Guided by ‘zakat’, a village funds its road and bridge

By Asit Srivastava, IANS,

Lucknow: Guided by ‘zakat’ – charity as envisaged by the Quran – villagers of Muslim-dominated Shirajpur in Uttar Pradesh have repaired roads, dug wells, established schools and are now building a bridge.

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The village is located in Azamgarh, some 300 km from Lucknow, and its people say the apathy of public representatives towards their problems prompted them to take up development activities themselves.

“It may surprise you, but we have collected over Rs.65 lakh for our new project – the construction of the bridge over the Tamsa river,” Ehsaanul Haq, 62, a former head of Shirajpur village, told IANS on phone from Azamgarh.

“The construction of the bridge has been initiated. We are eagerly waiting for the day when the project will be completed and the locals will get rid of the problems they face while travelling through the rugged terrain in the village,” he added.

According to locals, once the 30-metre-long bridge is commissioned, it would provide proper connectivity between Shirajpur and other villages of Azamgarh.

Wahidulla Raj, 57, another resident of the Shirajpur, said: “From the business point of view also, the bridge would be quite useful, particularly for the farmers, who have to travel nearly 35 km to reach the markets of Azamgarh city to sell their produce.

“Once completed, the bridge would curtail the 35 km distance by nearly 15 km.”

Villagers say it was over a decade ago that they started addressing civic problems in the village with zakat on the instructions of some visiting clerics.

“Some of the clerics were from Hyderabad and other cities outside Uttar Pradesh. Due to bad roads, water-logging, the clerics had to face several problems to reach our village,” said Nisaar Ahmad, 64, who runs a printing press in the village.

“It was only during a majlis (meeting), while discussing the importance of zakat, that the clerics instructed us to develop our village through charity.”

Zakat is one of the five basic principles of Islam. According to the concept of zakat, every Muslim family has to give 2.5 percent of its possessions and surplus wealth to charity for the poor and needy.

Imbibing the instructions of the clerics, the villagers started with the repair of a small road and later started addressing other civic problems through donations.

A sizeable number of Muslims from Shirajpur, whose population is around 3,000, have their businesses in Maharashtra and other states of the country and they contribute generously to the development of their village.

“My son is in Mumbai and is doing very well with his cloth business. Though he manages to come home only once or twice a year, every time he visits he ensures generous contributions for development work,” said Khurram Alam Nomaani, 65, another resident of Shirajpur.

The villagers say the apathy of public representatives in a way became their driving force.

“No development would have been possible if we had run after politicians or public representatives. Today, through zakat, we have managed to set up a proper drainage system, solve water problems and other civic issues,” said Akhtar Hussain, who owns a medicine shop.

Charity has also helped install and repair hand pumps and set up electric poles in the village.

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at [email protected])