As a muslim, when I make a post about wealth in the holy month of ramadan, most of you might think it's about zakah (zakah is the obligatory payment made annually under Islamic law on certain kinds of property and used for charitable and religious purposes). Well, you are right then. Zakah is one of the 5 pillars of Islam and alh'amdulillah (all praise be to Allah) for allowing me to share some insight about this important pillar of Islam.
[Please note that zakah has no relation with the month of ramadan. Zakah is a due amount which is to be given out on a yearly basis. But most people consider the month ramadan to be the end (or start) of annual cycle. You CAN plan for zakah on any other month.]
It is obligatory on EVERY believer to know about the obligation of zakah. Specifically, upon every believer who has wealth BEYOND a minimum level. Notice the keywords in bold letters.
A condition of obligatory zakah, is to have complete ownership of the wealth on which the zakah is being calculated. This is the part which my post is about - complete ownership. Unfortunately, because of the tremendously flawed financial systems which are dominating the economies we sometimes fail to recognize what is our OWN wealth. [p.s. No offense to the people involved in financial industries, but the interest based financial systems must definitely be classified as a flawed financial system. Islamic shariah proposes financial systems which are NOT interest based and can provide better benefits for socio-economic impacts in the long run. Sadly, even many islamic banks don't always follow that entirely]
I am gonna take myself for example of this post who has only recently joined the service sector and has earned only enough to have some cash in hand and some savings in the bank. The savings account which I had opened the previous year gives me free service of cheque book and debit card if I can maintain a minimum average amount on a monthly basis. In addition to the free services, if I can maintain the minimum average amount, I would also enjoy a percentage return of interest on my balance at a per month basis - very attractive, huh?
Now think about it for a second. These interests which are being credited to my bank balance or to your bank balance on a monthly or yearly or biannual basis - is this really our wealth? These interests which are being credited on a regular basis to our ownership - is that really our ownership? Is that really something that belongs to us? Or is it the by-product of the interest based financial system which we are all affiliating ourselves with? Is it, rather, the dirt of our wealth?
So I went to my bank and asked them to print me out an official statement of all my transactions from the beginning of time till the current date. Upon receiving the statement, I went home and did my homework as follows: [p.s. I couldn't be as rich as the imaginary figures stated here]
|Total Current Bank Balance||10,00,000|
|Less: Total Dirt of my Wealth|
|Interests earned from savings account:|
|Total interest earned from savings account||13,950|
|Interests earned from other savings:|
|Child savings plan||2,309|
|Total interest earned from other savings||5,258|
|Total Dirt of my Wealth||-19,208|
|Real bank balance after filtering out the dirt||9,80,792|
|Minimum Zakah on real bank balance owned by me (2.5%)||24,520|
if you had read this table without first reading the implications around it,
then you are most likely to miss out on the primary learning purpose of this blog post.
You see, how a dirt of nearly 20,000 taka has been scooped out of all the calculations before calculating the minimum zakah amount. Note that this zakah amount is only on my "imaginary" bank balance. If I had a house, car, plot, real estate, business, machineries, harvest, crops, produce, minerals & ores, gold, silver, cattle, livestock etc, then the total zakah would have been applicable on those wealth as well based on certain conditions.
Cleaning out this dirt of your wealth before calculating the zakah is important. Zakah is obligatory on the wealth which you have an OWNERSHIP of. For example, if you are the owner of BDT 100, you would have given away minimum zakah of BDT 2.5 (at a 2.5% rate). However, with the dirt of the interest based financial systems added to your wealth, you might have accumulated BDT 110. Then would you give away BDT 2.75 in the name of zakah and consider the extra BDT 0.25 to be an "extra" generosity from your heart for the sake of Allah? It's rather your responsibility to get rid of it rather than considering it as part of your obligatory zakah (or even charity) because this is not YOUR wealth but only the dirt on your wealth that came from our flawed interest based financial systems. Allah knows best.
It's important to understand that the zakah which has been made obligatory on the muslim ummah's wealth (being one of the five pillars of islam) is to share the wealth of the wealthy people with those of needs in the economy and society. There are 8 categories of recipients of the zakah - not JUST poor and needy people; even the rich people and the national treasurer can be entitled to receive zakah under certain conditions [p.s. please study more on this topic before you decide to give away zakah to your rich father]. And besides all these purposes, if you are giving the extra BDT 0.25 as zakah from one hand, and accumulate dirty BDT 10 in the other hand via interests, then are you really fulfilling the purpose of zakah which has been designed by Allah for our own sustenance in the society? Allah is watching every deed and He is watching every intention; and Allah has given us the riches as a means of appointing us with a responsibility to distribute the wealth rightly (of course after fulfilling our basic needs).
[p.s. In the context of this blog post, I have used relatively small amounts to explain the matters. BDT 2.5 and BDT 0.75 are really nothing. But in the context of the thousands of millionaires and hundreds of billionaires and banks in our society, these figures would be vastly different. Imagine the purpose of zakah that could be fulfilled if all these billionaire wealth were spent properly according to Allah's order]
So, what should be done with the dirty part of my wealth? Clearly it's not my wealth but it's a by-product of the interest based financial system, right? Get rid of it. I must get rid of it like it's a stain on my skin which I would remove from myself as early as I notice it. Give it away to a school or local treasury or a charity or an orphanage or any place of social need. This does not come under the heading of your zakah (or even charity); rather it is purifying your wealth from its haraam elements. Your minimum obligatory zakah is the percentage amount on your OWN wealth (minimum being 2.5% maximum being whatever is left after fulfilling your basic needs). [p.s. now please don't plan to get rid of it by buying your husband or wife a new iPad with it]
[UPDATE: After putting up this post, a friend of mine asked: "Does that mean I can put my money in an interest based bank and it is enough for me to give the interest part of my money as charity at the end of the year to avoid the punishment of riba?" Well NO, it's not enough to do that. We must part away from every means (i repeat, EVERY MEANS) of interests from getting associated to our financial transactions in every way possible. However, there can be certain situations where we are not choosing to, but we are being forced to, put our money in an interest based bank account due to various situations in our surroundings despite looking for halaal alternatives - we do have to keep our money somewhere safe, right? On a case like that, here is an answer that I found from islamQA that is very much relevant.
"It is not permissible to put money in a riba-based bank except if there is the fear that the money may be stolen etc, if there is no other means of protecting the money except by putting it in the bank. In that case it is enough for him to put it in a current account that does not bear any interest, because in cases of necessity, things that are ordinarily forbidden may be permitted, but only to the extent that is necessary." -------- source: http://islamqa.com/en/ref/81952]
'And those who hoard Gold and Silver and do not give it in the path of Allah then give them the glad tidings of a severe punishment. A day on which, it (Gold and Silver) will be heated from the fire of Jahannam and their forehead, their flanks and their backs will be branded and it will be said to them: "This is the treasure which you used to hoard for yourselves, now taste of what you used to hoard."' [Surah At-Tauba, Chapter no 34, Verse no 35, The Holy Quran]
So if you kept back just a single gold coin without fulfilling Allah's commands, imagine getting branded on the forehead, on the flanks and on the back out of hellfire with that single gold coin. Try keeping the tip of your finger in the flame of a candle for only 10 seconds - the hereafter is much much much longer than that.
Allah knows best
I am not a religious scholar and neither am I pretending to be one. This is just my effort to try and make my muslim friends, family, acquaintances and others aware of the implications of the orders of Islam. May Allah guide us all in the right path. May Allah guide me in the right path. May we all be benefited from the marvelous blessings of Allah that He has bestowed upon us. May we also learn to appreciate the marvelous blessings of Allah that He has bestowed upon us and that He has kept in store for us InshAllah.