In this special and full-of-rewarding month of Ramadan Muslims pray hard, practice good deeds and repent to make himself purified for better life in this world and hereafter. On top of that, Allah has given Muslims an opportunity to purify wealth too which is known as “Zakat”.
A large number of Muslims pay zakat in the month of Ramadan. If it is used effectively it can reduce poverty which is one of the huge problems not only for India but across the glob. Aamir Edresy, president of Association Of Muslim Professionals (AMP) which works for empowering Muslims in the educational, social, political and economical front of life talks about zakat and how AMP uses Zakat fund effectively.
“The alms are only for the Fuqara (the poor), and Al-Masakin (the needy) and those employed to collect (the funds); and to attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam); and to free captives; and for those in debt; and for Allah’s cause, and for the wayfarer (a traveler who is cut off from everything); a duty imposed by Allah. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise.” [Quran, 9:60]
Excerpts of the interview…
What is Zakat and why is AMP collecting it?
Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. The word Zakat means both ‘purification’ and ‘growth’. It has put in place a system for equitable distribution of income and wealth. Islam has made obligatory on each Muslim having wealth above a particular limit to cleanse his wealth by giving away 2.5% of its annual saving to poor and needy people.
There is no other religion in this world which has such system in place and made it compulsory for its followers to give a certain percentage of their wealth to poor.
Zakat is a universal system of eradicating poverty, helping people and checking the wealth gap between rich and poor. AMP has started a collective system of Zakat where people can pay their Zakat to be utilized for the development of the community and transform the lives of poor and needy.
Aren’t there many Organisations collecting Zakat? How different is AMP from them?
Yes there are many organizations that work towards the noble cause of collecting Zakat and more such organisations are still needed. While zakat could have been a powerful tool to reduce poverty in our country and transform the socio-economic status of Muslims, it has, however, over centuries, remained largely piecemeal and far from being institutionalised.
There is a dire need for strategic collection and distribution of zakat. The fundamental problem is the way zakat is collected and spent without any collective strategy and without keeping the needs of the entire community in mind. The only solution lies in Ijtemaiyat or collective effort in collection and distribution of zakat. The amount of money involved is enormous and it can work for us as a corpus for several daunting community needs.
The system cannot change overnight and that too in a vast country like India, there should be more such initiatives by more organisations.
Aren’t you supposed to pay Zakat to your relatives?
Giving zakat to relatives who are entitled to it is better than giving it to anyone else. Giving charity to relatives is both charity and upholding the ties of kinship as per the teachings of The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). But this should also happen with the objective of making himself sufficient in times to come. A platform like AMP helps you to channelize your Zakat in an effective way and thereby helps in the Upliftment of the community.
What is this Fund being used for by AMP?
AMP has been working relentlessly towards supporting Higher Education and Self Employment from last 5 years. We have helped 868 People till date. AMP uses the Zakat Fund majorly in 3 specific areas:
1. Scholarship to Support Higher and Technical Education
2. Financial support is given to any needy Muslim person/ family to start a source of income. Through this endeavour AMP firmly hopes that the Zakat Taker of today becomes the Zakat Giver of tomorrow.
3. Basic Education support to Orphans so that the child is not deprived of even the basic education for want of a guardian.
We also provide Monetary Support to selected deserving students who have secured admission in prestigious institutions like IITs and IIMs.
Who is eligible for paying Zakat and who is eligible to receive it?
Zakat is only paid on wealth that meets the Nisaab values (87.48 grams of gold or 612.36 grams of silver). If your net savings annually meet or exceed the Nisaab, you are required to pay 2.5% of it.
Zakat can be paid to deserving individuals or groups who fall into one or more of eight categories designated by Allah in the Quran. These categories are the poor and the indigent, and to those who work on [administering] it, and to those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to [free] those in bondage, and to the debt-ridden, and for the cause of God, and to the wayfarer.
The Quran specifies how zakat is to be distributed precisely, but grants Muslims flexibility in its payment. This guarantees the right of the needful while accommodating changes in how wealth is stored, how money is best distributed, and how different cultures change over time. The Quran also makes it possible for Muslims to pay their zakat to trusted institutions that distribute it to those who belong to one or more of the zakat-worthy categories.
How AMP uses the Zakat Fund and how does it benefit our Muslim society?
As I told you AMP uses its Zakat Fund in specific areas which are centric to Employment and Education. The Zakat Fund is disbursed in a very systematic manner, wherein each case is verified and the one who is actually deserving gets the much needed help. We do this with the help of our active team members who are spread in more than 80 Cities across the country. Muslims have the lowest rate of enrolment in Higher Education and Employment in the Country.
As a responsible organization, we are taking baby steps to reach out to more and more needy and deserving Muslim brethren who can educate themselves and achieve their dreams. Thus empowering the lives of the needy & underprivileged Muslims. We believe in transforming the Zakat Taker of today into the Zakat Giver of tomorrow, In Sha Allah. And the important thing to note is that we disburse 100% Zakat collected to deserving and needy and don’t spend any money in Administrative expenses.
What is the future plan of AMP in respect to Zakat Fund?
AMP plans to reach out to the needy and deserving Muslim in the remotest areas. We look forward concentrating this year more on Self Employment and Higher Education and continue supporting and mentoring them throughout the year as and when needed. We are also planning to start a District Development Program and support selected families with livelihood projects. We also aim to encourage people to start small Zakat Markaz in their locality and use the funds strategically to transform the lives of people and alleviate poverty from the society.