Your letters: ‘Zakat’ for poverty fight
Paper Edition | Page: 8
The peak of the Ramadhan month for Muslims is to fulfill a religious obligation to give alms, called zakat, for the poor. This concept is intended to make all people of the community become prosperous and secure.
Unfortunately, Indonesian Muslims, including those in the government, pay much more attention to other Islamic economic ideas, such as in the sharia banking and financing sector that has developed significantly in Indonesia.
Zakat — another important tool in Islamic economics — is still seen as a religious tax and as such has not become a mainstream government tool to eradicate poverty. In fact, zakat has a great potential to improve the welfare of the people.
There are those who question how Islamic economics could contribute significantly to the equitable distribution of welfare, which results from thinking that sharia is confined to banking and finances.
At the time of Prophet Muhammad, Islamic principles of living were conducted perfectly, and were attractive to those who had a limited knowledge of Islamic teachings. Islam has since spread widely beyond the Arabian peninsula and calls for attention to be paid to harmony and the popular welfare.
Social security was built based on Islamic values, that is, to maximize the role and function of zakat for bridging the gap between rich and poor. Conducting business in an exploitative way, cheating and greed were prevented and prohibited. It was the golden age of Islam. A sharia economy is basically built upon togetherness to achieve an objective. There are several principles to be considered in sharia economics, including a prohibition of riba (interests), proportional and fair risk sharing and prohibition of speculative behavior.
As mentioned above, Islamic countries have only implemented sharia economics on a limited basis. Yet, zakat, as a solidarity-building and social security measure in Islam, has only been minimally developed. Giving zakat is a religious duty for Muslim to “cleanse” their wealth through giving alms equal to a fixed portion of their wealth to poor and needy people.
Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. Therefore zakat is obligatory for Muslims. In Islamic teaching, giving zakat is considered by Muslims as one way to reach social piousness by aiding the well being of our Muslim brothers and sisters who are unfortunate and need help. It promotes a more equitable redistribution of wealth and fosters sense of solidarity among Muslims as members of the ummah.
The concept of zakat can be more full utilized to bridge the gaps between the haves and have-nots and to overcome with the poverty problem in Indonesia. In such a way zakat will be able to create social justice as mandated by the Constitution. Unfortunately, the authorities do not use zakat as optimally as possible as an economic instrument for alleviating poverty while the opportunity to do so remains.
A lecturer of Brawijaya University
Malang, East Java