of the colonialists.[16]

The benefit that Waqf can provide alongside Zakat

Waqf and Zakat worked in tandem throughout the Muslim world throughout the middle ages, as had been mentioned - they were part of a very different financial paradigm – one of decentralization, mutual solidarity and support. It would be perplexing to many modern day economists as to how the Muslim ummah functioned with so little state intervention – if they didn’t take into account these two institutions - the secret lies in these two institutions – Zakat and Waqf. These institutions explain how for centuries a myriad of essential services such as health, education, municipal, etc., were provided at no cost whatsoever to the state. Today economists perplex themselves over essential efficiency problems of government expenditure, budget deficit, the need for government borrowing, inflation, lowering interest rates while still trying to maintain adequate scope for private investment and growth. In the muslim world, throughout the middle ages, the Governments had very little, if any role to play in these regards and economies functioned a lot healthier, if one takes into account the mass global poverty epidemic[17] and wealth distortion[18] we see today.


The most important item in this regards is that modern economies are founded on a very different paradigm to that of Zakat and Waqf, they revolve around the legalizing of interest, they are founded on interest - and that produces a very different paradigm. Today money comes into existence as a debt, with a further debt (interest) to be paid off – a debt that doesn’t exist – and can only be paid off through either someone defaulting or the economy continuing to grow (which only happens through more debt). We're all caught in debt – everyone, goverments included, for the most part are trying to meet their debt payments. As a result of money being created as interest-bearing debt, there is always systemic growth pressure – we have to grow to ensure we don’t default en masse. As soon as growth slows, debt rises faster than income and the intensifying debt pressure fuels increasingly desperate attempts to extract more money from somewhere (other people, nature, etc.) Politically, this translates into the very growth-friendly policies that are now collectively destroying the planet. Unlike the Waqf model, the marker of such growth – is GDP, a figure that represents the total market of all goods and services traded relative to the money supply. The interest based system requires perpetual growth to survive – such growth means we all need to take on more debt, buy more for the system to survive – it has to translate into more purchasing power, more production, more automobiles, bigger houses, more electronics, more roads, more air travel… all of these contribute to economic growth as we define it today. Through this process more and more of what was common has to get commoditized and sold, in this system, the destruction of a forest to create 100,000 board feet of lumber is, preposterously, counted as an increase in wealth. The forest no longer contributes to soil stability, oxygen production, climate stability, biodiversity protection, and so on, but those losses are not included in the price of a plank of lumber. The dynamic of interest drives the conversion of the natural world common to us everywhere into money.

As the Muslim world was not founded on interest, the most essential social services and utilities were not seen as commodities for growth. Rather they were seen as things to be gifted to the commons for the sake of Allah, for the sake of 'real growth' of blessings – for eternity.


يَمْحَقُ اللّهُ الْرِّبَا وَيُرْبِي الصَّدَقَاتِ 

Allah will deprive interest of all its blessing and gives growth for charity. 

[Qu'ran: 2:276]

In the Muslim world of the middle ages, in the pre-colonialist era, the supplying of public goods – goods given for the benefit of the wider community was only a state responsibility as an afterthought – through the existence of awqaf, there was almost a super abundance of public utility services at no cost to the state. Within such a paradigm of mutual support, Waqf would actually cause de-growth in the modern era. Waqf would ensure that there is always a safety net and a sense of belonging to people on a localized community basis and ensure that common land, assets and other commodities are removed from the market and are effectively decentralized and distributed for wider benefit. They would represent a democratization of finance and wealth; by transferring assets into public control they would remove them from the domain of both the state (socialism) and rich corporations (capitalism) into a middle way of ownership that could be said to be truly democratic[19] with an Islamic context.

Waqf are the perfect solution to the logical conundrum of “maintaining economic growth while protecting the environment.” You can't do both within the interest based paradigm – where growth comes at a grievous cost to the environment. Within the interest based paradigm, perhaps we can drill in the Arctic, pump a few more billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, log the remaining rainforests, if we try hard enough we can wring a few more years of growth from this planet – but eventually it has to come to an end – for all of us. Within a Waqf based paradigm – we say 'hands off' to those who want to exploit our resources for their short term selfish benefit, we say 'stop', this is not your property to exploit – this belongs to the people - for the sake of Allah.

Thus we see that the concept of Zakat and Waqf are firmly in the camp of economic de-growth. Both are vital cogs in fighting Riba as they remove the systemic growth pressure that exists today by going to the very heart of the money system. Today as growth stagnates and wealth concentrates in fewer and fewer hands, they are part of the dynamic that that discourages hoarding and allows money and credit to circulate in a context of low growth to the hands of people that really need it and not to hands that are already hoarding it.

The institutions of Waqf and Zakat are in our wider benefit. No-one advocates the continued wanton despoliation of the planet. We all want ecological healing. We all want to enter into a new relationship to Earth – yet, our current financial system is making us collectively do the opposite and continue to abuse her.

The institutions of Zakat and Waqf are amongst key instruments that can combat this – they are opposed to the financial system of Riba – but they demand of us a change in our consciousness with how we approach finance. While Zakat helps generate a flow of funds and recruit the necessary manpower, Waqf provides the material infrastructure and creates a source of revenue for use in, among others, social welfare enhancing activities both at family, community and state level.

The Prophetic way of tackling a problem

Both Zakat and Waqf are consistent with the Prophet's way of tackling problems. The Prophet would look to solve things systematically, when faced with someone suffering from poverty, he would look to empower them – provide them a means to fight and tackle the poverty. While the Prophet would not dismiss the immediate need of poverty, inevitably food, he wanted to ensure that the recipient could stand on his own feet – so he would not be in a position like this again, as the hadeeth below demonstrates:

Anas bin Malik narrates that a person from Ansar came asking the Prophet (peace be upon him) for financial help. The Prophet asked, "Isn't there anything in your house?" The man said, "Yes, a piece of Cloth. We use some of it to wear and spread another part to sit on, and a cup in which we drink water." The Prophet said, "Bring them to me." He brought them,the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) took them and announced, "Who will buy these?" A man said, "I will take them for one dirham." The Prophet said, "Who gives more than one dirham?" twice or thrice. Another man said, "I will take them for two dirhams." The Prophet gave them to him and took the two dirhams and gave them to the owner saying, "Buy with one of them food to send to your family and buy with the other an axe-head and bring it to Me." Then the Messenger of God tied with his own hands a piece of wood to the axe for a handle and told the man, "Go and get wood and sell, I must not see you for fifteen days." The man got wood and sold it. He later came to the Prophet with ten dirhams gained, he bought (more) cloth with some and food with some . The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) said, "This is better for you than the begging which you will be asked about on the Day of Resurrection. Begging is not permissible except to one of three: a destitute poor person, or a person under overwhelming debts, or a person who ought to pay ransom for an accidental case of homicide. 

[Abu Dawud]

Both Zakat and Waqf embody the spirit the hadeeth above represent, they fight and tackle the problems of interest – systematically – it is important for us to reflect on this.

How Zakat fights interest – and a contemporary application of Zakat

In the partnership between Zakat and Waqf, the former serves as a unique mechanism of transfer of income and wealth from the haves to the have-nots in the community – the opposite to interest. Through Zakat, every individual in the society is assured of a minimum means of livelihood, which provides social security system in society.

Zakat thus removes the systemic growth pressure that exists today goes to the very heart of the money system, by discouraging hoarding and allowing money and credit to circulate in a context of low growth. This distinctive use of capital has not been lost to many leading economists and today many economic commentators are advocating for what they call the use of negative interest.[20]

Negative interest, is the opposite of interest, it means that people who hoard money without spending are likely to lose it, hoarded money being subject to a negative interest rate, also known as a demurrage charge. The pioneering theoretician of negative-interest money was the German-Argentinean businessman Silvio Gesell, who called it “free-money” (Freigeld). The system he proposed in his 1906 masterwork, The Natural Economic Order, was to use paper currency to which a stamp costing a small fraction of the note’s value had to be affixed periodically. This effectively attached a maintenance cost to monetary wealth. Gessell's primary concern at the time, was to remedy the inequitable and unjust distribution of wealth that he saw, with the existence of unprecedented poverty amidst unprecedented abundance (if he lived to see our times, who knows what he would have thought!). Though his ideas were generally well received[21],their application came in a time of crisis, as whether in collective life or personal, real change rarely comes in the absence of crisis.

During the Great Depression after the second world war, Gessel's idea that people could be encouraged to spend and stimulated by making money costly to hold seemed appealing and sure enough his ideas were tried in the town of Wörgl, Austria in 1932. What followed has been referred to as the "Miracle of Wörgl"

The experiment resulted in a growth in employment and meant that local government projects such as new houses, a reservoir, a ski jump and a bridge could all be completed, seeming to defy the depression in the rest of the country. Inflation and deflation were also reputed to have been non-existent for the duration of the experiment. The unemployment rate plummeted and the economy thrived, attracting the attention of nearby towns. Mayors and officials from all over the world began to visit Wörgl until… the "experiment" was terminated by the Austrian National Bank on the 1st September 1933.


The question rarely asked in academic circles, is if it was so successful – why was it terminated ?

The answer, in-fact what seems the only possible answer, is that it represented a different paradigm to the one the Central Bank was founded on – it was a paradigm that was for the people and against interest - if the idea – took hold – then eventually the entire financial architecture premised on interest would have been weakened – eventually there would have been no need or very little need for the Central Bank itself! As is inevitable in such cases, the very people in positions to effect the change were the people who stood the biggest to lose in terms of power and control.

Gessel's proposal of negative interest as a demurrage tax was almost exactly akin to Zakat that the Prophet of Islam introduced 1400 years ago. Zakat like negative interest is opposed to the interest based paradigm – and today its true application represents one of our greatest hopes in stemming the tragedies that interest is bringing about.

There is good news, gradually more and more people are coming round to the idea of negative interest, in Gessel's day the problems of growth had not reached the proportions they have now. We are now in a collective crisis which demands de-growth – and today there have been initial attempts of central banks to experiment with the concept of negative interest.

Today, many countries are considering breaching the “zero lower bound” of monetary policy and allowing interest rates to go negative – thus effectively penalizing or charging a tax on those who leave their money and just hoard it. With an intention to force banks hoarding cash to start lending again, the Danish Central Bank has been amongst the first to cut its interest rates[22] to the negative – it's not exactly Zakat – but it’s a start. May Allah give us tawfeeq to be part of the struggle against Riba – this entails we understand what Riba does and a key part of how Zakat is its opposite.


How Awqaf fight interest

As mentioned previously, while Zakat tackles wealth imbalance and redistributes wealth accordingly (in an opposite manner to Riba), awqaf directly address the growth imperative of Riba itself. Through the application of awqaf, there can be more energy-efficiency (less consumption of energy), more reuse and sharing of durable goods (less extraction and production), more gardening (less commodity food), and an expanded commons (less purchasing of commoditized content). Awqaf thus can ensure that we end up paying for fewer things as more and more of our needs can be commonly met.

As a complement to Zakat, awqaf can thus provide the material infrastructure and create a source of revenue for use in, amongst other things, social welfare enhancing activities both at family, community and state levels.


The Khutba concludes that to activate and revitalise the Zakat and Awqaf systems in Muslim societies and communities, there is a dire need for reform in their formulations and administrative functions in order to realign them with their original socio-economic objectives such that they can be a Mercy that this Khutba began by alluding to.

As an Ummah we have to bring back an element of responsibility and assessment with regards to the collection and disbursement of Zakat proceeds. It should be noted that to have an organised system of Zakat collection and disbursement requires a high level of credibility and commitment from the side of voluntary organisations, and cooperation from the side of people while relying on legislative support from the government.

In the case of Waqf, flexibility in its processes and procedures that will make its establishment much easier and benefits more reapable are required; and motivational measures that will make its management efficient are needed. Managerial efficiency and the vibrancy of Waqf on the other hand, can be achieved by the following:


(a) Creating boards of supervision that consists of representatives of the beneficiaries, the working staff in Awqaf projects and properties, and community and NGOs.

(b) Establishing criteria and measures of managerial efficiency in non-profit corporations that are applicable to the variety of properties and objectives of Awqaf.

(c) Auditing the management of Awqaf on competitive ground for a definite period of time to ensure transparency, say 3 – 5 years.

(d) Creating a government supportive body that may provide technical assistance, facilitate financing, and establish necessary regulation.

It is our job as Muslims to endeavour and try their utmost to establish vibrant Zakat and Awqaf institutions in their communities to augment the effort of their respective governments in the fight against poverty and the social menace of Riba or interest. It has happened in the past and can happen now – what has been done can be done again – what is required is tawfeeq and for Allah's Mercy to shine down on us.

May Allah give us that – and that is not a thing difficult for Him.







[1] In-fact the first Khalifa or successor of the Prophet, Sayyidina Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) specifically fought against those who refused to pay Zakat, contending that their paying applied to the Prophet alone. When Umar counseled him against fighting the tribes who were refusing to pay zakat, Abu Bakr said, "By Allah, I will fight anyone who makes a distinction between the prayer and zakat. Zakat is the right which is due on wealth. By Allah, if they refuse me a hobbling rope which they used to pay to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, I will fight them for it!" The important words for us in the present context from this great statement are "refuse me". Abu Bakr was obviously not referring to himself here as an individual but as the political leader of the Muslims and by doing so clearly shows the inextricable link between zakat and Muslim governance.


[2] Al Bukhari, Muslim and others report from Ibn 'Abbas that the Prophet told Mu'adh when he sent him to Yemen, "Inform them that God obligates sadaqah on their wealth, to be taken from the rich among them and rendered to the poor among them. If they obey you in that, carefully avoid their dear wealth . . . "

This saying has also been taken to indicate by Scholars of Islam that zakat is taken from the rich and rendered to the poor by the State. Al Hafiz Ibn Hajar says, "This saying is evidence that the state is the authority that takes zakah and distributes it. Those who refuse to pay are to be forced to do so.


[3] See: Mushkilat al Faqr wa Kaifa 'Alajaha al Islam, by Sheikh Yusuf al Qardawi, p. 114. Also his book Fiqh Al Zakat, p.141. This applies to zakat collected on livestock, grain, and fruits. Likewise zakat on money is distributed in the area of the asset and not where the owner lives, if he or she lives away from the zakated wealth

[4] See: Reported via a correct chain by Sa'id bin Mansur from Taus. Al Athram reports a similar story, as stated in Nail al Awtar, Vol. 2, p. 161.

[5] Al Amwal, p. 595.

[6] Ibid, p. 596.

[7] Al Mussannaf, Vol. 3, p. 205.

[8] Ibid. p. 596 and Mushkilat al Faqr.

[9] The explanation of the Qur'an by al Qurtubi, Vol. 8, p. 175.

[10] Such a statement of fact is rarely readily admitted in Western Academia. Though today Social security as a concept is enshrined in Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality- even today, few countries have organized systems of state welfare to ensure this. In Europe, throughout the Middle Ages welfare payments were primarily given through individual charity and it was only in the seventeenth century that more organized welfare programs such as included the English Poor Law of 1601, which gave parishes the responsibility for providing poverty relief assistance to the poor. State administered welfare provision only became an organized in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when people like Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany, introduced one of the first welfare systems for the working classes. In contrast, The United States did not have an organized welfare system until the Great Depression, when emergency relief measures were introduced under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even then, Roosevelt's New Deal focused predominantly on a program of providing work and stimulating the economy through public spending on projects, rather than on cash payment. It truly is amazing, that Islam over 1400 years ago had a universal welfare system administered by the State, founded in mutual solidarity - that was able to provide for the needy, including the poor, elderly, orphans, widows, and the disabled. A proof of Islam's truth and vision.

[11] Narrations from the time of Umar bin al Khattab (13-22H) and Umar bin Abdul Aziz (99-101H) indicate that poverty was eliminated during the time of these two rulers, as Zakat collected in some regions could not be disbursed due to lack of poor recipients.

[12] The fact that the practise of something pre-dates the formal revelation of Islam as it appeared in Arabia, does not discount its religious and Islamic practice as the following hadeeth illustrates: “Abu Huraira (May Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s

messenger (peace be upon him) as saying: "A word of wisdom represents the lost property of a believer, he takes it wheresoever he finds it, as he is more entitled to it”. [Sunan al-Tirmidhi, (1992), bab 19, hadith 2687]


[13] Prophetic traditions fully sanction pious offerings for provisioning for one's children and needy relatives - as long as this is not intended to evade rightful inheritance. For example, it is well known, that Umar, the Second Caliph, endowed his land in Khaibar, allocating its usufruct, among other things, to his offspring following the Prophet’s advice. Umar appointed his daughter, Hafsah, as the successor manager, and upon her death any wise person from her family. [See: Abu Dawud, text no.793 and Kahf (1995, p.270]. Likewise Imam Shafi, himself, had also endowed his house in Fustat to his offspring. Instructively, in both cases, the endowments happened and became active during the endower's life and are akin to gifting during life, not the form of gifting with reservation or something whose benefit one continues to accrue but what one aims to pass to one's offspring after death, which is rightfully seen in Western Law as a ruse to evade Inheritance Tax and could be considered similarly if the intention is to evade the Islamic inheritance distribution. Analysis of Awqaf frequency in the Ottoman empire reveals that Family Awqaf were a relatively minor percentage of type of Waqf – for example recent studies have shown that during the 18th century merely 14.20% of the total awqaf revenue and during the 19th century, 16.87% of revenue, was reserved for the family members of the founders.

[14] The colonization process was a direct result of the growth paradigm introduced in Western Europe. The new constant need for growth necessitated the countries to constantly seek out new markets to support their expanding economies and so much of the world had to open up, willingly or otherwise. During the eighteenth, nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries almost all of the muslim world came to be colonized by the European countries. European colonization of Muslim lands all but destroyed functioning political, social, health and educational structures as colonialists managed the economies and finances of the Muslim countries in their own interests and in their own ways. Apart from elites, the Muslim masses stayed away from interest-based financial institutions. Indonesia gained independence in 1945 and Algeria in 1963. In between these two dates, all Muslim majority countries became independent.


[15] It is to be fairly noted that the Muslim world in general when compared to the West at the time of colonialism had a relatively weaker enforced property rights system. This was despite the fact that the right to protection of one's Property (Hifz al maal) was considered by jurists as one of the five major objectives of the Shari'a. A reason attributable to this may be seen from the work of David Graeber in his, 5,000 years History of Debt, he mentions the Islamic principle of Trade as embodying the idea of the ideal pious merchant (as embodied in the Prophet himself) and that the fact much of the contractual disputes in the Muslim world were to be settled in a decentralized manner was because trade itself was seen as being something to be conducted ethically on the basis of trust – thus we see many of the contracts of Islam themselves as embodying elements of trust such as Mudaraba – requiring the working partner to honestly declare profits and Murabaha – requiring an open declaration of cost price. All of this is very different to the context of how trade arose in the west, wherein which commerce was often held to have a negative connotation, seen away and distant from any notion of religiosity – in this context of mistrust, a very different paradigm evolved – that naturally placed a strong emphasis on property right institutions, which include protections against expropriation by the government, and contracting institutions, which facilitated and resolved private contracts between citizens in a way that was both standardized and centralized. The relatively less effective manifestation of these institutions in the Muslim world meant that there was potential for mismanagement of Waqf by its trustees (mutawallis) as well as the state and as a result for centuries this institution was often dependent on the fates of the states under which it functioned – although it is to be noted that Muslim governance was for the most part non-intervionist in these affairs, things began to change through the rigors of colonialism. Consequently, the awqaf experienced dramatic ups and downs, with a period of establishment and growth, often followed by one of decline and neglect. Eventually this provided an excuse for the complete destruction of many of the awqaf during the 19th and 20th centuries by forces of western colonialist imperialism and their state backed proxies who subsumed much of the Awqaf in the name of better management and state benefit.


[16] See: M.G.Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization, Vol.3, The Impact of the Great Western Transmutation: The Generation of 1789, p.176 – p.222

In which he discusses the irreversible nature of financial institutions in the West that were directly pitted against the traditional Guild and Waqf orientated economies of the Muslim World. This nature considered irreversible by Hodgson, was thought by him to be typical of the nature of usurious financing in that the growth paradigm it introduces has built into it a short term, self-orientated, competitive nature, which forcefully pulls other participants into its sphere – willingly or unwillingly – simply by the incessant growth impulse it creates, a growth impulse that the more traditional Occidental and Islamic or non-interest based economic institutions struggled to meet, gradually signaling their demise. As Hodgson goes on to say, “new impulses carried everything with them, including old institutions. Existing institutions had, to be sure, proved sufficiently open to make such an advance possible. But such institutions were hardly well adapted to it, surely no more so than, say, the Islamicate institutions Yet they were pressed into serving the new possibilities, or were superseded.” [p.183 – p.184] Such ‘innovative institutions’ soon reached in Hodgson’s words, “a ‘critical mass', which allowed much more extensive institutionalizing of such innovation than before, an institutionalizing which was to embrace and finally dominate all the key sectors of the whole society. Economically, this could be seen in certain forms of industrial and commercial investment in northwest Europe during the seventeenth century: capital was systematically re-invested and multiplied on the basis of continuing technical innovation and of anticipated expansion in market patterns.” [p.184] This “expansion of industrial investment released more resources to the whole economy; and these were then made use of, among scholars, in a manner consonant with the expansive mood of which the pace was surely set by the exhilaration associated with the new mercantile and industrial ventures.” [p.184]. Institutional development continued as, “In both scientific and economic life, the sheer scale of the increasing technical specialization brought with it qualitative changes. Perhaps most obviously, it reached a level on which it paid to invest the requisite time, funds, and concern into institutions that embodied and further confirmed the technical specialization. These very institutions, then, helped to hasten the process. Gradually, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such investment became so well-rooted and widely ramified in Occidental society that no social process or historical event originating outside the process could reverse it or seriously slow it down.[p.185]. Finally, “Once this process was well-established, new discoveries and inventions, along with the human and financial investment needed to realize them, grew at a geometric rate of progression; for each new round of inventions, once exploited, cleared the way for yet another.” [p.185]

An analysis of Hodgson’s words as expressed above demonstrates the importance he attaches to the new modes of commercial banking and investment in that he sees it as being the major driver of the European technilization process. His foresight however, leads him to say, “It is perhaps premature to refer to what had happened in Europe simply under the heading of ‘progress'. This word implies a moral judgment: ‘progress', as against regress or mere digression, implies movement toward a goal, or at least in a good direction. It can be disputed what aspects of our modern life have meant change for the better and what have meant change for the worse.” [p.178], this insight of Hodgson is particularly commendable, for in his time, few would have doubted that such economic growth could be anything but good. Indeed, in recent times, whilst other Scholars (see: Timur Kuran’s, Why the Middle East Is Economically Underdeveloped: Historical Mechanisms of Institutional Stagnation) have held similar conclusions; they perhaps have not been so objective in their analysis, by articulating that the ‘ascendancy’ of Western Europe over the Muslim world was primarily because of the comparative ‘stagnancy’ of Muslim commercial Law vis-à-vis the ‘vibrancy’ of the West’s modern economy – they have not critically examined the ramifications of such ‘ascendany’ . Current times however, have led many to a stark re-evaluation: the build-up of evidence in the form of an ever increasing debt spiral, a constant plundering of world’s resources, the de-spoiling of natural environment and a de-facto take over of much of the political interests of the world by the mega sized global multinational corporations in cohort with global multilateral institutions – indicates that much of the growth may not actually be in our collective favour – as the Qu'ran says a growth founded on Riba – has intrinsic Dhulm or oppression.

[17] In 2005, World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern estimated that on average each European cow receives $ 2.50 a day in government livestock and dairy subsides while 75% of African people live on less than $ 2 dollars a day. In fact, according to the World Bank, 95 percent of all people in developing countries which means 80 percent of all human beings, are living on less than $10 a day – clearly there is a pattern to all of this.

[18] Even in America, purportedly the world’s richest nation state, fewer than 7,500 individuals collectively control “almost 75% of the nation’s industrial (nonfinancial) assets, almost two-thirds of all its banking assets and more than 75% of all insurance assets” [As noted by Political Scientist Thomas Dye in Who’s Running America]

[19] Modern day manifestation of a similar ethos of ownership include all forms of worker-owned coops and community owned land initiatives such as Community land trusts (CLTs). They include nonprofit corporations called social enterprises, democratically owned by its employees, whose sole purpose is to pursue some good mission for society. Municipal ownership is another big thing where cities have established ownership of capturing the gas from garbage and turning it into electricity as well as into jobs and revenues. All of these forms of ownership are consistent with the ownership model that Waqf advocate – a model for the people (though in the Islamic context truly for Allah) – by the people. See: www.community-wealth.org as an example of the sort of community driven economy that though now touted as a new model for development, was very much the Islamic model throughout the middle ages.              

[21] Gesell’s ideas enjoyed a wide following in the 1920s and 1930s and came to influence prominent economists such as Irving Fisher and John Maynard Keynes. Fisher promoted Gesell’s ideas vigorously in the United States, and Keynes offered uncharacteristic praise, calling him an “unduly neglected prophet” and his work “profoundly original.”



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