Bangladesh has been blessed (mind it, not burdened) with 161 million people. One day we will feel and be proud of that once we are able to turn this huge population into human resources. This is a matter of time, I believe. Anyway, this is not my subject today. I would like to focus on a different issue. Out of this huge number of population, only one hundred thousand people can make a big and significant difference in the economy as well as fate of our beloved country. Who are these one hundred thousand people? These are the people who have got a balance of Taka one crore (ten million) in their respective banks for at least one year. It is for sure more than one hundred thousand people of this category exist in this country. Now the question is how will they do it? The answer is just by giving their JAKAT (obligatory charity) which is a compulsory task in Islam. Oh yes, these one hundred thousand people are Muslims by religion.
Zakat, the giving of charity to the poor and needy, is one of the five pillars of Islam (the others are declaration of faith, prayer, fasting in Ramadan and Hajj). It is obligatory upon every adult Muslim of sound mind and means. The individual must own a specific amount of wealth or savings (after living costs, expenses etc). This is referred to as Nisaab (the minimum amount that a Muslim must have before being obliged to give zakat) and is the threshold at which Zakat becomes payable. The amount of Zakat to be paid is 2.5% of Nisaab. Zakat is not voluntary charity, not a tax but an obligation. By giving Zakat, a Muslim is acknowledging that everything we have is Allah’s and we do not really own it, and we should use it to remember Allah and help those who are in need. It is also an act to help free us from excessive desire and greed, learn self-discipline and honesty. Here are the instructions of Zakat in the Holy Qur’an:
[Qur’an 9:60] Charities shall go to the poor, the needy, the workers who collect them, the new converts, to free the slaves, to those burdened by sudden expenses, in the cause of God, and to the travelling alien. Such is God’s commandment. God is Omniscient, Most Wise.
[Qur’an 2:273] Charity shall go to the poor who are suffering in the cause of God, and cannot emigrate. The unaware may think that they are rich, due to their dignity. But you can recognise them by certain signs; they never beg from the people persistently. Whatever charity you give, God is fully aware thereof.
[Qur’an 2:177] Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or the west. Righteous are those who ……..give the money, cheerfully, to the relatives, the orphans, the needy, the travelling alien, the beggars, and to free the slaves; and they observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat).
Getting back to my point, the amount of Zakat for one crore (ten million) Taka is 2.50 lakh. Multiplying 2.50 lakh Taka with one hundred thousand makes 2,500 crore Taka. There are 4,554 Unions Parishads in Bangladesh. Union Parishad is the smallest rural administrative and local government unit in Bangladesh which consists of a number of villages. If we distribute 2,500 crore taka among 4,554 unions, each union will get around Tk 5,489,679, which is equivalent to 70,380 dollar. Now, if a union of Bangladesh gets around Tk 55 lakh, they can change life of 110 people (that means 110 families) by giving them Tk 50,000 each to start a small business to run their own family independently.
Islam has given several instructions on how and who to give the Zakat money. One of the instructions is ‘pay Zakat in such a way that the receiver should be able to pay Zakat next year.’ So, the idea is to make someone independent so that he/she not only lives well but also helps others live well. For example, helping a man/woman to start a small business like poultry, dairy, fishery, small shop etc so that he/she can earn profit by honest means and live a decent life. If Taka 50,000 is given to one family (which is a fairly good amount for a start up business), then 110 people (in fact 110 families) in each union can be benefited and a total of 500,940 people (families) can be benefited in 4,554 unions from the Zakat money given by one hundred thousand people in one year. If it keeps continuing, by the next ten years, the socio-economic scenario of our villages will be noticeably changed.
Well, does it sound impossible? Not at all! What is needed is to find out or inspire those one hundred thousand well off people to pay Zakat properly and a group of honest and dedicated people who will distribute this among five hundred thousand families. Again sounds impossible, right? Well, I am every inch optimistic that one day these two groups will emerge in our beloved country to change our own fate. By the way, if you deposit one crore taka to any commercial bank on Islamic shariah basis, you are likely to receive more or less 5 lakh taka at the end of the year. So, you see, they are not giving this 2.5 lakh Taka even from their own pocket! What is needed is noble intention to change our society and help humanity.
The writer is a Communication Trainer & Journalist.