Poverty Reasons and Remedies in Islamic Perspective
Poverty Present Status and Role of Muslims
1. What is poverty- Definition
There are essentially two distinct concepts of poverty: the absolute and the relative poverty concepts. The former is normally associated with some income level required to sustain a minimum standard of living. That income level, defined as poverty line income is often used to determine whether an individual is poor or otherwise. One of the approaches adapted to measure the minimum standard of living is the basic needs approach. It looks at the economic, social, political and even cultural needs. One is said to attain a minimum standard of living if all his basic needs are satisfied.
1.1. THE ISLAMIC VIEW OF POVERTY
1.1.1. Human Needs
There are essentially five groups of activities and things which make up the human needs. These are: (a) Religion, (b) Physical self, (c) Intellect or Knowledge, (d) Offspring, and (e) Wealth.
The fulfillment of these needs is considered one of the basic goals of the religion of Islam.
Wealth is obviously a fundamental human need. Wealth here can be interpreted as a stock or flow. These needs which define the foundations for good individual and social life, are classified into three levels, or hierarchy, namely (1) necessities (dharuriyyat); (2) convenience (hajiat); and (3) refinements (kamaliat).
- Necessities (dharuriyyat)
Necessities consist of all activities and things that are essential to preserve the five needs discussed above at the lowest level or the barest minimum for an acceptable level of living. Necessities therefore should include the ability to perform the five pillars of Islam.
Conveniences comprise all activities and things that are not vital to preserve the five foundations, but rather, are needed to remove difficulties or impediments in life.
This category includes items that are beyond those for convenience. They do not only remove difficulty but improve the comfort.
1.2. Poverty in Islam
Poverty in Islam is related to the concept of necessities discussed above. One is considered poor if he does not possess sufficient necessities to fulfil his basic needs in each of the five foundations for good individual and social life.
Poverty is also associated with the concept of nisab which is one of the two prerequisites for a Muslim to pay the zakah. Nisab is a certain minimum quantum of any good or wealth that must be possessed before that good or wealth is subject to zakah. They are, however, qualified to receive zakah. Clearly, this nisab requirement in zakah, implies that those who do not meet the nisab requirement are not only excused from paying zakah but are also considered poor and hence are eligible to receive zakah. In this context, Islam defines two categories of poor, namely the poor and needy or destitute.
1.2.1. Present status of poverty in the world
- Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.
- The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.
- Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
- Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
- 1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world). 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, and 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million Died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).
2. Why poverty – Causes of poverty
- Exploitation – Economic
- Interest- Riba
- Currency Exchange Regulation and Free Trade Regulation
2.1.1. Acute causes of poverty:
- Agricultural Cycles:
- Droughts and Flooding:
- Natural Disasters:
- Entrenched factors associated with poverty:
- Colonial Histories:
- Centralization of Power:
- Environmental degradation:
- Social Inequality:
3. Role of CITIZEN in alleviation of poverty
3.1. Islamic Approach to Poverty Eradication
- Developmental Versus Transfers
"A man approached the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) seeking for his generosity. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) instead asked him to bring whatever he has from his home. The man returned with an old copper mug. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) then asked his companions seated with him if any of them would buy the mug. One of the companions offered to pay one dirham. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) then asked if anyone would offer two dirhams and one of them did. He then gave one dirham to the man to buy food for the day and asked him to buy an axe with the other dirham.
When he came back with the axe, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) personally fixed a wooden handle to the axe and asked him to get firewood to sell at the market. A few days later, the man met the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) and told him he has been getting some fifteen dirhams selling firewood within the last few days".
"The hand that gives is much better than the hand that receives" is another of the Holy Prophet's (s.a.w.) saying.
It is the destitute that should receive priority for any anti-poverty programmes. This is to ensure that the anti-poverty programmes directly benefit the proper individual or household. As such there is a need to identify individuals or households who fall in the group of destitute or poor before the programme could be undertaken.
3.2. Sources of Funds for the Poor
Zakah is the fourth of five pillars of Islam and hence is obligatory on every Muslim, who fulfils the stipulated conditions, to pay. Being a pillar of Islam, it has to be paid and collected whether the destitute and the poor exist in society or not. As such it is indeed a permanent source of revenue for the alleviation of the destitute and the poor.
3.2.2. Charitable Trusts or Endowments (Al Awqaf)
Charitable trusts transfer wealth from private ownership to beneficial, social, collective ownership. Islam does not make this practice obligatory but has strongly encouraged it and left it to voluntary initiatives of individuals. In spite of this, the Muslims accepted it wholeheartedly (even in periods of economic decline) and created charitable trusts, since the period of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) for important social and economic functions. Such trusts that were created in different countries and ages have successfully brought about tremendous changes in the welfare of the needy.
3.2.3. Gifts (Al Maniha)
Al Minha and Al Maniha are special kinds of gifts. The Holy Prophet (s.a.w.) in his various traditions used this method to provide some assistance to the early Muslim migrants from Mecca to Madinah who were in real need of some help. Al Maniha means the granting of the usufruct of a productive asset to a needy person for a specific period. These gifts as mentioned in the various Prophetic traditions, include money (cash), riding animals, dairy animals, agricultural land, fruit bearing trees, houses, kitchen utensils, tools, etc. However it should be general in application to include other productive assets such as cars, ships, industries, etc.
3.2.4. Al Fay'
3.2.5. Spoils of War (Al Ghanimah)
3.2.6. Treasure (Rikaz)
Rikaz is buried wealth found in land which has no owner. The finder will have to pay 20% or one-fifth of the wealth.
3.2.7. Obligatory Maintenance By Relatives
It is interesting to note that the Islamic system makes it obligatory on each wealthy person to provide sufficient (customarily) maintenance for his poor relative who is unable to earn a living.
3.2.8. Guarantee by the Public Treasury of A Minimum Level of Living for Each Citizen
Guarantee by the public treasury of a minimum level of living is not a recent innovation (ijtihad) as the following excerpt shows: "This is an epistle (of peace) from Khalid ibn al-Walid to the people of Hirah ... and I have promised them that: any old person who is unable to work or has been struck by a calamity, was rich and then became poor to the extent that the people of his faith started giving him charity, his jizya stands waived, and he and his dependents are to be provided from the treasury as long as he resides in Dar-al-Islam (Islamic State) ..." (al Kharaj by Abu Yusuf, quoted by M.A.Zarqa).
3.2.9. Rights to Acquire Necessities of Life
The jurists have established that a man under duress has the right to free food and drink if he is poor, but will have to pay for the food and drink if he can afford it. This principle has also been extended to other necessities such as clothing, shelter and medicine.
4. Role of individual Muslim in CITIZEN in alleviating poverty
Being Muslim every citizen has some responsibilities; Muslims in the world are some of the richest. If this wealth is used as per the direction of Allah we can alleviate poverty. Islam as system and way of life is based on collective responsibility of society, ethics and principles. If we follow it we will be able remove the poverty from the society.
1. Zakah- Every Muslim must pay full amount of Zakah as Islamic principle. In the list of priority first is close relative who are poor and destitute, then neighbour and then those in close vicinity, city and nation. If a proper institution for taking care of Zakah is established it will solve the poverty in short duration of time. My experience says commitment, purity and Taqawa ( God Fearing) is what required for success for such institution.
2. Sadaqa - Sadaqat is a very wide term and is used in the Quran to cover all kinds of charity. Its scope is so vast that even the poor who can have nothing tangible to give can offer sadaqa in the shape of a smile or a glass of water to a thirsty person, or they may even just utter a kindly word. Good conduct is frequently termed sadaqa in the hadith. Planting something from which a person, bird or animal later eats also counts as sadaqa. In this extended sense, acts of loving kindness, even greeting another with a cheerful face, is regarded as sadaqa. In short, every good deal is sadaqa. According to the teachings of Islam the giving of sadaqa serves a number of functions. Sadaqa first and foremost act as expiation for sins. The believers are asked to give sadaqa immediately following any transgression (Ihya-e-Ulumuddin, Al-Ghazzali, 1/298). Voluntary alms-giving can also compensate for any shortcoming in the past payment of zakat, Sadaqa also gives protection against all kinds of evil. Sadaqa wards off affliction in this world, questioning in the grave and punishment on Judgment Day. (Ismail Hakki, Tafsir Ruh-alBayan, 1/418). It is therefore recommended to give sadaqa by night and by day, in secret and in public to seek God's pleasure (Quran, 2:274). The constant giving of a little is said to please God more than the occasional giving of much. Sadaqa is also a means of moral edification.
3. Ahsan – This is a term used for doing good thing. When you do a favour for pleasure of Allah then this is Ahsan.Give the others and take care of the other who are not in position to take their own care. Every Muslim should know his responsibility towards other and solve their difficulties so they can be in well to do positions.
4. Inheritance in Islam - Islam being a complete religion gave rights to every living creature. In the times of ignorance: the pre-Islamic era, orphans, women and the weaker links in the human chain had become prey of many injustices and had no rights whatsoever, but the advent of Islam brought a change and a revelation that history had never witnessed before. Women, regardless of their dependency on men or their sensitive nature were given rights which were previously either non-existent or ignored. Out of the many rights women were given at the dawn of Islam is Inheritance. When we adopt best practises of Islam definitely we can reduce poverty, 30% of the gross inheritance can be distributed to the poor relatives and other poor. This will help in reducing poverty.
5. Family system and marriages in Islam - The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urged all those who can afford to provide for a wife to marry, as marriage is the legal means by which to avoid lewdness and immorality. Since family is the basic unit of society, Islam lays great emphasis on the family system and its values. The basis of family is marriage. Islam prescribes rules to regulate family life so that both the spouses can live in tranquility, security and love. Marriage in Islam has aspects of `ibadah (worship) of Allah (God) in the sense that it is in accordance with His commandments that a husband and wife should love and help each other and rear their children to become true servants of Allah (God). Abu Hurairah, may Allah be pleased with him, reported: Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: A woman may be married for four reasons: for her property, her status, her beauty and her religion; so try to get one who is religious, may your hand be besmeared with dust (may you enjoy welfare). Hadith number in Sahih Muslim [Arabic only]: 2661
Marriage in Islam is way forward by which wealth get distributed.
6. Concept of neighbour in Islam and its right-- 'A'ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, reported: I heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) saying: Gabriel advised me persistently about (kind treatment) towards the neighbor (so much) that I thought he would confer upon him the (right) of inheritance. Hadith number in Sahih Muslim [Arabic only]: 4756
7. Halal and Haram – Lawful and Prohibited in Islam –The business and activities which are prohibited in Islam should be totally banned. And all these resources should be used for more productive purposes. Some of the industries are as follows
§ Alcohol – Liquor and related industry.
§ Gambling and Casinos
5. Zakah and Awqaf as Institutions of Third Sector in Muslim Countries and Communities: concept and Potential
Awqaf (plural of Waqf) is an important institution of Islamic civilization aiming at taking care of the needs of the society that are otherwise ignored in the process of economic growth and development. This is an institution that helps social development keeping pace with economic growth in the society.
5.1.1. Perspective on Awqaf Development as an Instrument for Poverty Alleviation
The institution of Awqaf, in the contemporary socio-economic set-up should be seen as an additional source to support the program relating to poverty alleviation. The past history of Awqaf suggests that this institution can be used to mobilize additional resources for poor sections of the society.
b) Skills and micro entrepreneurial development
c) Health care and care of HIV/AIDS infected population
d) Water and sanitation facilities in rural areas
Awqaf can also maintain a fund properly invested which can be utilized in periods of famine and other crisis to help extreme poor to survive the crisis or the famine.
5.2. Role of Islamic Financial Institutions and Individuals
1) Qardh Hasan Institutions:
2) Risk Bearing Capital Provisions:
3) Operating a fund to achieve some specific objective towards improving the economic condition of poor: