One of the fundamental pillars of Islam, Zakat is an efficient way of re-distributing property from the rich to the poor. The idea is to maintain social balance and equity. While the popular concept of Zakat is that it is beneficial to others, we shouldn’t forget about the impact it has on us, the Zakat payers. The Arabic root of Zakat means purification and growth. The same was also echoed in Allah’s commands to His Prophet in the Qur’an, where He mentions that it is purifying in all senses, both externally and internally.
In terms of the gains in the material dimensions, the potency and effectiveness of the Zakat system have been proved in many Muslim societies and countries with a proper centralized Zakat management system. The first pillar of the Islamic economic system encompasses two different forms - Zakat on wealth which is paid at any time during the year when possession of the Zakatable assets for one Hijri year is fulfilled and the market value of the Zakatable asset reaches 86 gram of gold. The second form is Zakat Fitrah, which is paid in the month of Ramadan before Eid prayers. If managed properly, the minuscule amount of Zakat money can be transformative changes, both in the lives of the payers and recipients. Here’s how to maximize the impact of your Zakat.
It is imperative in Islam that one purifies his/her own self along with their wealth by paying the due amount of the disprivileged engraved in the riches of the rich. So, when you pay your Zakat, try to feel your soul being cleansed of miserliness and greed, and be confident that as a result of paying your Zakat properly, your wealth too will be purified and blessed by your creator. Paying Zakat should also motivate us to the lawful seeking of wealth as it is encouraged in Islam. Besides, we should wash up our excessive materialistic attitude which is often exemplified in the contemporary society with Zakat to gain the moral high ground.
There are two groups of Zakat beneficiaries - the poor and the needy. According to prominent Islamic scholar Qaradawi, the poor and the needy may be classified into two subcategories to make a greater impact with the Zakat.
“First are the poor and needy who can work and earn sustenance, such as craftsman and those who know any kind of business that needs capital or equipment for its practice. It is obligated to give them what they need in order to enable them to earn their sustenance for the rest of their lives, so that they are no longer on the list of Zakat recipients. Second, there are those who are incapable of earning because of a physical handicap, like the elderly or social handicap, like widows who are raising children. They may be given sufficiency for one year, provided that it is repeated every year. It may even be advisable to give them monthly payments instead of yearly payments.”
Due to the lack of an effective centralized institution, most of the people in Bangladesh pay Zakat individually, mostly as token charity. Distribution of clothing (saris and lungis) is a traditional and popular method of paying Zakat. However, distribution of clothing, from a pragmatic sense, cannot transform poor people’s lives, something a united effort can do. We do have a government agency - the Zakat Board of Islamic Foundation and several other private institutions which collect Zakat from institutions or even private individuals, but the response from the payers is not frequent. A community based distribution of Zakat has the potential to be more impactful and diversified by taking the form of scholarship programs for poor students, rehabilitation and training for poor women, rehabilitation of widows, housing for the poor, and distribution of means of living for the unemployed young people. The united effort will simultaneously contribute to the payer’s sense of achievement and the economic empowerment of distressed communities.
When efficiently managed, Zakat has the potential of changing the economy of a country, evidence of which can be found in many Muslim majority countries. Zakat as a form of charity can increase labour force participation in the form of job productivity by investing for people. Funds raised from the Zakat money can be used for entrepreneurial purposes. Enterprises built with the Zakat money, on one hand, will create jobs for the poor and disadvantaged. On the other hand, it will increase the efficiency of the investment while establishing the investment itself.