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Islamic approaches and mechanisms

Islam being a comprehensive ‘way of life’ has established practical mechanisms for the achievement of its objectives. For fair, just and equitable distribution of wealth, Islam prescribes positive as well as prohibitive measures. Positive measures include zakat, laws of inheritance and other compulsory and voluntary contributions (such as sadaqat). Prohibitive measures comprise prohibition of interest and prohibition of hoarding and other immoral, unfair, unjust and unlawful means of acquiring wealth. 1. Zakat This is a compulsory annual levy collected from the rich and distributed to or spent on the poor. Besides having religious importance, zakat plays a very important role in the socio-economic life of the Muslim community. It is the cornerstone of the financial structure of the state in Islam. Zakat not only provides the required funds to the state for its welfare activities in sectors like education, health and social services but also enables it to discharge its obligations regarding its poor and needy. It also prevents the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few. It checks growing income disparities, it fuels productive investment as a way to avoid an inevitable diminishing of one’s wealth if left as capital and it bridges the gap between the rich and the poor. 2. Law of inheritance Islamic law of inheritance follows a very broad-based distribution pattern. The law not only establishes the children of the deceased as legal heirs but also includes the deceased’s spouse and parents. Where the deceased leaves no children and no parents, the estate goes to siblings and sometimes even to distant kin. Where a deceased person leaves behind no near or distant relatives, the property may go to the community for the benefit of all its members. The main objective of the Islamic law of inheritance is, thus, the fair and equitable distribution of wealth among a larger number of near and distant kin of the deceased, and so preventing the concentration of wealth in a few hands. 3. Wills and bequests These serve the cause of charity and thus assist the distribution of wealth among the poor and the destitute. The Prophet (PBUH) has prescribed that bequests should not be made in respect of more than one-third of the total property which one is likely to leave after death. The law allows wealthy Muslims to bequeath some amount, for the sake of God, to be used for charitable purposes. 4. Endowments (waqf) As stated above, Muslims can bequeath a maximum of one-third of their property to be used for charity after their death. But during their lifetime they have the right to spend the whole of her property in the way of God if she wishes. According to the provision of waqf, a person can donate as much of their property as they like to any purpose during their life as an endowment. This is a prominent source of funding for Muslim charities and provision of services, including hospitals, schools, mosques and universities as the wealthy use this mechanism to support their causes. The great endowments (awqaf) traditionally represented much of the wealth and influence of civil society in the Muslim world. 5. Charity of fitr The Prophet (PBUH) prescribed the annual payment of Sadaqat-ul-Fitr by every Muslim who can afford to. It is a modest quantity of food staple, or the monetary equivalent, which is given to the poor normally towards the end of the month of Ramadan to enable them to participate in the celebrations of Eid. Eligible Muslims are expected to fulfill this duty not only on their own behalf, but to give out the same quantity on behalf of each of their dependents. 6. Atonements Monetary and other forms of atonement (kaffarah) have been prescribed by Islam for certain wrongdoings or sins. Those who commit certain sins, offenses, or omissions intentionally or unintentionally have been enjoined to make prescribed charity in atonement for these sins. For example, if a person breaks a promise or swears an oath which is not subsequently fulfilled, they may feed ten poor people or clothe them in atonement. In any case, giving charity for the sake of God’s forgiveness is an inherent part of Islam even if one is not aware of committing any wrong. These prescribed monetary atonements also ensure a flow of wealth to the poor and there are several other examples. 7. Informal charity and alms Apart from the formal and prescribed charities, Islam encourages a high degree of informal charitable giving. Further, if zakat and other compulsory charities fail to satisfy the needs of the poor, the state has been permitted to either impose taxes or motivate the rich to donate voluntarily and generously to help eradicate poverty. 8. Feeding the poor Feeding the poor is one of the voluntary charities that is very common among Muslim communities as both the Quran and the Sunnah strongly encourage the practice. 9. Charity of surplus The highest degree of charity, which is an ideal that many Muslims aspire to, is the charity of surplus (Anfaq al-Afw). It requires a believer to donate all the wealth they possess that is surplus to their basic needs. This is in emulation of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Abû Saîd Al-Khudarî reported that the Prophet said to them: “whosoever of you possesses a spare ride [meaning then, a horse, camel, etc], let him bestow it to one without a ride. Whosoever of you has surplus food, let him bestow it to one without food. ” The Prophet went on naming various types of wealth until we thought we had no right to anything beyond our basic necessities.” Muslim, 1728 10. Prohibition of hoarding, usury & gambling Hoarding of wealth has been condemned by Islam with stipulation of severe punishment while the circulation of wealth has been ordained. This measure not only removes the hoarded wealth from the hands of the rich, but also ensures that it flows within the economy and becomes productive. For the same reason, usury (interest) and gambling are totally forbidden in order to encourage the productive use of capital resources for the benefit of the larger community. “Whatever gains Allah has turned over to His Messenger from the inhabitants of the villages belong to Allah, the Messenger, kinsfolk, orphans, the needy, the traveler in need – this is so that they do not just circulate among those of you who are rich – so accept whatever the Messenger gives you, and abstain from whatever he forbids you. Be mindful of God: God is severe in punishment.” al- Hashr, 59:7. Mukhtar Safi

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.