By Dr Kouser Fathima for TwoCircles.net,
Ramadan is the month of fasting and piety for Muslims all over the world. All Muslims irrespective of nationality, race and gender fast in this month from dawn to dusk and try to spend maximum time in worship. Apart from fasting, charity is an important aspect of Ramadan where in the Muslims are required to give Zakat (mandatory charity) corresponding to 2.5% of one’s saving and it is given by every Muslim who meets the necessary criteria to the poor and needy brethren.
In countries like Saudi Arabia, Libya , Malaysia ,Pakistan , Yemen & Sudan Zakat is collected by state where as contribution by Muslims elsewhere is voluntary based on Islamic teachings and fear of God . In 2012 Islamic analyst estimated annual Zakat spending exceeding US$200 billion per year but ironically huge section of the Muslim population is in bad financial condition facing poverty. This shows that the concept of Zakat has failed to address the issue and help the needy Muslims. Reasons can be many ranging from lack of proper guidance to improper distribution of zakat.
In India it is common to see poor Muslims in groups roaming on streets knocking on doors in Muslim areas asking for zakat. If one notices it is the same group every year coming back with similar problems. Many people do give them zakat money but fail to keep a tab on how the amount is spent. There is no guarantee that the amount is utilised in an efficient way. Sadly the expected results are not achieved even though Muslims do give generously in this month.
The real needy seldom go out and ask, and very few Muslims bother to reach out to them. Many needy students are forced to discontinue their studies due to lack of financial aids , many patients suffering from various ailments are unable to afford medicines and treatments , many unemployed youth and people facing financial problems. Sadly most of these people hesitate to ask for help and hence zakat fails to reach them.
The need is to be more organized, mosques should coordinate between the zakat donors and needy so that the aid reaches the right persons. The zakat donors should also make efforts to identify the real needy and for that they need to go an extra mile rather than just giving away money as a formality at their doors. The worst practice followed by some Muslims who accumulate people outside their houses and literally throw clothes at them needs to be abandoned.
The idea of zakat will remain defeated if it is not properly implemented. The aim is to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in the community, a concept very noble and unique of Islam. Unfortunately we are failing to follow the spirit of zakat.
(The author is a Bengaluru based writer. She can be reached at twitter @drkf_18)