We are undergoing unprecedented circumstances and woeful setbacks because of the ongoing pandemic. Life and livelihood have been shrunk tremendously. People from different walks of life, particularly the marginalised and hand to mouth section of the population, are in indescribable misery. To curb the upward surge of coronavirus, the government has imposed an all-out nationwide lockdown giving priority to health safety. In the meantime, the extended lockdown induced financial impact has reached an intense state of adversity for many.
To prioritise both life and livelihood simultaneously is substantial during this dire situation. The overall challenges are now twofold and that is to ensure human healthcare and sustain timely economic recovery. The prime task of the state authority, for the time being, is to ensure that those who have suffered most from the pandemic do not fall behind. Cash support will have to be allocated for the poor who have been experiencing a quandary in the mundane routine of life.Many of us have come to know that a rickshaw puller father carried his seriously sick infant by pulling a rickshaw to Rangpur Medical College Hospital from Thakurgaon transiting a distance of almost 110 km. The ill-fated parent could not afford money to hire an ambulance at his grave urgency by any means. This sort of real-life shock originated by the pandemic-driven economic hardship speaks out loud about the inexpressible vulnerability of a good number of people in the country.
There is a shortage of food and essential stuff in the households of innumerable hard-up individuals. This might prolong the agony of millions of poverty-stricken marginalised people, and extend their inhuman sufferings in the month of Ramadan. As of now, we should ensure open-handed assistance for the low-income groups by disbursing Zakat from our obligation and liability.
The holy month of Ramadan is the time of fasting and fostering care, compassion and love for fellow Muslims. To widen the helping hands toward the impoverished community is also the key spirit of month-long fasting. We should prefer the favour of showing our love to the persons living nearby standing by them during this hard-hit condition.
Among the five fundamental aspects (Rokon) of Islam, paying Zakat is verily significant as it has the potential to ease the sufferings of millions. Allah the Exalted has said in the Holy Quran: ‘And establish Salat and give Zakat, and whatever good you put forward for yourselves - you will find it with Allah’ (Surah Al-Baqarah: 110).
Zakat is also a spiritual connection to one’s maker - to purify our wealth for the will of Allah (SWT) is to acknowledge that everything we own belongs to Him, and it is for Him that we strive to end poverty and help our brothers and sisters. In the Holy Quran, Allah (SWT) has mentioned: ‘Surely the poor and deprived persons have the right to the wealth of the rich’ (Surah Al-Zariya: 19).
Destitute and underprivileged people have the right to the wealth of the rich. Paying Zakat to the poor by the rich is not mercy or sympathy, rather it is an obligate financial liability on the part of the rich. In this regard, a Hadith has been quoted from the Prophet (PBUH): ‘Those who are rich will be taken from them and those who are poor will be distributed among them’ (Bukhari). It has also been narrated: ‘Whoever pays Zakat on his wealth will have its evil removed from him’ (Ibn Khuzaimah and At-Tabarani). By donating Zakat the rich can purify their wealth, rectify themselves, and comply with the command of Allah (SWT).It is to note that Zakat is a mandatory provision for accomplishing monetary devoutness (2.5 per cent of the wealth that has been in one’s possession) following Islamic procedure determined for once in a lunar year. Our Prophet (PBUH) has addressed Zakat as a bridge of Islam. It merges the gap between the rich and the poor and develops a warm relationship. So, Zakat should be distributed among the poor as prescribed by the Islamic principles. It brings peace, settles harmony in the society and makes Allah the Exalted entirely satisfied.
Zakat is a vital catalyst to alleviate poverty. By eliminating inequality between the rich and the poor, Zakat creates a balance. If the rich folks of the society rightly pay Zakat, then it would be tough indeed to find needy people anymore. In another sense, Zakat strengthens the economic foundation by eradicating poverty, increments wealth and purifies property. There is a narration from the Prophet (PBUH): ‘Wealth never diminishes due to charity.’ Charity removes the wrath of Allah (SWT) and prevents immorality. In this holy month of blessings, the Sawab (virtues) of paying Zakat increases manifolds and the rewards turn seventy times more for the payers.
This message is from Allah (SWT) as a reminder for us: ‘Those whom Allah has favoured, and afterward they are niggardly, so that they do not consider this niggardliness to be good for themselves’ (Surah Al-Imran: 180). Therefore, we have to come up to serve the poor community in this rugged time by offering a portion of the wealth Allah has bestowed us. We should augment the well-being of our fellow Muslims and enhance happiness with monetary patronisation. We hope the charity we shall offer will be granted by Allah (SWT) and bring prosperity for us in both worlds.
Wares Ali Khan, the author is an academic